Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Book(tm).

Probably every English major in the world has a book in them I think.

I have been working on slaying my first novel since about my freshman year of high school. I've been with it through 75,000 words and a title change. That doesn't necessarily mean I've been working on the novel for the last decade; like many other writers, I have a life outside of the world and the people I've created - I have a full-time job, a garden, pets to tend, dishes to wash, visiting to do. All this leaves me with precious little time to do what I really love, which is write. And that precious little time I have to write is often wasted on doing other things which have nothing to do with writing.

Which is why I sometimes get irritated when people ask, "When are you going to finish your book?" at times when I am lucky to be keeping my OWN life on an even keel, much less juggling the dozen or so lives of people I have invented. Luckily, the people who push me hardest are the ones who are rooting the hardest for me as well, so their enthusiasm is sustaining.

The funny thing about being a writer is that it is the ultimate love/hate relationship. As much as I love to write and as boppy, in-the-groove good I feel when I have cranked out a chapter, I will do anything and everything to avoid working on said novel. This leads to my favorite pastime, which is AVOIDING writing. Sometimes this is constructive, leading to a cleaning of the house (which is usually long-overdue) and sometimes, not so much (because sitting down with a video game and a six-pack is not nearily as fulfilling [or potentially lucrative] as writing). That doesn't stop me from doing those things though.

I have had some crappy jobs. I've loaded frozen dead dogs and cats into a flatbed truck for disposal at a kill shelter. I've coerced drunken arborists over the CB radio into PLEASE going to their assignments. I've cleaned up people's puke and shit and popcorn and spilled soda as a movie theater usher. So you would think writing and editing would be a breeze from the bee's knees in comparison, right?

I like how Orwell said it best: "All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."

In other words, no job is harder than being a fiction writer. I won't be persuaded otherwise.

I have been working on my first novel, We Are The Weapon, since a few months after two planes destroyed the World Trade Center. I was not old enough to drive a car yet (or legally drink, or vote) when I started. As a result, a lot of this early writing has had to be meticulously revised, because the person I was at 15 is not who I am at 23.

I have been writing through two dirty, complicated wars and a rollercoaster ride of American international conflict that has left me jaded and rebellious. My politically-driven college years obviously had a profound effect on where I thought the novel should go, as has the growing sense of apocalyptic foreboding our society has taken on in the last year or so with the recession and predictions of the world's end in 2012.

Which is all well and good, since Weapon is all about war, apocalyptic destruction, subversion, and the things which come after humanity tries its hardest to destroy itself (and almost succeeds). It is, in effect, my American answer to Orwell's 1984, set twenty years after the beginning of World War III. The characters I have worked with in this novel I have known for almost a decade now (yeah, that's hard for me to believe) and I have come to love them like members of my own family. The reason I stay with them is because even though their world is so hard, their hopes and dreams and petty struggles keep me pulling for them (and occasionally, when the mood strikes me, getting them out of some pretty spectacular trouble)...

During said decade, I went through several periods of creative hiatus where I dabbled in other things I am interested in - painting, gardening, screenplays, editing, short stories, freelance magazine articles, all in an effort to circumnavigate this huge honking novel, which is dark and gritty and weighs heavily on my mind at all times. My day to day life is dreadfully mundane, but at night, I am all trip-wires and nuclear holocaust and smugglers and totalitarian governments and death.

So, needless to say, being a writer is exhausting, even when I'm not working on The Book(tm). Or a short story collection I've been playing with. Or my second novel, Everybody But Lazarus, which was actually supposed to be my first novel and was set on the backburner for Weapon. So in order to work on that novel, a story about werewolves and zombie hunters and other assorted supernatural phenomenon set against the Deep South, I will have to finish the first one.

Back to the writing board.


  1. The world is supposed to end in 2012? Why was I not informed of this?

    I was an English major, and I'm pretty sure there is no book in me. My writing style tends to lean more towards daily scattered paragraphs with lots of run-on sentences. Hence, the blog. But I admire people who can put together a whole narrative.

    Keep on keepin' on.

  2. Oh my. 2012 is right around the corner! Perhaps that's why I've been in this "who fucking cares" mood. You?

  3. Kristin - Maybe a memoir? "Life At Blackrock: One Suburban Chick's Adventures in Going Country"? :D I'd read it. But then, I harbor my own latent Little House fantasies. If I didn't, I guess I wouldn't have installed a five row vegetable garden at an apartment I'm leaving in less than two months.

    Roy - I'm sure that's part of it. But I've been writing a post-WWIII novel for almost ten years now, so needless to say, I have the end of the civilized world on the brain.

    I think Einstein said it best: "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with stones."