What a novel idea

Monday, 1 November 2004 — 11:03pm | Literature

I got started on Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. back when I was about thirteen. Without knowing that it was to be his last novel – it would be a few weeks before he announced his retirement – I picked up a hardcover copy of Timequake in its first printing, as that was the year it saw release. Much of the novel is about the author’s failed attempt to make heads or tails of a workable first draft of that same novel; Vonnegut intermittently pulls himself out of the narrative – or inserts himself in, one might just as accurately say – and speaks at length about his own travails in the writing process.

There’s one specific passage in Timequake that has stuck with me ever since. Allow me to share:

Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter anymore, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. They they go over it painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done, they’re done.

Like Mr. Vonnegut, I am a basher.

National Novel Writing Month, however, was designed for swoopers. It’s an admirable project, mind you, and I would not hesitate to sign up for it if it were not for the volume of other commitments I have ahead of me in the very immediate future. NaNoWriMo, as it is called, is basically a pledge to produce 50,000 words of fiction by the end of November. Let me say this: I very much admire the spirit of the project as they lay it down in the FAQ. It involves the regimented self-imposition of an artificial deadline in order to overcome writerus blockitis, a disease that has more to do with reluctance or laziness than a lack of inspiration. But, as they say themselves, the emphasis is on quantity, not quality.

So if you are a basher in the Timequake sense of the word, thou art screweth. Not for everyone do words flow out like endless rain into a paper cup. For some, they trickle. But like spurts of creek water pumped through a filter, the trickles are clean.

On a completely different note, for those of you who don’t know, not only did Roman emerge victorious at the University of Calgary’s Fall Open tournament (with his partner from Simon Fraser University, first-time debater Xenia Menzies), he did it whilst dressed as the Bee. I went with a new recruit of UBC’s that I also did not meet until arriving at the tournament itself, James Lawson. We only posted a 2-3 record, but placed well in individual speaker standings.

In other news, I hear there’s an election coming up.


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