‘Un-novel’: the antithesis of novel



Paula’s Post #97 — Who, do you suppose, besides me, caught the faint but unmistakable whiff of rebellion in Silk’s last post on ‘Chaos Theory‘?

Her near-visceral longing to hear her literary and creative heroes grant her ‘permission’ to embark upon her novel with joyful abandon… to ‘set sail’ (an apt metaphor, as Silk is the nautical one amongst us)… to break free from the chafing strictures and the ties that bind.

Silk is not alone. I, too, admit to a certain ‘wistfulness’, knowing that our next 5writers novels are intended to be:

…thoughtfully planned…


…the product of focused study (see previous posts on ‘deconstruction’)…

…finally crafted…

…and based on the classic art and science of story-telling, as explained by the gurus of fiction-writing.

In other words, no more ‘free-wheeling’ fun. No more ripping out a story, not knowing where we are headed. No more entertaining ourselves. No more letting our characters run roughshod over our rudimentary plotting, no more letting our characters send the story reeling away in an entirely new direction.

We’re going to do it right, this time, Dad gum it! Just you wait and see.

Or so we told ourselves, when we promised that, this time, we’d approach this novel writing business scientifically and learn, learn, learn, learn our craft the hard-way, no matter how boring it may be to deconstruct an entire novel.

Except, in the oft quoted words of the Bard, aye, there’s the rub.

At least for me.

Because the truth is, it is boring.

Really boring.

I feel like I’m back in school. Wait. Worse than that. I feel like I am back in math class. Yes, math class. Struggling to construct and deconstruct algebraic formulae (and yes, Silk, or whomever else is out there checking on sin and syntax, and spelling, the plural of formula, is formulae).

I looked it up.

And guess what? Looking up mundane facts is, shockingly, more fun than trying to deconstruct a novel.

Let me expand on this theme.

I currently have at my bedside a table full of fabulous new and half-read novels. Virgin novels, so to speak. I mean, isn’t that the whole idea of a novel? That it be, well, not to put to fine a point on it, ‘novel’? As in virgin? As in not despoiled?

But I’m not reading those virgin novel novels right now.

We agreed.

They are not part of the program. Instead, I’ve more or less promised to deconstruct a previously read  novel: Louise Penny’s, fine, first published novel, Still Life.

Except I already read it.

Almost a year ago. And that means, even at my age and with my memory not quite as sharp as it once was… I still more or less remember it.

And of course, that means that it is not novel at all. It is un-novel. Except there’s pretty much no such word, unless you’re quoting from the French (in which case, it is going to be spelled ‘une nouvelle’ since the French decided, way back when, in the way that the French like to do, that ‘novel’ is one of those nouns that should be feminine, not masculine).

That’s actually a fascinating topic, come to think of it. Have you ever looked at the absurd way the French divided all their nouns into masculine and feminine?

I once had a French person explain to me that the predominantly male French scholars who decided on these ‘gender assignments’ had a penchant for making all good and wonderful things male, and all the other not-so-wonderful things, female. How else can you explain, as writer David Sedaris once humorously pointed out — the French rather confusingly assign the masculine to the word “vagina.”

Oh, but where was I?

Although there is no such thing as ‘un-novel’. We do have the French, ‘use nouvelle’, or better yet, ‘un roman.’

So, no, there is no such word as un-novel. Not really.  But there could be. Soon.  Just like “selfie”. Why, as we speak, we 5writers could be creating a previously unknown word, and making something utterly new.  Created by we 5writers in our quest to deconstruct. We could make up the word:



Like Silk, I’m feeling wistful right about now.

Like most of my 5writer colleagues, I’m super busy this fall. Pre-occupied with many different things and perhaps busier than I’ve been since I retired from the Public Prosecution Service.

I’m busy with responsibilities at work and at home.

Deconstruction,  like school work, requires space, time, diligence, patience and discipline. Writing requires all those things, too. But writing is interesting. Especially when you’re telling yourself a story. Especially, when you don’t know how it ends.

Pages deconstructed since last blog post: 10

Pages I want to deconstruct before next blog post: 0

Pages I want to read? Pages I want to write?: Now, we’re getting somewhere.

P. S.

Word Origin and History for “Novel”
adj. — “new, strange, unusual,” early 15c., but little used before 1600, from Old French novel, nouvel “new, young, fresh, recent; additional; early, soon” (Modern French nouveau, fem. nouvelle), from Latin  novellas “new, young, recent,” diminutive of novus “new”.
n. — “fictitious narrative,” 1560s, from Italian novella “short story,” originally “new story,” from Latin novella “new things” (cf. Middle French  novella, French nouvelle), neuter plural or fem. of  novellas. Originally “one of the tales or short stories in a collection” (especially Boccaccio’s), later (1630s) “long work of fiction,” works which had before that been called romances.


“A novel is like a violin bow; the box which gives off the sounds is the soul of the reader.” — Stendhal, Life of Henri Brulard


2 thoughts on “‘Un-novel’: the antithesis of novel

  1. It seems so many of us in this corner of the blogosphere are trying to figure out the “right” way for each of us to write. Some days, I think there are too many “how to” manuals for us to read, and we end up losing our way. I know when I read them I often come away thinking I’ll never write anything good.

    I think both too much “free form” and “rule following” can take us off-track. But heck if I know how to find the right balance of free-wheeling fun while writing and good, well-structured writing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s