Thursday, August 09, 2007

Writer's Block

Okay, so I've done a little research, and what I've found out is that, until very recently and depending on publisher policies, most novels are averaged at 250 words per page.  So, a 100K word novel is going to come in about 400 pages.  (As a side note, Stephen King says that 180K words is a "goodish length for a novel" -- and that translates to about 720 pages.  Yow.)

As always, however, it's a good idea to check genre publishing sites or ask a publisher putting out the kind of work you want to do for submission specs.  A fast way to get rejected it to submit something that doesn't meet their requirements.

So far to date, I've got about 45,200 words in my blog, recounting my childhood memories.  That's not a novel, but it's a good start.  The sad thing is, it's taken me about 6 months to get that far, and there's no sign of any burning inspiration to light up the last 35K-40K words to make it a full-length novel.

On the other side of the token, however, maybe it's not really a subject matter that most people are interested in reading.  If my blog hits are any indication -- and one of them is being helped along by a friendly and very sweet Stranger so that it looks busier than it is -- not a lot of people are interested in reading about my childhood misadventures anyway.  That's fair; I don't know that I would want to wade through someone else's either.  And if there were some sort of poignancy to the project, some life-lesson that I'd gained from my experiences, something I could pass on to someone about to cross through those same junctures, I might have been able to pass it off as young adult or children's literature, for that age 10-12 group.  That's a pretty narrow audience, and I don't think I have the skills to pull them away from the Wii or the X-Box to read it.  Not without them thinking "I'd rather be playing Wii or X-Box," anyway.

So what do I do with this fiction that I've had so much fun writing, and have invested so much time in?

Hmm.  Good question.

I can't really keep entertaining the notion that this can somehow be a novel.  It really can't; there's no plot, no underlying story, nothing that really ties the events together except a common set of characters.  They're not really related in any way, they don't really have a point, there's nothing that the characters are struggling through as a theme and there's no underlying conflict.  It's just a series of memories from my childhood that I've put down as best I can remember them, and have tried to tie nice resolution into each one so that it was a self-contained vignette ... which they actually were.  There's really nothing else for me to tell, and I don't know how interested a publisher would be in a collection of memoirs from someone that has never been a politician, game show host or movie star with secrets to tell.  I'm not a famed NYT journalist or 20/20 or 60 Minutes anchor that a lot of people find interesting.  I'm not a war hero who oversaw the execution of the Secretary of State's war plan in some foreign conflict.  I am, in fact, to quote one of my all-time favorite movies, "no one of consequence."

Besides that, whenever I ask someone other than my wife to read it -- especially those that fancy themselves writers -- they tear it apart and make me feel bad about it.  I'm kidding, of course, but when I hear the input of outsiders that I don't know well and really don't trust much except that they won't blow sunshine up my rear, I generally get told things like "Well, it was okay, but I was lost here ..." or "Yeah, it was okay, but there are too many modifying words in your sentences, they need to be shorter and punchier," or "this isn't bad for a first draft; it needs a lot of work though."

Those things are probably all true.  I know for certain that when I read through them I see them for what they are, and I like the flavor and the tone of them, but I'm the creator.  These are, so to speak, my children.  Just as I think my son and daughter are the most beautiful, intelligent, challenging and yes IRRITATING children ever, doesn't everyone think that of their kids?  So it is that while most other writers don't like what I've done, I have to acknowledge that they're probably being more honest with me than my other readers (MOST, not necessarily ALL).

So what do I do with it?

Well, I have recently been encouraged to continue writing, and blogging (that sweet, kind Stranger I was telling you about before was a major help and encouragement, and my wife was absolutely adamant that I continue), so I'm not going to quit.  If I'm going to be going back to school soon (it's still up in the air right now, on an unanswered prayer), there won't be very much time for it.  And what do I want from it?  Do I hope to publish, or am I content to write just for my wife, my friends and for the person that happens across my blog and takes a minute to read it?  It's going to make for a full Wiki, I can tell you that.  But what am I hoping for from it?  Anything?

Obviously, there is some part of me that wants to be published.  I want to be an author -- a successful, rich, eccentric author -- and fulfill a dream I've had since I was in 6th grade.  Most other dreams I've had, I let fall.  I wanted to be a doctor until I dropped out of college.  I don't know why I let that one die, but I did.  I wanted to be a comic book artist, but I let that one slip away too.  I wanted to be a writer, and while that one hasn't died, I'm not getting any younger and I really didn't want to be one of those people that doesn't write their first novel until after they retire.  Besides, with the way things are going in my life, I don't think I CAN retire -- ever.  (Not that there's anything wrong with publishing your first novel after retiring -- that's fine, and God bless those people.  I just wanted to do these things while I was younger ... like, 23 or 25 younger.)

So what am I going to do with these stories, these tales that from time to time pound against the inside of my skull until I finally let them out?

A rhetorical question, perhaps.  I haven't decided yet, but I don't think I can just let them die here in my blog or on my hard drive.  I think I have to try and do something.  I just wouldn't feel right, wouldn't feel complete, if I didn't.  I would feel like a failure for not even trying.  I suppose, therefore, I'll try.  But what I'll try, I haven't got a clue.

Any suggestions?


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