Who’s writing the great American novel? Not me.

This post is approximately 500 words. I wrote it 8 and a half years ago when I was between jobs and somewhere between hopeful and hopeless. I share it here to illustrate the thoughts a writer has before THE INSPIRATION hits.


December 1, 2009: I sometimes wish I were writing that kind of novel, but mostly I’m glad I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fine thing to write an important work that stands the test of time. I hear from other writing friends who think they’ve got some…thing, that they’ve got that great novel inside their brains. But they’re slaving and grinding at the keyboard and apparently not enjoying themselves along the way.

I just don’t have that idea in me, driving me along like a merciless taskmaster.

That’s not to say I couldn’t write 100,000 words. Without hubris, I think I could. It would be 10 10,000-word stories or 20 5,000-worders or some other combination thereof. I simply don’t think I have anything to say that would fall into this distinguished category.

My work leans toward the macabre or the horrifying, not quite the subject material that comes to mind when assembling a list of great novels, though it should be argued that Dracula or Frankenstein are classics that stand the test of time. They are the exceptions to the rule. Generally, I’m looking to hit you hard and fast, picking up a story after it’s begun and leaving it before every question has been answered. To do that, I prefer short stories.

Horror aside, I also have about 20 children’s stories chasing themselves around in my head. As important as children’s books are to child development, I don’t think picture books aren’t quite in the same realm as great novels, either.

Perhaps it’s a matter of discipline. Perhaps I just haven’t had the time, dedication, or idea that one needs to craft a piece of literary artwork.

So, I’m looking to write horror, kids’ books, maybe a YA novel, and if I’m lucky, that epic Tolkienesqe piece that’s been slowly churning in my head for 10+ years. Wait…”epic Tolkienesqe piece”…is that my great idea? Good or bad, maybe that idea is exactly what I thought I didn’t have at the beginning of this piece.

I started this missive quite certain I would never be writing the Great American Novel. I’m still not convinced I can, but I apparently have a sliver of a kernel of an idea that might just spark me into taking up the challenge.


Heh. Six years later – almost to the day – I started that story, albeit with a different take than I originally anticipated. That story, that “epic Tolkienesqe piece”, has come to life and kept me inspired for 18 months. All told, I’ve typed more than 150,000 words.

If I’m being honest with myself, I think I’d abandoned the idea before that. I guess it goes to show that a person can’t predict everything in life. It’s given me direction when I’ve felt aimless. That, more than fame or fortune, is perhaps the greater benefit of writing.

–Michael

Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this from Michael!

© Michael Wallevand, May 2017

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