Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Burger of a Novel.

Writing a novel is the fun part. It's like the meat in a taco, a burger in its bun, that delicious gooey apple filling in a Apple Cinnamon donut at Dunkin' Donuts. Unfortunately for those of us who prefer to wipe off the cinnamon and just eat the delicious pie filling, writing doesn't work like that. You cannot have an epiphany in the morning, then write a brilliant novel, and be done with it. As nice as that would be, it doesn't work that way.

Research. Research has always been my nemesis (or maybe that was plot?). I have to sit down at my computer and open ye olde Wikipedia (shhhh, don't tell) and try to figure out what it was like to be a street rat in Prague in 1604 AD. I don't get to watch Aladdin and assume that every street rat everywhere in every time wears a purple vest as has a goofy pet monkey. I suppose I could assume that, but it wouldn't make a very good novel, would it? So we begrudgingly do our research. At least we've got it lucky! About fifteen years ago, a diligent writer would have to spend days in the library, cracking open encyclopedias for the knowledge we technology hermits have at our fingertips. Research: that is the top bun on the burger.

The bottom bun is editing. As much as we all like to think we're brilliant on the first shot, I triple-dog-dare you to put aside a manuscript that you love for a year, don't touch or think about it, then pick it back up and re-read it. You're gonna be embarrassed for yourself - trust me on this one. The characters are flat and the plot is draggy until the last ten pages and you really aren't even sure what that word was supposed to be... and you typed it! So it's back to the old drawing board we go. Does that mean your story should be scrapped?  Absolutely not!  Just... you know... changed.  A lot.

Then, there are the toppings.  Personally?  I like my burgers with Colby Jack cheese, french fried onions, barbecue sauce and ranch... and even bacon if I've got some.  It's not a very healthy burger, but it is delicious, and your novel should be too.  Don't put in a sappy love triangle if you don't think it belongs, just because someone else thinks you should.  Would you put pickles on your burger just because your best friend thinks they're totally delish?  Noooo.  The intrigues and imagery and little laughable moments are just as important to the writing of any good novel as the plot and characters are.

And maybe nibble on that pickle.  It might turn out that you'll like it.  If you do, maybe you'll put it on your burger, then.  While someone else's advice isn't always necessary, it certainly is helpful, and people give their opinions for a reason.  If you can trust your best friend to tell you honestly that yes, that bathing suit does make you look fat, then you might be safe to believe her when she tells you that Johnny Good-Looking doesn't seem like the chain-smoker type.

Burger?  Check.  Bun?  Check.  Condiments?  Check.  Dig in!

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