Well, I started The Empty Everything yesterday (Wednesday). Yeah, my last post said I was going to begin on Friday, but I decided to just go ahead and get the damn thing moving.
What I want to talk about now is that I’ve begun with Chapter 8, which is near the end of the entire book. Why? Don’t most authors begin at the beginning and end at the end?
I used to be very linear when I wrote. In fact, I had to start writing on page 1 and move consecutively from that point forward. In addition, I had to reread what I had written previously, make editing changes, add/delete portions, etc before I could write brand new stuff. So, the act of writing became a very methodical, repetitive drudge.
This linear technique was all I knew until a few years ago – that’s decade’s worth of writing in the same methodology. Then, out of necessity rather than experimentation, while working on my novel about Palestine, I had to bounce around. Different characters appeared (and voiced) different chapters and to maintain that consistency, I had to group those sections into cohesive weeks-long writing sessions.
And then … suddenly … freedom. Once I released myself from the restrictions of writing from cover-to-cover, I refound a true joy in creation. I was able to focus on the chapters I wanted to write. I was able to maintain a common thread for characters with ease. And, finally, I was able to see the novel as a collection of “episodes”, rather than this long long marathon of trying to bridge the gaps between scenes.
What’s truly amazing in this change, overall, is I suddenly realized what my true strengths are when writing. I know, after all this time, one would think I’d recognize where I’m good and where I struggle, but it’s not that easy. Creation is never a logical exercise. Never. In suddenly bouncing from chapter to chapter, in no particular order, I came to see that short fiction has always been my strength. Where my past novels have failed (more in my expectations than anything else) is the horribly boring “blah blah blah” I always felt obligated to insert between key scenes I was aching to write. This formed an inconsistency both in writing and character. And it bugged the crap outta me.
So, two or three years ago, I actively changed my style of novel writing into one a little more disjointed – primarily seen (or one day will be seen) in my Memphis novel. Now, my goal is to produce novels that are more fragments of time and characters, all joined by a common theme, but sometimes never even coming in contact with one another. I call this style “slices of life.” (Now seeing that phrase in print makes me a bit embarrassed. I really need to come up with something cooler).
I plan to delve into the nuts & bolts of this style much more in the future. It’s not anything ground shakingly new … I can think of quite of few novels which use a similar if not the same technique. But I’m not saying I’m a creative genius. I’m simply trying to find my niche in order to write something worth reading.
So, yes, I’m happily beginning with Chapter 8. Maybe one day you’ll happily read it.