cluttering the net since 2001

he said, i said

Thursday, Nov. 07, 2002
From: TodGoldberg@aol.com
To: poeticalgirl@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: hammering out words
Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2002 16:11:04 EST

Hey, if it were easy, Ethan Hawke would do it...oh...wait...

I do have to say one long winded thing about this whole "write a novel in a month" thing. While I think its cool that you're doing it, and doing it is always the hardest part, you need to think of writing a novel not as a sprint to compile words, or as a looming deadline at which you must stare, but rather writing a book is marathon, a battle of endurance and timing versus speed and ambition. Anyone can write 50,000 words in a month if they really try, but who can write 50,000 words in a year? Who can fine tune every single word until there isn't any flab, until each sentence is important, drives the story forward, reveals information, or at some base level is simply entertaining? As a writer without a book contract or an agent or an editor, this is the time in your life when shooting out 50,000 words in a month can hurt you the most. Yes, you may complete it, but what then? See, there's no gun to your head right now, so you're free to fuck up as much as you want (unlike, say, me), free to take as much time as you need to write horribly (unlike, say, me) and then, ultimately, learn to write well (still working on that). You finish this book and you ask yourself now, okay I wrote a book, now how do I make it work? It's daunting and potentially harmful because its too much for you to swallow right now. I'd be more impressed if you wrote three thousand words a month that would stand the test of time versus 50K that you'll ultimately need to spend a year on just to make it your best possible work. See, I believe in failing every day that I write and then going back and making it work, honing and crafting until I know for sure that every sentence in the book needs to be there. Go ahead and write 50,000 words but understand you'll need another 50,000 words (many of them the same) for it to be your best work.

Those are my two cents. Not that you asked for them, but my two cents no less.

My reply..


Anytime that you share information with another human being you are in essence opening the door to receive two cents. I do not disagree with you on any point that you made.

However I do own Ethan Hawke’s first book, paid $3 for it used and I read it last June in a few hours and enjoyed it. I even wrote about it here… http://trulypoetic.diaryland.com/thisweekend.html Do I think he’s an author or an actor? I think he’s an actor that wrote a book. I’m pretty sure if they ask you to play a part in the Fake Liar Cheat movie you just might be an actor…for a day! ;-) What’s the harm in trying something different? I certainly don’t think Mr. Hawke is a literary genius and I do think there’s a gigantic chance that his books only get published because of his sexy face in the movies. 5 months after reading his book, I barely remember anything about it.

Do I think nanowrimo is going to save the world? Nope. Do I think I’m writing a bestseller? Nope. Do I think I am a writer? Yes. I was a writer before nano and I’ll hammer out something with words until the day I die.
I decided to pursue the insane 50,000 words in a month because 2 years ago I spent 21 days wanting to die. Seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. I had to constantly remind myself that I had things to live for. I wrote lists of things I still hadn’t done yet. “Write fiction” was on that list. I tried very hard to tell myself that tomorrow would be better, and that I had a list of things yet to do with my life.

For the last 2 years I have said, “I am going to…” “When I find time…” “I really should…” in reference to attempting to move into writing fiction. I have been afraid, hesitant; excuse ridden and basically stalling in the turning lane going nowhere like all these q-tips on the highways around me.

I doubt I will go back and rewrite or perfect my first attempt at piecing together a storyline, developing a character, etc. I have never done this before. It is a learning process simply by making mistakes and finding my own voice and tone. I can read a thousand books about “how to” write a novel. In fact I did eventually read the one I got last year as a Christmas gift, and it has been my finding that we as writers can talk about writing for hours and hours, but good writers simply shut up and write! Real writers have stories flying through their heads. Society and the publishing community plants expectations and fears within us. The world outside of our imaginations makes us doubt and second-guess our own abilities.

What if my stories not good? What if no one wants to read it? What if I end up hating it myself? What if … What if…. I was what if’ing myself right out of writing.

Nano? Nano is not the king of the novel world. Nano is not the end all be all. Nano is inspiring people to try. To try to do something that they have let fear stop them from doing. To succeed at achieving a goal, if nothing else, just a goal to write.

I have over 12,000 words as I write this. Of those 12,000+ words, I truly like one scene. And I could sit there forever and add a word, delete a sentence, add more ambiences, make my character say a little extra something. Delete his bad haircut, it wasn’t adding to the scene, etc. I can rewrite and second and even third-guess myself right back into that what if’ing disease I have had for the last 10 years.

