. . . that if a writer somehow achieved a “perfect” novel, few would recognize it as such. If they employed all the “rules”—check out Mick Silva’s blog post “On Writing Novels, Part 2” (http://mywritersgroup.typepad.com/) –there would still be some self-appointed critic who would find something not to like.
Why is that? Here’s what I think. The literary-ists would love the novel, rave about the elegant prose and use all those other words they like to use to modify what they think is superior writing. Those authors who labor and strive and nearly cut themselves in penance when they produce an “ly” word or one too many “was” verbs—yes, they would probably lock themselves in a dark basement and both mourn and celebrate this “perfect” novel, wishing they could’ve written it first.
However, and don’t ya just know there is always a “but” coming . . . the thriller crowd would yawn and gape and finally cast the book against the nearest wall declaring to anyone who might listen, “I can’t read this schlock!” “Who does this guy/gal think he/she is? I mean, come on, can’t they just say what they mean without all these metaphors and descriptive verbs? Do they really think people act or talk like this?”
And there’s the sandpaper rubbing on the wound of a writer. This labor of love has astounded the one group and bored the other to shrieking outbursts. And, inevitably, once again, the “success” of a book comes back to “opinion”. To “the story”. And to “the audience”.
The irony of this is that books written in the 19th century are still considered classics, but there isn’t an editor today who will tell you that some of them would successfully make it through present-day pub boards, one of the exceptions being those novels by Jane Austen. Jane Austen is having her own personal revival, and she’s been dead for 191 years, folks. Apparently not at all celebrated for her literary genius when she was with us.
The question raised by attempting to create the “perfect” novel is quite simple: Why? Not “how”. Who are you trying to please? Yourself? Do you think once you type “The End” you will be satisfied? Well, mostly, you should be. It’s a thrilling moment which should generate excitement, pleasure, relief, and maybe even a bit of sadness—unless of course it’s a series. We all realize we will wait a bit before we dive back into it for revisions, so the best thing to do is bask in the satisfaction of completion. Maybe it’ll be your best effort, maybe it’ll be your first effort, and maybe it’ll be your third favorite of all the novels you pen. At some point you may hate it but only because fear has overtaken your sensibilities and convinced you of your pathetic pathos as a writer.
If you’re trying to please a publisher, aim for strict adherence to the rules. If you write thrillers, chances are you’ll be given some leeway with those “rules”—that is if you have a thrilling story. In fact, if your story knocks the socks off some agent, editor, and pub board, it’s debatable how much the “rules” will come into play. But the “rules” give a writer a launching point, an idea of taking basic writing skills to another level, and a measuring stick to stack your prose against. But in reality they’re fluid. Like the ocean they slide forward and back along the writing shores.
I believe some authors could write about almost anything. They know the mechanics of writing a novel. They’re able to follow or even lead trends and know the business of publishing from the inside out. They can put together a 300 page novel in the 5 ½ x 8 ½ trim size in a matter of three to six months’ time. They’re professionals.
Each writer has his own style, work habits, weaknesses, and strengths. And none of them are perfect. So, no matter how hard you work at it, how good you get at it, how much you want to write that perfect novel . . . you won’t. At least by someone else’s standard it won’t be. Because you can’t please ‘em all. For this solitary reason it’s a much better goal to strive to please the Lord.
Father, apart from you, we can do nothing. Help us to truly realize what you are saying to us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
*Please continue to pray for Kristy Dykes.*