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Thesis (Linfield Access)
Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing
English Language and Literature | Fiction
It first occurred to me that I could write a novel when I was eleven years old. I spent the entirety of the summer after fifth grade deep in a notebook, writing character sketches, roughing in plots and generally making eleven-year-old forays into the world of novel-writing. I didn’t read any how-to books, and that was during my V.C. Andrews phase, so I didn’t have any good literature to guide me; I just dove in, coming up occasionally for air, bathroom breaks and the odd episode of Chicago Hope. By the end of the summer, I had a three-ring binder full of tripe. It was necessary tripe, but it was still tripe, and I got an ugly, crawly feeling whenever anyone looked at it.
That ugly, crawly feeling followed me through junior high and high school. I continued to write, reams and reams of exploratory tripe, and I never let anyone read it. I felt the strangest combination of pride and shame—I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t want anybody to catch me at it. I subscribed—and continue to subscribe—to Robert Heinlein’s belief that writing isn’t exactly dirty, but you should do it in a locked room and wash your hands afterward. I spent many an adolescent late night in front of my computer (I had by then upgraded from a pen to a keyboard, not necessarily to my advantage), working with the same characters you are about to encounter, in a variety of situations. I never finished anything.
By the time I arrived at Linfield, I had several hundred pages of what I considered my best work. The story had evolved, and the characters had evolved, and my writing skills, honed over a period of more than ten years, had also evolved. I had since read some how-to books, and my taste in literature had matured from V.C. Andrews to T.S. Eliot and Margaret Atwood. When I started taking writing classes, I realized I was missing one major component of good writing: revision. When I got to the senior seminar, I was sure that the chunks of novel I had come in with would be easy to massage into my thesis. Such was not the case. The aforementioned chunks were all written in the first person point of view of three different narrators, and it took me about two months to realize how cumbersome that really was. Sometime last November, after reading Howard’s End and Mrs. Dalloway, it occurred to me that I might be better served by a third-person omniscient narrator. Once I made the transition and began to revise all my chunks, it was clear that I had made the right decision. The story began to build, and it became just plain better.
Even so, the novel still isn’t finished. I feel it’s only fair to let you know that what you hold in your hand is not, in fact, a finished novel. I have roughly 100 pages of continuous events, followed by a scene somewhere in the middle and a severely truncated ending. This represents nine months of concerted emotional and intellectual effort, the end result of hundreds of hours of skullsweat and self-doubt. I am, for perhaps the first time, unequivocally proud of the work I have done. I think this is a worthwhile novel, and over the next several months, I fully intend to finish it.
Thank you for reading.
Lyon, Jamie, "The Mercy of His Means" (2011). Senior Theses. 2.