In the preface of The World According to Bertie, McCall Smith writes, “All of [my characters] are, in their own way, looking for some sort of resolution in their lives, some happiness, which is what, I suppose, all of us are doing. Some of them find it in this volume–or appear to find it–others will have to wait. The whole point of a serial novel is that the future is open. If freedom eludes Bertie in this book, and if Big Lou does not just yet find romantic fulfillment, then all is not lost–there is always another chapter.”
Some of you know I began writing a serial novel on this blog more than a year ago. Some of you were regular readers of this serial novel–probably not you, however, because those readers most likely dropped my blog after I failed to fulfill my commitment to you with weekly installments. To you people whom I let down (and I know there was a handful, because I received e-mails from some of you), I owe you an apology. What use is a writer who doesn’t make good on her word, who doesn’t finish the work she begins?
By way of excuse, I’ll tell you a little secret: I was writing my serial for fun. I was writing it to escape the pressure of slamming out words with the hope of traditional publication–to escape from monotonous editing–and to engage in the sheer fun of creating characters and their stories. When the writing of the serial ceased to be enjoyable, I stopped midway, approximately 20,000 words in. At 1000 words per entry per week, 20,000 words divides into quite a few weeks of pleasure for Ella and Anthony and their mystery. But that doesn’t change the lack of resolution for these people and their lives.
It’s no secret that McCall Smith doesn’t waste much of his precious time on editing. He has a formula. And with his serial installments, he manages to tie his many threads together with a final party and poem. Most of the time, this works for him. His threads flow together, and it’s obvious he enjoys himself while working them–or he’s clever enough to hide his boredom. Occasionally, he backs himself into a corner, as with his first volume of Corduroy Mansions, and then simply wraps up the book because he must. However, in his own defense, he says of Corduroy Mansions, “[T]hese stories are character-based: what interests me is what makes the characters tick rather than intricate and potentially confusing plots” (The Telegraph).
I sorely wish I could exchange my anxiety and bad attitude for his attitude of fun. I wish I could shed my skin and escape myself, tell myself my serial is all about the characters. That’s all I care about in fiction, anyway. That’s all I care about in actual life, to be honest. I like people, and I enjoy watching them and determining the reasons behind their actions. Oh, I can’t help myself! I keep returning to his McCall Smith’s last words in the top quote: “[T]here is always another chapter.”
There is, isn’t there? And that brings me hope. Thank you, Alexander McCall Smith for your completed serials, and for your philosophy on life (I’ll learn someday that his philosophy is borne out of anxiety, too, and then I’ll nod and commiserate.)
p.s. I had a comment suggesting I increase my font size, which was previously set at “normal”. Now it’s set on large. Is this better? Did you know you have the ability to increase the font size on your screen by hitting Ctrl +?