Tag Archives: novel
You’ve done it: typed The End. Those two wonderful words mark your graduation from always-wanted-to-write-a-novel to someone-who-did. Congratulations. Other ideas might be cooking away in the back of your brain, making you eager to start a new project. Often, this is where the spirit wanes as new writers lose momentum for the old manuscript. Because, you didn’t finish, did you? You only finished the draft. Now you have to focus on revising your novel.
Here’s the bad news (and there’s no good news): The rewrite is tougher than the draft. The draft is infatuation. The right rewrite strengthens your fiction into something that lasts to publication and gains a significant readership.
You know this task needs triage, so you won’t copyedit too soon. You line edit for tone, consistency and language, but you want more ways to improve.
Boost your novel-polishing skills with these seven strategies.
- Embrace the doubt.
Those murky feelings that cloud your mind when contemplating the massive task of revision? Welcome those doubts, that hesitation. A skeptical eye confers an appropriate attitude for rewriting. Every word in every sentence must carry its weight, either revealing character or advancing the story. Now be brave enough to cut or improve weak writing.
- Go back-to-front when possible.
Let’s say your plan for one brief session is a specific checkpoint. You’re verifying that sensory detail engages every scene, or perhaps you just want to note how many pages are in each chapter to ensure there aren’t twenty-five chapters of about fifteen pages while one chapter sprawls to thirty-five pages. If the revision item does not have to be done starting on page one and working to the last page, flip it and work backwards. This strategy prevents paging through in a direction that can distract you into an unintended sentence-by-sentence reread. The danger of that accidental read is that it risks dulling your reaction to the prose and worse, lets you fall in love with some passages while neglecting others.
- Structure your novel.
It’s not too late. Whether you’re a pantser, pantser-outliner hybrid, or an outliner, your finished draft can benefit from a new, careful outline. Note what questions and stakes the protagonist faces. How does he change in the end? What about the secondary cast?
Off the top of your head, do you know how many chapters are in your book? How does each chapter start and end? Where are the key actions and turning points found? How many scenes shape each chapter? Bracket each scene on a hard copy to reveal whether too much exposition lurks between the scenes. Is the climax close enough to the end that the bulk of the tale is composed of an uphill climb? Is the denouement placed to allow a satisfying, thoughtful resolution?
Gleaning the structure is a terrific exercise in critical examination. Graph and bullet point the features as though deconstructing someone else’s novel. This is not a time for emotional attachment to the piece; just factually note everything that displays the arc of the story, then see what surprises you or doesn’t fit.
- Revisit characterization.
With an accurate structure in hand, revisit your character construction while remembering the point of every passage. Did you use particularity in their descriptions? Is the reader shown what motivates every main character?
Crack open the draft to any chunk of dialogue. How obvious is it which of your well-crafted characters is speaking based on the sentences within the quotes? (Ah, yes, that’s just how a pilot/mad scientist/cowgirl would say such a thing.)
Perhaps your setting approaches the standing of character. Lovely, but don’t let the prose get flabby or insignificant—this is an opportunity for imaginative choices.
- Task your computer.
Various software programs highlight potential weak spots such as poor grammar and punctuation, or an overuse of modifiers, but any word processing program can be employed to help electronically. Do you have a pet phrase? Use the search function to find those repeats, then fix them. If you gave a person a verbal tic (perhaps she says “Nah” instead of “No”), do a quick find for the special term to ensure it’s not overused. And if another character displays the same tic, make it intentional, not an author slip.
When creating another hard copy to hand edit, select a different font for the second printing. Because of the different spacing, switching from Times New Roman to Courier can help freshen your eyes to the words.
- Listen to it.
Hopefully, you read aloud when revising, but you can do more. When my publisher sent author copies of my debut novel’s audio version, I reveled in that first experience of listening to a voice-acting pro read Orchids and Stone. However, I had heard it before, read by my computer.
