Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The literary sausage


It's been 71 days since I've written a word of fiction. I know this to be true because my laptop keeps begging for a backup, ticking down the days with every pop up. "IT'S BEEN 71 DAYS SINCE YOUR LAST BACKUP.... DON'T YOU LOVE ME ANYMORE?"

I haven’t plugged my neglected Mac into my external hard drive because I haven’t had a reason to. Because I haven’t produced any documents worthy of my patented quadruple-save. 

As I’ve blogged about here 117,000 times already, I was burnt out by my first novel, and still am in many ways. And while I miss feeling creative and productive, I’m not sure I want to dive back in to writing yet. I feel like I’m gambling with my sanity by hacking away at my stories. Making up characters and worlds and drama, and facing rejection constantly -- sane people don't do such things. At least not without some sort of positive reinforcement or payoff. And besides that, writing fiction is incredibly hard. Every. Word. Counts. Did you know that? I used to, but during my "time off," I somehow managed to forget. 

This morning, though, something shifted in me and I decided to break the spell I've been under. So I wrote something. And it took me an hour and a half, there or abouts. More, factoring in my lunch-hour revising. And you know what I ended up with? Just a couple little lines. Here, see for yourself:
This is me: sitting pretty like she told me to, my knees locked, ankles crossed. I'm fixing my eyes on where I came from, my mother’s tummy, and then up at the rest of her. She looms over me, scratching her lotto ticket, that silver junk falling on my forehead like rain. Rain is lucky, she says, when I whine and shake it off. Your daddy used to make rain, you know. The wettest, warmest rain there ever was.
Granted that's a better investment of my time than say The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But it's not just the time that got invested that's the issue; it's the mental and emotional energy.

To give you an example, let's dissect the text above, shall we? Let’s delve deep into my brain and pull out all the uncertainty and work and fretting -- AKA insanity -- that goes into writing something as short as that wee chunk. You ready to see how the sausage gets made? You sure? It’s pretty horrifying. But if you insist…

Should this be in first person or third? Present or past tense? I know all the “experts” say that present tense is more interesting to read, more action-oriented, but I personally prefer past tense. Hmmm… Hmmm…. Back to that later. What about the whole “rain” thing? Kind of a cliche, isn't it? When I read the word I picture every bad movie ever made with some heart-throb experiencing a major life event in the middle of downpour, his arms spread wide, mouth open, drinking it all in, his soul being cleansed. And what is that stuff on scratch and win tickets called anyways? "Latex" is the best description I can find on Google. What did writers do before Google? Am I copping out by using Google all the time for research? What would a real writer do? Call someone at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation? Does that mean I'm not a real writer? Oh God, and then there's the word "loom." Let’s pretend -- just for a moment -- that that word doesn't suck, okay? Now here's my real problem: a little kid wouldn’t think "loom." Unless…. Maybe she’s a really smart kid? Like, gifted smart? Yeah. Yeah! That’s it! She’s a gifted child with the vocabulary of a graduate student in English and the easy wisdom of Maya Angelou! And what about the word "lotto"? I really want to write "scratch and win" but I can't think of a better word than "scratching" -- which comes directly before -- and that would be so repetitive...
I warned you. You never watch the sausage being made. Even if it's vegan.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I'm gonna buy all the straws!

I sold my first novel!

Well, not exactly. (Notice how almost all the good news on this blog is fake or some sort of tease for the less-good truth? That is %$*#ing depressing. Why do you read such a depressing blog about writing? If I were you, I'd check out this blog instead: theblabbermouthblog.com. Or this one: books.macedo.ca.) Here's what actually happened.

Aside from me and my agent Linda, my younger sister Kathleen is the only other person on the planet who has read my novel in its current form. This is her holding my other sister’s awesome new baby, Quinn:


Doesn’t Kathleen exude coolness and kindness? Standing there with a sideways baby, her soothing thumb in Quinn's gummy mouth? Kathleen is much, much cooler than me. If she had a blog, I’d refer you over there, too.

Because she has a heart of gold and is generally very savvy about how to make people feel good about themselves, she came up with a fabulous idea: she paid me for my novel! The other day, she handed me a book store gift card, telling me that she was my first sale. See? Cool.

With the proceeds of the "sale," I bought these babies:


Designer smoothie straws! And a novel, of course: The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton.

Let me be the first to tell you that a wildly inflated, pretend royalty cheque is a beautiful thing. If I ever get another one, you can bet I'll be buying the rainbow straws, too.

I know this will likely fall pancake flat in today's climate of FREE CONTENT FOR ALL! and STEALING IS FINE! -- but here's a wild idea I'd like to table. To the pleasure readers of unpublished manuscripts, why not take a page from Kathleen Saso's book and offer the author a little gift, a small token to make them feel like a professional, like what they've slaved over is worth something. Only pay the author if you like the manuscript, of course. If you don’t, then never speak to that %$*#ing loser again. 

Now who's with me?