My Attempt At Writing The Great American Novel


Every writer dreams of writing the “Great American Novel” — a story so riveting that people will not be able to put it down, something that will remain at the top of The New York Times bestseller list for months, bringing fame and fortune to its creator.

I am no different, despite the fact that I am in the habit of writing about 500 words and then petering out. And I prefer anonymity to anything over five minutes of fame. But my friend told me to stop coming up with entertaining excuses and just do it already.

So last week I started writing, like I always do, by sitting down and typing something out. And I must say, it was pretty good, by my standards, which are, admittedly, kinda low.

But I had a good time doing it, so I kept it up. Before I knew it, I had three chapters written (each, quite predictably, 500 words long). Yet I was having a good time. It reminded me of when I was first chair oboe in high school. I would practice three hours a day, for fun. Other girls were reading fashion magazines after school, or meeting boys and falling in love, but not me. I was in a T-shirt and jeans, secluded in my attic room with Beethoven and Brahms and “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

“Where’s Debbie?” my father would ask when he got home from work.

“In her garret,” my mother would answer.

How romantic, to have a garret all to one’s self. Evidently, I miss it.

So last week there I was, hour after hour, playing keys of a different sort, but still making music. Well, music to my ears anyway. And, oh, my characters were fascinating.

The lead character, a former bank president, is fed up with life, love and himself. He dresses impeccably, goes to all the right parties, goes through all the motions required of a successfully retired businessman, but is miserable.

He takes this misery out on his wife, Character Number Two. Character Number Two was sexy and fun back when he was sexy and fun, but now she simply grates on his nerves. Feeling unloved, she goes in search of love in all the wrong places and with all the wrong people.

Now comes a vast string of wrong people, and they are enormously engaging to write about — their foibles, their flaws, their relationship with this washed-up society girl.

If I’m out to dinner and the person at the next table is even vaguely annoying, you can bet all their worst attributes will be reflected in Character Number Two’s next dalliance.

But, of course, we need a heroine or, at least someone we can identify with, and that person is the maid. She’s hardworking, honest and struggling to cope with a recent tragedy. How will she ever triumph? Or will she?

Frankly, I don’t have the slightest idea. I haven’t gotten there yet.