Friday, June 29, 2007

How do you Train?

Before my post today, I want to apologize. I have no idea how blogging is going to be this summer. I have such an irregular schedule in the summer. We’ll see!

I’m really disappointed that I wasn’t able to blog about Brett Battles' The Cleaner this week! I want to tell you all about it, and rave even more than my ravings in February. I loved it!

And now, The Cleaner is out! It’s sitting all pretty and shiny in Borders, right smack in the middle of the front table. YAY! If you like Alias and Barry Eisler, you’ll enjoy The Cleaner!

The other day, Allison Brennan blogged about Short Stories at Murder She Writes. (Awesome blog, if you don’t already read it.)

She mentioned that Stephen King once said that we were on the verge of losing the art of the short story. I believe that trend is reversing, with all the short story publications I’ve seen in the last year and a half, as well as with the Amazon Shorts program. (One of the more brilliant things they’ve ever done!)

Ray Bradbury states that one of the biggest challenges with fledgling writers make for themselves is that they sit down and write a novel first-off. As he says, if you haven’t had a lot of practice and you’ve spent a year on a novel, chances are, you’ve spent a year to produce crap.

(You can hear him say it in his video about short stories. Did you know he has a website? And a pretty awesome one at that! Check out the videos from interviews!)

On the other hand, he says, if you’ve spent a year writing one short story a week, at the end of the year you’ll have fifty-two short stories. Chances are that a good percentage of those will be decent stuff.

Writing a novel, for me, is like a marathon. When you’re training for a marathon, you start out running one mile. Then you build yourself up, until you’re running more miles. You start entering 5K races, then 10K races. After a year or so, you go for that marathon ... but maybe you walk a bit of it.

Of course, others start out with long runs and walks. Everyone’s different.

I suspect there’s as many methods to train for a novel as there are to train for a marathon. Me? Well, I’ve done a ton of short stories and novellas, and my novellas, lately, have become parts of a full novel. My last five novellas were really two novels in parts, LOL. That’s not how novellas are supposed to be written, though, but at least it gives me a little confidence going into the novel.

We just gotta keep growing and striving to improve, I guess.

So how do you train for a novel?

9 bonus scribbles:

Stewart Sternberg 6/29/2007 12:21:00 PM  

Any time anyone quotes Bradbury, unless it's politically, they've automatically won me over. I want to claim Bradbury as my spiritual mentor.

But to address the issue: how to train for a novel. I agree with Bradbury about writing short pieces as a form of developing craft, but I also think people should consider writing a first novel, then throwing it away. Or at least writing the first, setting it aside for a couple years, then returning after a second has been crafted.

Good subject

StarvingWriteNow 6/29/2007 01:29:00 PM  

Being the dirty minded slob I am, I thought initially you meant something completely different by train...

spyscribbler 6/29/2007 02:03:00 PM  

Good advice, Stewart! I love Bradbury, too. I think the 'genres' hold some of the best writers.

LOL, Starving. Dirty-minded slobs have way more fun!

The Dark Scribe 6/29/2007 02:11:00 PM  

I agree with Stewart. I wrote my first novel thinking it would be a short story, but loved the characters and expanded it to something like a hundred and thirty thousands words. Probably about ten thousand were any good, and, unfortunately, they weren't in sequential order. So I let it sit there for a month, went to edit, and realized that it was garbage. Absolute, bottom of the barrel trash.

But I don't think I could ever have written my subsequent novels without having failed that first time. It's all part of the training.

avery 6/29/2007 02:43:00 PM  

Then there's me. Full-tilt into novelhood. Yeah, I wrote a couple of short stories before, but pretty much only because someone standing at the head of a class threatened me with failing if I didn't. There was that one I wrote a couple of months ago for a contest, but that was a deviation from the norm -- a spasm, if you will. And even that story has the potential for blowing up into a format I consider more manageable.

I didn't just sit down and start writing a book, though. I took a six-month novel writing workshop to get me off on the right foot. Once I'd made that lofty decision to write a novel, I realized I had no real idea of how to do it. By the time I'd reached the end of the course and had professional feedback on the first three chapters, I pretty much knew how to keep going without shooting myself in the foot.

spyscribbler 6/29/2007 02:54:00 PM  

Wow, Dark Scribe! That's really cool. I want to be able to do that accident, LOL. That must have been fun!

You, too, Avery? That sounds like a smart approach. You had a training plan, didn't you? ;-) Very smart.

You know, the more I talk to people, the more I realize how very weird my development as a writer has been.

Karen Olson 6/29/2007 06:08:00 PM  

I wrote two novels before the one that got published. No one's ever going to see those, either. It's not one of those Grisham-I'm-pulling-it-out-of-the-drawer things. Those were my "learning" books.

Loreth Anne White 7/01/2007 12:59:00 AM  

For me the only way to write a novel is the same way I train for a marathon -- You have got to put in the long runs. Those weekly long runs are the key to building stamina. A little longer each time.
Otherwise you just get very good at doing the short ones, and you hit a comfortable plateau without building the new muscles and training the body and the mind to dig deep into resources in order to go the full distance.

I really do think the way to train for a novel is simply to sit down and try to write one -- even if its crap, you will have the distance under your belt, the idea of pacing. You will know how to refuel and rest. You will know not to panic when others go faster, because this is about your own personal best. And going the distance.

And yes -- I did train to run a marathon while writing a book *VBG* I have since run three, and I find the mental processes between distance running, and novel writing frighteningly similar. In fact -- for me, running a marathon probably helped me train to write a book :) :)

avery 7/02/2007 09:50:00 AM  

Spy, I'd love to say I had a plan. But, I really didn't. I said, "I'm going to write a novel, now." Then, I sat down and five minutes later said, "Shit." I had no idea what I was doing. So, I found help. Not very organized at all, I'm afraid.