Questions from the chalkboard #6 –or– Why not give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

(Note: This is posted unedited—I may update/correct in the next couple days.)

Honestly just wondering. Are you writing or have you been writing (or do you ever plan on writing) a novel? Maybe when you retire(?). I hope that's not an annoying thing to ask. Ha.

I started the first one in 1988, The Last. About a group of teenagers in a small fictional town in the PNW who have their own secrets and problems but are strong and doing fine taking care of each other; then they have two new girls thrown in; a rich sociopath platinum blonde and a very smart red headed Spanish girl. It is missing a final chapter or two. I stopped writing it when I started dreaming about the sociopath as if she were real. It has an unhappy ending which is mostly written but I couldn’t finish. I still think about it.

The first complete manuscript was in 1992, Karma Come Lately. Somewhere between magic realism and Brothers Grimm, it’s also 225,000 words—which is something like 500 or 600 pages in typical trade paperback format. It was written in a bit less than three months. I was writing 10,000 words a day sometimes. Though it foreshadows quite a bit of popular stuff in the last decade, it wasn’t picked up by any of the 20 or so publishers who saw samples and a synopsis. A couple of the rejection letters were quite kind and positive. Though I personally believe it would sell moderately well and would continue to sell for a long time, it’s a difficult book and I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to risk publishing it. These are both excerpts from it–

It will be published eventually. There are two chapters—of seventy-eight and numerous subchapters—I’m unhappy with in retrospect. I’ve been trying to replace them lately.

Since 1995 or so I’ve been trying to write something both more mainstream and even less publishable than everything that’s come before. It’s under the working title Untitled America. It has three main plotlines–

  1. The first utterly independent President of the United States.
  2. The first manned mission to Mars.
  3. A vigilante who begins to execute high profile criminals in the vein of Kenneth Lay but always with one year of a public notice to give them time to turn themselves in and confess.

Each of the main lines polarizing the country and twisting it between the extremes with which it has long flirted. Mix in a lot of supporting characters, an investigative magazine with a perfect track record of integrity, a feud between the most popular rock band and the most popular punk band in the world, the NSA, the richest televangelist in the US, a legitimate Iraq war hero turned documentarian, and more… This “book” has about 100,000 words of notes and something like three complete chapters.

UA is too big to write this way—piecemeal. I keep making notes though. I “work” on it almost every day.

I have about twenty-five short stories. Two movie scripts and notes for a half dozen more. Four complete teleplay scripts—cable comedy style and I think sharp—with good notes for twenty more. I wrote a short and mostly terrible novel manuscript called Arrowdog and the Crow War which might actually be salvageable but I haven’t looked at it in 15 years. About 3,000 poems in the whole bag and 300 or so songs, 200 of which have music. Most of this writing was done while I was un-or-semi-employed. When I’m not working, I’m writing, designing, taking pictures, drawing, et cetera. I’ve been doing almost nothing but work for the last 12 years. The writing, music, and art I’ve completed in that time is… less significant.

So, back to your question. It’s not annoying. That’s not the word at all. Neither is it your fault for bringing it up. It’s been present on me for quite some time; hence the readiness of the answer.

Something will give though. I gave myself a deadline. What a curious word.

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