Single Status Update
This is just an exercise before I start my daily editing binge. Looking at a blank page, for me, is very intimidating. When confronted with a fresh, virgin piece of paper I find it helps to doodle in the margins, write obscenities and generally defile it unthinkingly before I start the proper writing. That way I can rest easy, knowing that nothing of value was lost should the end product head binwards.
Slept for maybe three hours today; one of those weird, creative dams in my headspace burst while I was lying in bed and after that I’m too wired for sleep. Think I came up with a nice literary framing device for my book, something that can bracket the beginning and ending of the novel and add some much needed pathos. It *should* work nicely and make the ending slightly less out of the great left fields of WTF. It does, however, require me to add in a little bit of conceit mid-way through the novel (say, in the winnebago).
Amongst the protagonist’s possessions scattered across the winnebago is an old mechanical typewriter, the sort with the manual slide like some pump-action shotgun of wordsmithery. Piles of paper reveal his delusion – in his spare time, sober and drunk, he has decided to write a children’s book, starring three lemmings (the analogues of which are, of course, Ziggie, Gambit and himself).
The novel will now open and close with a quote from this imaginary children’s book (the final line, ‘someday, a lemming with learn how to fly’ or something).
It fits in with Prot’s character quite well (after all, we are subjected to his point of view for the entire novel and should be well acquainted with his delusions of grandeur).
Of course, this means more re-writing. And more blank pages.
So other thoughts on the process. Two things have been praying on my mind recently; the first is the disturbing concept of Mary-Sue-ism, the second was something I saw on a TV interview with a comedian. Said comedian had decided to write his autobiography and described the process in harrowing terms, comparing the writing of a novel to standing alone on a stage performing a comedy act to an empty house.
Pretty accurate. But then, in all honesty, the only person you are trying to entertain (initially) is yourself. The lonely, soul-destroying part comes afterwards, during the editing process where you perform your routine time after time after time, honing it to a razor’s edge or dulling it completely. And because you are alone on that stage with no audience, you really have no idea which is which; jokes you thought hysterical during the first draft are less funny after the hundredth reading. This begs the question – were they funny in the first place? You start second guessing yourself *constantly*.
Which brings me, inelegantly, to the whole Mary Sue thing. For those not in the know, a Mary Sue is a character, nae, an Avatar of the author’s own fevered ego. Think of every fan fiction you have read in which the author’s fursona outruns Sonic the Hedgehog, has a 12 inch cock, or for whom Louis Lane dumps Superman.
James Bond, the invincible super-spy lady-killer, created by a frustrated intelligence agent. The fag from the Da Vinci Code, who’s muscular physique is matched only by his giant throbbing brain and his penchant for seducing women half his age. There are many more examples that I find equally repugnant.
Of course, it is par for the course to add in one bad feature; perhaps Bond’s nose is crooked, or Da Vinci Fag is a recovering alcoholic. Yeah, she’s got tiny tits, but I’d still shag her. If such things are added in a ham-fisted attempt at realism then it’s the mark of a bad author. If such things are added because the author is desperately trying to deflect the Mark of the Mary Sue...
I hate such literary egotism to the point of rabidity. Oh wow, spellcheck says rabidity is a real word, fucking awesome. I’m totally using that in the novel.
I can’t bear to read books about such characters. They bore me. I get enough of fevered egos polluting the radio and television networks without them insidiously invading my imagination as well.
I think if you really must carve sculptures of yourself out of marble, then cast yourself as the villain. No one minds superhero villains with genius level IQ’s shagging everything that moves. We tolerate it because their well-deserved demise is assured.
Which brings me to my point – by giving Prot literary aspirations, I slide a little more down the slippery slope of creating a Mary-Sue. Of course, I have taken precautions against this. Prot does not have one bad feature to mar his otherwise Adonis-like perfection; Prot is a repugnant, drunken failure who *might* have one good feature. If he’s lucky.
This is important. Character development can’t happen if the character is perfect to begin with.
Fuck You, Mary-Sue.
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The lonely, soul-destroying part comes afterwards, during the editing process where you perform your routine time after time after time, honing it to a razor’s edge or dulling it completely.
I've been working like this for years, but I've just recently changed the way that I do things - up til recently, I would write a piece, and in the process of writing arrive at a much clearer understanding of the subject-matter, and what I wanted to say about it, and in the back of my mind there was always the thought, 'Ah, well now you know what you know, you could write it again, and it would be better', but I always ignored that, and tried to improve it via lots and lots of tortuous editing - the idea of junking something I'd spent ages on and starting from scratch seemed too ridiculous to contemplate. But now that's what I'm doing - I think the final results are much better than they would have been otherwise, and there's less tortuous editing :)
50/50. Sometimes it's a lot faster to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but sometimes it's worth staring at a screen for an hour to get that perfect combination of words that get the idea across. Plus, editing time is thinking time. Junking something before taking the proper time to think it over is, in my opinion, a mistake.