Half the Whole of It

skitzy writer (1)

I posted a new food debacle on my other site, icantbelieveididthis, in which I confessed to the latest kitchen horror involving meatloaf. Maybe the suspense was too much about how I salvaged this hot mess:

meatloaf 3

Or, perhaps, the blizzard conditions outside kept people inside bored crazy and reduced to scrolling through the internet for anything at all amusing. Whatever, I received a ton more likes from this than most of the Scraps postings concerning all my hand-wringing over writing and the story I’m working on now. Not only is the subject matter on I Can’t Believe This  different but the voice and style is, as well. If I’m honest with myself, these are factors in why my food writing found an audience while my straight writing remains obscure.

What can I say…both writings and blogs are equal halves of the whole of me. Every time I face the blank screen/page it’s like putting me in a paper bag, shaking me up, and be surprised at what tumbles out.

Moral of this story: Lighten up. Enjoy everything I do. Find humor after a day of slogging in the trenches. Not everything I write has to be serious.

Procrastination or Bad Excuses I Use to Justify Not Writing

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  1. The day-job/annoying boss (don’t get me started)
  2. Financial concerns that tamp down the fantasy of quitting #1
  3. Exhaustion(see #1 above and #4 below)
  4. Deep family concerns (just because children are grown and out of the house doesn’t mean they are not a source of worry, trouble, pain–and joy which means you love to hang out with them and celebrate whatever makes up the joy, mainly that they’re out of the house and we’re away from one another)
  5. The fun/ease of doing anything at all other than staring at a blank computer screen and/or figuring out what the hell I’m really writing about
  6. WHO the hell are these characters bothering me every waking and sleeping hour
  7. The sorry/hard state of the book publishing world, at least in getting any kind of advance and recognition, especially since you’re not very versatile at, say, magazine and essay writing, nor building a HUGE community on social media
  8. Self-aggravation, leading to……
  9. Bouts of deep depression
  10. Obsessive Google searches

Here’s the current procrastination episode: The husband walks into the kitchen while I wait for the teapot to boil.  It’s the weekend, two intense writing days, given  # 1 and #3. The days are just as intense for him–he has a book contract and looming deadline. He mentions that the Authors Guild’s membership fees have skyrocketed and, since I’m no longer bringing any money into the household (#2), I should cancel my membership. True enough–since I’ve stopped writing about food I haven’t contributed any hefty advances/speaking fees. This is because, within the current food/cookbook publishing world, I not only feel I have nothing to say but that I have said everything I wanted to say (#5).  At one time I could’a been a contender; I could’a been somebody and probably could have gone repeating myself, writing the same kind of book over and over again. Instead, I decided to try growing as a writer by working on a series of stories about my teenage friendship with a girl named Clare.* Given the state of the publishing world (#7), the chance of these stories ever being published rests on their acceptance by small literary magazines (I’ve begun to send them out–no response yet).

In any case, I can’t believe what the husband just suggests.  At the very least, Authors Guild hosts my website through which the paltry number of fans and reporters have found me over the years–it’s actually the only remnant of my professional worth (#8 and #9).  I say something to the effect of “Damn, that’s cold” and then list how important membership is to me, the only remnant that I’m a published writer (return to # 8 and #9).  He says he’s sorry–we’ll find the $125 by maybe reducing the grocery bill (#2 again). He’s a good man and rightly feels contrite.

The kettle boils, I make my tea and return to my computer where I spend an hour staring at page 15, in which I am figuring out how Clare talked me into a date with someone who we both found unsuitable (#6). After awhile I click on the internet and google Eleanor of Aquitaine (don’t ask) where I spend the next 25 minutes reading all about her adventurous life in the 13th century (# 10).  I pull myself back to the pages and write three more paragraphs. Finally, I’m in the groove, excited, the world blotched out, totally convinced I’m going to finish this incredibly wonderful story.

The front door opens. “Hey, Ma,” a son bellows from below. I keep typing, hoping he’ll go into the kitchen and stare into the refrigerator for a while.  He accomplishes this faster than I want and pounds upstairs.  If he turns right, he’s in my husband’s study and I’m safe. Instead he tuns left, as always, and collapses into the fragile chair beside my desk, commencing a heartbreaking lament: Why are women so difficult? Why would his girlfriend accuse him of not communicating?

I manage to type a few more words.

“I think she’s going to break up with me.” He puts his head in his hands  and I arrive at #4.

One more reason:

#11–writing a blog post about procrastinating.

He eventually leaves and I return to find where I left Clare and me:–Once more unto the breach: one more day on the fucking river (a private joke between himself and me I’ll explain another time).  I pick up where I left off and begin to write.

*I used to publish the Clare stories on Wattpad but I recently took them down–turns out a bunch of the better literary magazines consider stories on sites such as Wattpad and even you’re own website are already published, even if maybe 10 people have read them. #7 strikes again! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, what the hell?!

It’s All About Me and Clare, God Damn It!!!!!!

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There are now eight parts to the Clare stories and, after completing extensive rewrites, I’m feeling pretty good about them. The logical next step is to begin pushing them out into the world.

There’s two ways of doing this:

  1. Send them to my wonderful agent who hopefully will fall in love with Clare
  2. Get them noticed first through some form of publishing

I started by mentioning them to my agent who says she’ll be delighted to read them when I’m ready to send them along to her. But I think the best thing to do for her would be to complete the series and I’m at least seven stories away from the ending–say six more months if I’m lucky that the world and life stands still.

