Sunday, December 07, 2008

Wanted: A Good Hack'n'Slash Artist

When I was eleven, I knew I was a writer. I knew it the same way that I knew my hair was brown and that my nose was too big for my face. It was a throw-away fact of my existence, like co-existing with my brother, avoiding homework when I could, and breathing. I was a writer. I didn't think of it as anything special and I never presumed that I would ever, ever make a living at it. This is how I ended up with my variety of job descriptions -- jack-of-all-trades at McDonald's, courier for a radiologist, AC apprentice, Journeyman Boilermaker (I still miss welding), and a stay-at-home-mom who's trying her hand at homeschooling. The romantic garret and the starving poet lifestyle were never for me; give me a solid income doing what I have to do and I'll write in the off-hours. Nobody is ever going to beat down my door for the All American Novel and nothing in this fact distresses me in the least.

For a while I really wanted to just be published in a nationally recognized venue -- a magazine, a major publishing house, something like that. Looking back I think this was because I felt that being a published author gave me some sort of stamp of approval; that being published meant that I was, at long last, a good writer. I was disabused of this notion the more I learned of the business I meant to be in. Being published means that the industry thinks it can make money on this manuscript and nothing else. There is a minimum threshold of competence, of course, but I've read one too many novels that I would not have deigned to waste the match it took to burn it, and I am by no means a literary snob. I think that being a popular novel is no bar to being good literature, and that many of the pieces being passed off as good literature get that label not because they are good, but because they are difficult to read and boring to boot. Stephen King has some fairly cruddy work on the market, but his best writing is classic and I have no doubt that it will stand the test of time.

Now, in my grim middle age, I don't have the desire to have a best-selling novel on the lists. It would be nice if it happened, and if there was a shot at it I'd probably work my tail off to get there. I just don't have the requisite obsession to pursue it. What I want as a writer is to be the best one I can possibly be. If I want a printed and bound copy of my work, well, there's In fact, that's the route I am going to be taking just as soon as I have something worthwhile to bind. And, as Hamlet so ruefully noted, there's the rub. I want it to be the best I am capable of. I won't settle for anything less. I'm not an uber-perfectionist -- I married one of those, and one in a family is quite enough, thank you -- I just want there to be coherency, cohesiveness, and grammatical correctness. I want my beginning, middle, and end to gibe with one another. I want my beginning, middle, and end to be in that order. However many storylines I try to pack into my piece, I want them all resolved by the time The End gets tacked on. I want to be called on my prose, which tends to tint purple, wax poetical, and go on far too long.

In short, I need a good hack'n'slash artist, also known as a hellaciously good (while possessing saintly patience) editor. I had a good one in my mother. She never pulled a punch, no matter what skill we were learning. When my brother won a chess game, it was fair and square and he knew it. When I wrote a story it was a given that it would come back drenched in red ink until I got all the kinks worked out. Not to say she was always right in her criticisms but it was good practice in defending my choices and honing my skills. I've been looking for a good replacement editor ever since my mother died. They're rarer than hen's teeth.

This is not to say that I wouldn't hire a professional editor. I just think that the time to hire a professional is after I've got as many problems knocked out on my own as possible. Professionals are expensive and I just don't have the discretionary funds to spend lavishly on my hobby. Anything I send out of house has got to be the most polished draft I can make it, given that it's likely to be a one time deal.

When that is done, and I have something that I'm comfortable that I've done my best with, I'm going to spend the money it will take to get one or two copies for my shelf. And if that's all I do at the end of the day, as long as it's my best, it will be more than enough.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Random thought about the VP debates

I bought a sixpack of Levitation ale and a sixpack of Red Seal in anticipation of the debates (think of it as headache preventative). Unfortunately I don't think it's going to be anywhere near close enough alcohol to make Mrs. Palin appear to make sense.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Whoa, Way to Go Giants !

In my normal ordinary moments, I am not a Giants fan. The Giants as a team are usually relegated to the vague amorphous "other team" category that my team* generally loses against. I have two favorite teams, and the Giants only qualify when they're playing Frisco.**

But Oh My Goodness. I may have to change my favorites to the St. Louis Rams and the Giants when they aren't playing the St. Louis Rams. It isn't really because they beat the Patriots, althought the stainless steel shiny quality the Patriots were exuding was irritating the heck out of me and the endless inane chatter about the "perfect season" was beginning to chafe even my normally sanguine disposition. I confess I was quietly rooting for an upset because of this. But truly, I may have to change my alliances just because last night was the best game of football I've seen all season. Granted, I didn't watch every single game this season (an impossibility as far as I can tell, or I might have sacrificed that kidney for whichever cable tier would get me all of the Rams games. The Rams are playing poorly, so I get other games for which I have diminished enthusiasm.) My spouse tells me that there were actually some games worth watching. But this one...well, this one was football. Two teams that, for this night and this game and for whatever reasons, were pretty well matched. And they both wanted it so badly. I never once even thought of the remote control, much less twitched a finger to pick it up. There was never a single moment that I thought that I could do a leisurely loop around the channels because nothing much was going to happen in the next 30 seconds or so. I could live with the so-so commercials because I didn't want to miss one frame of football. That, my friends, does not happen in this house. I channel-flip through everything. Except for this Superbowl. The only performance I missed was half-time because I had to turn on the greenhouse heater (my citrus hates having cold roots) and I've been told repeatedly since that it was the best halftime show ever. So, powers that be, have Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers back next year, okay?

*The St. Louis Rams, if you must know. The originators of the phrase "Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory." The dirty rotten louses that deserted Sunny Southern California and decamped to their current location. Yup. My team. And the only reason I'm really mad at them for the desertion is that, while I might be persuaded to give up a kidney for a nosebleed seat, I really can't afford the airplane tickets and I really am not going to put up with the won'tkeepyousaferbutitlookslikewe'redoingingsomething security foofooraw. Especially if it parts me from my knitting needles for even a millisecond -- and I don't want to be sent to Guantanamo simply because I object to my Addi lace circulars being confiscated. This, however, is a rant for another day.

**My two favorite teams: the St. Louis Rams and whoever is currently playing the 49ers. Now, I do have friends and family who are 49ers fans; they are forgiven because they have many sterling qualities that overcome this obvious lack of judgment.