So I went on vacation, spent some time in California, saw my oldest son who’s in the Navy, drove a gazillion miles there and back, and didn’t write a darned thing in my novel until last night. But now it’s at 48,000 words and moving forward again. I’m having fun with layers. Novels are like onions.
So here’s the thing. People float. They finish high school, or maybe they don’t. They get through college, or never try. They get married. They get divorced. They have babies. Babies grow up and learn to float. All the time; they float. Most of them. Almost all of them. Us, too. We float, right?
You can’t afford a new car, or that trip to Europe, or to buy a house. You can’t save enough money because you don’t earn enough. And you don’t earn enough because your job sucks. It really sucks.
Some people have jobs they love. Sometimes those jobs pay well.
Yeah, but they just got lucky, like winning the lottery. Right place at the right time. Lightning strikes, but it doesn’t strike me.
Horse hockey. You make your own lightning. But not if you’re happy just floating.
You have to know the right people, you say.
So go out and meet those people. There’s nothing wrong with networking.
I did everything I could, you say. It just isn’t the right time.
That’s a crock. You applied for one job. Or you dropped out of the community college after one semester. It got hard. You quit.
I had a child, I had to quit, you say.
You have a child; you have to show them how to swim in this life. You have to get yourself a better boat. Quitters don’t get boats.
Naw, you say, because only the rich have boats.
So go get rich, quick or slow, but do it if that’s what you want. Get some better tools, or learn some better lines, because these are getting old.
I can’t afford college, or starting my own business, or moving to a better town, or anything else, you say.
You can’t afford to work for minimum wage, or live in a drug-infested neighborhood, or spend your time with all of those people who just want to float. Some of them are drowning and you just watch.
I can’t swim, you say.
You never tried, I say.
I’m drowning, too, you say.
Swimming is about moving your arms and legs. It’s like walking, only wetter.
I don’t like the water, you say.
You’re freaking soaked with it, I say.
With my next novel involving a record company, I’ve had to make up a lot of band names. I don’t want to use a name and find out someone in Connecticut is already using it, especially if I refer to the band in my novel as drug addicts or gamblers or pencil thieves.
So you search for the name online. Easy as cake!
I don’t know how Eric Idle thunk up all those band names in Monty Python’s Rock Notes clip, but someone still used one of those ridiculous band names. And then broke up.
I think it would be pretty cool to learn that a band took on the name Lucy Lucid and the Bad Dreamies.
There was a time when writers could write novels and make a pretty decent living at it. They weren’t quite as celebritized as, say, actors or baseball players, but people knew who they were, even if said people didn’t read a lot.
But I think, and maybe I’m just glorifying the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, that people used to read more than they do now. Tell me if you think I’m wrong there.
People used to buy books. In book stores. They didn’t go there for lattes or stuffed animals or board games. Ok, maybe the board games. But they went to book stores to look at and buy books. Just like they went to shoe stores to buy shoes, and vegetable stands to buy vegetables.
The Bigboxation of America (and probably most of the rest of the world) means everything gets a small shelf in the store. Walmart and Target sell books. But just the popular ones everyone has already heard of. How do you get heard of if you aren’t already?
Where do authors, musicians, or painters go to get discovered? Or in the absence of traditional representation or management, where do they go to sell their wares? It seems the more we slide over to fully digital media, the more we see people who want our stuff for free.
It seems hopeless for as-yet untapped talent, like the art form of the novel is on its death bed.
But don’t give up hope. You have to have faith that it will survive. Somehow.
I said before that you’re first novel will probably suck. And your second one might have flaws, too. But keep writing. Get those out of your system. Maybe you make music or paint, or you have business ideas. The first ones might not be your best. But keep at it. Have faith that one day the right people will see what you do and go, “Yeah, that’s what we need!”
I have read that many athletes have quirky things they do to prepare for a game or meet, from wearing the same pair of socks til they lose, or going through a specific routine. The announcer for our local NBA basketball team has a very specific routine he goes through in the player introductions before a game.
But when you write, if you write (or if you paint or sculpt or make chess pieces), what routine do you go through?
I like to get all of my chores done first, eat my pasta, drink my coffee, have some peace and quiet. And then I get out the Netbook and start writing. My big computer is more comfortable, but I seem to get into writing mode when I get out the old brown Netbook.
What are your quirks?
I imagine painters don’t start their work at the top of the canvas and slowly move to the bottom. They probably work in layers. That’s what I am doing with my next novel. I paint a general image “this is what happens.” From there I fill in the dialogue, “this is who says what.” Then I add the narrative “this is what they are really thinking, and what the narrator wants you to know.”