It's Oscars time. Somebody wake the Grouch.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Earl's Novel - Prologue (Part I)

(Editor's note: Earl Fando is currently writing a novel as part of the insane National Novel Writers' Month Contest. He will be publishing the novel in serial format as it is written, rather than writing goofy posts, which is his actual job here.)

Prologue

I’m not exactly sure how it all started. One moment, you’re sitting around relaxed and comfortable, wondering what Arsenal’s going to do that Sunday against the Hammers and wishing you were in London to grab the Tube over to Upton Park and cram into the visitors section, before remembering that it’s all-seaters now and there’d be little hope of a ticket anyway and you’d be left standing outside, with the locals glaring at your nifty away strip the way a pit bull glares at a postman’s leg, and then the next moment you’re staring at the bloody computer screen and a blank page in Word, desperately trying to figure out how you’re going to churn out 2,000-plus words a night for the next fortnight and five days. Even though I regularly wrote, as co-editor of a humour blog my friends and I started, I was feeling a bit like a bloke who in the middle of his Sunday league game, gets a call from the gaffer for the national side saying, “Be at Wembley for Brasil on Saturday.”

I think the idea of writing a novel struck me as a fanciful way to spend a month. “Sorry mates, can’t play footy this weekend, as I’m badgering away at this novel of mine and it’s got to be done by the end of the month!” “Apologies for looking so shabby today, I’ve been wrestling with that bleeding novel of mine.” “I think I’ve decided to kill off Portia in chapter 13, the overbearing cow. I’ll have Heathcliff do it, the serenely arrogant bastard. No, no…sorry, I was just working out the plot of my novel.” It sounds good, just thinking about it, until you actually sit down to do it and suddenly realize that you don’t have J.K. Rowling’s sheer endurance or Stephen King’s ridiculous verbosity, or Herman Melville’s spectacular talent, which I expect Rowling and King, entertaining as they are, sit around fretting about as well.

Most people think of writing as some romantic exercise in explosive creation, as though writers were like improvisational modern dancers and could just express themselves by writhing around on the floor for awhile, usually to loud, dissonant, inaccessible music written by Central European composers who find anything written before the 1950’s to be as dead and ancient as hieroglyphics. I remember a friend mentioning how one writer set up a web cam so visitors to his site could watch him at work. Other than tracking the volume of coffee he consumed and taking bets on where he was when he wasn’t in the room (which boils down to A) teaching class, B) sleeping, C) eating, D) the loo, or E) at the local singles bar trying to pick up birds by telling them about this fabulous writer-cam he’d set up and getting drinks dumped on him after asking if they’d like to see his drafts) there really wouldn’t be much to see, would there? I can’t really imagine loads of people sitting around their PCs in suspense, waiting to see if he decided to go for a novella or chicken out and stuck with the short story.

It’s an undramatic business this writing, and here I was, stuck with a novel. “National Novel Writers’ Month” they called it. Only, it was for participants from around the world. I suppose they couldn’t call it “International Novel Writers’ Month” without permission from the United Nations, and who’s got the money to get that approved? The idea was to get people to write a novel, any novel, inside of a month, and a thirty day one at that. They picked November, when they should have chosen October. October has 31 days, plus Daylight Savings Time ends here in the States, and that’s an extra hour of writing, worth at least a thousand words to a really desperate writer at the end of their novel rope.

I was feeling pretty miserable at that point, like an overweight, over-aged runner at the start of a marathon they’d signed up for after one too many bitters. I was staring down the line at the first big hill, a mile in the distance, thinking to myself, “That’s a long way, and there are 25 just like it afterwards.” Only I was staring at a computer screen, wishing I had my nightly beer in hand, so I could at least work on the whole romantic imagery thing, were anyone watching. “What’s that he’s drinking tonight? Fat Tire? Oooh, it’s a nice one, but a bit trendy, don’t you think?” I suddenly realised that I hadn’t had my nightly imbibement at all and rushed right to the fridge for one. The bottle cap came off nice and smooth and as I passed my wife on the way back to the PC, I commented on how well the novel was going.

“Page one!” I announced brightly. She responded with a knowing chuckle, smiling at me the way she’d smile at our grade-school child had she just announced she were going to write a novel. I clutched the beer loosely, as it was a cold ale, and walked briskly back to the room. I sat down, took a sip of the cold, mildly sweet amber beverage and then turned back to the cold, very bitter computer screen.

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