Those Who Can't, Teach

October 26, 2006

Issue #10 of A Novel in One Semester
by Mary Kay Zuravleff, copyright 2006

Just about everyone made it to 32K words this week (and by that I mean only one person didn’t, and he knows who he is), and we gathered, amazed that there are two scant weeks left in our challenge to write 40K words in 10 weeks. Our goal is to draft a beginning, middle, and end of a NOVEL. My problem? I don’t have an end in sight. Compound that with listening to wise pupils announce that not only did most of them know their own endings but also that during the challenge’s penultimate week they planned to write them. Thus, they will guarantee that their stories reach the end, which is pretty reasonable considering we “only” have 8K words to go.

Since they didn’t need much help and I’d already spilled my plot at 20K words in hopes of illustrating the kinds of conflicts that could be drummed up halfway through a project like this, I leaned on them to generate a few possible scenarios for my ending. It was a focus group, if you will, for the possibilities a premise such as mine might generate, which I highly recommend, especially if the group corroborates your gut feeling and has more to do with mood, flavor, and tone than actual endings.

The Russian Revolution May Be in Brackets
Early on, I bestowed on the class the power of the bracket. This power eliminates the need for revision (unfortunately, only in this draft) and guards against logorrhea that would take a writer past the 40K mark without providing us the required beginning, middle, and end.

If you decide that Bob must die, that point of view should change from first to multiple, or that the Russian Revolution needs to be included in your novel in exquisite detail, all you need do is insert a “[” at the moment of your conversion and note that from that space on, the earth has shifted; i.e., [Bob dies] or [the Russian Revolution goes here].

Brackets are not usual forms of punctuation; consequently, they’re easy to search for later and will allow you to skip forward, unencumbered by the work of actual change, which you may very well rescind. On the other hand, who knows? We may pioneer a post-modern oeuvre in which all that goes before is eradicated or brilliantly modified in bracketed addenda.

[Scintillating, inspiring conclusion to lead followers to the 36K goal by November 1, 2006, deadline]