The Artless Art of Novel Writing

The art of novel writing is one that is plain and simple trial and error. 

Graduate school that bordered on the anomalous taught me technique and all those other undigestible concepts that are only good for term papers and conferences but never on the actual ceremony of poring yourself out and allowing what is in the recesses of your thoughts and seeing that these get to have some kind of materiality on paper. 

It is a whole lot of drama, this transfer of things novelistic from mind to paper--and it is not that easy, even if some novelists can claim that they could easily write one if they put their heart into it.

I tried once, and until now, I still keep on trying.

A number of these novel projects are, by their name, projects, with episodes dreamed of or imagined, in between sleep and wakefulness, in between rage and regret, in between love and loneliness.

Ok, call them as works-in-progress, with the dubious claim to their authorship because, well, you have not written them yet. 

Most of these novels-to-be are in the stage of inception and conception in between traffic lights in these diasporic days of our exilic years where our only access to news of home, kidnapping of activists and high power corruption, is by way of phone cards, Tawag Na prepaid, or the internet. Forget the landline to landline: you will end up with thrift at the barest bottom of your purse or wallet or money cans. 

I speak of three novels about to be born, but their separate birthing is not yet in order.

I push myself some more and I promised to make amends by writing one chapter at a time, which I sometimes succeed. Most of the time, I simply don't. Blogging on seminarians' foibles is more exciting, eh?

But at other times, no way, Jose, no can, really. We can go biblical here: The spirit is willing but this mortal body is almost going weak with thoughts of home and homeland, and with that constant need to look for dollars to send home so the children could lead good lives. Or you pray they would, the lives they lead better than yours when you had to fight it out with everyone in the country including helping, in a small way, put an end to the merciless regimes of two presidents who did not know how to act like the leader of their own people. 

One novel I started eons of years ago is Bannuar (also known as The Funeral of the Sun/Pumpon ti Aldaw/Libing ng Araw). Take your cue here: they can come in three languages--when they are done--and you can take your pick depending on your linguistic loyalties. That, I think, would be fun. 

It has won a literary grant somewhere, this Bannuar novel. 

And the grant should have afforded me some time to relax and enjoy the morning sun and the setting sun and to sip my brewed coffee more slowly, savor its bitter aftertaste like the way the good Italians do with their aromatic brew on their noisy percolator, and figure out a way to make that Bannuar the hero disappear forever so that in the dear country, there shall no longer be heroes but plain vanquished, the vanquisados, the losers.  

He is a desaperecido desperado, this Bannuar guy, constantly appearing, you see, and he appears between rallies and demonstrations and coup d'etat everywhere, from urban Manila to urban Cebu to urban Davao, as if he has wings. And he goes to motels too, as he is sex-starved, his sexuality equal to his activism, and his politics is also his erotic desires. He likes those that overlook the Malacaniang or the Quiapo church. And he is an ex-seminarian!

Somewhere in the story I even killed him. Twice or thrice I did. 

But he keeps coming back, as if announcing his resurrection everytime I do not need him so that another great person would come take her glory in the pantheon of the great, this Wayawaya heroine. This Bannuar guy has a star-complex, mind you. 

And then this Wayawaya the novel.

Some chapters have been published in Los Angeles and I have received better-than-good reviews from friends who cannot afford to say not-so-nice things against me. It is a story of seven generations of Wayawaya, a spin-off from that novel Dangadang, and from that short story, Wayawaya, with all those frailes doing the latiko.  

Ah, these characters do not know how to die even if you have already annihilated them to smithereens. 

Another work in progress is Ili, a story of a rebel priest whose name is Padre Ili, a character in Dangadang, Bannuar, and Wayawaya. Ili is Bannuar's tatang, you see. 

These novels-to-be intersect each other, in a quartet of the tragic and the redemptive. 

It is just exasperating writing a novel, much more writing novels at the same time, especially when you sit down and gather your thoughts and here comes the news that another guy in the Middle East went through the guillotine, with the Arab sword severing his head from his body.

Go through the stories of the Global Nation on Inquirer--or Google 'OFWs beheaded' and you will see the impotence of justice as if you are watching the heroes you invent get out of your hand.

One thing that challenges a novelist is when the characters declare their autonomy and say with absolute self-confidence learned from your autonomy-granting words that you, the novelist, hey, you need to give them a break.

A, but let me try. 

From hereon, I try to blog some samples of chapters sporadically published here and there. 

This should force me to rethink of my position as banquet-goer in Honolulu, an expensive social obligation, if I may say so, with $50 per ticket, all in the name of fund-raising campaigns for scholarships, and at an average of five banquets per month. And these organizers of banquets do that by coming up with all the popularity contests that rips off people of their hard-end money, all in the name of that elusive glory the adoring public gives to the moneyed.

Ha, we never change, with or without the novels we try hard to finish writing.


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