Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: novels

What Is a Novel?

The question that forms the title of this post may seem simple to answer; yet, is it?

Image Courtesy of Julia Freeman-Woolpert ~

I can imagine a few answers from certain folks:


“A thick book with a story in it.”

“A continuous narrative of at least 50,000 words.”

“What a dumb question—everybody knows what a novel is.”


The only problem is that many novelists would disagree with those answers; and, many other answers to the question.

Ursula K. Le Guin, in her book, Words Are My Matter, said this:

“Readers, I think, are often led astray by the widespread belief that a novel springs from a single originating ‘idea’, and then are kept astray by the critical practice of discussing fiction as completely accessible to intellect, a rational presentation of ideas by means of an essentially ornamental narrative.”

The “ornamental narrative” of that quote is, sadly, what many “experts” of “literary” fiction think they’re dealing with when they reduce the art of the novelist into their simplistic “explanations” of what the novel “means”…

Le Guin also says:

“If fiction is how it says what it says, then useful criticism is what shows you how fiction says what it says.”


Another rendition of her words might be:

Fiction isn’t just what it says—isn’t just the bare words on the page. It’s how those words shape the ideas of the story and add feeling to the narrative.

So then, the honest critic has to work to show how the novel takes mere words and fashions them into the artistic presentation of ideas and feelings.

And, that presentation is not capable of being reduced to a coldly rational train of thoughts…

Well, not capable of being reduced if it is, in fact, a novel; since, I’m sure there are books out there, with many words in them, which are not richly artistic novels; but, merely books that are “completely accessible to intellect, a rational presentation of ideas by means of an essentially ornamental narrative.”

Care to share your thoughts and feelings in the comments?

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For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Read An E-Book Week Starts Today !

Yes, I’m still “officially” on sabbatical from this blog as I work on my next book… Notes from An Alien

But, I got a notification from Smashwords that today is the beginning of their Read An E-Book Week.

It’s a great time to load-up your e-reader with some free e-books!

I’ve yet to publish with Smashwords but my next book will be featured there, as well as fresh editions of two of my other books.

However, you can still get three of my books for free, right here on this blog.

Notes from An Alien

Is Your Soul In Here?

And, Strange Fantasies—but, this one is still in separate posts (unless you want to spend $.99 at Amazon :-)

Oh, the image for this post is a word cloud of Notes from An Alien—95 words that show up at least three times in the book—(the bigger the word the more times it was used)

O.K., back to working on my next book………

Me and My Poet Friend

Most of this blog is devoted to posts about Writing—with the rest concerning Reading and Publishing.

Some of the posts deal with the act of writing and that can be very hard to describe

I published a novel and I’m working on a follow-up short story collection—I’ve written about this process and will certainly write more.

But, long before I wrote a novel I published a book of poetry and the final book of the series I’m in the middle of will be poetry again.

Writing about how to write poetry is a task I don’t even want to try to comprehend

{ btw, you can get free copies of the novel and poetry book at those links up there… }

I have two good friends, whom I’ve not met in person, who are fantastically talented poets.

Today, I want to introduce you to the work of my poet-friend, John.

While trying to describe how to write poetry is beyond me, trying to tell you what to expect in John’s poetry is even further beyond my ability

Plus, there’s the often experienced phenomenon of a single poem meaning quite different things to different people.

One thing I can say is that the poem of his I’ll share below is worth any writer’s perusal

First, here is John’s site, Once Written.

And, here is a recent poem of his:

“Curious It Is”

Curious it is that in these few lines I find flaws
And weightlessness in adamantine words in flight
From the abstract incident and the concrete patterns of the night,
And yet, as I drown withal comes light, air, and morning, in silent thrall
That each breath brings its confession, countless dispensations of reverse
In every verse, thoughts easily dismissed as conceived; I am satisfied that here
And there again have I exhaled a truth or two. This, and as I inhale I hear
The insurrection from the gallery, the ranks of rhythm, immersed
In unintentional casuistry as much as anyone within the curse and blessing
Of abstruse allusions to possession and its loss. The final scenes are mine
And mine alone that lead me to a place somewhere in time
Between celebrated valleys of knowledge and experience addressing
Artifacts and all their codices that qualify duress and mitigate the brine
Of seas of tragedy for what the world rejects and comedy in what eternity denies.
We gather and disperse the seeds, we minor gods in ceaseless search.
No ends exist in harvests of self-satisfaction with their certainty of blight.
And which of us discerns the which through veils of light
And endless revision, design and aspiration seeded on a mountain perch
Or the imminent descent to sound the maw of landlocked gulfs and oceans?
No one here survives mortality but all will live to tell the tale
Of peoples, nations, and all such lofty wholesale tales that fail
Within the present, feed again upon themselves from springs of notions
Filled with promise and devotion, to simply prove their axioms secure:
Nor time, nor reticent imagination can define
The earthly limitation of the heavens here below a line
That pays out golden threads in pride among the weavers of this world.
How often is it so that few if any see beyond a moment’s pause
The awful symmetry between ephemeral success and devastating loss?

If it’s possible for you to relate your thoughts and feelings about this poem, I’d love to see your comments
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

The Danger of A Single Story

One story, about anything, can be extremely dangerous. Most novels relate their theme from many characters’ perspectives–many stories. Most news media cling to Single Stories.

What’s the danger?

If the Single Story is believed, there may follow certain prejudices or biases.

Also, a Single Story can have many variations while remaining “Single”.

Tarie Sabido, one of my Google Plus friends, shared a video that explores this Single Story concept.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian author of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, has garnered many statements of praise for her writing, such as, “We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers.”

Let yourself be drawn in by this storyteller as she reveals the danger of the Single Story…

Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)

An “Open Source” Novel ??

Seeing the words “open source” can make many folks immediately think of computer software like LibreOffice, the free Productivity Suite that, to me, is as good as, or better than, Microsoft’s Office.

Open source connotes creative, usable, free, swiftly updated, and, to some, radical

But, an open source novel???

Enter Cheryl Ives and Timeless. I’ll let her explain a bit:

“I am building a core story (previously known as a novel) and inviting everyone who loves it, me (or both!) to help create as I write, and help build a multi-media creative experience.”

Here’s a page on the various way you can be involved.

And, here’s a look at some of the folks already involved.

Cheryl also says: “I have my own ideas about where the plot trails are going, but nothing’s quite decided. You still have lots of leverage and room to sway the direction. If you don’t like the turns I take, maybe take a stab at it yourself (I think they call this a ‘fork’).”

She’s also looking for a “conversation widget” she can embed on the site. If you can help, give her a Tweet :-) Twitter: @MrsWhich by night,@cherylives by day.

And, if you’re not on Twitter, she’s accepting feedback, ideas, nitpicks, and flights of fancy right here :-)
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)

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