f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 2 of Novel Writing – Impact

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Day 2 of Novel Writing – Impact

When you write a novel, you’re obviously hoping your book makes an impact. You want lots of sales, if not for the readers, then for the fame, glory, and greenbacks, right? Nobody writes to be ignored.

That said, I think we sometimes overlook an aspect of impact in our touting of sales as the primary measure of a book’s value. What we overlook, because it difficult to predict, is a book’s legacy.

The Risk Pool by Richard Russo came out in 1988.
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy came out in 1961.
Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor came out in 1949.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett came out in 1930.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky came out in 1886.
Phantastes by George MacDonald came out in 1858.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen came out in 1814.
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe came out in 1719.

Here’s my pithy Tuesday saying: All books must engage readers for a day, yet should be written to gather readers for a century.

That sounds like a tall order, like I’m asking for all of you to become Jane Austen or Walker Percy. But that’s not it. What I’m asking is that we approach writing our novels the same way. What I’m hoping is that you see the value in trying your hardest to say something that lasts more than the blink that is most book’s existence.

That comes through wrestling with the language, crafting dimensional characters, and opening up a life. It comes through finding the universal but expressing it in an original way. It came come in romance (Austen) or fantasy (MacDonald) or adventure (Dafoe) or mystery (Hammett). That’s the highest you can strive for as an author. That’s the long-view that takes us out of seeing novels as merely “momentary entertainment.” That’s where a book’s fullest impact is realized.

And that’s why I’ll never stop sounding the gong for books crafted with that mindset.
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Tomorrow we’ll look at books as entertainment.
Continue to Day 3 of Novel Writing