On the writing of a novel

I haven’t yet published my first novel (thought it is very close to publication by now) and I’m already planning my next one. This phase of writing is nearly as wonderful as the actual writing. Right now anything is possible. I can dream big dreams and create fantastic plots. I’ve learned many lessons from my first novel. So here’s what I’m doing different:

– The first ever novel I wrote had a plot and theme much too small. It would have made a decent short story, but not a novel. It was misery trying to drag that thing out enough. I ended up abandoning the whole endeavor. The second novel I wrote (Path of Grass) began as short stories but then I discovered that was too big for a short story. It fit into a novel much better than a short story. With this next novel I intend to start with a spacious plot and plan for a novel. It was so hard to get Path of Grass turned into a novel. It was like building a house and converting it into a cathedral. I’m going to start out with a nice big theme and plan my novel instead of the novel dragging me along.

– I’m going to develop my scenes and settings more. It is going to be something like a movie script, where you describe each scene in the movie. I’m going to do my background work on the location and settings. I want it to be colorful and realistic. It is a modern story set in a midwestern small town. This is on purpose, for this is what I know best. I’ve grown up in the midwest near a small town. Writers are always told “write about what you know.” While Path of Grass is set somewhat in the midwest, it does contain some exotic elements (war-torn Germany…futuristic Uzbekistan, etc…) that I’ve never experienced. So I hope that my next novel will be even stronger because of the setting. And this is a time when I long to be an artist. I wish I could draw. I have this deep desire to draw out my rooms. Sketch the furniture, the little knick-knacks, the coffee-cup, the carpet, the cat on the rug, all the things that make the story real. It would be so wonderful for me to create these images of my world. As it is, I have just words which are harder to use.

– I’m going to have deeper characters. I’m going to “live” my characters. This will be a little difficult because I have many characters. Not just many inconsequential characters but quite a few really important people. I guess this is what comes of reading too much Dickens. I want to know exactly how they look, how they think, what they feel, their life history, their dreams/hopes, fears, everything. I want to get inside them and know them before I even start writing.

– I want to have a story that wrestles with the reality of our absurdity as creatures alienated from our Creator. But I also want a story that presents the redemption that we can find through our Creator’s entrance into our little world.

– I don’t want a trite story. I hate trite things. I don’t like stories that reduce the Gospel to the equivalent of a child’s coloring book. I don’t want a story with easy, nice answers.

– I don’t want a story with nice characters. I’ve made it my motto to never have characters without some sort of fault. I want my story to be inspired by the many encounters Jesus had with “sinners.” He ate with sinners. He ate with tax-collectors and prostitutes. It was the “nice” people Jesus rejected. It was the self-righteous religious people who never realized their great sin and so never realized their need for Christ…and who never appreciated the grace of God towards sinful humanity.

I’m not going to spill anymore right now as I think this story will go through many variations and changes before it emerges to the public.

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