There are good programs available—I use Natural Reader, which offers a free trial—that lets you listen to any document. This computer-generated reading will be flat, but the robotic affect is a good thing, because your writing must stand on its own, without inflection to carry the drama and dialogue. Chances are you’ll keep putting the program on pause and clicking back to the document to make edits.
Unintended alliterations, assonance and consonance borne in every sentence and surrounding paragraph are much more apparent when voiced. You might marvel over having missed some of these now-obvious editorial problems in print or on the monitor. You’ll hear repetitions that you didn’t see.
Good reading programs allow you to select the speed and gender of the speaker. After a significant rewrite, choose the other gender for the computer’s reading voice, then listen to the entire manuscript a second time. Chances are, you’ll still discover small improvements to make.
- Continue to study the craft.
While your polished draft gets some drawer time or is out with beta readers, reread diverse books on writing, studying instruction on revision. Let Robert Olen Butler admonish you to avoid abstraction, interpretation and izing (don’t generalize, summarize or analyze). Pay attention when David Morrell asks if you really want to publish that sentence in that form. Listen to Sol Stein’s warning about tunnel revision—the mistake of only tweaking small ticket items on a rewriting pass while missing the big picture and exposing your pages to excessive front-to-back reading, which makes your editing eye grow cold.
Improving your knowledge of the craft will improve your rewriting skills.
Here’s the deal: new writers often mire themselves and their work in the world of the unpublished due to a lack of self-editing their way to a polished manuscript. The only hope your draft has of becoming a well-read novel is you, and how much effort you put into the rewrite. Go all in.
Lisa Preston. Preston is the author of Orchids and Stone as well as several nonfiction books on animal care. Her experiences as a mountain climber, fire-department paramedic, and police sergeant are channeled into fiction that is suspenseful, fast paced, and well acquainted with human drama. She has lived in Arizona, California, and Alaska and now makes her home in western Washington. Visit her at lisapreston.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/lisa.preston.3152.
Is it a good thing for a novel to stimulate our emotions? Montaigne, Brecht and others thought not.
The devil is in the detail. Talking about moments when excruciating gallstone pains made him believe he was soon to die, Montaigne remarks: “When I looked upon death as the end of my life, universally, then I looked upon it with indifference. Wholesale, I could master it: Retail, it savaged me; the tears of a manservant, the distributing of my wardrobe, the known touch of a hand, a routine word of comfort discomforted me and made me weep.”
It is the details that attach us to life and arouse our emotions. “A hound, a horse, a book, a wineglass and whatnot,” Montaigne observes, all “had their role in my loss.” Reasoning and accumulated wisdom, he goes on, may give us some insight into human grief, but it is the small things, picked up by ears and eyes — “organs which can be stirred by inessentials only” — that will really have an impact. So we might be aware of, but not greatly moved by, the plight of Syrian refugees until the photograph of a dead child face down in the sand triggers our emotions and has us bursting into tears.
Having made these observations, Montaigne embarks on what might best be described as a creative writing lesson in reverse. Literature, he points out, is adept at exploiting this aspect of our psychology; it focuses on evocative inessentials to stimulate our emotional response. Generally unmoved by the human condition, we nevertheless “disturb our souls with fictional laments.” It hardly even matters that they are invented: “The plaints of Dido and Ariadne in Virgil and Catullus arouse the feelings of the very people who do not believe in them.”
And he asks a question that no one asks these days: “Is it right for the arts to serve our natural weakness and to let them profit from our inborn animal-stupidity?” Aside from its astute selection of moving detail, art is constantly in the business of manipulating our emotions, as if this were an end in itself. This, after all, was Plato’s objection to the arts and every kind of artistic effect — that it was manipulative and potentially mendacious. Or simply a waste: “How often,” Montaigne asks, “do we encumber our spirits with yellow bile or sadness by means of such shadows?”
