Friday, August 5, 2011

This Writer: Backstory

By the time I was 21, I’d written out the first drafts of three novels.

In high school, I wrote two novels that could best be described as “melodramatic theological soft sci-fi.” The first included paranormal beings testing humanity in vaguely small sample sizes with magical powers. The second centered on a large, improbable dystopian society based on psychological principles that you might read about on Wikipedia. The books were humorless, incredibly dark, and interminable.

I wrote a bildungsroman in college that was a thinly-disguised idealization of my high school friends—and of me! (but thank god I wasn’t the main character) It included badly-written poetry and an awkward sex scene (that was meant to be awkward?) and a sarcastic but also rather serious narratorial voice.

But after I’d finished each and every one of these novels, I didn’t have the patience to revise, the insight to evaluate, the open-mindedness to accept critique, or the courage to submit. They all became apprenticeship novels.

You never write a book thinking that it’s practice. Whatever work you’re currently writing is desperately serious. I expect that the transition from practice to performance takes most of us by surprise.

1 comment:

  1. I guess I have practice chapters but not practice books. (But maybe they are stories and not chapters, after all.)
    I like your point, though, and also your blog in general.
    (from the teeny library in Perryville, because I won't have internet for another 10 days -- eegads.)