Monday, May 19, 2014

The Epistolary Novel: The Writer's Challenge

Somewhere between writing my eighth and ninth novel, I started to feel like a lazy writer. I began to worry the quality of my work was suffering because I was focusing too much on quantity. There were weaknesses in my work that never existed before. I saw them. I knew I had to do something about them.

I needed to challenge myself and my writing.

As I approached the writing process of my tenth novel, Stronger Than This, I decided to take a risk and experiment with the traditional narrative form I had written all previous novels in. I made the commitment to write my first epistolary novel. In doing so, the challenge I needed was definitely there, but the reward was worth it. As a result, my writing skills were sharpened, my imagination was ignited, and my creativity was refueled.

The story lines of Stronger Than This are revealed to the reader in multiple forms: text messages, letters, online chats, memos, interviews, and more. This posed many creative challenges, specifically the substantial lack of dialogue (which, if used correctly, can move a story forward quickly). As the novel features two protagonists (one male and one female), I had to establish significant differences in their “voices” and try to capture each in every form of communication they used throughout the book.

The writing process was a fascinating one. Constantly I discovered new means to reveal important plot points, establish place and time, and create characters that were as authentic possible. I also found ways to tell the story from the perspective of the supporting characters. By doing so, it added to the universe I was building for my two main characters; how others viewed them was equally important to their development on page.

Looking back, I’m pleased I made the decision to challenge myself as a writer. In doing so, I discovered a new passion for what I do. Writing Stronger Than This certainly kept me on my toes each step of the way. But the entire journey is one I am grateful for. The result is a book that is unconventional and unique, much like the characters whose lives fill the pages.

I don’t have any immediate plans to write another novel in this form. However, I do find myself examining form – and the possibilities that can occur by experimenting with it – with every new project I embark on.

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