by Bruce Blake
A few things happened in the last couple of weeks that have had me thinking about what goes in to being a novelist. We may not like to admit it–writers tend to be a bit on the shy and reserved side–but it does take someone special to complete the journey that is the completion of an entire novel.
The first thing to set me pondering the plight of the novelist was my wife. For those of you who don’t follow regularly (or didn’t click the link fourteen words ago), the love of my life is a performer: she sings and acts, she is a burlesque diva and producer of shows, and she is also a playwright.
As a performer, she thrives on the feedback she receives from her audience, both during and after the performance. Their energy feeds her and her energy feeds them in a symbiotic relationship the likes of which an author will likely rarely experience. The feedback to a live performer is instantaneous–for better or for worse. Claps, whistles, cheers, autograph requests, wedding proposals, and so on. As writers, we peck away on our computers for months or years, loathe to show the product to anyone save our editors and trusted beta readers until it’s done, then we release it into the world.
Once it’s out there, the best we can usually hope for is the occasional review to pop up on Amazon or Goodreads; quiet accolades that pale in comparison to the thunderous applause of a rapturous theatre audience. Sure, a few may have the pleasure of a public reading and the requisite book signing afterward, but reading a snippet of a larger work hardly equates to watching an entire concert or play.
I was also struck by the difference between writing a novel and crafting a play. The major difference is easy to spot: the length. I don’t know how many words are in my wife’s current play (Stories of Love and Passion), but it is far fewer than the 100,000+ that typically make up a novel. That is not to say that it is easier to write a play–far from it. I don`t think I could have done what my wife did, but fewer words typically take less time. The next step after the writing was complete was to work with a dramaturge–the theatrical equivalent of an editor…sort of–and a director..
The jobs of the dramaturge and director are not only to make sure the correct words are set out in the right order, but that they
are spoken properly, inflected in the proper way, that things are in the right place. To accomplish this, my wife and her dramaturge/director had to actually speak to each other. They met both by Skype and in person and more occasions than I can count. In comparison, I’ve worked with the same editor for seven of my eight novels (the fabulous Ella Medler) and we have spoken exactly…zero times. Skype? Nope. Face-to-face? We’re not even on the same continent.
The other thing that happened was an introduction to a man who wants to be a writer and has begun five novels and completed none. If the rest of you are anything like me, this is not an isolated incident. Many people I have bumped into have started novels only to abandon them, typically around halfway through. Many more have simply identified the desire to write a book, never to even get the first word down. So what is it that keeps these would be literarians (is that a word? Did I just coin a new term a la Willie Shakespeare?) from completing their books?
Could it be the stark terror of being so completely alone?
Write on, brave authors. I’m with you in spirit.
Bruce Blake has written and self-published 8 novels and is likely hung up on the subject of loneliness because his wife recently left for a five-week tour with her new one woman play. Turns out Mr. Blake isn’t quite the bachelor he once was.