How to Write a Novel

Photo by Luis Llerena
  1. Gather your things — notes, clean paper, sharp pencil. Lay them neatly on the dining room table under bright light in the morning.
  2. Go to the computer, select the Georg Philipp Telemann station, set volume low.
  3. Check your online things — news, mail, weather, stats. Do a little puzzling.
  4. Make tea.
  5. Sit with your notes, shuffle them, searching for the tastiest idea. Notice that they are bland, unfulfilling, and few.
  6. Telemann is annoying, switch to Erroll Garner.
  7. Consider the idea about the child and the woods. Or would a man be better? A woman?
  8. Eat something, drink coffee.
  9. Hang curtains.
  10. Stare out the window at the woods.
  11. Stare stupidly at your fingernails.
  12. Garner is grating, switch to Brahms.
  13. Do I see them coming from the woods or am I in the woods?
  14. Check stats.
  15. Notice that you need a shower and some clean clothes.
  16. Shop for boot liners and dish brushes online.
  17. Consider first sentences. Current favorite is, “Fuck you and your little dog, too.” It seems familiar, though.
  18. Shut Brahms up.
  19. Ponder the scene with the family at dinner. Who are they? Why do I care? Do I care?
  20. No, the woods idea is better. Am I in the woods?
  21. Maybe it’s time for a list.
  22. What’s my genre? Do I need a genre?
  23. How about a map. Or a family tree. A cast of characters. Is this a play?
  24. Examine all of your failures.
  25. I’m seeing her come out of the woods from the window. She’s a failure.
  26. Listen to Zappa’s ‘Sexual Harrasment in the Workplace’.
  27. Eat something, drink coffee.
  28. Do you need a plot when you begin a novel? Where the hell are we going?
  29. Stare out the window. Slowly melt into the realization that your creative muscle has atrophied — whatever wit, intelligence and imagination that you may have possessed has evaporated, you’ve got nothing. Lay this gently atop the neat stack of failures that you’ve built in the corner of your soul. The curtains look nice. Beer or wine? Or maybe a cocktail, it is Friday, after all.
  30. Check stats. Write a list.