Monday, September 12, 2011

Why Do Authors Kill Their Books?

Image copyrighted by Ben Wiseman of the New York Times. "Writing a novel is like paddling from Boston to London in a bathtub. Sometimes the damn tub sinks. It’s a wonder that most of them don’t." —Stephen King

"A book itself threatens to kill its author repeatedly during its composition." —Michael Chabon

To us aspiring writers, this is reassuring. Thank goodness this process feels like this even for highly accomplished writers, too. Writing is not just hard, because you're unskilled, but it's hard, because it's just a difficult thing to do.

Such realization takes a load off the mind. It accords the freedom to resume experimenting with words, taking risks with characters' emotions, blithely sending plots into twists, and generally causing mayhem on the page.

Image copyrighted by What is even more reassuring to know is that every famous writer has those unfinished and abandoned stories dancing with dust bunnies under their beds.

The New York Times article Why Do Writers Abandon Novels? gives specific examples of who committed hara-kiri on their books and why.

Michael Chabon said of his unfinished novel Fountain City, "[It was] a novel that I could feel erasing me, breaking me down, burying me alive, drowning me, kicking me down the stairs." And so Chabon fought back: he killed Fountain City in 1992.

More dramatically, in 1925 Evelyn Waugh burned his unpublished first novel, The Temple at Thatch, and attempted to drown himself in the sea after a friend gave it a bad review.

Image copyrighted by Harper Lee had written more than 100 pages of her second novel, The Long Goodbye, before To Kill a Mockingbird was even published in 1960. But the attention accompanying the wild success of Mockingbird slowed her output to a trickle until she gave up.

Richard Price said, he quit 300 pages into Home Fires after realizing that "the driving force behind the novel was panic about not having a novel."

Junot Díaz wrote "a whole lot" of Dark America, a science-fiction novel about mutants, before abandoning it 10 years ago because, he said, "it was hopelessly stupid and convoluted."

Go HERE to read this delightful article in its entirety.