If we apply these ideas to narrative fiction as it is today, what do we find? First, the idea that a book, or film for that matter, stimulates extreme emotions is constantly deployed as a promotional tool. Terrifying, hair-raising, profoundly upsetting, painfully tender, heartbreaking, devastating, shocking, are all standard fare in dust-jacket blurbs and newspaper reviews; it is as if the reader were an ectoplasm in need of powerful injections of adrenaline. Anything that disturbs us, arouses us, unsettles us, is unconditionally positive. “You will be on the edge of your seat.” “Your heart will be thumping.” “Your pulse will be racing.” Aristotle’s response to Plato, that arousing emotion could be positive so long as the emotion was clarified, cathartically contained and understood, is rarely invoked. At best there is the implication that arousing emotions fosters sympathy, perhaps even empathy, with fictional characters and that such sympathy then breaks down our prejudices and hence is socially useful. So readers will frequently be invited to contemplate the sufferings of threatened minorities or discriminated-against ethnic groups, or the predicament of those who are young, helpless and preferably attractive. But this is an alibi and we all know it; what matters is stimulating emotion to sell books.
Similarly, creative writing courses, as far as I am able to judge, are obsessed with technique — how to arrive at that powerful detail, how to give it prominence, how to grab the reader, not why we want to grab the reader or to what end. Traditional literature courses used to reflect on the way detail was used inside a novel’s overall vision. The present zeitgeist invites us only to contemplate how the trigger can be pulled, not where the bullet is going, because the purpose of creative writing courses — especially when the fees are high — is to teach the would-be writer how to produce a publishable narrative, not a “good,” let alone a “responsible” narrative.
Montaigne is hardly alone in criticizing an overeasy excitement of the sentiments. In recent times, Bertolt Brecht objected to the stimulation of emotional identification with fictional characters, and Muriel Spark argued strongly against arousing compassion in novels; it allowed readers, she complained, to “feel that their moral responsibilities are sufficiently fulfilled by the emotions they have been induced to feel.” She advocated satire and ridicule instead as more effective tools of social criticism.
Samuel Beckett entirely rejected the idea of narrative as a vehicle for arousing emotion. Again and again he blocks any sympathy for his characters, drawing attention to their fictional status, making their suffering grotesque and comic rather than endearing. Yet even he understands how naturally narrative moves in this direction, admitting that in the final analysis even the struggle to avoid arousing emotions will confer a kind of pathos on the author.
But does it actually matter? Why not let novels stimulate emotions all they will and readers buy into them as intensely as they wish? The hell with it. What on earth could be wrong with that?
Montaigne’s comments on the evocative power of detail are not isolated. He lived in an age of division and dogmatism; the religious wars between Catholics and Huguenots lasted almost 40 years and caused countless deaths. In 1572 the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre alone saw thousands of Huguenots killed by their Catholic enemies. Montaigne’s position was always that we must be extremely careful about our emotions, in particular our tendency to get emotional about ideas. He didn’t advise neutrality, but simply that “we should not nail ourselves so strongly to our humors and complexions.” To foster emotions deliberately and habitually was dangerous, because once a strong emotion had kicked in it was very difficult to find a way back. Certainly, had he been alive today, he would have seen a continuity not just between violent fiction and real violence, war films and war, but also more generally between a culture that has turned the stimulation of emotion into a major industry and a society torn apart by heated conflicts of all kinds.
No civilization has ever produced as much narrative as our own, and with so little collective control. Thousands upon thousands of stories and novels are published worldwide every month. Not to mention TV series and films. There is intense competition: competition to get published, competition to win prizes, competition to reach a national audience, competition to reach an international audience. Of course there are various cards to play in that competition: wit, creativity, ideology, comedy, savviness; but the factor most frequently stressed, the one no one can do without, is emotional impact. When was the last time you heard a novel praised because it invited the reader to a higher level of intellectual engagement with complex issues? Or because it retreated from spicy detail to offer a balanced view of life overall? Or because its characters managed to handle potentially dangerous conflicts without arriving at a destructive showdown? Often as we read it seems that all the energy and creativity of the writer has been channeled into conjuring up those piquant, lurid or simply shocking details that will unleash the reader’s emotions.
