I've noticed similarities and differences between writing a thesis and writing a novel. Yesterday I bumped into my ex-main-supervisor and he said that by writing a novel I'm keeping up the discipline and I'm continuing to experiece the process of writing. So if I want to return to academic writing, at least I won't have forgotten to write. In fact, I may be able to bring new flavours to it.
So what are the similarities in navigating these two very different projects?
- They are both expected to be a minimum of 80,000 words. Impetus is needed for their completion.
- They both require a beginning, middle and end of sorts.
- They both need to develop their narratives/arguments incrementally and logically to give a sense of progression.
- They both need to be consistent throughout in terms of style and genre/subject, although more so with a thesis as novels can be experimental and self effacingly post modern.
- They both involve research.
- They are both experimental.
- They both offer a message. In a thesis it is a structured argument based on the collected data. In a novel it is a theme which arises from the plot.
- They both need to be continually checked for continuity errors!
- When done effectively and industriously, the author tends to see little day-light and becomes removed from the real world.
- Momentum is needed for both.
- They can both be therapeutic endeavours.
And the differences?
- You don't have to dissect/criticise the works of other authors in a novel in order to carve your position within it.
- You don't need to quote in a novel. However, you can if you feel it brings life to the story. I use short, zen poem/koan and Korean soji quotations in my novel because one of the protagonist's spirit guides only communicates with her through spoken words with a zen philosophical slant. I am still not sure how to reference these quotations.
- You don't need a bibliography in a novel, or do you , if there are quotes?
- Theses tend to have visual representations of data to enhance understanding. However, there are graphic novels which arguably do the same.
- Novels don't present the research data transparently. Any research collected tends to be embedded into the narrative rather than made explicit.
- Theses require a transparent writing style. Novels are expected to be more subtle, stylised and murky.
- The messages of the thesis should be clear and spelt out. The messages of the novel should be open to debate and implicit.
- One is fiction and one is non-fiction but there are definite overlaps and these labels can be contested (which may be another blog post).
- A thesis conveys a message via trying to verify and/or falsify empirical and theoretical truths. A novel conveys a message by creating new, imagined truths which sometimes contest the notions of verification and falsification themselves.
- A novel tends to be more self exploratory, however latently. A thesis tends to be an objective account and more usually written in the passive voice.
- Writing a novel is creative, writing a thesis is reactive.
- Writing a novel is reactive, writing a thesis is creative.