Finishing my first novel (borderline novella) Vague Pains was one of the best feelings of my life. Being an avid reader made me painfully aware of my shortcomings as a writer, but after about a decade of muddling I was proud of the 120ish pages in the book.
The writing is coming easier now. The self-criticism when I’m reading my work has evolved from the paralyzing this sucks to the useful this sucks because…
I’ve mentioned it before but many of my favorite books are long ones. Melville, Eliot, Dostoevsky, and many others wrote monster novels you could get lost inside. This is even true in the nonfiction realm, like Stephen Kotkin‘s forest-decimating Stalin biographies (each of the first two fascinating volumes were about a thousand pages, with more on the way). As a reader you have to swim out so deep that your feet can’t touch the bottom of your familiar life.
As much as I would love to do it, I don’t know if I have it in me to write a thousand page beast of a book, much less make it worth reading. Although, as a side note I will take a moment to appreciate even those gargantuan books so mind numbing as to make them nearly unreadable, the book version of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. After all, you are talking to one of those rare weirdos who made it through all 976 pages of The Exegesis of Philip K Dick.
All of this to say I’m trying to write a long book, a book, as Laurie Anderson put it, “thick enough to stun an ox.”
I am still on the rough draft of my new project, with many of the chapters still in a sketched out form, and at this point it’s about 60,000 words. Initially I was fixated on the idea of the story cracking 1,000 pages, but of course that’s a stupid goal- more in the interest of my ego than telling a good story. I really love what is taking shape, so I’ll let the story be whatever length it wants to be.
Besides, even at this length I bet a hardcover edition could stun an ox.