How can we suppose that this state of affairs, this constant rush for the most disturbing, the most poignant, the most emphatic, the most terrifying, has no effect on the way we respond to the dramas of our lives? As I write this morning, three months after Brexit, two months after the Republican Convention nominated Donald Trump, following a summer that has seen scores of deaths from terrorism and with Aleppo still under relentless bombing, all I hear around me is violent, overheated, highly emotional rhetoric, ferocious discrediting of all adversaries, poignant details of the lives of unlucky victims, horror for the future and, beneath it all, a complacent excitement about our own capacity for feeling life intensely.
Tim Parks’s most recent book is “The Novel: A Survival Skill.”
The 5 best sequels to classic novels
Author Chet Williamson has written an authorised sequel to Robert Bloch’s Psycho. Here, he looks at other sequels that honour the original works while bringing new life to them
Having just written an authorised sequel to Psycho, Robert Bloch’s original tale of Norman Bates, I was asked by The Independent to come up with what I considered the five best sequels to other classic novels. I’m not so sure about the “best”, but these are certainly my favourites, ones that honour and respect the original works while bringing different perspectives and new life to them:
The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Greg Matthews (1988)
The author of the western epics, Power in the Blood and Heart of the Country, takes up Sam Clemens’ pen and picks up the story as though channelling Mark Twain. A perfect sequel to a book that’s as close as anyone’s come to the Great American Novel.
Pym by Mat Johnson (2010)
It seems that Edgar Allan Poe’s Arthur Gordon Pym, a story of weird adventure in the Antarctic, is based on fact, and it’s up to a professor of American literature to confirm it with a trip to the South Pole. Johnson deals with race, history, and literature trenchantly and often humorously, while retaining the cosmic mystery of Poe’s original.
Grendel by John Gardner (1971)
Not so much a sequel as a retelling of the ancient epic, Beowulf, seen from the monster’s point of view. Gardner was an extraordinary writer, and his depiction of Grendel is tender, haunting, empathetic, and terrible.
A Feast Unknown by Philip Jose Farmer (1969)
First published by an “erotica” house, this novel is the great-grandfather of literary mash-ups, and still far superior to most of them. Farmer creates his own versions of Tarzan (Lord Grandith) and pulp hero Doc Savage (Doc Caliban), makes them half-brothers (their father was Jack the Ripper), and sets them against each other in a violent and homoerotic grudge match. A masterpiece of absurdity.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998)
From the ridiculous to the sublime. Cunningham’s tripartite exploration of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway is too complex in plot and character to begin to discuss here, but this bold and experimental novel sets the bar for what can be accomplished by treading in the footsteps of an earlier work of literary brilliance.
Psycho: Sanitarium is published on 12th April by Canelo, price £3.99 in eBook
9 Ways to Stop Your Novel from Stalling
by Tracey Barnes Priestley
I would be willing to wager that most writers have made New Year’s resolutions regarding their writing practices. I know I have.
Curious about this, I canvassed a few of my writer friends. Sure enough, many of them had frequently participated in this annual tradition that dates all the way back to the Babylonians. Each writer had faced January with a deep commitment and heartfelt enthusiasm for those resolutions. One promised herself she’d “finish the first draft” of her novel. Another told me she had written on her dry-erase board, in big, bold letters, “I will clean up the dialogue mess that’s drowning this book.” The least experienced of them, an as yet unpublished young man full of enthusiasm for his craft, swore he would “silence my inner critic and keep writing, no matter what.”
I followed up by asking them how successful they had been in keeping those resolutions. Unfortunately, all had experienced the same thing: disappointment. No matter how hard they tried, they had ultimately been unable to make good on what they had resolved to do.
I knew exactly what they were talking about. I gave up creating New Year’s resolutions about my writing years ago when I found myself at the end of yet another cold January, with nothing more to show for all of my efforts than an exercise in futility. I was left feeling a range of emotions, from guilty to downright silly.
