WIP Wednesday #4: Am I a Novelist?

Work in Progress

When I began writing Descriptions of Heaven, though I did intend to one day become a novelist, I never intended this narrative to be of book-length. The thing grew from a single scene into a story composed of chapters. It, in fact, unintentionally took the place of a book I was writing about a son dealing with the decline of his mother’s health due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Descriptions of Heaven 3D image black background.

Even with this book published, I had never been quite certain that I legitimately was a novelist, since my first book is what many call a novella. However, I have come across writing just as short as my novella where the publisher calls it a novel in the blurb and foreword. So I was either a novelist who wrote a little novel (novella) or a short story author who wrote a long short story.  Either way, my book was published as a standalone piece, just like any novel—big or small. Yet, I still kept asking myself, Am I a novelist?

Novelist contemplating©2004-2019 wredwrat

When asked what I do all day, my default answer is no longer “I’m a writer” or the only sightly less vague “I write books.”  Instead, I’m more apt so say “I’m a novelist” (though saying I’m a short story author is equally true, short fiction work isn’t a part of my quotidian practices).

There are two primary reason I’ve embraced the term novelist:
1) Recently, a friend on my Literary Fiction Writers Facebook group, during a discussion about the demarcations between a short story and a novel, pointed out that the real difference isn’t word count, but structure and flow. Novels and short stories are extremely different in that respect. While I’m not willing to discount word count as playing a central role in their difference, I’m apt to agree that rather small word counts can still be structured as novels. Descriptions of Heaven has under 35 thousand words, but it is structured as a novel and does not flow like a short story.
2) I have to admit that in this past six months I’ve become much more focused on my novel-in-progress, spending less time on my short fiction, which I often used to write, edit, and submit in lieu of working on my novel. Not only did my computer go kaput, as I explained in a previous WIP Wednesday post, making this kind of productive “distraction” less available, but I’ve also been spending every free day I have novel-writing for as long as I feasibly can. While it’s often not as much as I want, I can honestly say I am spending large chunks of my weekdays writing a novel.

©2016-2019 TheGraphicNovelist
©2016-2019 TheGraphicNovelist

So, there you have it. I have already written one little novel, and most Tuesdays through Fridays I spend my hours after breakfast until lunch writing my next novel. I am a novelist, both a published and actively working novelist.

Real talk time: I think a lot of novelists suffering from impostor syndrome or whatever, suffer a lot not because their book is too small, but because they don’t write as much as they can. No one should spend all their time writing, and in your life there are likely other things that take precedence over creative work. But a lot of us have the time—have in fact painfully carved out some small hours to focus on creativity—and yet we feel like impostors because we haven’t developed a good writing habit, thus we don’t use the time as we should. Consequently, we don’t feel like writers, let alone novelists.

The truth is, I haven’t developed a consistent habit of getting back to the desk after lunch. I can’t even blame it on a honey-do list, since I don’t let chores distract me anymore. My problem is that writing’s been going so well that I often finish my intended writing goal for the day or complete a long scene before the hours I’ve carved out for myself are used up. So I often stop writing because my brain feels like it needs a reset or some time to think about what’s next (yeah, I’m not a huge plotter).

On the one hand, I don’t mind these breaks because I’ve felt productive and hit my goals. On the other hand, I want to make a living as a writer—as a novelist—and in order to do that, I’ll probably want to be putting out a book every other year. Stopping for scene changes isn’t going to cut it.

Maori Sakai writer's life

© Maori Sakai

Here’s four things I’m doing to try and keep it going:
1) During lunch, I don’t turn on the radio or watch any TV. This lets my mind linger on my work, keeping me in my novelist zone or at least letting me transition back there faster.
2) I just get right back to the desk after my break and write. It’s been years since I’ve had to be in a mood or needed the Muse to write. So why I think I need to be calibrate my brain for the next section of my novel, I don’t know.
3) If I don’t have so much as a bullet point on a sticky note or general idea of what comes next, I’ll let myself go on a walk and think about it. I write when I get back. This isn’t something I want to become a habit since I won’t be going on walks come our long Midwestern winters, so I’ll only go out for a walk after serious creative thought. If nothing comes, I’ll let myself head out into the neighborhood for an hour or so.
4) I’m building a habit by writing every day I can, starting as early as I can and staying at it until 3:00pm if possible. Yet there’s this thing called real life that gets in the way sometimes of that good habit, so I’ve been trying to write daily regardless of the time. If needed, I’ve started at 11:00am, which is really late for me. I’ve even resorted to writing in the evening if I didn’t get a chance to during the day. While it cuts into family and reading time writing so late, it also shows my commitment to making a living from my books, continues to build my writing habit, and literally gets me a few pages closer to my goal.

This book is getting done. And, while I am a novelist, it’s forming the habit of novel-writing that’s going to let me someday be a career novelist (and occasional author of short story collections).

author novelist short story writer

© Elias Stein

 

Do you consider yourself a novelist whether you’ve written a novel or not? Or a poet, even if you haven’t made a collection of poetry? What are your writing habits like? Are your habits working or can you improve upon them? Let me know in the comments below.

