February 5, 2011

A Novel Deconstruction: Timelessness

I started the A Novel Deconstruction series because someday I'd like write (and finish) a novel. I'm not an aspiring author and my big dreams for life lie in other professional realms. That being said, I love to write. If I'm not pushing the pen on a regular basis my life feels incomplete. While it may not be the dream, it is a dream to finish a novel I'm proud of. Sometimes, as I stall for time and wait for inspiration to hit, I think about all of the things that go into a great novel. In A Novel Deconstruction, I aim to break down what those different facets of a good book might be and hopefully get some insight from those that have already fought in the trenches between the lines.


If I'm going to write a novel I sure as hell don't plan on doing it half-assed. Call it arrogance, hubris, or naivete if you like, but if I'm going to pour a significant amount of my precious few years on earth into writing a book it had damned well better be a masterpiece. For better or worse, I've never been one to lack ambition and this applies to writing as well. Before I go any further I'd like to mention that I don't equate success with publication (so I tell myself anyhow), but with creating a work of art that I would be proud to give my name to for the rest of eternity. I'm aware that my standards are incredibly high (as my wastebasket can attest), and because of this I'll probably never actually finish a novel (or get married).

Crafting something that will be relevant for generations seems like a monumental task in a day and age when rapid change is no longer the exception but the norm. If you look to history as a guide, you'll find that the great works of the past that we still find relevant today are usually built around one or two simple ideas. The simple question of free-will versus fate was the foundation for one of the most complex novels I've ever read: War and Peace. Tolstoy started simple and created an epic masterpiece that has influenced every writer since.

Perhaps I've been too wrapped up in creating fascinating characters and scintillating plot twists to ask myself what question I want to ask.


To read the previous entry A Novel Deconstruction: Character Psychology click here.

Image taken from here: http://my.opera.com/foolishworld/albums/showpic.dml?album=667915&picture=9086226


  1. I actually never thought it would involve so much thought. I'd have to admit, as a reader we only read the final product and critique the story at it's face value not knowing how much hard work has gone into it!

  2. i have never thought about all that goes into a novel before. it makes sense, but it takes a lot of planning obviously.

  3. Well, your novel sounds like it is going to be wonderful. I know what you mean about high standards. After reading it like five times, my writer's group just told me that it's time to move on from chapter one.

  4. What a great series. :) Good luck on your novel. From everything I've read here and from your obvious intelligence presented in each post, I'm sure it will be exceptional.

    I have been working on a non-fiction novel for a year now. I have various chapters completed and pages upon pages of random paragraphs written. My problem is, the more I think about it and plan it out, the more blocked I get. My biggest challenge right now is breaking free of myself...

  5. i read both entries in your novel deconstruction series, christopher allen, and i am left with two very pressing questions:

    a) how do you know that your penis is bigger than james franco's? have you seen his penis or something? and if so, why are you going around, looking at james franco's penis?

    b) what do you mean, we're not getting married?!?

  6. Hello again…

    I’ve written a lot. Most of the stuff I’ve never done anything with, but I have multiple completed novel manuscripts.

    And it doesn’t get much easier the third time out than it was the first.

    BUT, I have found that – while not lowering my standards or accepting crap – I am able to move forward better if I limit my goals and simplify my methodology. If I set out to write like Thomas Pynchon and to be profound and inspiring and have it be the Great American novel, I’m never going to get it started. Or if I get it started, I’m never going to finish.

    By limiting my themes and scope, setting rules for my writing, and accepting that I’m not launching into “Ulysses,” I can enjoy the writing process more and actually manage to get some pretty good stuff down on paper to boot…

    (This is why I always stick to writing about the cast of “Jersey Shore.” Talk about timeless!)

  7. it is not n easy thing. I am fascinated by people who can just sit down and write and they just produce a masterpiece. Actually, even if it is not a masterpiece but just 200 pages of material that fits into some sort of book I am amazed.

    Good Luck!

  8. That's some lofty ambition, but I ain't proud. I mean, I'd love to write the great novel that changes the world or at least affects a few college professors and snooty book reviewers to the extent of showering accolades upon me. But for now give me a spot on the Oprah show and a few million in book sales.

    A masterpiece that hardly sells isn't going to pay the bills like shameless crap that the reading masses love to pick up as they check out at the grocery store. Yeah, that's what I'd like to write and use the money to subsidize my great American novel that will be ignored because of my reputation for shlock and discovered for it's greatness when I'm old or dead and gone.

    I really like your series and thought process.

    Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

  9. Hey Christopher, you are my Sunday morning indulgence ... You have the attitude for the creation of a masterpiece. Why doubt yourself?

    Why doubt being married? That's funny. I read that if a person wants to analyse how they are doing in life they are to picture themselves being 12 years old and ask what they as a twelve year old would think of themselves as they are today ...

    I did this and what stood out; 'Wow so many boyfriends?!!' You are more popular than you know lol

    Got to say love all of the comments from your commenters too. Masterblog! Love ya!

  10. I really, truly hope you write something one day.
    I think it would be amazing.

  11. Chris - I just got back from reading your November post, and after reading this recent entry, it seems (in my humble opinion) that you are on the right track.
    I think it helps to outline for story, think through characters, but I find that this can sometimes limit story, prevents it from taking on a life of its own - which you've discovered through this exercise.
    I think you have an ambitious and noble goal. Write for yourself, write honestly, don't write for the market, and keep plugging away. It will happen for you. As will manner other things you think improbable. ;)
    Oh - And I wonder what kind of books on the craft writing you've read? A few come to mind, but you've probably already read the best...

  12. Apfel: The more I try the more work I realize it will take. It's rather daunting get started.

    helen: It does, sometimes I think I should just dive right into it though.

    Missed Periods: Ha I can relate to that. Hope chapter two is starting off nicely.

    Jennifer: I started on a novel a while back that I've still got a ton of material for but after a while I realized it wasn't working and it sits in a box now. I'm kind of stuck at the moment to, mostly just trying to think of a new idea.

  13. Kage: Errr well if you read that post closely you can see I was talking about a fictional character. I cannot lay claim to having ever seen James Franco's penis.

    On the marriage thing, I was more planning one of those eternal engagement things to be honest.

    KatyDid: Sounds like some good advice. It really is a rather daunting task at times and I think there is a lot to be said for just putting the pen to paper and making good in revisions. We'll see, I'm not really in any particularly hurry so I'll probably just procrastinate a bit longer. That after all is my true talent.

    Penny: I am too. I'd like to amaze myself, we'll see what happens.

    Arlee: Well there is definitely something to be said for that strategy as well. Besides, I could pay people to tell me how awesome it is if I was sleeping on a bed of cash.

  14. Sharon: Ha! You crack me up as always. Great way to look at it.

    margg: Well I'll make sure you're one of the first to know!

    Jayne: Thanks so much for the encouragement! To be honest I've been sort of slacking on reading about the craft. I won a few books a couple months back that I've skimmed through which are:

    The sell your novel toolkit by Elizabeth Lyon

    what a writer needs by Ralph Fletcher

    plot & structure by James Scott Bell

    Chapter after Chapter by Heather Sellers

    Ready any of those? I've gotten a few chapters into each and they seem rather helpful but I still need to plow through them. Any outstanding ones out there you'd recommend?


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