Why my “novel” is still on page 20

©2022 Michael Raven

I’ve been writing the same scene over and over again, and deciding it probably will never be quite right. Prelude, except we don’t like the word “Prelude” anymore, so it is not a prelude, but the opening scene in a story that is most imagined in my head, and will probably never see the light of day, mostly because of perfectionist thinking and subpar output.

It twists and turns with each attempt to capture what I am trying to capture, like a snake that refuses to be grasped, wending and winding around my brain to choke until it can slip away. It lingers and, just as I think I have something workable, I wonder if it is appropriate for me, of all people to write about things in the past that have had zero impact on me as the basis for part of the story — although the rot goes deeper than the event as written. As I imagine the tale, the incident at the beginning of the story is but a symptom, not a cause. And that the events preceding the event I am writing about in my not-prelude is another symptom. No one knows what the real problem is, no one alive does anyway. Everything is outfall of a deeper tale that may or may not ever be written — or need to be.

Imagine… for this is where this story begins. As Robert Jordan said, it isn’t the beginning, but a beginning:

An old boarding school circa Native American reeducation period late 1800s, run one of the nun groups doing nun things. Maybe I’ll change it over to the black-robed Jesuits… One of those church-based boarding schools with a history of beating God into you whether or not you cooperate. Everyone know the type, especially with recent news items coming out of Canada (and if you think the US didn’t have the same, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn).

Three boys get tired of the headmistress/master’s shit and plan to give them a taste of their own medicine before skipping out, especially since some corporal punishment went too far and ended up killing one of the lads who “never hurt no-one” and was always compliant except… this one time when he stood up for someone else.

Well, that boy was punished and buried and these three boys have had enough. Except… as these things often seem to — shit got out of hand, although no one can tell just quite how it all went down. Ask three people, get eight responses. That kind of shit.

Well, the guilty party was certainly punished, but so were all of the kids and other adults in the boarding school, cos’ they was sleeping and locked in to prevent any kind of escapes like the three boys pulled off. Fire consumes all of the school and the dorms. The three boys are the only survivors. Mostly. Make that two because one of them dies within hours of the fire due to injuries and on account of this being in the middle of no place with ol’ Doc Swanson nipping at the bottle of booze or laudanum (or both) most of the time. Besides… well, I won’t echo Doc’s racist BS here. You know the type that lived on the interface between the tribes and the white man — not very generous.

The primary character of the scene (and not more than a tertiary character overall) has something that bugs him. While his co-survivor thought it was the school’s head that had gone and kicked a burning oil lamp to the floor during the struggle to give some payback, the main character could have sworn he saw it slide and topple off the table all on its lonesome. That’s a fact that bothers him. But he goes and figures it was just his imagination. Excitement of the moment. Still… it nags.


So, anyway… I’ve written this section about four times on paper or pixel and am still not quite feeling it is captured right. And this is why I probably will never complete another novel, as I am far too particular about the results.

4 thoughts on “Why my “novel” is still on page 20

  1. It’s so daunting to write a novel. I’ve got three in the works but I’m finding my skill level isn’t matching my story. I need to learn the craft more to be able to tell the stories aching inside. It’s why I’m doing these short stories, but I also wonder if I’ll ever be able to do it? Will I forever feel inadequate at finding the words? The twisting, turning, rot you describe…all this to say I absolutely get what you feel.

    For what it’s worth, I think that’s a very intriguing story idea and I think you should go for it anyway. Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? It’s how I’ve written three shitty first drafts. It helps you by having to get in the words without the time to edit as you go. It tells that little perfectionist voice “I’ve no time for your bullshit today.” You end up with the clay of a story you then can mold and finesse. Just an idea 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been a NaNoWriMo participant since a few years after it’s inception (2004 or 2005 is when I started). Three really crappy “wins”, most have not gotten past 25k words. Life keeps getting in the way 😀

      I’m all into pounding things out, but I am riddled with self-doubt 99% of the time. I have high expectations for myself when I write fiction, I’m mostly confident with poetry. It probably has to deal with a really bad writing group experience. REALLY bad and unsupportive and backstabby. In fact, I quit that “class” about half way through because of how awful it was.

      But my confidence was shattered because of that and I’ll admit that I’m not fully recovered from that experience… It was viscous and brutal.

      Like

      1. Woah! I’m so sorry you had that experience. Nobody should ever pick apart someone’s writing in a way that feels viscous and brutal. Our stories and words are an extension of ourselves and that’s like attacking someone’s soul. Absolutely not okay. I want to punch them on your behalf (even though I don’t really ever punch anything) 😂

        I hope you can heal and if you ever want someone to give you feedback or support your writing-I’m here! I’ll be doing NaNo while continuing my short story project this year…which may end up being a disaster. But I’m happy to be friends with you there and cheer each other on.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sure, look me up. I’m a glutton for punishment again this year (but I might be a bit quieter about it than I have been in the past here).

          User: Michael_Raven

          The whole group was just plain mean to each other, but that wasn’t helped by the moderator, who basically wanted to see what he wanted, and couldn’t see what people actually wrote. I forget the authors he used as examples, but all were artsy-fartsy types trying to be the next Cormac McCarthy. Visceral, violent, brutal and, in many ways, gross to be gross. If you didn’t write like them, you weren’t an author. Nearly all of the rest were catty and cagey, always looking for a way to put each other down so they could be king of the hill. I literally never met such a writer group ever.

          Was I very good 13 years ago at writing fiction? No, but no one was interested in helping me be better — they were all interested in tearing each other down. And now, I second-guess almost every sentence I ever write when it comes to fiction.

          I saw the moderator in a poorly-done documentary (and, apparently, unauthorized, because it had no music or footage) about a local band, who apparently was friends with whomever filmed it (providing color commentary to the documentary) and he was as big of a self-important prick in the documentary as he was in real life, talking all artsy about a punk band — saying things that the lead singer would have barfed at (I knew the singer well enough that I can be confident about that; he hated people trying to make him some kind of “artist”).

          Breathe in and out, Michael. LOL

          Liked by 1 person

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