Hi, Everybody!

August 18th, 2005 · 5 Comments
by barefootjim

Hmmph. Last time they went out of town, they asked me to take care of the cats. That was much less nerve-wracking. Food. Water. Laser Pointer.

Hi, my name is Jim Connelly, and I am what that Google ad over to the right refers to as a “First Time Author.” I’ve been writing (and occasionally publishing) non-fiction for a very long time — nearly as long as I’ve known Booksquare, come to think of it — and only recently have decided to try my hand at writing fiction. So this world is all very new to me, which I think is going to be subject of my posts. Unless, of course, I happen to come across something interesting during my daily work-ignoring surfing.

So my big question will be: can I even do this? Can I write and publish fiction? Or is it Fiction? (Frack! Have I just insulted everybody by using lower case? See, this is the stuff I need to learn!)

I have ideas. I have characters. I may even have themes. I understand that all of these things are supposed to be important. What I don’t have is even the tiniest understanding of the process of writing a novel: how to plot, how to develop characters, how sustain interest over (gulp) hundreds of pages. So right now, I am taking an UCLA Extension class — Novel Writing I. Then I’ll take Novel Writing II, Novel Writing III, Novel Writing IV, etc. (My fear is that they’ll just keep adding roman numerals a semester ahead of me, so I go “oooh, look, they’ve got Novel Writing CCXVI” and pony up another $400 as yet another excuse to not actually finish.)

My Annie Hall-y ambivalence aside, I’m taking these classes for two reasons:

  1. Craft. That whole thingy about learning how to write fiction. (Fiction?) For example, who knew that characters couldn’t just be interesting in and of themselves, but had to have conflicting goals? Neat.
  2. Focus. Having class-mandated deadlines forces me to take time out to actually write and re-write my novel, instead of doing things like blogging about Dylan, Guided by Voices or the new Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah album.
  3. Support. Being able to use the phrase “my novel” without feeling like a charlatan or a fool.

Er, three reasons.

Will it work? That’s what I’m gonna find out.

File Under: Square Pegs

5 responses so far ↓

  • Elizabeth Burton // Aug 18, 2005 at 11:09 am


    There’s not real trick to writing fiction, once you know the tools of the trade. As one fairly well-known novelist said some years back: “Begin at the beginning…and when you come to the end, stop.”

    If you have your characters, trust me–they will let you know what to do. There are a few novelists to my knowledge who at least claim to have total control over their characters (although that’s something I tend to take with that proverbial grain of NaCl), but most of the ones I know, myself included, have spent too many hours being nagged for getting the story wrong to consider ourselves the real masters of our tales.

  • Lorra // Aug 18, 2005 at 2:01 pm

    Hey Jim –

    Been there – done that – only did it with a private writing coach to help me rework a completed manuscript that was a cross between a memoir/novel/unpublishable pile of crap.

    Agents kept telling me they loved the story concept but weren’t “taken in by the writing” – Translation: Your writing sucks!

    I had no idea how to write a novel – I can tell a great story – keep you mesmerized for hours – but I didn’t know how to put it into proper novel format – didn’t even know there was such a thing.

    One year of 24/7-agonizing-learning-later, I think I now know how.

    I believe it’s worth sticking with – I’ll find out soon enough when I start submitting the thing.

    Good luck to you. Please wish me the same – or maybe you could pray or light candles or something to bring me some luck. I’m totally worn out from the process, but glad I did it.


  • Helene // Aug 18, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    I’m wit youse, babe.
    After sporatically publishing the odd non-fiction piece, I’m going in for the S&M of the psyche known as learning how to sell a novel.

  • Kevin // Aug 18, 2005 at 5:27 pm

    You may add some images during your blog temping duties.
    Almost everyone enjoys pictures.

  • Sandra Scoppettone // Aug 18, 2005 at 7:42 pm

    Don’t worry about it so much. Fiction is fiction, so calm down. 🙂 I don’t believe you can be taught to write, but you can get help from a class, I guess. You don’t have to have a theme or themes when you start. They’ll naturally appear and you won’t even know what they are. As far as I’m concerned, the best way to learn to write a novel is to read as many of them as you can. The good ones show you what to do, and the bad ones show you what not to do.
    Good luck.