That leaves #2, so I started with the folks at Wattpad.com, asking them to highlight Clare on their homepage. They enthusiastically replied that they would absolutely consider it, but I should hold tight because it may take six weeks for them to decide.

Exactly six weeks later they got back to me and this is what they said:

We enjoyed your collection of stories, but we feel that it’s a little early to add you to the Featured List as you’ve yet to really engage with the Community.

Additionally, your collection is marked mature and I’m afraid we’re not adding mature content to the List at present.

Well, there you have it, God’s honest truth about how I’m failing Clare: I don’t engage with a Community and the stories’ ratings are a little too, well, risque for the more acceptable rating of “All Audiences (13 +)”.

This signals trouble.

Community–whether upper or lower case–is a word that gets thrown around a lot in publishing these days. My agent has explained it to me several times. Simply put, community means the writer brings along a whole posse of readers with her even before she gets to the starting line because publishers and editors no longer have the luxury of supporting writers until they grow an audience. Thus the requirement that a writer possess not only talent but warm, paying, bodies.

Getting bodies means I can’t just put Clare up on Wattpad. I have to employ every social media option out there, starting with the 35 million or so other writers on Wattpad who I should make nice to by following, commenting and liking. I’ve tried but Clare zaps any energy I have to follow, comment, or like anyone else. Can’t I just say I’m following people? Can’t I simply create a pool of general comments and then cut and paste them to a random, very unselect, population among the 35 million writers on Wattpad (and seriously? 35 million? Think about this for a minute. It’s like all of Idaho are suddenly writing fantasy/horror/dystopia/chick lit! Isn’t that a horror in and of itself?)? Other than that–and yes, I know this would be unethical–I simply can’t imagine I have enough time left on earth to build a community on Wattpad.

What I have been ethical and earnest about is this blog and a website to try to accumulate readers (and thank you to those who have gone on to read Clare). I’m technically on Facebook and LinkedIn, though I rarely post or ask to be connected. My agent strongly suggested I get a Twitter and Tumblr account, which I did, but you won’t find me on them because I’m simply not witty, interesting, smart or clever enough on the fly. Pinterest and Instagram are non-starters, not that I don’t look at them when family and friends ask me to but I can’t imagine why I would use them. Seriously, I can’t imagine.

As for the other reason why Wattpad is not featuring Clare–I don’t know what to say. According to them Clare’s content ‘is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. Stories labeled with ‘Mature Content’ may contain frequent use of strong language and graphic depictions of violence, sexuality, and drug use. Stories where explicit sexual activity is the sole premise of the story are not permitted on Wattpad.’

Clare is sexual, profane, often druggie and, in an understated way, violent, so what can I say–that’s life for the two young women I’m writing about.

So here’s my options:

  • Suck it up and work my butt off to build this community thing;
  • Not look to Wattpad to do much promoting but continue to use it as a workshop platform until the story is complete;
  • Start pushing the work out the old-fashion way, i.e. small literary publications/websites, etc;
  • Just love the hard work of creating Clare.

So here’s my options:
∙ Suck it up and work my butt off to build this community thing;
∙ Not look to Wattpad to do much promoting of Clare but continue to use it as a workshop platform until Clare is complete;
∙ Start pushing Clare out the old-fashion way, i.e. small literary publications/websites, etc;
∙ Just love the hard work of creating it.

Revision Obsessions

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The new Clare story–Life Right Now–is the shortest of the bunch, yet it took two months to write. I have three slightly different versions on my desktop, each representing several print-outs scrawled with edits, major and tiny. I put it up Sunday and have already fiddled with it again.

All the Clare stories are obsessively revised–even after I post them. I know this is the worse, most unprofessional, thing to do in web publishing and it doesn’t let me off the hook that I obsessively rewrite whatever I do–including emails and casual notes. (This particular blog posting is in its four rendition.) After all the time spent in drafts, the Clare narrative and character development are right. But once they’re up I start catching spelling and grammar errors that slipped through and scream more horrifying on-line then in print. That starts me fussing with individual words or descriptions. I change a verb to make it more active and untangle weird sentence structures. I take out a line of dialog that is tripping up the pacing. Maybe I change the way Clare looks and act, or clarify her friend’s thinking about what’s happening to her to make it a little more sharper.

Whatever it is, I realize I’m tinkering with them in a very public arena that I wouldn’t do in print, if only because I know I can. It’s the ease at which these changes can be made. I feel anonymous enough to take them down, then put them up again, since I’m convinced that no one is paying much attention to them, anyway. The site, itself, plays into it. The Clare stories are serious work for me but I’m using their current venue as a workshop. That doesn’t do the site much justice but I feel it allows me space and time to get them right until I figure out a way to push them truly out into the world.

Wait, this is hogwash: If I am so serious about Clare, the mistakes weaken the experience of reading them. They are embarrassing. They make me cringe. I fault myself for being unprofessional. I can’t even blame the fact that I am profoundly dyslexic, which makes grammar rules, not to mention spelling, a life long challenge.

The habit of obsessive revision won’t budge much. It’s my process of writing. What should happen is to find a way to improve proofing and editing or, at the very least seek out a good pair of eyes (help!). Then, when they are about as perfect as possible, I need to let go and find them somewhere to live.