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Stripping

It’s been more than a week since I’ve written on/in my blog and for good reason: I’ve been working flat-out every day for several hours on the revision of my murder mystery. I’ve decided, reluctantly, that it’s not working as novel and stripped the story down to its armature. I don’t usually have the luxury of extended periods of writing time but last Monday, the 26th of January, I realized I had a string of free days before the NYU term began, and no other commitments. I retreated to upstate New York where it was so bitterly cold and icy I could hardly go outside. Nothing to do but read, write, snow-shoe, play with my daughter and son-in-law’s dog, and work out on their treadmill in between paragraphs.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I accepted that my novel might not be a novel after all but a novella or a very long short story. Discouraged one morning, I popped an email to a writer friend and to my agent; they both quickly wrote back words of encouragement. No writer can work in total isolation. But why do we all—fiction and nonfiction writers alike—hope, plan, attempt and assume that we will write a novel or two sometime in our career? I have no idea how this “myth” began and/or by whom. Maybe it was Norman Mailer. He always said he was going to write the “great” American novel. In the end, his body of work was formidable and the longest and greatest of all his books was nonfiction: “The Executioner’s Song,” which is what we would now call creative nonfiction or literary nonfiction or literary journalism or narrative nonfiction. In other words, it combines fictional devices(setting, character, descriptive detail, dramatic tension, plot, etc.) with journalism (interviews and research).

In sum, my murder mystery, the first I have ever attempted, is not a novel. But it has merit and I will press on. Perhaps it will become part of a “novel in stories,” or a “story cycle?” Stay tuned.




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