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THE NOVEL

July 6, 2016

So often when I go to the bookstore, I’ll be browsing the shelves and see a book title followed by the cliché, “A novel.”

Ah, duh.

The book is sitting on the novel shelf, it’s more than a few hundred pages, it’s obviously fiction and not poetry. I think people can figure it out. Not only that, but the people in the store placed it in the fiction area. I’m sure they have plenty of other clues to know where to place it, like in their on-line image/inventory…whatever.

I never could understand that extra little marketing nudge, that extra stating-of-the-obvious.

MOST COMMON CHOICE

Though not for everyone, the majority of writers I run across are out to write a novel. We have plenty of memoir writers, a fair bunch that are into short stories, a few poets and some that are undecided. However, the majority are in for the long haul, to write a (or many) novels. Some have already completed several. I’m dabbling with number twelve and have started thirteen and fourteen, two starts that have been put on the back burner for quite a while now.

Why are novels in the majority?

To me, it’s the ability to really flesh out a story, to go into a vision for the long haul. While other forms can be satisfying, it’s the novel that gives me the most bang for my buck, and of course, I don’t necessarily mean that in a monetary way, and as of right now, that still isn’t much of a factor!

WHY?

One big reason for writing novels is simple. Go to the bookstore. What do you see on the shelves?

I rest my case.

As I mentioned in the first section, the novel is where you, the writer, get to flesh out your story, get to go into detail, get to explore the world you create. Where in a short story, whatever form it takes, you’re limited with every detail, in a novel, you have room to stretch, to complicate things, to add more details.

Back to the first point I made here, novels are also where all the money is.

Something else to think about. Not every story can be told in so few words.

LITERARY OR GENRE?

This is the age-old question every writer faces when they start out. Some never quite figure it out until their work is finished and they show it to others. It may be someone else that tells them what they end up with.

I prefer, and highly recommend, that you, the writer, know what you’re doing before you start. I say this so you have a specific focus. It just saves time and energy in the long run. Then again, this is no absolute.

On the other hand, what’s wrong with just writing whatever comes out of your head to see what you end up with? Well…this unfocused and unplanned approach may create something new and unique, but it also may create a mess that you cannot end up using in the long run. I’ve seen these experiments far more often than not. Most of the time, these writers have had to start over again from scratch with a new and more focused approach. While they earned plenty of experience writing, they also spent a good bit of time and energy accomplishing nothing they could use.

The majority of writers have some idea ahead of time what they are interested in writing.

In my case, I always knew I wanted to be a genre writer because that’s what I liked to read. I had no interest in literary reading or writing. For my first stab at novel writing, I chose science fiction/thriller. True, it was a mishmash of genres. However, it fit in with what I was reading at the time (which was that exact mishmash). When I actually finished it, knew I could do it, I found my muse. Though I might’ve taken that story, tweaked it and used it (in this case, severely tweaked it), I ended up shelving it and moving on to another project. If things had turned out different, I could just as easily have gone back and hashed The Cave out and maybe perfected it. In the end, I was more interested in other genres. The Cave proved to myself that I could write a novel. It opened the door.

I chose genre.

Are you the literary type? Are you the people versus plot driven type? I’ll tell you that when you look at the book section in most of the popular magazines, you’ll find the majority of books represented are literary. Genre fiction is looked down upon as trash, or at best, “summer beach reads,” not to be taken “seriously.” Therefore, when you do happen to see genre fiction in the popular magazines, it’s only by the top tier authors and only once in a while at best.

Literary might be the way to go for some of you.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people that write genre fiction.

HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO GET PUBLISHED?

Hah! Not to be a big dent in your expectations, but that’s the million dollar question. This applies to every written form. The agent/publisher search is all part of the game, the never-ending search, the albatross on every writer’s shoulder.

It’s usually a bit easier for short story writers. Why? Because of contests, writer’s groups and knowing people. There are more opportunities to slip a short story into an anthology somewhere, somehow, than to get someone (a publisher) to invest in an entire novel without you footing the bill. It’s simple numbers.

Therefore, though you’d like to just sit back and write and let the world find you, you’re going to end up spending half your time writing, and the “bigger half” of your time trying to get the damn thing published! Oh, let’s not forget, if you do manage to get your novel published, you’ll have to spend a much bigger half, more than the other two halves combined marketing the thing!

Oh, but that’s another story!

Happy writing!

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