How To Write That Novel You’ve Always Wanted to Write, and Other Fake News

Well, I did it. I boarded a plane and left Paris. I also completed most of the items on my Yeah-No-I’m-Really-Done-With-Paris To Do List. Plus, I drank plenty of wine, so the way I see it, I came out ahead.

In the mean time, let’s discuss my Novel In Progress. This seems like a good time for a Development Update:

I no longer have a working title. In fact, I have no title whatsoever. My novel is now a liberated file on my hard drive, not constrained by fake headlines.

Two months ago, I started over at the beginning. Yes, I’ve done that before. But this time, I flipped my first-person narrator from a kind, innocent, intelligent hero to his loathsome, conniving, thieving, older brother. I had been struggling for a long time writing from the perspective of the “good guy,” and I wondered what it would feel like to write from the perspective of his enemy. Now, I am much more interested.

My revised outline is completely complete. By that, I mean, it’s really fucking complete. I can’t stress this enough, for the simple fact that I have never before reached a point where I can say this about my outline. To have it complete feels, well, very complete.

I have written and edited 12,000 words. I am still a slow writer. What can I say? It’s a start. And by “a start,” I mean, it’s like my fifth or sixth draft of a start.

Next, let’s discuss my other creative writing projects. I finished a short story last week titled “And Remember Where You Came From.” It took three days to write and edit, which is swift and risky, but I like it. This might be my new personal favorite piece of fiction. I submitted it to a regarded publication, and I’ll anxiously await their rejection reaction.

And last, allow me to brag for a hot minute. My short story “Quittin’ Time” has been published in O-Dark-Thirty, the literary journal for veterans and their family members. I am psyched. Positively psyched. I originally wrote this piece two years ago, workshopped it in Paris, and revised it approximately four times. I believe I submitted it to six or seven literary publications before it was picked up by O-Dark-Thirty. I am grateful and honored.

Finally, let’s discuss what I’m reading. At this moment, I am 75% through American Rust: A Novel by Philipp Meyer. It has taken me months to get here. That’s not good, although it’s not necessarily bad either. The book itself is highly recommended literary fiction, and there are things about it that I love, which explains why I continue to torture myself with it. When the novel debuted in 2009, The New York Times said, “Meyer writes about his characters’ lives in Buell with sympathy and unsentimental clarity, conveying both the suffocating and supportive aspects of small-town life and his people’s disheartening sense that they have somehow wound up on the wrong side of history, sidelined in a forgotten industrial town in the shiny new information age of globalization.” I think that sums up why I continue to muddle through its pages. But American Rust ain’t for everyone. It is slow - sometimes painfully slow - without much plot, nor suspense, nor lust. It does contain a good bit of violence (which I can get behind), but its cyclical, repetitive nature is grating on me. That’s why I’m reading other things simultaneously. Having said all that, there is something worthy about this book. It takes the right reader.

I got my most recent issue of Carve nearly two weeks ago and have devoured most of that. Carve is by far my favorite literary journal, and my conviction is reaffirmed every quarter when it comes in the mail.

I have no fewer than ten “New!” downloads on my Kindle, many of which I may never open, thanks to BookBub, that electronic literature crackhouse that keeps sending me links to free e-books. Damn you, BookBub. I can never retire from reading as long as I subscribe to you!

Anyway, that’s most of what I can tell you about my reading and writing habits over the past few months. How are your goals coming along in 2017? It’s always refreshing to hear how other writers are forging through their year. And, I like to know you’re out there.

Now, it’s back to writing. But first, lunch with The Bestie.


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