I’ve never written a novel before. All I’ve written so far are a number of plays, some of them musicals, numerous short stories that I lost in a storage unit (unless the English department at U.C.Davis happens to have kept a hold of them, which I doubt), thousands of blog posts and diary entries (for whatever that’s worth), the couple handfuls of poems posted on this web site, and zillions of songs, complete with lyrics everybody seems to rave about and music that nobody likes at all. Oh – and I also wrote a couple “rock operas” when I was younger, two movements of a flute sonata, and scattered piano preludes. No first symphony, as of yet. Typical story of a lifelong burned out starving artist.
That said, I read the first paragraph of my new novel to the other members of the Palouse Writers Guild this morning. All of them agreed that if those were the first words that befell their eyes, they would keep on reading without hesitation. One guy I showed it to later even said he’d probably buy the book right off the bat. But the problem with all of that is, of course, that there’s no book to buy. Will there ever be? Am I capable of writing an entire novel, just because I happened to get off to a good start?
I’ve been advised to barrel out 10,000 words as rapidly as possible, just the way I churned out the first five pages. But I don’t know that I can. Or even want to.
Or even should. Since feeling the worst impacts of all the demons that have come storming down my stairwell ever since I finished the script to Eden in Babylon, I wonder what my next course really ought to be. It is clear that for lack of a definite, disciplined project I have practically let myself be devoured by all the local wolves, and whatever strange poltergeists inhabit my creepy confines in the dead of night, full of trickery and tripe. But should I really dive head-first into an entire novel, just to hide my head from all the hunger, the hysteria, and the hurt?
Why not just notate my piano-vocal score like a good little musical comedy composer? It would seem the thing to do, if anyone other than myself is ever to attempt to play such bizarre tunes.
There’s also this third idea hovering over my head, haunting me. It has to do with the themes that were left hanging when I suddenly dropped the Berkeley project some months ago and dove head-first into my musical script. Not that this was a bad thing to do, for I did, after all, finish the script. But as I took from the Berkeley music those songs that seemed most to fit the Eden in Babylon style — the showiest, the most “musical theatre” of them all — I find that what is left is an intriguing set of strains. The remains seem much less show-tune, less schmaltzy, more seriously operatic in nature, and somewhat other-worldly.
But this causes me to recall the neuro-physiological conditions under which I placed myself in order to conceive of such music; specifically, highly altered states of consciousness. Somehow I just “heard” the music in those unnatural states of mind. It fascinated me so much that I promised myself I would orchestrate it all once I “came down” (and once I had regained access to a laptop and a regular power outlet in which to plug it). So I did that until the thrill wore off. Yet, on examining the music of Sirens of Hope, and of The Royal Rhapsody, I must admit that the thrill returns.
So – if I went by what others think I should do, I’d have to say that the other Writers in the guild probably would like to see me follow through with the novel, especially seeing as I got off to such a surprisingly good start. That would probably also be the easiest and most absorbing thing to do – at least, in terms of generating a very rough, rough draft. Who wants me to write music? A bunch of stoners in a flop house who won’t even listen to it anyway. Nobody ever listens to my music. It makes me feel like all the huge effort I put into writing it is all for nought.
Now, the arduous task of painstakingly notating my piano-vocal score is something I’ve been avoiding for a good month or more. Obviously, it’s what I’m supposed to do. Otherwise, I won’t be able to live with myself. There it would be, even should I die before my time: a complete piano-vocal score that conceivably some conductor could pick up on, some group of singer-actors sing and act from, and some pianist, other than myself, actually play. How gratifying. Worth its weight in gold.
The first chapter of the novel looks good, but knowing me, it would degenerate into mindless pornography before Chapter Three. I’ve made my choice. And you know what? I’ll start tomorrow. Today’s the Lord’s day and I’ll do my best to rejoice in it — even if it means putting on my headphones and rocking out to the music that no one else will ever hear.