I was lucky enough to attend a book launch earlier this week at Munro's Books. It was the stuff of daydreams . . . a bookstore after hours, food and beverages served right there in the aisles and a crowd of people brought together by a love of good writing. (In my daydream I'm effervescent, chatting with everyone, elegant in my party dress, where the reality was my introvert self in her work duds, hiding in the aisles waiting for the reading to start.)
The occaision was John Gould, introducing us to his first novel Seven Good Reasons Not to Be Good. John is most known as a writer of micro-fiction; his collection Kilter: 55 Fictions was nominated for the Giller Prize. When he spoke about the leap to a longer format (in this case 350 pages) John talked about the appeal of delving into characters' lives deeper than is possible in shorter works. Giving them more time to reveal themselves and the writer more time to live with them. And as he was explaining this, I realized these are the same reasons I like to read novels. I want the people and their lives around me for more than the time it takes to read a short story, even the complicated characters that are hard to live with, the Barney Panofskys of the world.
We are told over and over to write what we know to acheive an authentic voice and master the unique details that make a piece of writing work. I think another part of the equation is to write what we would like to read. I think that helps us as writers understand our mission a bit better; we can fathom to some degree what kind of experience we are hoping to create for readers. It becomes easier for us to work toward because we already understand how it works because every time we read, we intuit more about how stories unfold and how the pieces make the whole.
Writing what we like to read can be a daunting prospect for writers who prefer longer works. But I do know that I've tried writing short stories and I understand in theory what makes them work, but I always want to include more detail, more dialogue, more everything. I wonder how much of my dissatisfaction with writing is because I haven't really tackled a long project? Because, in an attempt to keep from being overwhelmed, I haven't been trying to create the kind of reading experience I want as a reader?
A couple of local writing tidbits:
Laurie Elmquist, one of the judge's in our So You Think You Can Write contest has posted a blog entry about her experience so far as a judge. (Laurie is also a teacher who shares all kinds of writing-related information - check out her past posts for all kinds of notes she has compiled.)
Overleaf Cafe-Bookshop is the venue for Elizabeth Rhett Woods' upcoming workshop "Word Lottery" on Saturday, October 23. Spark you literary confidence by weaving magic with the hundreds of thousands of words you already know. Workshop is 2:00 to 4:30, costs $10 and requires pre-registration at Overleaf, 1105 Pandora Avenue, Medical Arts Building). More info from firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.