Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Talk to Myself

I didn't tell people I was writing a book for the first few weeks.

For one thing, everyone and their dog has this crazy idea they just know will top the NY Times Bestseller List, if they can ever get around to writing it. Or finishing it.

For another, I've watched nearly every episode of The Golden Girls, and have had nightmares that I am Blanche Devereaux in the episode about her novel-writing experience. My ego is too fragile for that type of comparison.

But one of the biggest reasons I kept the book to myself was my complete inability to describe it to people. I dreaded the obligatory question; "What is your book about?", and found it easier to avoid the subject entirely than have to stammer out something like "Well, it's complicated." I'm not fortunate enough to be like J.K Rowling (wizards) or Stephenie Meyer (vampires), who can use a single word to describe their sagas.

Although I don't think it's the solution to all life's conundrums, I've found talking to myself to be extremely helpful in this case. After several lengthy discussions, we- I mean, I have managed to narrow down my plot synopsis to a sentence or two. Also important, I can say it without stammering. I sound smart, and smart is good.

I'm still somewhat hesitant to announce that I've written a novel, and probably will feel unqualified until the book is published. Let's not count our pages before they're printed. However, I'm no longer afraid of the inevitable question.

What is my book about?

I'm glad you asked.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pass the Zoloft, please

Polishing a manuscript is a walk in the park. The industrial park. In a lightning storm. Barefoot over rusty nails and broken glass. Blindfolded.

Just when I think I'm finished (again), I find another golden article filled with 'what not to do' advice. I've already butchered my novel, shaving off 30,000 words in a brutal blood bath, and the latest slaying has left nearly seven pages on the cutting room floor.

What not to do: Do not talk about the weather, give elaborate descriptions of setting, or indulge in purple prose in the first chapter of your manuscript. The first chapter is the writer's big chance to bond with the reader. Reach out and grab your audience!

Guess what my first chapter did. Described the weather, the setting and was full of purple prose. Although it was a particularly lovely shade of violet, the setting was beautiful and the sticky humidity was quite funny (in my opinion), it was definitely an example of 'what not to do'.

My new theory? I will never be done spit-shining this book. Even after it's on bookshelves, I'll be kicking myself for things I should have changed before it went to print.

For those of you who don't know me, this is not whining. I am prone to sarcasm. No, seriously. And I relish my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. There are few things more satisfying than opening a big bag of Starburst and lining them up by color/flavor to make sure they are consumed in a logical order. When I have time, I even scrutinize my Jelly Bellies the same way. Perhaps this is all some crazy metaphor, an example of how I compensate for the chaos created by being the mother of five children under the age of twelve. Perhaps I am reading too much into things because I have not met my required dosage of caffeine this morning.

Hmm, provoking.

Random memory: When he was ten, my little brother (who is now a Phi Beta Kappa law student at USC) used to flick a taquito up and down like a cigar and say 'Gimmee a penny and I'll shove it up your nose' in a remarkable Groucho Marx impersonation. Man, I miss that kid!