From the Archives--Bret Ballou's The Novel Relationship

Katherine Longshore Reply Friday, May 23, 2014
An oldie but goodie from the archives.  One of the things I love best about Bret's writing is his wry sense of humor, and how it takes an incisive look at this crazy and compelling art at which we all endeavor.  

Here is a quick reference guide to identifying the stages of a writer’s relationship with a novel. For your convenience, I’m including some common phases from each phase.

The You-Couldn’t-Understand Phase 
My head is spinning. I love, love, love my Slutty Next Novel (SNN). Can you believe how perfect my main character is? My concept is the best concept there’s ever been. It’s so cute and funny and exciting and…well, perfection. I’m going to treat it right. This time – THIS TIME – everything will be smooth sailing. We’ll be so happy. How could we not? Look how amazing we are together. I totally know everything about my SNN. Or everything that’s important. Back off, you couldn’t possibly understand what we have.

The Just-In-My-Head Phase
Ahhh. I’m having sooo much fun. The plot and the characters are flushing themselves out. The pacing: Spot On. My heart flutters when I think about it and I can’t STOP thinking about it. I get grumpy when I miss our time together. There is this one thing though…never mind, it’s nothing. Probably just in my head.

The Small-But Phase
Me and the SNN are really, really happy. Truly. it’s got structure and voice and great humor. *Sigh*Long Pause* but I’m just the tinniest bit worried that the main character is unlikeable. I mean, no big deal because I’ll fix it in revisions. We’re fine. Forget I said anything.

The I-Think-I-Made-a-Mistake Phase
I dunno. I just dunno. I think I made a mistake. How did I ever think this concept was good? Character arcs: mine are as flat as Kansas. And don’t get me started on how many times I use the word ‘smile’. Ugh. I want to be DONE with this Novel. Know what? The other day, I had a G-R-E-A-T idea for this other story. Let me tell you about it…

The I-Hate-This-Novel Phase
I. Hate. This. Novel. 
I’m never thinking about it again. It’s disgusting.  Let’s go have a beer or twelve and leave *that* mess at home. There are plenty of other ideas out there that appreciate me, ya hear?!

The Time-to-Compromise Phase 
Okay, I over-reacted before. There’s substance between this Novel and me – something that other ideas just don’t have. It’s going to be tough to make this work, but we’ve compromised: I’ll put in the time and it’ll be easier on me. And we’re both *really* committing to each other.  

The Might-Make-It Phase
My apologies for being so distant, me and the ole’ Novel have been real homebodies recently. But, yeah, things are solid between us. We’ve still got our fair share of problems – and they’re basically the same ones I used to rant about, but each revision is easier. I think we might make it.

The I-Love-The-Ole'-Novel Phase
Despite its faults, I love that ole Novel. Sure, there are still things I’d change, but I’m happy with what I have. The ole' Novel’s pluses trump the minuses any day. 

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