Sunday, August 27, 2006

This is beginning to feel like a weight-loss blog.

First draft: 110, 850 words (365 pages at 12pt TNR, for the page-inclined)

Second draft: 90,824 words (319 pages at 12pt TNR)

Third draft: 78,303 words (285 pages at 12pt TNR)

Of course, the numbers only tell half the story. The, um, story tells the other half. And I think this is the first draft that really resembles the book I set out to write. If I had to be done today, I think that what I've got would do.

That said, now that all the extraneous bits are gone (and believe me, some of them I hated cutting), I can really see some spots where the potential exists to make this book as good as I possibly can. I expect my fourth draft is going to be back up over 80,000, if only barely. Then it's off to my wife, and, assuming she doesn't crucify it, another quick polish and it's out the door.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I think my muse has a bad connection.

Writing is a funny thing. Sometimes, an idea drops fully formed out of the clear blue sky, complete with plot, title, and narrative voice, and you grab the nearest writing implement, scribbling furiously for fear you’ll forget it. More often than not, though, what you get’s a little garbled. A phrase. A name. A snippet of dialogue. It rattles around in your head like a half-remembered melody; worse, in fact, since there is no melody yet – it’s up to you to make one up. And not just any melody, mind you. The right one.

The other day, while I was at work, I was struck with an idea for a title: Seven Days of Rain.

That’s all well and good, I thought, but I’m kind of busy right now, what with work and all.

Seven Days of Rain, my muse replied.

Yes, that’s very nice, I thought, but ‘seven days of rain’ is hardly a comprehensive outline, now, is it? Also, I'm very nearly finished with my novel, so I couldn't possibly take on anything else. I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.

Seven Days of Rain! My muse was clearly losing patience. Believe me, the last thing you need is a pissed-off muse – next thing you know, you’ll be feverishly jotting down a treatment for Weekend at Bernie’s 3.

All right, all right, I thought, Seven Days of Rain. I got out a Post-it and jotted it down, certain it’d disappear into the sea of indecipherable bits of paper that litter my apartment, imparting such nuggets of wisdom as “Write about squirrel – make it funny” or “Zombie protagonist!”

This evening, I put the finishing touches on a short story entitled Seven Days of Rain. I literally sat down at the computer with not a thought in the world but to prove to my muse that I had no idea what in the hell Seven Days of Rain would be about, and next thing I knew, there it was. It took a few days to finish and polish, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t pretty good. As of right now, it’s at the mercy of the USPS.

For anyone who’s counting, that’s five stories out the door. Five stories, and a novel on the way. Now it’s just a matter of time.

Monday, August 14, 2006

No Such Thing

This weekend, the lovely and talented Tess Gerritsen wrote a blog entry entitled Legume Literature that I think anybody who loves books ought to check out. In it, she discusses the dichotomy between Important Literature and Books People Actually Like to Read. In all fairness, she phrases it in a less inflammatory fashion (and, also in fairness, I think there’s at least a little overlap in the Venn diagram of literary fiction and plain old good books), but the crux of the piece couldn’t be any simpler: Read what you like. Let others read what they like. Championing work you love is great, but don’t tear down or diminish the tastes of others in the process.

I couldn’t agree more, though I think that we all share in the blame for shaming people into hiding or abandoning outright their personal taste in favor of an ever-shifting and often-dull Canon of What is Good. To some extent, we can’t help it. It’s human nature. We talk smack about stuff we don’t like (or, all too often, stuff with which we’re unfamiliar) like it’s our national pastime. We do it to justify our own taste. We do it to establish our own aesthetic superiority. We do it because we’re bored or cranky or don’t know any better. But we all do it.

Even worse, though, is when we denigrate things we actually like out of some misplaced sense of shame. How many times have you heard someone put down whatever bestseller they’re reading as fluff or garbage and then keep right on reading? How many times have you watched an entire episode of something while thinking, “God, who watches this crap?”

The fact is, there’s a certain duplicity to each of our individual tastes, a tug-of-war between what we like and what we wish we liked. Don’t believe me? Sign up for Netflix. I guarantee that when you sit down to arrange your queue for the first time, you’ll load it full of classics and obscure-but-well-reviewed art flicks, only to find when you start getting them that all you want to do is send them back and get something, I don’t know, explosiony-er.

That’s right, explosiony-er. It’s a word. Write it down.

So here's my suggestion. Come out of your closets, people. Like what you like, without reservation and without qualification. There should be no such thing as a guilty pleasure. You’ll be happier for it, believe me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make sure I’ve set Rock Star:Supernova up to record…