It’s actually quite comical just how few of us keep our New Year’s resolutions. It’s estimated only 45 percent of the population even tries to resolve making changes in the New Year. Of these brave souls, a mere 8 percent are successful.
Yet I’ve wondered if writers might be even more inclined than the general public to approach the New Year with a list of things we want to change, accomplish or do differently. We seem ripe for this kind of experience. As creative thinkers, we face a unique set of circumstances when it comes to producing our work. Alone in whatever space we can manage for our writing, we pound away at the keyboard, with our thoughts, our characters, our struggles and the never-ending reality that we aspire to a tough, highly competitive profession. Why wouldn’t we try to capitalize on the fresh start, the clean slate that January offers us? Magical thinking is right up our alley!
Why Our Writing Can Stall
In my work as a life coach, I’ve come to believe that our writing can be derailed because of two fundamental processes. The first, naturally, is the very nature of our craft, the writing process itself—think plotting, character development, etc. Unfortunately, this intrinsic set of challenges dwells right alongside our individual writing processes—complete with procrastination, destructive thought patterns, negative experiences, ambiguous motivation, unrealistic expectations, etc. And we wonder why we can’t keep our writing resolutions.
By now you’re probably ready to chuck your computer out the window. Don’t! Think of these two processes as valuable tools. Once you understand how they may be driving your inability to meet your writing resolutions, you will be poised to utilize effective strategies that support you and your writing every step of the way.
What’s Holding You Back?
Let’s begin by identifying the warning signs that your writing may be about to stall out. Consider current or previous writing resolutions you failed to keep. Ask yourself if you have experienced any of the following: lack of initiative; inability to prioritize writing tasks; frequent distraction; failure to establish a consistent writing pace/routine; inner dialogue that is one negative message after another; finding yourself simply “too busy” to get anything done. This is hardly an exhaustive list. Reasons writers stall can be varied and unique. Your task is to be as exact—and as honest with yourself—as you can in identifying what gets in the way of your ability to make progress on your projects. Make a list.
Next, evaluate this list from the perspective of the work-in-progress itself. As an example, let’s use my writer friend’s resolution to finish her first draft.
Every time she sat down at her computer, this writer felt lost about where the story should go next, and unclear about the relationship between her two main characters. She found herself thinking, This is useless, and, It’s not a strong enough idea for an entire book—maybe I should ditch the entire thing.
First, she tried to address the problems in the work itself. She sought craft and technique help with her plot and eventually resolved some backstory problems that had delayed the action and confused things between her characters. But the problems with her own lack of clarity persisted. Now she was fairly certain that the problem was within her writing process.
That meant facing off with her inner critic, which is always the most efficient place to begin. She looked her frustration in the eye and began to unravel the negative messages ricocheting around inside her head. Why exactly was this project “useless”? After some contemplation, she surprised herself with her answer: “Because I don’t have the patience for anything but short stories—certainly not a full-length novel.” This statement got her wheels turning in a new direction. She rethought her word choice (she is, after all, a writer) and decided it wasn’t really a lack of patience—this gifted writer was actually lacking confidence. She found herself wondering:
I’ve had some success with short stories, so why am I risking my time and energy on something I don’t know much about? She realized she’d been rationalizing away the entire project, even though writing a novel really was something she wanted to try.
Once you are able to identify what is really preventing you from pushing ahead, you’ll be freed up to construct writing goals that will actually yield productive results. For my friend, this meant not just correcting her self-defeating thoughts, but lifting the expectations she was unconsciously placing on her unwritten manuscript. It didn’t have to be a “success,” as her published short stories had been, to be worth her while—or at least, she needed to redefine what success meant to her. Once you decide that writing something you want to write is never a waste of time, regardless of whether or not it’s published in the end, you might just find that those negative voices quiet down on their own.
Let’s consider another example, the young writer who swore he would “silence my inner critic and keep writing, no matter what.”
When he viewed his writing from the perspective of each of these two processes, he discovered some distinct problems. He admitted to himself that he felt foolish in the eyes of others for turning his back on the profession he had trained for—engineering—and that he felt like a fraud because he had not been formally trained to be a writer. Those were demons he had to face if he ever wanted to get past Chapter 1.
