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Joel Arnold

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Member Since: May, 2010

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Blogs by Joel Arnold

The genesis of a novel - the first 6 days
1/4/2011 2:16:11 PM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

I got the idea for the novel that eventually became Northwoods Deep all the way back in 1995 when I was working in Yellowstone National Park. I wanted to write a straight-forward horror novel. Previous to that, I had written a couple novels that jumped around in time a lot, and one of those novels turned out quite horribly - I'd tried too hard to be artsy and/or fartsy, so I thought - time to just write something that's linear, with a minimum of flashback. (Plus, I'd come to the disappointing conclusion that I was no Thomas Pynchon) I wanted to try and write something that was actually frightening, since I hadn't been scared by anything in the horror genre that I'd read recently. (There were fun reads, to be sure, but just not frightening.)

So anyway, toward the end of the summer season, I was taking my daily walk around the geyser basin (depending on which trails/directions you took, this could be a good two, three, four miles or farther) and I started envisioning this old man who resembled Walt Whitman creeping up the steps from a cellar through a trap door into a dark cabin in the woods. I kept hearing in my mind the creaking of the trap door as he slowly opened it, as well as the way his shoes sounded on the floorboards as he crept (creep, creep, creep) toward these two women who had overestimated this man's hospitality.

I visualized the face of the cabin as - well, a face. Two window eyes, the door a mouth. And that made me think of the witch's house in Hansel & Gretel, so before the walk was over, I'd decided to make it sort of a very loose, modern telling of Hansel and Gretel. And when I say loose, I mean loose in the way that the movie Wild at Heart was a retelling of The Wizard of Oz.

So within about 6 days, I had typed up (on an actual typewriter, no less - remember those?) appx 120 pages between my shifts at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Those six days were a lot of fun. I really felt...writerly. There I was, in a cabin with my door open to the beautiful weather, squirrels skittering past the entryway, bison and elk occasionally visible nearby, a bottle of Jim Beam next to me (pre-marriage, pre-kids.)

After that initial flurry of activity, however, I became stuck. Plus, the season was winding down, and it was time to get ready for the move back to Minnesota. I don't think any of those first 120 pages made it into the final draft - maybe a description here or there. And I never had quite that same burst of energy as I did on those initial six days. But eventually, over a lot of false starts and stops, I felt I had a decent draft.

It would be wonderful if our times spent writing could all be flurries of creative activity. But the reality is that those times are incredibly rare, if they happen at all. The reality is that writing is a lot of hard work, and can in fact be quite a lot of drudgery. But - if you're a writer - you know that's how it works. You know that is a huge part of what makes you a writer - working through the drudgery, not giving up after that initial spark of excitement has left you. And - if you're a writer - you know that it's still worth the effort.


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More Blogs by Joel Arnold
• The Sucking Suckathon of Suckiness - Monday, May 21, 2012
• Mississippi Pearls and a Car Biding Its Time on the Ice 'til Spring - Thursday, December 29, 2011
• One Decade, One Story - or how One Thing Leads to Another - Wednesday, December 28, 2011
• Racing Minnesota-style! - Wednesday, December 28, 2011
• This Here Minnesota Horror Author was a Big Old Scaredy-Cat - Thursday, December 22, 2011
• Jack the Blob Killer - Monday, December 19, 2011
• Death Rhythm - Tuesday, September 20, 2011
• More Writing What You Know - Monday, September 19, 2011
• How I Interpret 'Write What You Know' - Wednesday, August 03, 2011
• Blessings - or - What I write after having one too many... - Wednesday, August 03, 2011
• 120 Miles in a Canoe - Monday, June 27, 2011
• On Stephen King - Thursday, June 23, 2011
• Why Horror? - Wednesday, June 22, 2011
• Zen & the Art of Swearing - Friday, June 10, 2011
• If Coffee Shops were Run by Airlines - Thursday, May 12, 2011
• Trying to Figure Out What Scares Me - Monday, March 21, 2011
• My Confession - Tuesday, March 08, 2011
• Going Indie with my novel Northwoods Deep - Friday, March 04, 2011
• How I Envision Conflict When Writing - Thursday, March 03, 2011
• Wall Drug - why it's one of my favorite places - Wednesday, February 02, 2011
• Jonesing for a Road Trip - Wednesday, February 02, 2011
• Snowmapocalyptopalooza - Tuesday, February 01, 2011
• How Do You Remember? - Thursday, January 20, 2011
• When your parents are librarians... - Tuesday, January 18, 2011
•  The genesis of a novel - the first 6 days - Tuesday, January 04, 2011  
• Searching for Truth - Characterization - Thursday, December 16, 2010
• Control - and a little more about Northwoods Deep - Monday, December 13, 2010
• Bukowski - Wednesday, December 08, 2010
• Flies, Flies, Spam, and Flies - Friday, December 03, 2010
• Naivete and the Young Writer - Thursday, December 02, 2010
• For Writers looking for some Adventure - Wednesday, December 01, 2010
• My usual rider for family/friend appearances - Tuesday, November 23, 2010
• Writing and Me - a dramatization - Wednesday, November 17, 2010
• Writing Tip o' the Day (now with vitamin C!) - Tuesday, November 16, 2010
• The Power of Music - Tuesday, November 16, 2010
• To All the Bookstores I've Loved Before - Monday, November 15, 2010
• The Care and Feeding of Writers - Sunday, November 14, 2010
• Rudiments - Thursday, November 11, 2010
• Writing Tip o' the Day - Wednesday, November 10, 2010
• Tragedy - now with 50% more pathos! - Tuesday, November 09, 2010
• Perspective - Monday, November 08, 2010
• The Daunting Dauntiness of Tweeting on Twitter - Saturday, November 06, 2010


The Foundling: A Novel of Wandering in the Dreamland of Ch'an Masters by Alexander Goldstein

"The Foundling" is a story that everyone can learn from. While the majority of us will never set out on a path like the hermits did, being able to read of their experiences and des..  
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