Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How Long Does it Take to Finish a Novel?

According to Dud, one of the characters in Slim Randles' Home Country columns, it takes however long it takes. Enjoy....

Dud Campbell could feel it in the mornings … the cool breeze on the skin, the slight chill in the air, the messages nature sent to tell us autumn is almost here. And in autumn, Dud knew, the duchess and the truck driver would return to his computer for yet another season of novel writing.

In fact …

Dud switched on the computer and sat down to work on “Murder in the Soggy Bottoms” once again.

Doc thought that sounded like mayhem in the neonatal ward, so we just called Dud's story The Duchess and the Truck Driver.

Anita smiled when she saw her husband back at work on his dream book, and made coffee.
It was always hardest for Dud to type the first word, so he wrote “Dear Mom” as he always did, and then proceeded with the story. He’d delete the Dear Mom later.

“When the duchess came to the truck driver’s hometown,” he wrote, “she was startled by the small houses she saw. Where would they put the servants? How could you hold a dance in one? And a garage for just two cars? But it was here her truck driver lived, and here became … a special place. If she’d known those many years ago before their steamy relationship of the children: his daughter by his first wife and her dukelet by him, and the murders in the Soggy Bottoms that wrenched their idyllic tranquility into wrenched shards of cross-cultural agony…”

Dud smiled at that and sipped his coffee. Not bad. Not bad at all. The coffee was good, too.

  “… would she have fallen for this man of her dreams? This man with the long billfold on a chain? This American with the stainless steel insulated coffee mug with the lid on it? This paragon of practical pursuits?”

Oh yes, Dudley, he told himself. This year I think we’ll finally finish this novel.

If you enjoyed this essay from Slim Randles, you might like to read his book, Home Country, that has a lot more about Dud and Doc and the rest of the gang at the Mule Barn Truck Stop Think Tank.  The column is syndicated in hundreds of newspapers across the country, and Slim graciously shares them with us here.


Posted by Maryann Miller who has taken a sabbatical from the normal schedule of posts here at BRP, but is always ready to help fill a spot when she can. Check out her free book for Kindle - Boxes For Beds. Sale ends midnight tonight.

18 comments :

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Always nice to start the day with a smile. (And I have an opening chapter I've used for at least 3 different books--always deleted, but it gets me going.)

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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  2. So glad you enjoyed Slim's offering today, Terry, and what an interesting idea to start a writing project with a "stock" chapter. I might have to try that.

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  3. Dud sounds like a dude I could relate to.

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  4. We all need something to wake up our writing muse, and this is as good as any I've seen -- better than most, in fact. And who knows...maybe one day "Dear Mom" will find an honored place to stay at the beginning of "Murder in the Family Tree."

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    1. So true, Linda. I like that title. Is that a book you are going to write or a suggestion for Dud?

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  5. Question for discussion: Do you use a writing prompt? I never thought about something like Dud's or Terry's, but that is intriguing.

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    1. Because I write in my head long before I put words on paper (think hard drive), I rarely use a prompt. However, as noted in an earlier post, my beginnings are subject to numerous tweaks and outright rewrites.

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    2. I wouldn't call what I use a writing "prompt" -- it's just a story that refuses to be written. I keep starting, it keeps going elsewhere, so I delete and save it for another try. Kind of like revving the engine.

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    3. I like the idea of revving the engine or priming the pump - however the process can be described. I do think it is incredibly hard to look at a blank page with no idea of what to put there. If a writing prompt helps, then bring 'em on. (smile)

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  6. I enjoy what Slim writes.
    I personally don't usually use a prompt to get me started, but I use it as an exercise in writing classes I teach, and I think it can be a great way to get yourself started if you're facing that blank page with a blank mind.

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    1. So glad you enjoy Slim's offerings here. He does have a way with words.

      I've never used a prompt, either, but I do like to leave questions in my work and random thoughts on what could come next as I'm finishing a day of writing. Then when I come back, I have a starting point.

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  7. What fun! Love this: "This American with the stainless steel insulated coffee mug with the lid on it?" Hmmm, I'm now tempted to start the next chapter of my novel-in-progress with "Dear Mom."

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    1. That is a great description, isn't it. (statement not question. LOL) We know so much about this character by that single sentence. I think Slim has mastered this kind of concise writing because all of his columns are so short. Like with writing poetry, you learn how to do the most with the least amount of words when writing short columns.

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  8. Dud and Doc sound like two very colorful characters!

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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    1. They are, Morgan. I've enjoyed knowing them via these stories for several years now. I am always amazed at how Slim can keep this series of columns going for so long and not repeat himself.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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