Now You Are Novelists
January 1, 1970
Issue #12 of A Novel in One Semester
by Mary Kay Zuravleff, copyright 2006
Last night, a dozen people walked into a classroom bearing copies of their latest novels, which had not even been a twinkle in their eyes ten weeks earlier. My own copy was wearing caveat underwear, from the title to the premise; nonetheless, I am proud. A draft exists where there was no draft. Each member of this crew I’ve been leading has, in fact, been cobbling together his or her own little dingy, and we passed them around, amazed by their heft, even if we have yet to judge their seaworthiness.
An interesting lesson I learned when I was uninspired and weary this last week (and I won’t even mention the despair) was that my promise to the community was enough to stay committed until ecstatically typing “The End.”
Watch Your Language
I was lamenting a few things we missed out on, having to maintain our breakneck pace and necessary push through an entire plot. Annie Dillard wrote, “It takes five to ten years to write a novel. Some people can do it in a year, but some people can lift cars.” Letting ideas steep or giving cultures time to grow and flourish requires more weeks than we had available to us. Maybe some folks in class can lift cars—there was that feeling of exhilaration at our accomplishment and weekly word count. Maybe not. Either way, a draft is not a novel; however, you can’t have a novel without a draft.
My second lament was that we who love exquisite language and the craft that is admirable in beautiful fiction couldn’t infuse our works with enough of either. But if not enough, I certainly saw glimpses. We each read a page aloud, and after an author was finished, we went around the circle quoting memorable phrases back to the writer. No editorializing on this night, just an opportunity to let the author hear an image or line of dialogue that another writer appreciated. Turns out, there was much to appreciate.
And So, Our Adventure Ends/Begins
We’ll spend a few weeks critiquing each other’s drafts, but I’ll give the newsletter a rest. I’ve enjoyed hearing from other writers, painters, and spectators. Stay in touch. Your cheers along the route were incredibly helpful. And to anyone we inspired, don’t stop now.