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Dawn L Mullan

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A Novel Idea: The Great (American) Novel
By Dawn L Mullan   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, May 13, 2010
Posted: Tuesday, November 21, 2006

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An essay to writers who wish to write the Great (American) novel.

Everyone who has ever wanted to write a novel has pondered the desire of writing “The Great (American) Novel.” The novel to end all novels, renowned, and riches- however, an interjection must be made that writing this emblematic tome is not anything but a delusion.

Really, who would want to write the greatest novel ever written? Everyone? Of course, the author’s name would go down in history. Everybody who is anyone would buy the book. Untold fame and fortune waits. Such grandeur stimulates many writers’ dreams.

To say the least, the work would be iconic. An unduplicated masterpiece for the ages, but little else would manifest from the recognition. Consider this: how could you top the best novel ever written? No one could.

It is perfection. It is ideal. That is the point.

A writer would have little success at writing anything else in their future professional life. Afterward every piece written critics would scrutinize and judge it by the standards of the great novel. At best, all an author would ever want to say would have to be contained in that one great, singular book. An impossible position any author would find himself or herself in.

Another downside to writing the greatest novel ever written is the lack of status and wealth. Prolific works remain undiscovered or ignored through many writers’ lifetimes. Pen and paper is not the best way to attain superstar status.

In several instances after a writer’s death are the creators celebrated. Some authors who obtained celebrity posthumously include: Mervyn Peake and Witold Gombrowicz. As well, if I may be so bold, I would like to insert such names as Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Edgar Allan Poe. As in the aforementioned list, hundreds of years may pass before an author becomes notable.

Instead of pondering just the negative aspects to writing the “Great Novel,” novelists should employ the traits of exceptional writing into their own works. Read the authors that interest and entertain the imagination. Especially research those stories that reflect the qualities as a writer, those aspects that are promising and artistic, and a method to emulate. Find a style and voice, which speaks to the soul of readers and writers alike.

Discover what timeless tales tell. Note these stories as examples. Replicate the features that make a story a classic or literature.

An author should be aware of the human emotive value of a story. Plot, characters, setting, and theme have important roles to expand and relate the narrative to the audience. Grammar and style are significant textures that entrance a reader’s imagination through word choice and ease of analysis. Editing and revising a novel until there is a unique and palatable tone, flow, and engagement are essential for marketing and promoting a piece. These qualities of a great novel are numerous and can be utilized by anyone.

            Still, the question remains: should writers pursue the Great Novel? Yes, in every story they write. Be it, a novel, poem, or short story, each one of these structures is a device to communicate with another person. A writer should apply these paramount traits to their craft in order to become the best writer a book could have.


Happy writing.

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Web Site: Dawn Leslie Mullan Studios

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Reviewed by Regis Auffray 6/25/2010
Truly an informative and thought-provoking article that is very well-written. Thank you, Dawn. Love and best wishes,

Reviewed by Malcolm Watts (Reader) 11/24/2006
Good discussion Dawn. Malcolm Watts
Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Reader) 11/22/2006
The only thing about writing the great one, is how do you top yourself with the next book. ROFL

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