Yucky nasty sticky stupid first drafts

I’m on a short hiatus from working on my  feature, script “How to Eat Pho,” as the script is in the hands of two other writers, one I quote here as saying: “I’m gonna give this script a Brazilian.” She’s right. The work needs some serious revamping.

So, while “Pho” is getting an intimate “shave” of sorts, I’m finally getting around to doing something that I’ve wanted to revisit for a while: novel writing. I’ve written bits of prose and pretty awful poetry for as long as I can can remember, from cute illustrated stories I wrote about My Little Ponies in 4th grade (unreadable unless you’re my mom), to dark mysteries driven by teen angst where bodies show up stuffed in a fridge (only slightly more readable). All of this time however, I never wanted to be a “writer.” Writing was just something kinda fun to do but I never took it more seriously than that.

Within the last few years though, I’ve been wanting to revisit this relationship I’ve had with prose, and I decided to take it a little more seriously, for better or for worse. I tend to fuck stuff up sometimes when I take things too seriously, and stop having fun. And if you’re not making any money from your stuff, and you aren’t having even a smidgen of fun, then what’s the point?

So, I pulled out three old novels I wrote only to first draft status, one in 2004, one in 2008, and one from early last year. You don’t have to tell any writer that these aren’t “novels” in the finished sense of the word, for the majority of writing is about revision. They are novels only in the sense of word count.

Choosing what to work on has been a huge challenge. I have a full-time job, two attention-hogging cats, and film projects on the side, so my time is pretty limited. My first novel revolves around the 1000 year journey made by a pair of magic red shoes that grant wishes, with the foundation plotline being based around a young woman in Cuba during the 1980s who badly wants a child. Meh, I say. The second novel is a mess of somewhat interconnected vignettes, set in a small town in Colorado as an apocalyptic storm is about to wreck the world. Yeah, like I said, a mess. The third is slightly more fun: a steam-punk influenced rehashing of the Orpheus myth, the section where he has to go fetch his wife from hell and never look back or lose her forever, except this Orpheus happens to be a crappy accordion player with a unicycle, and hell is ruled over by a zealous spicy meatball connoisseur. Despite the occasional bits of charm that pop up, this novel has a shitty opening scene that could be no more boring than watching a cactus grow.

First drafts. Blah…

Tennessee Williams, from Writers at Work (EJ Pfauth)

I didn’t choose to revise any of these right now, although I have every intention to. I’ve spent so much time writing them, it would be a dishonor to not get at least one of them “done.” The Orpheus-Meatball-Satan-Steampunk one is kinda calling to me, I have to admit. Perhaps its the vegetarian in me.

But to get back “officially” into novel writing, at least until “Pho” is ready, I instead went down two paths and am working on two novels simultaneously. Not a big deal, really. I figured I’d blog a bit on this experience, more as a way to chronicle the process so I can laugh at myself when I’m 80. But for now, I’ll make it sound more artistically worthwhile, and write about what’s going on in this bizarre journey, my own ever-evolving processes, the fatigue and anxiety that seems to be inherent in the process of novel writing, the frustration, and the discoveries.

So, next time I’ll give a little back story about the two current novels, and talk about inspiration, booze, and making really big mistakes.