By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
Poetry. Drama. Short stories. Non-fiction works.
All these forms of the written word challenge the writer of literature, commentary and criticism. But it’s the novel — that extended extended genre of fiction — that truly provides the examination and demonstration of the writer’s skill, dedication, drive and passion.
It’s with first-hand experience that I make this assertion.
Last week, I completed the “Novel Writing Workshop” course, another educational step toward earning a master’s degree in English. Completing the course, however, did not equate to completing my novel.
Ah, the sound and connotation of those words, “my novel.” Yes, I am underway with an extended work of fiction, and I plan to complete a draft by August.
Hold me to that.
In my class, I was one of six fledgling novelists. Some already had works published, others were well into stories that spanned genres (a young woman growing up in a foreign brothel, a surreal account of spirits interacting with people), topics (detective tales, a search for a missing child) and continents (from North America to Asia.) Me, I created a protagonist who to my knowledge has not been used before: A building engineer. From Chicago, as you’d expect.
More on my story soon.
Every class I’ve taken these past six semesters has culminated in gaining knowledge and understanding of the written word. And, all have improved my cognitive skills.
To summarize, here’s what I learned over the past 14 weeks:
- First Person. Writing in first person is harder than anticipated. I launched my work taking the narrator’s point of view, but the instructor and classmates wholeheartedly suggested I move to the third person omniscient. I did, and it really made a difference in the narrative.
- Accepting Criticism. At first I was somewhat stunned by critical comments, leading to defensive replies: “What do you mean there’s not enough conflict? Why do you find the dialogue too dense at times? So, what the heck does understanding temporal distance and free-indirect discourse have to do with writing a novel?” Every writer receives criticism; I learned to accept feedback and move on.
- Map Out the Complete Storyline. Before class started in early September, I drafted a two-page synopsis of sorts, but I really didn’t craft a solid plot or a conclusion. That led to a roadblock, one I’ve since overcome.
- Point of View Characters. There can only be so many “POV” characters in a work for it to be intriguing and make sense. I learned to restrict this perspective to my protagonist and the guy who’s the villain.
- Trust Your Instincts. In light of the aforementioned, it will be my name below the title of the work. When the manuscript is completed, the results will be based on what I think is right.
And now, a sample. Here’s the first paragraph of the work:
“For Myron Jezmanski, here’s how it goes when everything is right, when nothing unexpected gets in the way, when he can count on the day being like the day before, and the day before that, and there’s no crap or nonsense that he has to deal with and he can close his eyes and just be thankful for what he’s built, what he has, and what he’s earned. First, the dog is still asleep when he awakes at 5:30 a.m., which means Myron doesn’t have to let him in the yard until he’s had a shower, coffee – one-half teaspoon of sugar only — and a bowl of Cheerios with fruit – dried fruit in the wintertime, fresh fruit when it’s in season. Hell, if he’s going to pay $4.99 for a pint of strawberries in January. If they’re out of Cheerios, he will eat his wife’s granola, even though he really doesn’t see the big deal in granola.”
What do you gain from these 157 words about my protagonist? Stay tuned for more.
By the way, the title of my novel is “The Way It’s Supposed to Be.”