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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An Open Letter to the Guy Who Asked: "You Write Novels?"

Part of a special month-long event featuring writing tips and NaNoWriMo strategies from guest writers and fellow NaNo participants.

Dear Random Person I Met at a Party Who Asked Me About Writing Novels
by Gabrielle Prendergast
Remember me? I’m the author. Published author. You were moderately impressed until I let slip I write for teens, then you were back to being bored. Until I let slip I write in verse. That either confused you or gave you gas. It was hard to tell from the expression on your face.
And what do YOU do? I’ve forgotten. It was something like lawyer, orthodontist, logistical supervisor in charge of network optimisation and….zzzz Oh sorry, I must have dozed off. Do go on. You have a degree in something. Something you no doubt find more important and “useful” than my three degrees in English, psychology and writing. I’ve forgotten what your degree is in. I only remember that you applied said degree in the job I’ve also forgotten. I forget a lot these days. See it’s October. And the month after October is November. If you were a writer too, you’d know what that means.
“A writer, eh?” you said (possibly you were Canadian?) “I’ve been thinking about doing some writing.” I resisted to urge to tell you about my lifeling dream of supervising logistical network optimization. I just nodded blearily and fervently wished that someone, anyone, would bring me a flaming cocktail that I could use to set myself on fire.
“I might even write a novel,” you said. Just like that, with the casual tone of someone saying “I might order the clams” or “I might wear the seersucker suit on Wednesday.” I gritted my teeth and encouraged you as well as I could. That is to say I didn’t punch you in the neck. Or vomit on your shoes. “Do you have any tips?” you asked. “Like how I could write a novel?” I might have mumbled something random about software or cupcakes; I’m not sure. The room was starting to spin. I needed to pee. And something about a passing tray of canapes made me think of sticking toothpicks in my eyes. It was time to leave.
Perhaps you got the impression that I don’t give tips to aspiring writers or even that I don’t have any tips. I’d like to take this moment to set the record straight. I DO, in fact know, how to write a novel only I didn’t want to tell you, because your screams would have upset the other party goers. But someone needs to tell you. Sadly that someone seems to be me.
So here goes.
First, you need to find a hook. In a pinch, a large crochet hook (say a US size N/15) will do. But you’ll get a better result with something larger, sharper and (this is key) older. Rusty even. Something that was used to prepare Egyptian bodies for mummification would be perfect. Or a meat hook. Preferably one used in a murder. Once you have your hook you need to jam it forcefully up your nose. That’s right, your nose. And the force is required because you need to get past the brain matter that makes this task so onerous. What you are trying to hook is your soul.
Souls are slippery little suckers too. That’s why old storied hooks are best. Souls, especially the souls of writers, can’t resist a little history. If you jam your hook at the right angle, you soul should hook right onto it. You’ll know when you’ve caught your soul because the hook will begin to tug, like a fishing line. This is when you need to yank as hard as you can. Pull that soul right out of your head. Go on now, don’t be tentative. Give a good hard pull. Probably some of your brain will come with it. Don’t worry about that, just throw it away. It’s only frontal lobe, where reason and logic preside. You won’t need those to write your novel.
Once you’ve pulled your soul out you might notice it’s very wrinkly and untidy looking. So you will need to iron it. That’s right. Iron it. Again this is a step where history helps. So find the oldest hottest iron you can. One of those ones that needs to be heated in an open fire or on a pot bellied stove would be perfect. Lay your soul out on a flat surface, and iron it. Iron it good too. Burn marks are fine. It just needs to be flat. It hurts a little bit, this part. And when I say hurts I means it’s literally like hot ironing your soul. Because you are, in fact, hot ironing your soul.
You might discover something interesting as you iron your soul: it seems infinitely large. You’ll iron and iron and iron and seem to never reach the edges of a perfectly ironed soul. Most writers spend months or years on this task. A lucky few only a few weeks. Some take their whole lifetime. But one day, unexpectedly you’ll realise your soul is smooth as still water. And that’s when you know you’re ready to start writing on it.
Yes. You write on your soul. “But, no,” you say “I’m going to use Scrivener and then import all the chapters into MS Word on my Macbook.” No you’re not. It just seems that way. In reality, you will be writing your novel on your ironed out soul.
Remember what I said about the screaming? Are you feeling it yet? Still want to write that novel?
So, in order to write on your soul, you will need ink. And when I say ink of course I mean blood. And when I say blood I mean YOUR blood. And you can’t just cut a neat hole in your wrist or anything like that. The blood has to be heart blood and you can only get that by tearing your own heart out and squeezing it into some kind of container. Any container will do. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I use old yogurt tubs.
So now you have your ink. Of course you need a pen. This is another time wherein history helps the novel writing process. Old fountain pens are fine – the dipping kind not the filling kind. But they need to be stolen from dead people or stock brokers. Preferably dead stock brokers. Quills are even better. If you happen to manage to pull a flight feather off one of those vultures that eat the dead bodies in the Towers of Silence that would be awesome. Quills and pens that reek of dead flesh work best for some reason.
A flat soul, a tub of your own blood, and a carrion smeared quill and you’re ready to go. That’s all you need to write your novel. Oh, and an idea. But those are easy to come by.
Well, what are you waiting for?
About the author
Gabrielle Prendegast is the author of several novels for young readers including AUDACIOUS, a YA novel in verse published recently by Orca Book Publishers. A writer and teacher, she blogs and rants at Angelhorn.com and VerseNovels.com. She also designs book covers at CoverYourDreams.wordpress.com.
By Gabrielle Prendergast:
Sixteen year old Raphaelle is that girl who says the wrong thing, who crosses the wrong person, who has the wrong hair, the wrong body, the wrong attitude, the totally wrong clothes. She can’t do anything right, except draw, but she draws the wrong pictures. When her father moves the family to a small prairie city, Raphaelle wants to leave behind the misfit rebel, the outcast, the vengeful trouble-maker she was. Reborn as “Ella,” she plans fit in at her new school, while her perfect younger sister goes to the Catholic girls’ school and her emotionally fragile mother looks for a job. 

But Ella might just be a different kind of misfit. She’s drawn to a brooding boy in her art class, Samir, and expresses her confused feelings in an explicit artwork. When a classmate texts a photo of Ella’s art to a younger friend, the horrendous fallout spreads though Ella’s life like an uncontrollable disease. Ella is expelled from school and faces pornography charges, her mother is hospitalized, her sister fails all her classes, and her distant father finally notices something is wrong.


2 comments:

  1. LOL! Too funny... I meet lots of people who ask questions about writing or mention the novel they want to write. Thanks for sharing this, Gabrielle!

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  2. Lol. I sense some anger...;)
    But understand. I think you nailed the writing proces. And hopefully taught "someone" an important lesson. :)

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