Notes for a non-novel about not writing a novel
Title: Works In Egress
Description: A book-length collage (rhapsody?) of sentences, paragraphs, pages on the theme of failing to write a book. Include different drafts of various sentences, paragraphs, scenes. Include biographical anecdotes/sketches that represent intrusions of life upon art (insofar as there is any useful distinction to be made between the two). Include clips, scenes, false starts.
Examples . . .
Disclaimer: This is not an attempt to write a new kind of novel, nor is it meant to be groundbreaking or innovative. The result, whatever it proves to be, is simply the only book I can write.
Opening sentence: [Insert well-crafted, engaging opening line here.]
After trying to write a novel and failing, I’m writing about the failure. Is the result a novel? I don’t think so. Maybe. (I second guess myself a lot).
He never metafiction he didn’t like.
One problem with writing a novel is that you’re not the same writer — the same person — as you try to tell the story over the course of many weeks, months, years.
Every work in progress has slipped away, becoming a work in egress. Even completed stories are works in egress. Paul Valery, a French poet I haven’t really read, once wrote that “Poems are never finished, only abandoned.” Wikipedia tells me that after the death of his mentor, the poet Stephen Mallarme, Valery did not write for twenty years. (Digressions like this will help give Works In Egress length and, perhaps, depth.)
Ending: All our works are nothing but works in egress. They slip away: incomplete, abandoned. They slip away: forgotten, chronically neglected. They slip away: completed but falling well short of what we envisioned. All of it, everything, slips away. For what is life itself, dear Reader, but a work in egress?
It would be dishonest to end with the paragraph above. Chekhov (A Russian writer I have read regularly for years, albeit it only in translation) once said that it is in the beginning and endings of their stories that writers lie the most (should I use the actual quotation, as translated, or is this pararphrase close enough?). The paragraph above is true but to give it the weight of finality, the quality of crescendo and coda (too clever?) would be a lie. Life, people, even stories should limp along for awhile at the end, like a wounded dog: carrying on, oblivious that all the aesthetically pleasing moments have come and gone. Or maybe they should end abruptly. Or both. Yes, maybe