Yesterday morning, over tea and seemingly out of the blue, my mother asked when am I going to write another novel.
“I think you miss it. I think I even miss it myself. So, when are you writing a new one?”
Which is, I’ll admit, a very good question. I have published three novels in Italy, and written a few more – but that was several years ago. Then I went back to my first writing love – theatre, and never looked back.
I love the constant quest for maximum effectiveness, the need to convey everything through dialogue and action, the effort of compressing a world, a century, an epoch in just the way people speak. I love to work with a company and write around their needs – likely the best way to learn what will or won’t work onstage. And most of all, I love to see my writing come to life on a stage, to be surprised at the new colours it acquires through other people’s interpretation of it, to sit in the dark house or backstage, and feel the audience react… Yes – writing for the stage is a complex form of happiness.
And yet it may be that Mother is right. It may be that I miss novel-writing. The long and painstaking research, the complex planning and plotting, the long-term engagement with characters and setting, the broader scope, the large population, the room for character study, multiple plots and slow change…
Writing a play is like opening a window. Writing a short story is jewellery-making. Writing a novel means to build a world – and it may be that I miss building worlds. Actually, the last few times I tried, it didn’t go entirely well. I have three half-finished first draft and one complete sleeping somewhere in my hard-disk. One of them I ransacked for the glimmering bits, which I then made into a monologue – a really good one, if I say so myself. I’ts unlikely that I’ll ever pick it up again. The other two, though… They are stories I like, with characters I like – and what I have written isn’t bad. Both still need a good deal of work, and each was set aside in favour of a play. On the face of it, my playwright self has swallowed the novelist whole…
And yet. I really, really do love playwriting to distraction – but lately I’ve been feeling a sort of homesickness for novel-writing. I want to try again. I miss the peculiar set of joys and sorrows of a novel-in-progress.
Isn’t it annoying, the way mothers tend to be always right?