A Rant Against Myself

A Rant Against Myself

 

Filtered through the abstrusities of Ezra Pound, digested then regurgitated as “ranty blog-fodder,” A Rant Against Myself is creative nonfiction with the emphasis on creative—not memoir, not journalism, and allegedly not essay. It’s 100% pure R A N T.

And you can now find it published in CultureCult Magazine for your reading pleasure (or pain).

Download a Kindle version of the magazine here: CultureCult Magazine [Spring 2019]

Or grab a print copy of the magazine from Lulu here: CultureCult Magazine (Issue #11)

CultureCult Magazine #11

CultureCult Magazine (detail)

Demon Zone

Demon Zone.jpg

Three DemonsSource

This week (today, actually) I’ve written a Halloween dialogue: Demon Zone.

Mark the doors with the sigils of the moon, of the red red river, of the biting chains. Empty dawn of its fire. Let dusk sink eternally into crepuscular paralyzation—hypnagogic, terrifying.

Thus begins the shouting match of the demons. Blood, horrible sights, and terrifying beings culminate in a conversation of violence where any talk of beauty or peace is muted.
cannibalism

Yeah, I’ll be sending this piece out pronto. Though it might end up getting published as a poem. I say this because for a dialogue it’s awful unconversational. I just couldn’t imagine a bunch of demons who sit around and shoot the shit (well, actually I can imagine that; it’s just not how I was inspired to write this particular dialogue). “Demon Zone” does resemble a prose poem. It’s perhaps more prose than a dialogue like “Insults Two by Two,” but it’s certainly poem-like enough to get published as one. Which is fine. A poetic dialogue. A dialogical poem. Tomato, tomato.


I have enough dialogues (and drafts and drafts of dialogues) that next week I’m breaking out a file box for it all. I don’t need the old drafts, really, as everything is saved in digital form. But I like to keep these as backups and for posterity or whatever.

The only other file box I have like this is full of Descriptions of Heaven stuff. Lots and lots of DoH stuff. Seriously, every draft was like a whole little book. I can’t imagine what my WIP, a novel, will fill. Two? Three file boxes? Yikes! I better invest should I ever see any on sale.

File Box


Notable life news: As some of you know, for a while my best friend, Mike, lived with my wife and I. We had a huge combined library and liked to chat about books, physics, and life. Well, we still like to chat, but nowadays we do a lot of that chatting here at the hotel (where I typically do my blog posts). He lives at the hotel now where both he and I work. It’s pretty awesome. For me anyway. Mike doesn’t seem to mind it much either.

One of the reasons he moved in with us was so we could work on a video project together. The project is Mike’s baby. I wrote for it, completing two scripts. While I never expected the same level of output (I write constantly; he writes sparingly), when no scripts were forthcoming from him, the project was pretty much red lighted.

Well, after revisiting the idea and steering our thoughts in a new direction (one which he and I both feel is a better direction) we may be starting the project again. Maybe. We’ll see. I do feel confident enough to actually write about it here because Mike is working on a script. I am in a state of squee about this, since I really think this collaboration could be fun and educational for both of us.

For me, this is a yellow light. I want to see Mike actually complete something for this project before I dive back in. Luckily, I was able to repurpose one of my scripts for a creative nonfiction piece (edited and sent out to potential publishers last week). If Mike manages to stay focused on our project, then come the new year when this dialogue challenge is done, I’ll green light my script writing again.

Reading & Book Signing at Blue Cafe

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Join us May 18th for a reading from local Sioux City author Randal Eldon Greene. He will be joined by Omaha poet Teniesha Kessler. Party starts at 5:00pm and ends at 9:00pm with the piano jazz stylizations of Chris Larson and Ben Lunn. Copies of Randal’s novel, Descriptions of Heaven, will be on sale for $20.

Event: Reading, Book Signing, and Jazz
Date: 05-18-2017
Location: Blue Cafe, 1301 Pierce St, Sioux City Iowa
Time: 5:00-9:00pm
No need to RSVP, but you may let us know if you plan to go through this Facebook Event.

Navigate to the Events Page
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When the Dog Gets Ready to Die

callout18

2017 has welcomed me with the publication of my first poem ever. It’s a great start to this new year. Thanks to Unbroken Journal for accepting this piece for inclusion in their first issue of 2017.

Dog in Snow: artwork for Randal Eldon Greene's prose poem "When the Dog Gets Ready to Die"

A reader from one of my Facebook writing groups was touched by my prose poem. This person had lost their dog recently and, though somewhat reluctant to read it, was glad that she did. While my dog actually survived the ordeal that this poem is based on, it took me many years before I could finally write about this heartbreaking night, one of the saddest moments of my life. I hope that those of you who have lost a pet will be moved by this poem, just as I was moved to tears years ago on that cold winter night.

Read When the Dog Gets Ready to Die by clicking here.