Next, from the perspective of the writing process, he realized that while writing a novel was on his bucket list, he had not really worked out enough of a story idea to be able to take action on the page.
If you’re intimidated by the prospect of writing an entire novel (and who isn’t?), why not set a goal of writing, say, three chapters? By the time you meet that smaller, more achievable goal, you might just find you have an idea for Chapter 4. When it comes to writing, the laws of momentum apply—it’s infinitely easier to move toward something when you’re already in motion than it is to start from a dead stop.
How to Avoid Stalling: 9 Ways
Now that you’ve seen how fundamentals that have very little to do with actual words on a page can derail a writer’s progress, let’s take a look at what else we can to do make sure we keep moving.
1. Ditch the word resolution entirely.
It’s a setup, one that has been riding on the backs of people for thousands of years. Instead, set a goal, objective or even intention.
2. Understand what truly motivates you.
For some writers, identifying a positive outcome and working toward it is the most effective form of motivation. Conversely, other writers are spurred on by a degree of unrest, even fear.
Write down exactly what is motivating you to meet your writing goal. Is it a good fit? Does it ring true? If not, identify a more appropriate motivation. When finished, post it where you can see it when you are writing.
3. Break it down.
It can be quite worthwhile, exciting even, to set large goal. “Yes, I will finish my novel this year!” But make sure it’s specific—which usually means breaking it down into smaller goals you can cross off along the way. Remember my friend’s resolution, “I will clean up the dialogue mess that’s drowning this book”? It would have been more attainable to separate this vague notion into three separate goals: (1) When I hear myself saying negative things like “I’m drowning this book,” I will stop, write the negative message down, put it into my complaint box and get back to work (a good practice for anyone working toward any goal, by the way); (2) Over the next two weeks I will identify the dialogue passages that are giving me grief; and (3) By the end of January, I will have rewritten at least one scene that includes dialogue. Note that the goals are not just well defined, but action oriented, and that the second and third goals include a targeted time frame. Most of us will be more successful if we give ourselves reasonable deadlines.
4. Be realistic.
Changing behaviors, attitudes and habits is a process. Rarely does change occur because of one event or a date on the calendar. (Curious to know more about why this is? Do some research on the neuroscience of change—you will be astounded by what is required for our poor brains to shift into a new mode.)
5. If you feel frustrated, pick a single task—the smaller the better.
It should be related to your work-in-progress, but it doesn’t have to be what chronologically comes next in your manuscript’s progression. It does, however, need to be so simple you can’t possibly fail. For example, it may seem like rewriting one page should be easy enough to accomplish, but if you’re not succeeding, the task is too big. Instead, aim to rewrite one paragraph or even just one sentence. When you are finished, move onto the next small task. This approach fights frustrations with success, and builds forward progress into your writing practice.
6. Pair up.
Ask another writer to join you in working toward your individual goals in the months ahead. You’ll both benefit from being accountable to one another, and the mutual support will motivate you to follow through.
7. When all else fails, take a break.
It can be as simple as getting up from your computer and walking around the house, or as significant as putting your project on hold for a month. Stepping away from the source of our frustration can give us a fresh perspective and renewed momentum. But be sure to designate an end point to this refueling period to ensure that it is in fact a break—and not an excuse not to get up from that chair and never sit back down.
8. Realize that setbacks are part of the process.
Every writer’s road is full of tight curves, jarring potholes and unexpected bumps. Accept this inevitability, and you won’t be as surprised when you slam into something that brings you to a screeching halt. By eliminating the element of surprise, you minimize disappointment, which will help you to recover and get moving again.
9. Above all, be patient!
Meeting your writing goals takes time and effort. When you throw out that laundry list of resolutions and focus your attention on just one or two well-crafted objectives, you’re already one step ahead of where you were last year. Remember that 12 months is plenty of time to accomplish your writing goals if you approach them with understanding, clarity and objectivity. Here’s wishing you every success in 2015. Happy New Year!
