November, a Novel and Death of the Author…

I want to congratulate myself. I wrote a fifty thousand word novel in a month for National Novel Writing month (NaNoWriMo). Many of you may be familiar with this, but for me it was a new experience in many ways. I hadn’t even heard of it until a few weeks before it began and just threw myself into it with a foolish naivety. I thought it might be fun!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the concept is that you only have those thirty days to write at least fifty thousand words. This is 1667 words a day. No re-reading what you have written, no editing or cutting anything, just keep writing until the end. Like a marathon and a sprint at the same time. This, I realise now, is a tall order.

I finished today, with a total of 50,311 words which makes me a ‘winner’. Even more miraculous than that I have written a whole story. It has a start, middle and end. All in thirty days. Looking back it seems like it wasn’t that difficult, but I know I struggled throughout. I had to juggle it with my real life, trying to write in lunch hours on days when I couldn’t write in the evenings, mental blocks where I forced myself to write something; anything. But somehow I muddled through and finished it.

Now I am not writing this post to boast (well maybe just a little bit!) but it has made me think about the artistic creative process again. Always thinking about that one!

The thing is today is the 30th. I wrote the last 1800 words this morning because today I have been on strike (for those outside the UK, the Government is screwing up public sector pensions and over 2 million people were on strike – I am a teacher, but that’s a different story). This day off in protest (with no pay) gave me time to think. I have written a novel but I have never actually read it. I have only read the words as I typed them. There is lots in there that I have forgotten.

It’s like this thing I have created has left me and already it is almost an entity in itself. Sitting there waiting to be interpreted in so many different ways. It is what ‘Russian Formalist’ writers called ‘Death of the Author’. The idea here was that once a novel was published it was irrelevant who the author is, or what their background is, or even what they intended when they put pen to paper. The book is always going to be reinterpreted in different ways by each individual reader. So all reviews or questions about what the author ‘meant’ by their work are irrelevant.

I have felt this with songs I have written. Once they are recorded and performed they take on a life of their own, with people enjoying different songs for different reasons. I still sing songs I wrote over twenty years ago, and I can’t really remember what I felt like when I wrote them. I continue to reinterpret them every time I revisit them. This makes them seem fresh and new somehow.

In some ways this novel is even more exciting. I plan to leave it to ‘simmer’ for a while. Forget it for at least three weeks. Then over Christmas I will read it; read it as if it’s a novel I just picked up. I won’t be able to escape the feeling that it isn’t really anything to do with me. You ever had that feeling?

I wonder if it will be any good?

What do you think?


Is this the man I am? Or is he anything to do with me?

© 2011 Simon Poore