Suspend Your Disbelief

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"My novel is going nowhere"

Dead End - mid

You may have said those words once or twice yourself, perhaps? (If not, please leave this blog. Now.)

It may comfort you to know that you are not alone in that sentiment: even established writers think so, now and then—and have for decades, if not centuries. To prove it, Michael Hoffman has combed through the letters of Joseph Roth, finding every mention of his novel The Radetzky March, which would become his masterpiece. Here’s a sampling:

November 20, 1930
Joseph Roth to Stefan Zweig:
“‘The Radetzky March,’ it’ll be called, set in the Dual Monarchy from 1890 to 1914. I’ll tell you the plot sometime we’re together.”

February, 1931
JR to Friedrich Traugott Gubler:
“My novel is going nowhere.”


October 28, 1931
JR to Stefan Zweig:
“Don’t make me itemize the sorrows that are besetting me. Sick girlfriend, creditors, pharmacies, doctors, I myself am still going to the clinic twice a week on account of my eyes, I avoid people, have destroyed six completed chapters, they were rotten, now I’m rewriting them.”

March 20, 1932
JR to Félix Bertaux:
“I was sick and miserable for a long time, and I’m working desperately on the Radetzky March. The material is too much, I am frail, and unable to shape it. On top of that there’s the material misery in which I’m obliged to live…More after the novel is done (another 2 weeks, with luck).”

Sound familiar? Be you published novelist or currently struggling (or both!), read the full essay over at The Millions, and see if it doesn’t make you feel a little better.

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