Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Monday, November 01, 2004

2. How to write a first draft novel in two thirds less time, and with pleasure. The Premise.

Okay the bizarre idea I have here is that writing a novel should actually be FUN. If you have attempted a novel before most the time advice will sound just wrongheaded. I know I have floundered in novels many many times.

But I wish to emphasise that the fun does not originate from the novel and never really does. In fact the circumstance are just the key to unlock the door to satisfaction and pleasure, and the real trigger of joy lies in the person himself. The fun of writing arises, in other words, from clearing away mental junk that stops you from appreciating the exciting, inspiring and invigorating essence of an idea.

That is what we are to do now, and the end result is called a premise.

Many writing books talk about a premise as a kind of machine for storymaking. For instance, "love leads to regret which engenders satisfaction" or "pride goes before the fall" are not particularly useful generators of inspiration to me. But what makes them particularly repugnant to me is the denial of the subjective sense that there is an actual drama being generated by the premise. So all the suggestions I make about creating a smashing premise shoud be prefaced by one simple rule:

If it doesn't excite you, then it's not the premise.

Now unless you are chronically depressed (in which case, my apologies), you as a human being have an inborn "storydar", a radar for narrative. Our minds come readymade to recognise the pattern of information we call stories. But we are not, alas, born able to write novels.

So what a premise involves is writing a sentence which has an explosive intuition of "it's a story", but also adheres to the following strict structural principles of novel writing:

1. Shorter is better. Try for fewer than 15 words.
2. Don't use character names. Say “a handicapped trapeze artist” than “Jane Doe”.
3. Write it around the character who suffers the most.
4. Write it around the theme or idea which you feel is to be the absolute essence of the story.
5. The premise is the idea-behind-the-ideas. Take out all details that are not absolutely germinal. The premise is the seed of drama, no more. Take our any thing else.
6. Fianally, and most importantly, once you have a robust sentence, pick up the phone, ring a writer friend, and say something like:

"Hi, I've got this idea for a novel and I want to share it with you to see if you find it interesting:"

Then tell them the idea. You only have to do this once, but the essential act of ringing up another and telling them the idea to guage interest levels is the fundamental orthopraxis of writing. Remember: orthopraxis means that you reflect with action in mind, then act. Reflection (writing the premise) is NOT sufficient.

My suggestion is that you must act somehow in order to your reflection to be valid orthopraxis. Do this one thing and you have the power. Fail to do it and the more exciting orthopraxes in preceding steps will seem unaccountably difficult. Practice orthopraxis when it is easy, and it becomes possible when it is hard.

If you have no desire to share your premise, it is also possible that your premise is a dog, or that it needs space to morph into something more exciting. In that case, move on to something more exciting.

Here is my premise for Return to Gaia:

A rogue scientist creates a non-sentient learning computer to manage earth instead of humans.



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