Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Knut Up: Id's Guide to Surviving Rejection

This is a photo of the then six-month-old polar bear Knut, snoozing and cuddling with his minder at the Berlin Zoo back in 2007. Remember Knut? Yeah, he got rejected, too. BUT BY HIS OWN MOTHER. Snap! I got me one up on you, Knut. My mother still calls me every two weeks, sucka.

Anyhoo, it’s almost the new year and, aside from teasing animal orphans, I’ve been spending the final few days of 2010 reflecting on my rejection journey thus far. For your benefit, here is some wisdom that I’ve collected along the way in my unsuccessful attempts to become a novelist and a screenwriter. These may sound like jokes but I’ve actually put all of these into action at some point – from my first rejection straight through to my fiftieth.

1) Get a haircut, but make sure it’s a good one. A new look always reenergizes me and helps me to get back at it. Do NOT, however, let the stylist take advantage of your vulnerability and talk you into a fringe.

2) Start a blog about rejection. When you write about being rejected, you’re still writing. And that alone should help you get better at writing, which in turn, will help you get rejected less.

3) Read other struggling writers’ blogs. But only while they’re still getting rejected, too. As soon as those bitches get a deal, remove them—promptly—from your blog roll.

4) Get a steady day job. Something with responsibility and deadlines that will keep you focused on finding success in other areas of your life.

5) Quit that job when it sucks the life out of you, leaving you too exhausted and depressed to get any writing done when you get home.

6) Read a crap book that reminds you that you CAN do better. For me, the book that made me want to do better was A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Other recent disappointments include last year’s Giller winner The Bishop’s Man (that was it?), The Passage (it started out good and got bad) and, of course, Franco' s book of short stories.

7) Don't cry. (More than once a week and only ever in the shower).

8) Go to the gym as much as it takes to get your butt looking good. Then you can have the confidence to say to yourself “that editor may have rejected my manuscript but my ass looks really %$#&ing perky.”

9) Don't write snarky responses back to the people who rejected you. It will feel great in the moment but they'll just post them on their own blogs and laugh at you with industry friends from their table at The Spoke Club.

10) Find yourself a friend who says things like, "But when you DO get published and win the Giller and the Man Booker it will be SO great that you have this blog that followed you along the way. It'll make for such an amazing story!"

11) Find yourself a group of writers to write with now and then so you can feel a little less alone in the world, so you can tell each other supportive things (see above), and so you have some other writers to compete with, too. Bring something small and chocolate to every meeting. Avoid alcohol unless you get the shakes without it. If you do get the shakes, then you're awesome like Hemingway.

12) Do not entertain thoughts about killing yourself, make jokes about killing yourself or actually kill yourself. Because you don't really want to actually be Hemingway and because it's just a book, friend.

13) If all of the above fails and the rejection makes you want to toss your manuscript in the trash and flush your Mac down the toilet, do as Knut did. Knut's own mother didn't want him. And what did Knut do? Did he give up? No! He just kept doing his polar bear thing, and the entire world loved him for it. He became the symbol of the anti-global warming movement. He was on the cover of Vanity Fair. He got all buddy-buddy with Leonardo DiCaprio. And now, because Knut did not crumble, Knut did it -- Knut got himself a book deal. So if you're a writer as much as Knut is a polar bear, then keep doing your thing.

It'll all work out in the end.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The funniest non-research ever

I have a few wildlife documentary-related scenes in the latest re-write of my novel. For those of you who have read the terrible early draft, you're probably wondering "what the hell do wildlife documentaries have to do with Jehovah's Witnesses?" and you'd be right. Because wildlife documentaries have nothing to do with Jehovah's Witnesses.

Anyhoo, I was doing a fair bit of research for these nonsensical sections -- all of which was done online, of course. I mean, where else would a person find information on various topics all in one convenient place? A library, you say? Sorry, but what the hell is that?

PDFs galore, e-books, web sites... I found everything I could ever need to know on the Web to make these sections better than crap. But most importantly, I found video -- amazing video that inspired a whole series of imagery, stuff and things that made my new draft better. It scares me sometimes that I rely so much on video and television even though I'm a writer. Does that make me dumb? Maybe. My process flawed? Probably. But, well, err, what was I talking about???

Anyhoo #2, I recently came across what is perhaps the funniest wildlife documentary video EVER made. I didn't learn anything from it that was useful for my book, but it made me laugh like a crazy person. Watch it here and watch it now.

Library. Phhh.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Alternatives

It's the holidays and I couldn't be happier about it! No, really. I mean it. My charred, scarred and rejected exterior aside, I get all gooey in December because of all of the incredible (inedible) Christmas consumables! Here are my Best of the Best:

Holiday Books
The Hockey Sweater (Roch Carrier, 1979)
If you haven't read it, get the hell out of my country!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Dr. Seuss, 1966)
Like, duh.

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens, 1843)
The most classic book of all time, Christmas or otherwise.

The Polar Express (Chris Van Allsburg, 1985)
I love trains and I love Christmas. So, I mean, you know, yeah.

