Writing Wednesday: The Touch
A couple months ago I was reading Ethan Cooper’s review of Nabokov’s “Laughter in the Dark” and one thing Coop notes is that “the Nab” was 33 at the time of writing it and so the work did not quite match up to his earlier works.
You can notice this a lot in authors who have been around for a while. For instance when I read my favorite author John Irving’s books, I noticed his first novel “Setting Free the Bears” seemed far different than his later books. It actually seemed more like a Kurt Vonnegut book than a book by the guy who wrote “The World According to Garp” and “The Cider House Rules.” I suppose that made sense because Irving wasn’t even 30 yet when that first novel came out and he had learned under Vonnegut at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. It took him until his fourth novel (the aforementioned Garp) before he found his voice.
The same thing happened when I read Richard Russo’s first novel “Mohawk” after reading his other novels, including the Pulitzer-winning “Empire Falls.” The pieces were all in place of dealing with a small town and its colorful denizens, but the “mature touch” as Coop called it wasn’t there yet.
This is something that a lot of people don’t understand about writing. It takes time to find your voice, that storytelling style that may not be unique but is at least comfortable for you. Naïve people think you can just sit down and start writing a great novel. But really even with the greats (especially with the greats) it takes a few times around the block before they can come into their own.
That’s also a good thing to remember when you’re feeling beaten-down by the rejection process. Maybe this novel isn’t the one, but maybe someday you’ll get it right and find that mature touch to make a great novel. Though this grumpy bulldog would say that’s still not very likely.
Friday’s entry: More inspirational posts thanks to Edward D. Wood, Jr…