I can finally, and not because of nanowrimo, say “I am a writer!”. I have horrible grammar I am at times struggling for the right word. But for the first time ever I am attempting fiction. I am learning by doing. And doing is far more rewarding than my previous wondering ever was.

However, I was originally wanting to self publish and make enough cash to …*drum roll please* take your online writing course! Surely I can earn that kind of cash with my first attempt at something fiction. But perhaps I should just chuck the whole damn thing?

I think not! I attempted this, am doing this, not for the end product, but for the lessons I am learning along the journey. What have I learned?

1. coffee is great, but if you juice up too much your mindset changes and then you’re wired and writing from that perspective
2. writing fiction after years of abstracted verb listing required by poetry is a challenge
3. having strung together clever strings of the English language, I can still string together a great sentence and therefore poetry has broadened my ability to speak with a more punched up voice
4. there is no immediate gratification of being able to stand up and say “whew I am done now” and then give your little poem away as a present after an hour, tenacity and stick to it ness is needed.
5. I really need to take your course and I hope it includes a section on “how not to write he said she said and then he said after she said, I said you said and we all said said said” when writing dialogue.
6. my book mostly sucks
7. I have a limited vocabulary because most poetic words are fluff and there are no skys to reach through when writing believable fiction. Hmmphft…
8. My characters are rooted in my mind and are haunting my every daily movement. I’ve never experienced that before.
9. Being a Goldberg’esque writer is NOT easy!!!

When I was in 7th grade I didn’t write short stories. Hell I didn’t even write anything except, “I love you and you love me and we will carve our initials on that tree” rubbish. I am venturing into a genre I know jack shit nothing about. I could quit now, call it a day and say “gee I suck at this” or I can keep hammering and (said in my best redneck accent) build me a crappy ole house of a novel and say “gee that process sucked, I won’t do that or that or that again and what if I tried this and then what if I worked from that angle, what if…”

I am changing my outlook, my what ifs have changed. I respect your opinion, otherwise I wouldn’t speak to you or of you so highly and I wouldn’t have even replied tonight. I know that you are a writer, and in my opinion even though I never even got a free t-shirt from you encouraging me to keep singing your praises, (I like free stuff, but I praise only where earned…wait….try me, I’m not sure about that….black is my favorite color..) in a nutshell, your novels stick with me.

I don’t know if you ever wrote too fast, too slow, or just too badly. I don’t know if you ever had a pile of crumpled up papers on your floor after hours of attempting to write. I don’t even know if you’ve ever sat and stared at a blank screen and turned it off to go sit like a potato staring at your couch feeling like you weren’t cut out to write. Maybe you haven’t. Whatever processes you did take, they were your own and you found your way. Since I didn’t have the cash to take your class, I decided to not sit in front of the TV, instead I am writing.

Two years ago, 21 days changed my life. They taught me that time is fleeting. I got on this train because if I don’t I won’t go anywhere. I’ll be stagnant in fear. I will say, “someday I’ll write when I have the money to take a class….” “maybe next year, yeah next year I’ll sit down and write a little something…”

When November’s over, maybe I’ll throw my 50K words into my snoopy suitcase and maybe 15 years from now I’ll write a novel someone does want to read. I bet then if someone finds my nano novel, it just might sell for outrageous amounts of money on ebay or whatever the latest craze is then and my relatives will call me up and tell me how it’s so not worth what those fools are paying for it, and I’ll say “yeah I know, insane loonies.”

Who knows? For now, I’m writing instead of talking about it. I think that’s all that nanowrimo is truly about, the simple spirit of putting words on paper. The community of encouraging writers gathered for one month to be what they secretly want to be. I’ve spent some of my life’s months doing little outside of what I “had” to do. This is something I want to do. I am a writer, writer’s write because they truly want to.

Thanks for your input it is appreciated always. One question, what’s your viewpoint on how best a person should become a writer? Another question, your opinion on self-publishing?

I didn’t sign up to fail. In fact for a very long time now I have failed to sign up. I did however sign up to write. Only quitters fail, and I’m not a failure because for the first time ever I am writing every day without fail. Thankfully there is no deadline for success. And besides, it’s a pretty good habit to get into, this writing thing. Much better than smoking or eating donuts any day!

Want to buy a TV? It’s used hard but feeling neglected. It likes leisurely walks across the living room and will keep you company long after you ignore it. It runs good and has no rust.

7:48 p.m. ::
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