About the author: Tracey Barnes Priestley is a columnist, blogger and novelist. She is the author of the novel Duck Pond Epiphany as well as a life coach who teaches writers organization, communication and stress management skills useful for today’s publishing world. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Technology has always had an effect on the form of the novel, but the story remains.
by Camilla Nelson
In This Will Destroy That, also known as Book V, Chapter 2 of Notre Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo presents his famous argument that it was the invention of the printing press that destroyed the edifice of the gothic cathedral. Stories, hopes and dreams had once been inscribed in stone and statutory, wrote Hugo. But with the arrival of new printing technologies, literature replaced architecture.
Today, “this” may well be destroying “that” again, as the Galaxy of the Internet replaces the Gutenberg Universe. If a book is becoming something that can be downloaded from the app store, texted to your mobile phone, read in 140-character installments on Twitter, or, indeed, watched on YouTube, what will that do to literature – and particularly Hugo’s favourite literary form, the novel?Debates about the future of the book are invariably informed by conversations about the death of the novel. But as far as the digital novel is concerned, it often seems we’re in – dare I say it – the analogue phase. The publishing industry mostly focuses on digital technologies as a means for content delivery – that is, on wifi as a replacement for print, ink, and trucks. In terms of fictional works specifically created for a digital environment, publishers are mostly interested in digital shorts or eBook singles.
At 10,000 words, these are longer than a short story and shorter than a printed novel, which, in every other respect, they continue to resemble.
Digital editions of classic novels are also common. Some, such as the Random House edition of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962), available from the App store, are innovatively designed, bringing the novel into dialogue with an encyclopedic array of archival materials, including Burgess’ annotated manuscript, old book covers, videos and photographs.
Also in this category is Faber’s digital edition of John Buchan’s 39 Steps (2013), in which the text unfolds within a digital landscape that you can actually explore, albeit to a limited degree, by opening a newspaper, or reading a letter.
But there is a strong sense in which novels of this sort, transplanted into what are essentially gaming-style environments for which the novel form was not designed, can be experienced as deeply frustrating. This is because the novel, and novel reading, is supported by a particular kind of consciousness that Marshall McLuhan memorably called the “Gutenberg mind”.
Novels are linear and sequential, and post-print culture is interactive and multidimensional. Novels draw the mind into deeply imagined worlds, digital culture draws the mind outward, assembling its stories in the interstices of a globally networked culture.
For the novel to become digital, writers and publishers need to think about digital media as something more than just an alternative publishing vehicle for the same old thing. The fact of being digital must eventually change the shape of the novel, and transform the language.
Far from destroying literature, or the novel genre, digital experimentation can be understood as perfectly in keeping with the history of the novel form. There have been novels in letters, novels in pictures, novels in poetry, and novels which, like Robinson Crusoe (1719), so successfully claimed to be factual accounts of actual events that they were reported in the contemporary papers as a news story. It is in the nature of the novel to constantly outrun the attempt to pin it down.
So too, technology has always transformed the novel. Take Dickens, for example, whose books were shaped by the logic of the industrial printing press and the monthly and weekly serial – comprising a long series of episodes strung together with a cliffhanger to mark the end of each installment.
So what does digital media do differently? Most obviously, digital technology is multimodal. It combines text, pictures, movement and sound. But this does not pose much of a conceptual challenge for writers, thanks, perhaps, to the extensive groundwork already laid by graphic novel.
Rather, the biggest challenge that digital technology poses to the novel is the fact that digital media isn’t linear – digital technology is multidimensional, allowing stories to expand, often wildly and unpredictably, in nonlinear patterns.
Rest of the article at: http://theconversation.com/the-byte-may-destroy-the-book-but-the-novel-isnt-over-yet-42556?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+3+June+2015+-+2901&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+3+June+2015+-+2901+CID_d9aa7eed4583444a6198564d2fce1b93&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=The