Go Long: When the Novel Beckons

A dear former colleague of mine sent me some feedback on a piece I’d been toying with. One of her notes was that perhaps the work should be expanded to novel lengths. My immediate reaction was to balk: No! I’m not a novelist! I have not story of any great length in me! It’s madness, madness I say.

My fear of the novel wasn’t always omnipresent–I wrote a novel when I was 20. A novel that was essentially a mish-mash of Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney except, you know, not good. It was self-indulgent and superficial and just bad. At the time I thought it was edgy. Ahh the bliss of youthful ego.

That was my last venture into novel writing, though my thesis was essentially half a novel. I will admit I’ve jotted down some fundamental ideas from time to time about longer projects. The problem is I don’t feel like I have it in me go forward with them. Short story and creative essay allow me to tinker with things, keep everything contained, be concise and dynamic. I am still training for sprints; marathons terrify me.

However, after reading Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, my mind has started playing with the idea of a linked short story collection. Instead of either sprint or marathon, it might be a relay. With the NaNo coming up, it may just be time.

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