Climbing and writing. That’s all I want to do – climb, then write about it. Sounds solid, right? As long as I could write enough to support my climbing habit and vice-versa, it’s a fool-proof plan, I think! I’d have to sell something, though, like a short novel on some of my climbing adventures and philosophy that people would fall in love with and that would become a classic in climbing literature. I’d love to write a book that became one of those “staple foods” that climbers consume! I’ve found a couple of them recently that you’ve already read about on my blog if you’ve been following it, and I’m impressed by these. These are books I carry around with me everywhere I go in case I get an opportunity to read for even a few minutes because they have several elements in common.
I’d like to look at those elements that I would pattern my book using for a moment. First of all, I would make the chapters readable. Eighth grade reading level is considered universally acceptable for reading material in the U.S. right now, meaning that most people should be able to read, comprehend, and appreciate your writing at that level. It’s too bad that the reading level isn’t higher in some respects, but I understand that I can reach a wider audience if I keep it at this reading level. If I can inspire more people to climb by writing at this level, then I’ll gladly do it! A second element that these novels that I admire share is short chapters. A chapter might take me 10 minutes to read or so, and under 15 minutes if it’s a long one. That’s about my attention span. I have a lot going on in terms of mental disorders, and a short attention span is part of that (yes, I’m on medication for it). These chapter lengths are perfect for me! As soon as I find myself beginning to lose focus, I turn the page and there’s only one or two more paragraphs to read, or one to one-and-a-half pages left for a long chapter. This makes these reading these books doable for me.
A third element that I like about these novels is that they, in one way or another, explain difficult or unfamiliar terminology (to a non-climber) clearly and concisely, in a way that is easy to understand and set apart from the main story. It is well-placed – well-timed in the writing – so to say. I want to include those types of explanations in my novel(s) for people so they don’t lose interest for lack of explanation of unfamiliar terms or general frustration with attempting to understand the writing. I also want it to flow. The chapters in these novels flow. Even though the chapters are in vignette style and seem like each is a stand-alone story (and could be a novel) in itself, even the chapters have a sort of flow to them when read in succession, whether all in one sitting or one-by-one at odd times of the day. The flow, because it is there, allows a person to stop mid-chapter and pick it right back up as well. There’s a total flow about these novels, just like there is a flow of movement across the rock when you get in your zone. I want my novel to flow on all of those levels. I like the vignette style of chapter-writing as well. I want it to be almost conversational in tone, while preserving the ability to “postpone or pause the conversation” if need be at any time.
Another thing that these novels have in common that I love is that they make me ponder deep motives and drives and desires. Why do I climb? It’s so much work and so uncomfortable and painful – why do I love it? Why can’t I live without climbing? Why does it make me happy to be miserable? Is that in itself a disorder they haven’t diagnosed in the psychiatric community yet? There is the occasional word or concept that each novel uses that I had to look up in order to fully understand where they were coming from and what the questions they were asking me to ponder meant. I love that element of these novels as well! I think it’s good if I learn something new, especially if I have to look it up! I have a graduate degree and a few other degrees (16 years’ worth of university work, and more to go, potentially), so when I have to look something up, it sparks excitement within me because I get to truly learn something new!
These novels provide good templates for what I want my novel(s) to be. I’ll focus on one novel for starters. I have plenty of material for a half-inch-thick novel like the ones that I’ve been describing the attributes of. I just have to make sure I’m having a conversation with my reader and not writing an academic paper. I’ll have to go back to my advanced creative writing days and my past blog posts here at Climbing 4 The Rest Of Us in that regard. It shall be a fantastic undertaking! A climbing novel! I can’t wait to start writing it! Outline first, though. I must make an outline… No time to lose!