Monday, June 13, 2011

Status Update

Oh man. Is it really Monday again? And do I really have nothing prepped for our weekly heart-to-heart? Guess I'll have to do some improvisational diary writing in order to meet the quota. My apologies, then: today I will be writing about myself rather than anything interesting.

Well, what's to talk about?

I need a paying job that doesn't bore the hell out of me. Stargazing has been difficult lately: if we're not getting absolutely crummy visibility from overcast skies, we're getting infinitesimally less absolutely crummy visibility from the humidity and haze. (Peter Segal: "In the era of new austerity, the government has decided to eliminate spring. We can have three seaons: hot as hell, cold as hell, and baseball postseason.") My attempts at self-teaching myself the methods of unlocking the heavens' secrets through the astronomy textbook I bought on discount just before quitting my job at the bookstore proceed steadily but slowly: science ain't easy, especially for someone who consistently got C's and D's in every math course up from pre-algebra.

Oh, and there's my writing.

Yes. There's that.

My plan for the first n-v-l (which has been finished for about a year and a half now) is to publish it as an e-book, just so the damn thing is finally out of my hands. But before moving forward, I'm going to have to subject it to one final editorial pass. After not having even glanced at it since December, I hope that any typos, poor diction, redundancies, and, well, lousy writing, will be more evident to me than they were six months ago.

Of course, once it becomes an e-book, I'm gonna have to promote it, which will be an exceedingly miserable and exceedingly crucial labor. (This would be my primary reason for wanting to get a publisher: it would mean not having to put aside writing for three months in order to spend all my time finding creatively intrusive ways of flaunting something already written.) This will likely necessitate taking up a regularly-updated and very, very accessible ancillary project, like a new webcomic or series of classic video game reviews. I can't say I've been feeling particularly inspired on either front lately, but a fish probably ain't gonna bite a hook without any bait.

(The traditional publisher route may not be a totally lost cause yet. I recently discovered that a friend of mine from high school started an "indie" press in Seattle. I realize that my familiarity with the man in charge shouldn't give me that much greater a chance of seeing the n-v-l in print, but it's difficult for one not to get his hopes up until he receives a definite "no.")

Around last August I began another project. Like the first n-v-l, it was intended as a novella, but before long I realized it wanted to be another full-lengther.

It originally began as "hey, I've never written a love story. That would be a fun challenge, huh?"

I don't know why I can't stick to what's easy. It would probably be much better for my mental well-being, not to mention my lungs.

Writing this thing has been like trying to break through a concrete wall. After hitting a tremendous snag around January -- during which I would write a chapter one week, throw it out the next, write a chapter, throw it out, week after week -- sometime in March I realized a way out. It was so obvious! I knew how I could make it work, and all I had to do was completely change the main character and rewrite 80% of what I had. I don't think I've ever feel such intense extremes of joy and exasperation at precisely the same moment.

So now I'm rewriting it with a much greater sense of focus -- at least where the meaning of the piece is concerned. But that hasn't made it any easier. Actually, now that I have a clearer fix on the concept, I have to work that much harder to make sure all the lines incline in its direction. And the further I try to follow it where it seems to want to go -- where the lines appear to lead -- the more difficult it gets to keep up with it.

I've rewritten or retooled the first four chapters. The fifth is completely unable in its current form. In addition to totally rewriting its first half, I'm adding a transitional chapter between it and the fourth, which has been a trip and a half.

I like the aim. I'm really enjoying what I'm trying to do, but the actual effort toward achieving it has been an absolute bitch -- and I can't even be sure of how the results are turning out. While you're in the thick of it, it's hard to tell.

Trying to take a piece into strange and difficult territory presents a twofold problem:

1.) It's not easy to write. Not as easy as it is when you're playing it safe and doing what you (and your prospective audience) already know.

2.) Even fewer people are likely to read it. The novel is an medium for which the modern Internet-calibrated consumer attention span has precious little patience. Judging by the number of people praising novels for being "easy" and "quick" reads, we can assume today's reader doesn't appreciate a challenge.

It would make so much sense to just walk away from it. But I can't. It's the last thing I think about when I'm falling asleep, and the first that enters my mind when I wake up. I need to break down this fucking wall. Even if the final result doesn't measure up to the idea, even if it ends up not doing what I hoped it would, even if nobody reads read, at least it'll be done -- out of my head and out of my hands.

I guess that's the one benefit to being a broke, unread, in-it-for-the-love artist: I can take as long as I need on project, and have the total freedom to write the sort of thing I think should be written. (However, inexperience prevents me from saying whether this is better than actually getting paid to do what you're good at, even though it might entail compromise and bottomline-think.)

I think that should suffice for now. I owe somebody a few comics strips about a certain damned figure from Greek myth, so look out for those in the near (I hope) future.


  1. Hey Pat, long time reader of 8-easy bits, and first time reader of your blog, and I'm not sure if your original intention to writing this post was to inspire, but you just gave me a boost in confidence to continue my first game.
    I've had the idea for so long, and have worked one all the text stuff, but I hit a wall when I comes to the art.
    This post told me, just do it.
    Thanks Pat and I hope to read your novel someday.

  2. I hope to read your novels! As much as I enjoy reading your blog and your other works, it'd be criminal not to.

  3. I was always told to be glad when I noticed how crappy my old writing is. It's a sign that you've gotten better. I've been happy to find that this has worked quite well for me.

    Good luck publishing your book.

  4. You could try pulling a Machine of Death by telling all of your readers to buy the book on the same day, giving it some media attention.

  5. To me, the hardest part of writing is trusting that what you're writing is good. I get to points in the middle of any project where I just think, "This could be incredible or absolute shit. I've no idea." It's the part that has killed a lot of things I've tried to write.

    What I mean is that I admire your tenacity! Your work will be better for all of the revisions, I'm sure!

  6. Lark: And I hope to play your game someday!

    John T: We here at PatCo appreciate your loyal patronage. I definitely want the novel to be available for download by the end of the year. Not sure how feasible a print version would be, but I can look into it.

    Adam: Bobbie Louise Hawkins said something like that, although her version of it differed: disliking something you read doesn't necessarily mean your skills have improved, but it usually means that your tastes have. This is often the first step toward producing better work.

    Zukonub: That's definitely a good idea, but I'm not sure I have that kind of readership. This just in, today saw an upheaval in the publishing world as a newly-released self-published e-book sold TWENTY-THREE downloads on its first day! Scoop at eleven.

    Marchel: I appreciate the vote of confidence! Although it is a very thin line between "tenacious" and "too stupid to quit." Suppose it's hard to distinguish one from the other until the end result is known.

  7. I would love to read your novel!

    I am also deeply jealous that you can write a novel, that you can think in that kind of length and scope and get obsessed by it. My writing is always short, fractured, the longest piece I've ever written was 40 pages. Novels seem to be beyond me.