Whatever curious and interesting subject strikes my fancy, be it silly or serious, gets posted for your reading pleasure.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The First Novel (Part 2) ~ Lessons I Have Learned Along the Way

(Post originally published July 7, 2011)


 I promised to resume the thread of my last post on the subject, if the old clichés about writing and the observations made by famous authors are true. Now it's time to keep that promise, so without further ado, I shall continue with Dorris Lessing's observation, which I had left dangling in mid air:

* None of her books turned out the way she expected them to.

This was amazing to hear from a Nobel Laureate of Literature, that her books did not develop the way she intended! I had often assumed that a professional writer or author were in full command of their subject, especially fiction. If stories and situations are a product of your imagination and creativity, surely you can bend the narrative and plot to your every whim?

I soon learned that this was artistic ego … now, I grovel before the wisdom of authors before me. My novel, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly did not follow the road map that I had laid out. I laugh when I remember what I wanted to write, and compare it with the book that now sits majestically on the coffee table. I confess I had the great ambition to write an action-packed mystico-thriller.

Instead, my action-pack thriller became an expressive, romantic and entertaining Kunstlerroman novel, a distance cousin or descendent of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. Not that I could equal Goethe, but how on earth did that happen? The characters in the book can be blamed, once they were created, their lives and personalities dictated the story 95% of the time. The way I first envisioned the plot did not work with the characters that emerged, I couldn't kill them off or change them, they were too strong to alter, so I had to relinquish my original concept.

For instance, there is one character I had planned to make completely diabolical, a character who would literally make your flesh creep. However, I was halfway through the manuscript when it felt like the character in question was literally on his knees begging me not torture him, he did not want to be evil incarnate and would rather be killed off than be made commit the atrocities I had planned. I couldn't throttle him, so there was nothing for it, I had to give in, which completely changed the ending for the book! I won't tell you who, how or why, it would ruin the ending for you if you ever decide to read it, but to come to the point, I quickly discovered that The Book is more important than your plans for it. You have to go with what works for The Book ~ if your ideas appear hollow or forced when they are put on paper, chop them, erase them, pulverise them and start again. Don't whine when things are not going your way, because they are going the right way for The Book, which is more important. The show must go on, and so must The Book.

You may ask if the plot can suddenly veer in the opposite direction, are any of your original ideas left intact? Yes, surprisingly, but not in the way I first envisioned. There are very fine traces of my original concept, but it would take a keen eye to spot them. Many of the subjects I wanted to explore also survived the chopping block, without all the murder mysteries and car chases.

Am I disappointed with the end result? No, I must say I'm not! Instead of the dark, brooding, evil personalities and plots, it changed direction and the story is far more entertaining with humorous characters and events while still retaining the reflective sections, and a little human tragedy for good measure.

The moral of the story: accept the possibility your plans may change despite all your best efforts to keep your ideas on track, don't get frustrated, embrace the changes, and you may be very happy with the finished product. Remember, The Book is the master of its own destiny.


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