Not So Fast – It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
by Robert J. Daniher
How many times have you tried to write a story, novel, poem, article and given up after a few days because things weren’t going the way you thought they would? The plot wasn’t working out, the characters didn’t come alive, or maybe you just got…bored. After all, this writing thing is supposed to happen overnight – right? I mean, who has time to wait around for an idea to develop on the page? Didn’t Steinbeck write “The Grapes of Wrath” in just a few months?
Some time ago I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite short story writers, Robert Lopresti. A prolific award-winning writer, Mr. Lopresti’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies. He also reviews short fiction on his weekly blog: http://lbcrimes.blogspot.com/ . But most importantly, he began his illustrious career as a page at the Berkeley Heights Public Library. One of his shining moments while at the library was surviving a nasty run-in with a falling bookcase of Biographies. There’s a nasty rumor going around that he accidentally pulled it down himself, but you didn’t hear that from me. In late 2012 Mr. Lopresti was passing through NJ on his way to receive the Black Orchid Novella Award from the Nero Wolfe Society and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine when I met him for the first time.
“You have such a prolific body of work. How long does it take you to finish a story?” I asked, expecting him to say a week or a month.
“Oh, sometimes years,” he said.
Years? Could that be? I think he was half-joking, but there is some truth to that. Sometimes, you need to put a draft away for a little while so you can come back to it with fresh eyes to revise. Junot Diaz spent 7 years on “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Woa”, and that won the Pulitzer. French poet, Paul Valery said, “A poem’s never finished, only abandoned.” So, if your idea is taking a little longer than expected to germinate into the novel of your dreams, don’t rush it. Think of writing as a marathon, not a sprint.