Monday, January 31, 2011

My "Process"

I haven't blogged in a long time.  Two months, actually.  And despite what I'd like to say I was doing - yachting, discoing, ninjitsu (the usual) - it has been rather uneventful.  And by uneventful, of course I mean completely insane and the sort of two months that makes me want to run into a wall head first.


See, I'm writing a novel.  And it's a novel that I'm pretty excited about.  It's got everything a good novel needs:  characters, setting, a plot, words.  It's funny, heart-breaking.  It even has a beat you can dance to.  And I've been working on this novel since time began.  Or something like that.  And guess what?  Things were flying along.  You could say they were going swimmingly.  But don't, because I really hate it when people say things like that.  And when people wear berets.  I'm just saying.  Just because you want to be a writer doesn't mean you need to walk around looking like a cliche.  But that's not really the point.  So...

I wrote 400 pages.  About 100,000 words.  And these words were pretty damn good.  Funny.  But you already know how I roll.  There was only one problem:  my characters couldn't get past the second act.  They couldn't go to Nashville (that's not a metaphor, dogg.  It's plot.)  They couldn't get to the end fo the book.  And of course by them, I mean me

And so I let my friend Ray read about 200 pages of what I already had.  And he came back with some great feedback (kill yourself) and then I read through the nearly 400 pages I had and came up with a pretty sensible conclusion (kill myself), which basically included me starting over.

Starting.  OVER.

I know.

400 pages--Gone.
My sanity--Poof.
My novel--page freakin' 1.

Let's all sigh together, shall we? 

So I started over.  Page 1.  I was drinking heavily at this point, but I put the work in.  Started knocking some things together.  And what I found out was shocking:  I wasn't using most of what I had written.  Some of it was pretty good, but for the most part, the pages I'd written were my way of getting to know the characters (they will die in this book) and their motivations (selfishness, anarchy, masochism.) 

Now I have about 40,000 words.  And these are good words.  They story is flowing.  I've cut back to just beer and shots.  There is no longer a need for intervention.  However, this could all change.

Because I met with my agent this weekend. 

And I shared this story.

And he said....

Maybe that's your process.

What. The. [censored.]

No, no, no.  I'm sorry, but my process can't be writing an entire book to find my characters.  Thanks, but I'll stick with the prodigious ability to write sparkling copy on a first draft, sipping a glass of red wine, as I laugh all jovially and type FIN at the end of a manuscript.  Yes, that seems like a mighty fine process to me.

The stuff of Faust.  And I'm fine with this.

Because this can't be my process... can it?  It can't be that my process is... hard.  That writing is... hard.  As much as I'd like to cry right now - to tell you that this was a fluke - I'm not sure I can.  Because guess what?  The book that was held together by strings, is now solid.  The motivations and desires of the characters is real.  And the book, I think, is good.

So maybe this is my process, a kind of demented joke from the writing gods.  Take the guy who has no patience, who writes fast and hard, and make him have the all-time slowest writing process in the history of... well, whatever.  You get the point.  It sucks.  It's hard.  But maybe it's the way I write a book.

See you in August, fools.



  1. If I'm not mistaken, I think John Green says he goes through a similar process, so hang in there. Maybe your results will be as successful as John's!

  2. Do what works. Be you! We like it when you are you, doing your own thing, dawg.

  3. That which does not kill you, makes your characters stronger?

  4. I. Get. This. It's what I do. I don't go full fledged 100K. I write a "novella" of the novel, and then throw it out. Out. Out. And start over. And it's painful and hard and then it all actually makes sense the second time around. I'm so sorry that you do this. So. Sorry. I guess sometimes you just have to mulligan write. :) Hang in there.

  5. "Process" implies so many things, which is cool. I also think it's awesome that you have the urge and dedication to start over. Go you!

  6. I'm in the middle of page 1 complete re-write of my MG sci-fi. I feel your pain. 100%.

    P.S. It was nice to run into you at the conference.