Monday, November 01, 2010

Where's Ralph? Writing again

Well, it's November, and time for me to start my annual National November Writing Month novel. The goal is to create a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I've managed to do it the past two years, and for some reason, feel strangely confident that I can do it again.

So where are those other masterworks? Still not ready for prime time, I'm afraid. I consider my NaNoMo novels practice works, giving me an opportunity to hone my writing skills. I like the near-impossible deadline as it keeps me from second-guessing myself. Should I just describe the table, or craft it as a metaphor for modern life? Doesn't matter. Clock's ticking, just write something.

The other problem with my novels is that, in my opinion, they are so specialized that they would appeal to a very, very, very small number of people at all. All of my NaNoWriMo novels are homages to the hero pulps of the 1930's. So to really understand and appreciate what I'm doing, you really have to:

1) Be familiar with pulp literature of the 1930's, as it was published in popular magazines of the day.
 Most of it was never reprinted, save by small specialty presses, so chances are the average person has never run across any examples of this genre.

2) Know what a hero pulp is. It was a specialized pulp magazine sub-genre, based on a heroic character.
Each issue would feature a lead novel of 30,000-60,000 words about the character. The Shadow is a good example. So is Doc Savage and the Avenger. Both of them had their adventures reprinted in paperback series in the 1970's (but how many people know or even read them?).

3) Know the style well enough to understand what I'm doing.
This is the hardest part of all. I'm not making fun of the purple prose and breathless action sequences dished out by Walter Gibson, Lester Dent, Norvell Page and countless other authors. These aren't pastiches. Rather, I'm celebrating the accomplishments of these authors by trying to write in a style that is authentic as possible to their work (without imitating it).
I'm taking my characters and situations just as seriously as they would. I'm not putting in any deliberate anachronisms, nor slipping in any type of modern subtext as a wink to the reader.

So given such a small audience, I know I'll never see any of these on a New York Times best-seller list.

So what about self-publishing? With e-books, its certainly easy enough, but there's a final step that needs to be taken. Before I would consider it, I would have these manuscripts professionally edited. I think they're basically good, but I also know that I don't see everything. I know why that character's in the room, but did I communicate the reason to the reader? I'd like these to be an enjoyable read, and that's something that editing can ensure.

In the meantime, though, I'll be banging away at this month's novel. I don't have to answer to any accountant to justify why I'm writing this instead of something more commercial, nor do I have to explain to an editor just what the heck happened in the last chapter. It's all unfettered fun, and I expect to enjoy every minute of it.

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