Friday, November 7, 2008

A Novel is Like a Marriage

Writing a novel is like falling in love. First, you have an idea of a story--like you have an idea of a person you see from far away. It's love at first sight. You imagine those heady scenes in your mind--the stand-out scenes, the scenes where you and the person in question have an amazing romantic life together.

Then you set down the first few paragraphs. So far, so good. But after a while you realize this story isn't what you thought it was. It does things to disappoint you. It doesn't live up to all those expectations. Like someone you've been dating for a while, the rosy romantic glow wears off. Sometimes it's all you can do to drag yourself to the computer. Sometimes you just don't want to deal with him.

It happens around page 100 for me--and maybe around the first year of a relationship--when the romantic glow wears off. Sometimes, you realize your story (or relationship) just isn't what you dreamed it would be, and you move on. Other times you try to stick it out. You try new things. You spice up your sex life. You start writing in coffee shops, wrapped in American flags, just to feel different. You take your characters in whole new directions. You never know; it could work.

Once I walked into a room with a woman who read tarot cards for a living. She told me later she took one look at me and said, "she's not the marrying kind." I asked her what she meant and she said, "You're just too independent, honey. You'll never settle down." Maybe I'm not the kind of girl who finishes a book, either. To be honest, that keeps me up at night more than the other. Maybe I'm too flighty to settle down with just one book idea. Maybe, as with my relationships, I just can't handle being disappointed. I hate it when my brilliant idea comes down off the pedestal.

I've never married, and I've never finished a book. My aim is to do the latter this month, with a book I've been working on for a while. We haven't sealed the deal yet, despite repeated promises to myself and others that THIS one was the one. The one I'd finish. But I've stuck with it and I think maybe, just maybe, it really could be the book I've waited my whole life for--the one with an end in sight.

Maybe I'm the kind of girl who finishes a book after all.

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