Mark Terry

Monday, September 11, 2006

Why Write Novels?

September 11, 2006
Over on his blog, Rick Riordan has a fabulous transcript of a talk he gave at a writer's conference titled "Why Write Novels?" Here's a taste:

"Wanting to be a writer is a common dream, right up there with owning a restaurant and playing pro sports. About five years ago NPR did a survey of people walking through a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Washington D.C. The question they asked: Do you think you have a novel inside you? 81% said yes. But what separates the idea from the reality? A lot of insanity and a touch of masochism. Writing isn’t digging ditches, I’ll grant you, but it is extraordinarily hard work. We don’t write simply because we think it sounds like fun. It isn’t true that anyone can do it."

It's brilliant. Go read it. Now!

Mark Terry


Blogger Rob Gregory Browne said...

Thanks for the link, Mark. I feel like I breezed through my first novel, but this second one is teaching me that it, indeed, is hard, hard work.

I'm only halfway through and I'm already exhausted... :)

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Ron Estrada said...

When I wake up an hour and a half earlier than I need to, I wonder if I'm insane.

Then, when I'm rolling along and I realise it's time for the morning run, I think I should make it two hours.

To steal a line from Nicolas Cage in "National Treasure," it's not obsession, it's passion.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I had this discussion with Kathleen Sharp, the editor of the ITW newsletter--she's written several non-fiction books and the day she called me I was battling my way through this book-length business report, the Laboratory Industry Strategic Outlook 2007, I'm working on (Hope to finish draft of Chapter 9 today!).

We both agree that novelists (and hey, I am one, aftere all) whine too much about the difficulty of writing a novel. I can say that the novels are a walk-in-the park compared to this business report, which, after all, is dependent on facts.

What seems to be so difficult about novel-writing to me is there are absolutely no objective ways to know if what you're doing is actually working--it's a constant act of faith. And the higher you put your bar, the more second-guessing you do (sound familiar, Rob?). That, to me, is what makes novel-writing so difficult--the lack of decent feedback, no bar to measure your success against while you're working on it, the completely ephemeral aspect of creating something out of nothing, but because it's so embedded in your imagination you can't tell how it's going to work on its intended audience. That's the hard part, I think.

And Ron, I'm still not sure there's any difference between obsession and passion in this case.

10:10 AM  

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