Some people who aren’t writers have asked me if I’m ready to send that novel off to my publisher, Pantera Press. Ha! I wish I could write a flawless first draft.
Decades ago, when I was inexperienced and much more sure of (read: full of) myself, I was certain my early drafts were as close to perfect as they could be because I had such a instinctual understanding of story. But time’s taught me I’m an idiot. And it’s also drilled into me a question that almost incapacitates me before any session where I sit down to write.
Can I make this work?
I’ve written books (about fifteen of them), screenplays (about sixty of them), short stories (about fifty of them), articles (one hundred-and-fifty or so), blogs (countless), and one whole poem. I’ve worked as an editor, specialising in structural editing. I’ve been around eight hundred years – well, it feels like that. And with that being my pedigree (although pedigree makes me seem better than I am) … And with all that making me the mongrel I am, I’ve picked up a lot.
Unfortunately, picking up a lot is like growing up. As a kid, you’re fearless. You eat whatever you want, do whatever you want, and expect everything will be all right. When you become an adult, you start worrying about things like diet, cholesterol, GI, etc., and see a myriad of consequences for any stupid behaviour.
A kid can climb a tree and not understand that they could fall out until they fall out; an adult projects that falling out is likely, which possibly involves broken bones, which means time in hospital, time-off work, not being able to do stuff around the house, a loss of wages, and this list can go on. An adult will live that reality before that reality takes place.
Growing older as a writer is the same.
I see – and fear – a lot of things now.
When I started this novel – originally known by the acronym of its title TFSoLY, but which I’ll rechristen for the purposes of this blog, ‘Some Untitled Work’ – I worried if I could hit 80,000 words. The idea was sketchy. I thought it might come in considerably shorter – like 50 or 60,000 words. So when I cruised past 80,000 words (and then conservatively estimating it might finish up in the early 100,000s) and kept going, I wondered what the hell I was building.
Now I know.
‘Some Untitled Work’ is a mess. So many times I didn’t understand the context or structure of events, scenes, or characters, until I got much further into the book. Then I realised the way one of those earlier scenes should’ve been built. That renovation always happens to some extent, but on this occasion I’ve built a wreck, although it’s a pretty wreck that fills me with hope.
I’ve given myself the week off before I face it and one of us pounds the other into oblivion. The time also lets me address some other things I want to do. Lately (in the last couple of years), I’ve dabbled in screenwriting more and more – well, returned might be a better term, given in the late 1990s and early 2000s screenwriting was my preferred form.
I’ve had screenplays place in awards in the last two or three years so it’s something I want to give some attention to. This week I’m working on a horror short, and then I plan to concurrently revise a horror feature while working on my book. It might feel like splitting my focus, but I have the framework of both there to act as a guide. (I would never work on two new things concurrently.)
I’ll be keeping my blog going while I revise, although it may take different forms and venture into different fields.
Originally, I entitled this blog ‘One Terrific Lie’, with the gimmick of seeding one extraordinary lie into each installment. That was hard to keep up. Inevitably, the gimmick stopped, but the blog continued. I thought about explaining its omission, but then decided, Why? The title still fits, and for a very simple reason.
Writing is one terrific lie in itself: you create the story, which is a lie you try to make good enough that you hope people will invest in it as if it were truth; you lie to yourself that you know what you’re doing; you lie to yourself that it’s going to work; you lie to yourself that it’ll be accepted somewhere; you lie to yourself that people will like it; you lie to yourself that it’ll do well; you lie to yourself that you’ll be okay if none of this happens; you just keep lying to yourself because you hope that somewhere, somehow, sometime, you’ll strike upon that moment when everything aligns and it all works, and you’re left with that mixture of accomplishment, satisfaction, and euphoria, and then it all becomes worth it, however fleetingly.