Author: iansears11

Continuing Work on the Novel

I’ve been working full-time on the novel for almost three weeks now, hoping to hit the 10,000 word mark by Friday. Patterns in my work ethic and “idea reception” are beginning to emerge. Keeping a day-to-day journal and using the Habits app since late May have both been particularly informative. Working toward a first draft is beginning to feel like I’m swimming toward shore in a lagoon. Each flurry of ideas and progress feels like a wave lifting me up and carrying me farther, and each period without ideas feels like I’m swimming, sometimes against a strong current.

My novel is set at a large tech company in Silicon Valley, where I went to high school. Over the weekend I drove over to Washington D.C. to spend some time with a couple friends who work at Facebook’s D.C. office. I learned a lot of details about life at Facebook that I could not have come up with on my own, many of which reaffirmed the axiom that the truth is stranger than fiction. Also visited Mt. Vernon while I was there. Definitely an interesting experience. Being there breathed some life into my conception of George Washington, particularly looking over the Potomac and seeing the view George Washington loved so much, as we know from his writings. Before I left I saw some Make America Great Again hats out in the wild for the first time since the election. Very spooky.

The greatest challenge I’ve faced so far writing this novel has been to allow myself write terribly and fix it later, instead of holding every sentence to a final-draft or even just a third-draft standard and not writing anything at all. Not only has relaxing the standards of my first-draft writing allowed me to write more, it has also allowed me to explore the world of the story in more ways than I would have had access to otherwise. This summer is shaping up to be the best I’ve ever had.

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Starting My Novel

For my senior thesis I’m exploring the concept of narrative identity, basically the idea that we form our identities through stories we tell ourselves about our lives and the world, by writing a novel. I’m currently taking summer classes and volunteering at the Jubilee Soup Kitchen, so my allotted time this summer to work on my thesis doesn’t begin until July 1st, but that hasn’t stopped me from laying out the groundwork for my project.

I’ve decided my novel will be set at a large tech company (not exactly sure what sort yet) in Silicon Valley. Having attended Gunn High School in Palo Alto, I’m very familiar with the area and its culture, and have set a few of my short stories there in the past. The novel will center around a few intelligent slackers who manage to get by without doing much by falling through the cracks at the large company they all work at. This will of course backfire for them later on in the story, but I want to introduce my characters in a somewhat tranquil setting before I plunge them into conflict. I have a lot of ideas for where the novel will go, but some of them are mutually exclusive, so I don’t really want to put them on this blog yet. As of now, I’ve done a lot more work generating choices for where the story can go than actually deciding between these choices, so once I make more decisions, I will have more to report back on.

Outside of class, volunteering, and writing, I’ve been doing some reading and have been watching some films and television. I just finished reading The Magus by John Fowles and am about to read The Sellout by Paul Beatty and The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. As far as films and television, I’ve adapted this William Faulkner quote to guide my viewing: “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” Though I suppose I should read more terrible books, shoddy films are much less of an investment of my time and I often find I’m more inspired by a bad film than a good one. To this end, I’ve been making my way through the Fast and Furious series. Though most of the dialogue is terrible and much of the acting is flat or overdone, there is something really human about these sorts of mistakes that I just love. As far as more critically acclaimed films, I recently saw Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal and Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, and have been rewatching some of my favorite David Lynch films, as well as catching up on the reboot of Twin Peaks. No matter whether I love or hate something Lynch makes, I always feel challenged by it, and his work is a well of inspiration I can always draw something new from.

It’s been exciting going from nothing to the foundations of a novel, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the coming weeks and months.

Learn more about my project.