Dissertation vs. Novel

Today (yes, it took that long–it’s been nearly a year), the bound copies of my dissertation arrived in the mail. It’s an odd thing to see, this document long finished here anew in my hands, in a solid form suggesting something like legitimacy. In some ways, I dread looking through it–over the past year, while revising portions of the novel and revisiting sections of the scholarly preface, I have found many dozens of typos and whole paragraphs, even chapters I’d like to significantly rework–and since this new printed form has such an air of finality about it, it makes that dread all the worse. Still, I’ve been browsing the print version of the preface just now, and it turns out this isn’t half so bad as I thought it was. Maybe it’s simply because it is in print and appears authoritative for that: Also a year ago, around the time I was finishing this dissertation, I quoted in this blog a line from Dylan Thomas: “I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear bad with conviction.”

Which might explain the joy I get from the second document to arrive today. In placing my order for bound dissertations, I selected several copies in the traditional large, hardbound versions, as this is what those family members who’ll receive them requested. My wife, too, demanded a large hardback version for our shelves, and of course she’s right–it will look quite nice sitting next to our masters theses and her undergraduate thesis. But on a whim, I also ordered a single copy in paper, run in reduction on smaller pages so it looks like a trade paperback. That’s the only difference really, but when I took to flipping through it this afternoon, I discovered it does indeed look quite like a published novel, and seeing it in that form has allowed me (rather giddily) to excuse all sorts of flaws and faults in the writing and start imagining it as a novel again.

I’m in the middle of adapting that story into a graphic novel, which has been an education in economy, in plot development, and in visual imagery (to say nothing of visual narrative and the totally new possibilities available in so different a format), but I’m beginning to wonder if I can take what revisions I’ve made and re-adapt them to the old novel format. (One of my earliest writing mentors used to compress his novels by rewriting them as screenplays and to develop his film characters by writing them into novels; I find myself in a similar process with this novel-to-comics endeavor.) I’m starting to think this novel might not be as hackneyed as I’d first considered it. And I might just shop this thing around in both forms.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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