Month: July 2011

Revision is Scary. Psycho Scary. Screaming Out Loud Scary.

For months I’ve been mentally preparing myself to revise my novel. It’s sitting there on my flash drive, backed up in my email, and in my Dropbox account. I’ve been trying to prepare myself to sit down, reread it, and finally decide what the hell I need to do to it. When I finished it and had people read it, I was told “the skeleton is there, you just have to flesh it out.” It’s historical fiction and I don’t think I’ve done enough research, and I feel like I don’t know the right details to make it strong. To make it believable. To make it good.

I should mention my mother said it was “alright.” While I’m blessed to have a mother who is honest, oftentimes brutally so (seriously who tells their kid their novel is okay, that’s messed up right?), it still hurt to hear. When I defended it to my thesis committee, I felt that they didn’t think it was literary enough and found it to be more of a genre piece. This was also painful. There is an element of a “love story” in it, and when I was told it was “marketable” it wasn’t in a small-press-get-recongized-for-being-profound way, it was more of a stay-at-home-mothers-would-appreciate-it way. Although Nick Sparks tapped that market, so yeah I wouldn’t mind owning a boat and not being in debt. I think love stories scare professors or something. There is definitely a danger to play with cliches. While I wasn’t expecting my committee to tell me I was the next Aimee Bender, I did feel like I walked away having disappointed TC and my committee and still not understanding what the eff literary even means. Frankly, by the time the process was done I was so over it. I wanted to chuck it and never look at it again. I was told by FH, TC, and my mother that I held back. Held back from what? What am I so scared of?

Now that some time (okay too much time) has passed I think my eyes will be fresh, and I can look at it less critically. I know what needs to be done. The arc is there. For the most part the novel needs to be filled in. It covers a very long period of time and there are gaps in time that don’t necessarily need to be covered but addressed, and there are storylines and details that need developing. I also need to do some major research. I suck and hate research. Research is why I will die when I decide to finally get my PhD. Seriously. I hate research. My future dissertation is going to be my death. I’ll be buried under books about Beckett or Borges or God knows who else unable to breathe shouting, “How am I not myself?”* This is how I envision my death. At least there are books involved.

As of right now, the novel is about 200 pages long, maybe a little less. When I started the project and presented it to TC, I was told I was writing a 500 page novel. I laughed and told TC that I was not. I’m sure when I start rereading it I will finally realize TC was right. I’ll have to finally dig deep and pump out another 300 pages. Although a page a day is less than a year of writing. That’s not so bad.

The past couple years I have been really struggling with my fiction. My non-fiction is not an issue. I feel very comfortable writing about myself. Possibly because I’m a narcissistic, selfish bitch (it’s true readers, and you know it) and because writing about myself and my family is something I’m very comfortable with. For years I’ve been saying my family could be the next Kardashians, only likable in our craziness. Not to mention, watching rich people be crazy is annoying. Watching real people be crazy, that’s entertaining.  My issue is with my fiction. I have hit a road block. I have a short story sitting on my computer that I have no clue what do with. I don’t even know if I’m halfway through with it. I don’t know if it might be  part of a novel. I just don’t know.

There is some strong writing there, I think. I have the horrible habit of reading my writing and wanting to rewrite it immediately after it’s been processed by my brain. I’m so self-conscious. I think it all sucks. Frankly, when go through some of these blog posts I wonder why some of you come back for more. I’m grateful that you do. I don’t tell great stories like Wide Lawns does. Now that girl can write. I feel like I don’t have any ideas. None. Zip. It’s an empty space up there.

For sure my fiction is suffering because I’m not reading enough of it. I’ve been trying to get through some short stories and I’ve finally sat down with the Marquez. I’m also reading a book about running because I’m training for a half marathon (got to get skinny for the wedding). I’m hoping that as life begins to stabilize I’ll be able to get some fiction going. Actually, screw that. I’m not going to hope. I’m going to do. I think feeling ready to revise the novel is a big step for me. Huge. Lately I’ve been dreaming about my characters, worrying that they are lonely in the world I’ve created for them. I swear those suckers are alive sometimes.

