The Hair of Harold Roux

During one of my excessive, depression-driven bouts of procrastination, the YouTube algorithm served up a clip of a Stephen King interview during which he said that this was one of his favorite novels. He provided a brief synopsis of the book where he summed it up as “a novel about a writer writing a novel”. This was in response to a question asked about King’s process, that inevitable “how do you write” chestnut that people hurl at successful writers.

As I prepare to take one of my first fourth-year creative writing classes, Advanced Novel Workshop, the question of process demands an answer. I’ve looked over the syllabus and, much to my dismay, have discovered that the next four months insist that I not only come up with a full outline for a novel, but also provide what amounts to a mood board of inspirational items! I’m aghast. If you were to hurl the aforementioned spiny green nut at me, my response would invariably be “I just write”, followed by a polite request that you stop chucking spiky things in my general direction.

“Just write” has worked since 2010 to produce—by my roughest of estimates—over three million words that amount to five novels, a novella, a dozen short stories, numerous poems, journal entries, and 365 pieces of flash fiction. It would have been even more had it not been for a period of silence where I’d fallen completely out of love with the act of writing, but since I’ve rekindled my passion, I’ve managed to do okay without outlines and mood boards.

What’s this got to do with Harold Roux? In the novel the protagonist thinks up an entire novel in his head. Never mind laborious diagrams that illustrate plot and character, nor typewriters, pens, or word processors. The novel-within-a-novel takes place entirely in Aaron Benham’s mind while he grapples with the existential crises that plague him in the real world.

Williams has expertly woven his narratives together to form a beautiful tapestry featuring a writer who faces the sheer terror of exercising his craft. I get why King loves the book so much, and it’s one I can heartily recommend to any artist who has ever questioned their own process.

Now I need to find out what effect this semester’s going to have on my own work which, at its simplest, purest, —and what some would call horridly anachronistic—form, consists exclusively of taking a pen to paper and doing the words.


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