Working on a Novel, You Know
There are few writers I communicate with who don’t casually mention they’ve been working on their novel in answer to the question “so what have you been up to, lately.”
I find this answer especially galling since that’s exactly what I’ve been up to, lately. It’s been my answer since I was seventeen years old. I’m thirty-one years old and I’m no closer to finishing a novel today than I was five, ten, fifteen years ago.
Even pecking a hundred words a day I should have had a tome the size of War and Peace by now. I don’t have so much as The Old Man and the Sea to show for my troubles.
Somewhere along the line I lost my narrative thread. I’m wandering a labyrinth of plot fragments, half-baked comedic situations and a fistful of Generation X characters who still talk as if it’s 1994. I think my wife might be the Minotaur.
After nine years of marriage she’s all but lost faith in my novelistic promises. She believes in a higher power, people get what they deserve, and the inherent goodness of humanity... Karl Koweski finishing a novel... never. She’ll ask how the novel is progressing occasionally, usually when the bills are due and we have more money going out than coming in. By my reckoning , I’m about 60,000 words and two really good plot twists away from a finished product.
She doesn’t have any notion as to what the novel’s even about, anymore.
Originally, I centered the novel around Vampires. Then I read Fight Club. So the novel evolved into a provocative portrait of a group of angsty vampires plotting to overthrow society’s mores and values by slapping and biting the hell out of each other.
Then I read Nersesian’s The Fuck-Up and the novel found itself focused on one New York City vampire who doesn’t fit in with his Project Mishap cohorts, so he roams the city at all hours searching out humiliation.
Upon reading A Confederacy of Dunces the vampire gained three hundred pounds and developed a subplot involving an overbearing mother.
Following Egolf’s Kornwolf, the vampire got saddled with a Pennslytucky heritage and an intimate knowledge of unmechanized farming which didn’t move the story along in the way I hoped it would.
Later, I think it was while I was devouring Michael Chabon’s The Wonderboys that I discovered the vampire just wanted to be a writer. And, being an immortal, he just might have a chance at actually completing a novel.
Once I hit chapter three, it became apparent this vampire character should be gay. This, I figured, would give my little vampire novel an outside shot at winning the National Book Award.
Sometime during the outlining of Chapter Four, my bid for the Guggenheim Grant was rejected, given instead to one of Dave Eggers socialite friends who was obviously in need of some quick cash to keep the party going. Still I soldiered on, getting my twenty five word a day quota as often as I could.
As I write this, my NYC vampire relocated to LA where he’s now a street mime embroiled in a doomed love affair with a deaf mute nun. I’m thinking about naming the protagonist Gary which is fairly close to being gay.
Chapter six promises to inject a plot. I don’t know. I’ve got a Hotmail account brimming with emails from all my writer friends (Eggers not among them), all of them wanting to know what I’ve been up to, lately. Author’s Note: For the first time in fourteen years, I’ve set aside the novel in order to complete my spec screenplay The Pugilists, a heartbreaking story recounting the forlorn love affair between two secretly gay boxers (sample dialogue: Pennis “I know they say you got a glass jaw, Bruce, but it feels like a steel trap to me”). I’m hoping this script will be better received than my last script “Cruci Fiction” about two Roman Centurions who, after beating the shit out of Christ, are sent to retrieve a package for their boss, Marcellus Augustus (sample dialogue: Julius “... and I will strike down with great wrath and furious anger those who attempt to ...”).
Karl Koweski resides in Guntersville, Alabama, where he explains the concept of okra to Yankees.
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