Anyway.

After some small errands and a fierce workout I’ll sit down and finally start digging in. I’m scared to death I’m going to want to throw it in my fireplace. Good thing it’s hot as hell outside.

Why is revision so effing scary?

 

*If you didn’t get this I Heart Huckabee reference hurry up and put that movie in your Netflix queue. Seriously. Do it.

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I’m Back!

FH and I went on vacation last week. We spent a week in the city where is from and the time flew. I had never been to the part of the country where FH hails as home and got to see his old stomping ground. I also got to meet his best friend from high school and some of his family. I don’t want to sound all patriotic (not that there is anything wrong with that) but America is fucking gorgeous. I got to see some new landscapes and was very impressed with our county. Okay, patriotic rant over.

He says I was campaigning hard for the wedding to his family. Our wedding is practically a destination wedding, and our families will be traveling from all over the place to celebrate. What, I want them to party with us.

We had a great time, but now it’s back to reality. He is looking for work as well so we’re in a big state of limbo right now. I know I’ll be doing something steady this fall, just not sure about all the details.

Right now all this instability has been stressing me out. I’m not sure about our money situation, where we’re going to live, and if we’re going on a honeymoon. We will go on a honeymoon but I have my heart set on Hawaii but it ain’t cheap.

I have 5 days to figure out how to pay my bills this month with $45 in my checking account and $0 in my savings account. Ah to have a real paycheck.

Writing this post forces me to ask myself why I didn’t become a nurse or an engineer, or a hair dresser. Honestly. At least I have time to work on revising my novel and banging out a memoir.

#depressing

Oops

Noticed the other day I really need to work on my proofreading skills. I’ll be editing all my posts over the next month. There will be some new posts too, but I’m going to focus on getting the old posts as clean as possible. Should be a fun challenge. Who doesn’t love revision? #thisgirl

On a side note: I’ve become completely obsessed with Twitter. I also wish hash tags were part of my life in a regular way. I wish my phone could access both of my Twitter accounts so I could tweet as @OneMeanMFA and tweet with my personal account.

Going on vacation for a week with FH. Can’t wait. Today is a busy day of packing, finally seeing Harry Potter, giving myself a pedicure, and singing at mass. Oh and I have to run 5 miles.

Feel free to tweet at me with errors I need to correct on the blog. Seriously, I suck at proofreading.

The String Theory and Preventing Depression

Back in the day, when I was a science nerd I did a ton of research on time travel. Okay, it wasn’t that much and it was for this project my AP Physics teacher offered for extra credit. Extra Credit + AP Student = Inevitable. The project was called “Teacher for a Day.” We were asked to pick a top in physics that interested us and had to give a 50 minute lesson. I’m realizing now that my physics teacher was a genius and got out of teaching about 10 classes. The spots for Teacher for a Day were limited and, of course, I was a hardcore AP student so I snagged one (I took 6 AP classes in one year, ridiculous. I was also in every club, hardcore band and drama geek– I would have Rachel Berry look like a cool kid).

Well, what I learned from my high school level research in time travel was that there are many different theories and the one that made the most sense to me was the String Theory.

I’m not going to go into a a big detailed explanation about the String Theory. Simply click on the Wikipediea article I’ve linked to above and  then come back and finish reading this. I’m an English teacher not a science teacher. I couldn’t explain my way around Mitochondria, inertia, or stoichiomtery (bleh chemistry blows). Basically with the String Theory (if I’m remember it correctly) there are many options for how your life can go (hence the strings) and when you time travel with the String Theory you can see the different “strings.” Also, one action in one string can impact another or all of the other strings–i.e.having a child.  I’m a little worried that if any physics people read this they might rip me a new one for how inaccurate this is. Whatever. I’m a writer, not a scienctist. There are plenty of reasons why medical school never panned out for me (cough cough:: 2.5 Cumulative GPA in undergrad) among other things (my inability to comprehend chemistry).

So why I am talking about this?