Holiday Movies
A Christmas Story (Bob Clarke, 1983)
If it was socially acceptable to bring home a leg lamp instead of a Christmas tree, believe me, I would.

Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988)
Bill Murray. Enough said.

White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954)
You know that "Doing Choreography" dance number that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas but has those flying impossibly skinny legs on her and those sky-high waisted pants on him? Yeah, that scene is the best.

It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
I watched it last night while stuffing my face full of Christmas chocolate cake. Jimmy Stewart was, like, the most handsome-est 45-year-old high school student ever.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (Brian Henson, 1992)
Gonzo stole every scene... and my heart.

Now, because I'm also the kind of person who tends to gravitate towards the most depressing books/movies around the happiest time of year, here is my Bizarro Best of the Best:

Bizarro Holiday Books
Mao's Great Famine (Frank Dikotter, 2010)
This book explains why millions of people died of starvation in China between 1958-1962. I read three chapters of this book the other day while baking a Christmas cake... with rice flour. I felt guilty, but then I licked the bowl and felt better.

The Christmas Sweater (Glenn Beck, 2008)
Based on the harrowing true story of a young Glenn Beck who gets a "stupid, handmade, ugly sweater" for Christmas and learns a valuable lesson along the way. I haven't read it yet, but you know I will. I imagine that I'll throw up soon after.

Bizarro Holiday Movies
Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009)
Disturbing slow-motion sex, mutilation and infanticide in the forest? Um, yeah. I watched this one just days ago while shopping for gifts online.

Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
A sexually repressed ballerina finally gets some... sort of. I'm sorry, dad. You're right -- I shouldn't have watched it so close to Jesus' birthday.

A Walk to Remember (Adam Shankman, 2002)
Mandy Moore gets terminal cancer and then falls in love. As you can imagine, it ended with me, inconsolable, on the bus ride home to Ottawa circa Christmas 2003.

Happy Holidays Everyone!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cold comfort

This is a photo of my home office. I took it yesterday. The image quality is poor because the photo was taken through a thick pane of glass with my camera lens squeezed in between two dusty wooden shutters. You see, my office is bloody freezing right now because it isn’t really an office per se, so much as a balcony that was turned into an office. The room is completely unusable in the winter because it gets unbelievably $#%king cold.

Now, see that white thing sitting in the middle of the desk? The thing south west of the Nacho Libre bobble head? That’s the latest version of my manuscript. The poor thing is locked up in my freezing office until the New Year. It’s really the ideal place for it – I’m never tempted to open the sliding glass doors to visit with it, which means that sometimes, for days at a time, I forget that it even exists.

In the spring, fall and summer, this office is a city writer's dream. So many dogs to stare out at, so much sun to shine down on the palest of literary shut-ins. The office has been good to me. We've shared some great times (figuring out my ending, researching my dream publishers, writing the first and third draft) and some hard times (reading countless rejections, writing the second draft, losing staring contests with the neighbourhood squirrels). In the most fertile times of my creativity, here's what the room looked like (click here for a close-up):

A far cry from the barren landscape of today, no? Anyhoo, I’ll crack open the office doors on January 1, 2011, and begin the final revision, the one that will tell me if all the time and trouble amounted to something that I can finally be proud of. But, until then, my book is safely and blissfully out of sight, out of mind. So thank you, Poorly Insulated Renovation, you have served me well. And to you, dear Manuscript? I'll see you next year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A writer in wolf clothing

Hi. Remember me? My name is Id and I'm trying to write a book. Actually, at this point, I've already written a book -- make that three -- so what I'm really trying to do is write a good book. I haven't posted in a while because I haven't had much to say. I've just been plugging along working, blogging for other people, buying sweaters with wolves on them, etc.

Here's what's been happening on the writing front. My 76,000th re-write of my novel is running along nicely. I've some holes to fill in this week, which I'm very much looking forward to filling. (Yes, Matt. That's what she said.) Once that's all done, I'll back away from the beast for a month, then re-read and make my final tweaks after the holidays. After that, I'm sending my battered manuscript off to a freelance editor for a read, which I think is the next most logical step. Since I've decided to save my friends the trouble, I need another eye to give it a go. I've been trying to accomplish some fairly complicated stuff this time around and I need to make sure readers will actually get it. I'm loving the magical realism angle so much -- worth every single painful hour of cutting. And the cutting. Whoa boy. I've shed four major characters, pages and pages of descriptions of people and places. What am I left with? I'm not sure yet. I won't really know until I give it a re-read. But I feel lighter for having done it.

See, I'm actually taking my time for this re-write. No panic to meet a before-I-turn-30 deadline, no running out the door of Kinko's with my hair on fire. I'm reborn as a new kind of writer. A patient writer. With no fear, no extraneous characters, and yes, still no agent. And I'm cool with that.

In other news, you know that new cool show on AMC, The Walking Dead? They fired all the staff writers and will be using freelancers from now on. How fu$%ed is that? Read about it here.

In related news, watch this AMAZING cartoon about trying to get published. I think it's the funniest thing I've seen in a while. Funny, because it's true!