Sunday, May 6, 2012

Becoming a Novelist - What a Ridiculous Idea!

When I was 12 years old, a close friend said that he thought he'd like to be a novelist some day.
I thought that was one of the most ridiculous things I'd ever heard. Of course, he read voraciously. Otherwise, why would he come up with such an idea? Then again, I read voraciously. In fact, I was extremely fortunate that all of my close friends read books. We reinforced each others' reading behavior.
But reading seemed to me to have no connection to writing. I was firmly in the camp of the late comic Fred Allen, friend of John Steinbeck.
     “Why on earth,” Fred Allen said, “would anyone spend an entire year writing a novel when you can buy one for a few bucks?”
     Yet here I am. It seems quite the coincidence that I spend my days making up stories when it was so clear to my 12-year-old mind that you'd have to be more than a bit “off” to do something so ridiculous.
     My friend, of course, was the forward-thinking one. He recognized some value in the process, a value that went right over my head.
It never occurred to me to think about the people who wrote the books I read. And if I had, I would have thought that it seemed like a Sisyphean task. Surely, only strange, disaffected souls who didn't fit into the normal world would actually sit down and do all that typing and figure out the complexities of character and plot. What would be the point?
But my friend's idea turned out to be the opposite of ridiculous. It's been enormously rewarding, and one of the smartest things I've done.
A writer's best tools...

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