Today, as I applied for jobs that paid under ten dollars an hour and was spoken to like a moron at one of the retail outlets where I dropped off an application, I thought about the other directions my life could have taken. I look at my friends from college who live in New York, L.A., D.C.. and I think where the eff did I go wrong? Granted I have a wonder future FH and if life on another string didn’t include him, I’m honestly not interested. Still I wonder what my life is like had I pursued my dream to live life in New York City (oh no I’ve said too much) for awhile. Tough it out. Try the whole “life in publishing” thing. I never visualized myself wondering if I was going to be able to pay next month’s bills.

Well, who does?

It’s easy to tell people that they have to sacrifice and suffer before things get good, but I guess with facebook and things like that we don’t see our successful friends suffering. We only see them succeeding. God knows I don’t really like to post about how I cried my eyes out applying to be a freakin’ bank teller or a nanny or a–gulp–waitress. When I’m working full time, I’ll happily post a status that says, “I’ve got a full time job at Blank University” or wherever.

In the meantime, every time I apply for some crappy job –tomorrow I’m very likely to get a job as a waitress or hostess. Whatever. I can’t even buy gas or groceries–I get a little more depressed and wonder what if I’d become a band teacher, or what if I’d moved to New York, or whatever. It’s a very destructive way of thinking and frankly I blame my physics teacher for implanting the idea that the String Theory is actually possible and that wormholes are the key to time travel. Gosh darn it.

Seriously though, you can’t tell me that you haven’t ever wondered. Haven’t you?

I know there is no point in this wondering. I can’t go back and even if I could the grass is always greener…

Stupid cliches and how they are always right.

I guess, this suffering is good. Maybe it will make me a stronger writer. What do you think? Am I improving? Probably just more of a complainer.

As I think about how I feel like a crazy wanderer I’m going to end on a quote (something I vehemently tell my students NOT to do).

“Not all who wander are lost.” –Tolkien

God, I wish I could feel that way.

Yeah, I couldn’t end on quote. It would have killed me.

 

 

Elitist Hum-bug

I recently read this exchange on Facebook.

GRAD SCHOOL FRIEND 1: I have struggled through portions of this first Hunger Games book. The story is decent enough, I suppose, but the writing is trapped in the young adult mode that, unfortunately, feels all too obvious for me. I enjoy it, and I may read the sequels, but I would not have picked this up if it had not been so strongly suggested to me. Also, the present tense is a little unusual.

GRAD SCHOOL FRIEND2: Kinda like Fanta for the brain.

GSF1: It has some very compelling elements, but none feel especially new to me. It is an example of great pacing though. I’ve said that to everyone I’ve spoken to about it because it stands out so well. That’s why it’s so consumable. I don’t know, though, if I can go without reading the remaining on my completionist drive (which rears on occasion).

GSF2:I had the same problem and ended up reading them all. I think you’ll be ok with just the first one. I’m dealing with the OCD once again: book 2 of Game of Thrones.

GSF1 I won’t touch a series that isn’t complete if there is no assurance it will be.

This is the perfect example of people being unable to appreciate any kind of writing after grad school. This kind of elitist crap makes me want to scream. I, of course, will not state my love for Hunger Games to these two unappreciative readers because they will look at me and think, “This, from the girl who likes Britney Spears.”

I think it’s sad that people can’t just shut up and enjoy a good book. The whole thing about wanting it to have more depth and not so much in the Young Adult voice makes me want to scream. It’s a book for young adults. It’s supposed to be relatable to the audience that it’s intended for. Get over yourself. I swear.

I will admit that it took me a couple years from graduating to actually be able to sit down and enjoy a book, but I do think that the whole super or should I say pseudo intellectual bull just makes me want to gag. You’re not a professor at Harvard nor do you have literature training from Yale. Cut the crap. Enjoy the pacing and the teenage love story. Also, instead of hating on the young adult voice, appreciate the layers that Collins makes available the adult readers.

Never did I think I’d be so defensive over Hunger Games. Wow.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Or is this conversation not rubbing you the wrong way?