It would have been about three months ago, now. My friend, a good friend of mine, asked me why I am not writing a novel. We were standing in a smoke-filled garage, at a going-away party for a mutual friend.
It came up because we were talking about what might be a good future for me. He is well on his way to a great career, and is happy for it. At that moment, I was thinking about adding a little bit more ambience to the garage.
When he was going through a bit of a tough time in his life, I bought him a notebook and gave him one of my favourite pens. I told him to write things down. I told him that by doing so he will have a record of the things in life that are worth remembering. I told him that by having a record of what is worth remembering he will be able to reflect and engage with his thoughts over time. I told him that one day, when he has practiced enough, he will be able to theorise about the future and practise of his profession.
The bane of his existence is forgetfulness. To his credit, he rarely forgets how much he hates not being able to remember, so has been quite diligent about keeping his facts in good order. He does sometimes forget to return my phone calls, and I have not spoken with him in about three months.
His question to me still plagues me. Why have I not written a novel? Or, why am I not working on a novel?
When I was younger I had an idea for a novel. Now, I cannot be sure that I know what the difference between a short story, a novella, and a novel is. I can be fairly certain that it has to do with length, but then there must be some other difference that I am not aware of. Even if it only has to do with length, when can a story claim to be short, when does a short story become a novella, and when does a novella become a novel?
For the novel that I had thought up, I had character developments and a weak plot line. Somewhere in my hoards of notebooks, the story ideas are written down. I still think it would make for an interesting short story, novella, or novel.
To revert back to the question that sparked this blog post, the reason that I am not writing a novel is because I have not put in the effort. Lately, I have been listening to the Writers & Company and The Next Chapter podcasts, in an effort to gain insight into what writing is like. I have been perusing through different short story writers’ books, such as Etgar Keret and Mavis Gallant, to help me understand the structure of short stories. I have not sat down regularly enough to write anything substantial.
Right now, however, I am working on a story, tentatively titled Cory. It is far more difficult to write, and write well, than I would like it to be. The ideas I have for the story are convoluted, making it difficult to be clear in my writing.
I figure that if I continue to plug away at the story it will eventually get written. My ideas, and my penning of them, will hopefully become clearer as the story takes shape. Most importantly, I must not forget about the story, or any story. Anything I write, in whatever literary category of prose it falls into, must be worth remembering.