Novels Are About Work

No doubt about it. You got to have discipline. That means there needs to be a serious regiment. A day in, day out practice, with clarity about what you want to accomplish.

When I wrote my first novel, I studied texts for about 2 months. I read everything around the world which I was about to create. Then I began with "no mind." Just doing. I would require 1 good chapter or 2 by the day's end.

Sometimes I would stop in the middle of a chapter to have an easy starting point for the next day. I found this helped to launch me faster into the heart of the narrative.

Another trick, was to read all that I had written up to that point. This practice gave me momentum, and a frame of reference for where I would land on the page.

These landings were usually dictated by a them I wanted to explore in a chapter, (say "forgiveness"), or it would begin with a sentence that lead me to many, such as, "It felt good to be on an adventure."

A poem's entry point can be rather different. Sometimes it's the sonic adventure that triggers a framework from which different levers begin to align. For example: "shell shackle pure fish/ fists among the muck/turned right and faced eloquent/ changes turbulent/seasons change."

This is just random words. They have no semblance for an inherent structure or meaning, but in there innocence there can be many gems which are pulled together to form a link of sorts.

Lets see if it's possible.

shell shackle pure fish [I like this line. Lets keep it for a minute.]

fists among the muck [Not sure about this either.]

turned right face eloquent [Remove the conjunction and the past tense of face to create "right face" as in soldier.]

turbulent changes [sounds better than "changes turbulent" to my ear.]

these seasons. [I love making a "This" or "These" in poems. It creates a breadth and clarity. What is the turbulent change? These seasons.

Now we have the option of reordering the lines. Sometimes this can be helpful in an edit. How about

shell shackle pure fish
these seasons
fists among the muck
turbulent changes
turned right face eloquent

The next question I usually ask after a re-ordering of lines is what is exactly being said. What is this about? I can understand seasons changing. That's simple. But what's shell shackle pure fish?

This is where it gets fun.

I often take lines that don't make sense to me, and try and come up with what they mean to me. What was my hidden urge that brought them to fruition? What's going on with me? Is this personal? Objective? Can I pull in something from popular culture? The outside world? My present surroundings? All good questions.

shell shackle pure fish...hiding chains among innocent fish
these emotional balance
fists among the muck...pounding the dirt
turbulent changes...waves into tide
turned right face eloquent...and die

Now we could keep these translations with the originals. We could even build upon the translations, creating a topography of sorts. Why not? Sure. It's possible. Just a choice. No foul.

We could also look at the language in each line. We can ask whether we want to complicate the language Will Alexander style, or make it colloquial. Why not complicate? What would that do?

carapace manacles unalloyed piscatology
epileptic mutation
intusscept sanctimonious camouflage
vehemence and rot

Okay. This is interesting. It's translation now creates a new metrical line. We can go back to adjust the phonics, mix and match the colloquial, or return to the question of conveyance. Lets return to the latter. What does this mean? Say it as simple as you can understand it. Do the reverse. Be the child.

Hiding in my shell
winter fists
fits and changes
spiritual camouflage

Make it easier.

I am hiding in my shell.
I don't want change.
I like my masks.
But they are torn away.

Personally, I like it simple like this. I also like to find a story or create an altered reality. What if this was about a sea turtle? We could give him a name. An entire world.

Mortimer hides
his hide
a cross and over Coronado

A religion like dust.
It's pockets change in water.
Tune into rust
at the slightest decible.

Now we finally have a poem going. It could do with some more fine tuning, but it's a start.

Notice how much play was found once we allowed the poem to go into it's own world, rather than try to dictate it. "Shell" suddenly became "hide" to play on the previous lines "hides," which in turn allowed for another play on "across" into "a cross" and its relation to "coronado."

From that point on, the poem takes a fanciful dip into the sleight of hands among the relationship dictated by the play.

We can also notice that no meaning has been lost on our part. We know the direction of the poem, and its underlying arch. Now it simply becomes fun to see where the possibilities will lead.

Who knows? There could be a series of Mortimer poems.

In my experience, one journey like this can erupt any number of linked poetry. It can create a polished voice from which one would be able to pull for other poems, or it could even facilitate a further push into turn around, where Mortimer comes out of hiding.

Anyway, that was a tangent. I was talking about writing novels. Yes. They require discipline. Set-up a regular reading schedule that will include the topics you are interested. This can range from themes you want to explore, to voices you want to learn from, or even the simple pleasure of reading itself. The only guideline is to pick books which are inspiring around your novel's general direction. For example, if you're doing a novel (or poems for that matter) about sea turtles, why not get some children's picture books; a Jeaques Cousteau video, The Old Man and the Sea, whatever.

Then simply read your heart out. Immerse yourself.

Every once in a while, see if a sentence pops out. Try it in your head: "Mortimer liked the Caspian Sea. He also spoke Farsi quite well. This was unusual for sea turtles from our neck of the barnacle. Most of us spoke Greek and Latin. The classics, you know? That's what really got the ladies going. And if you wanted to be somebody in the Persian Gulf, you had to avoid oil spells and speak a dead language. That was basically the only thing that kept a turtle going."

If you're able to build on the story. Then stop reading. Start writing. Let it go, until you have no more sentences.

Then stop, and write down possible chapters that you might want to tackle tomorrow. It could be "vegetation", "Mortimer's girlfriend", "riding water currents", whatever.

As you make the list, compile the books that you will line up to read the next morning that will shed light on the possibilities. Then rip again, when the feeling suits you.

Anyway, I've been going for a bit now. It's probably best to hit the sack. I've got anxious parents in the house, and they rarely give a son the chance to be groggy or a late riser.

Talk to you soon,


P.S. I'm thinking about changing my name to Mortimer. Sike!

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