Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The literary sausage

It's been 71 days since I've written a word of fiction. I know this to be true because my laptop keeps begging for a backup, ticking down the days with every pop up. "IT'S BEEN 71 DAYS SINCE YOUR LAST BACKUP.... DON'T YOU LOVE ME ANYMORE?"

I haven’t plugged my neglected Mac into my external hard drive because I haven’t had a reason to. Because I haven’t produced any documents worthy of my patented quadruple-save. 

As I’ve blogged about here 117,000 times already, I was burnt out by my first novel, and still am in many ways. And while I miss feeling creative and productive, I’m not sure I want to dive back in to writing yet. I feel like I’m gambling with my sanity by hacking away at my stories. Making up characters and worlds and drama, and facing rejection constantly -- sane people don't do such things. At least not without some sort of positive reinforcement or payoff. And besides that, writing fiction is incredibly hard. Every. Word. Counts. Did you know that? I used to, but during my "time off," I somehow managed to forget. 

This morning, though, something shifted in me and I decided to break the spell I've been under. So I wrote something. And it took me an hour and a half, there or abouts. More, factoring in my lunch-hour revising. And you know what I ended up with? Just a couple little lines. Here, see for yourself:
This is me: sitting pretty like she told me to, my knees locked, ankles crossed. I'm fixing my eyes on where I came from, my mother’s tummy, and then up at the rest of her. She looms over me, scratching her lotto ticket, that silver junk falling on my forehead like rain. Rain is lucky, she says, when I whine and shake it off. Your daddy used to make rain, you know. The wettest, warmest rain there ever was.
Granted that's a better investment of my time than say The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But it's not just the time that got invested that's the issue; it's the mental and emotional energy.

To give you an example, let's dissect the text above, shall we? Let’s delve deep into my brain and pull out all the uncertainty and work and fretting -- AKA insanity -- that goes into writing something as short as that wee chunk. You ready to see how the sausage gets made? You sure? It’s pretty horrifying. But if you insist…

Should this be in first person or third? Present or past tense? I know all the “experts” say that present tense is more interesting to read, more action-oriented, but I personally prefer past tense. Hmmm… Hmmm…. Back to that later. What about the whole “rain” thing? Kind of a cliche, isn't it? When I read the word I picture every bad movie ever made with some heart-throb experiencing a major life event in the middle of downpour, his arms spread wide, mouth open, drinking it all in, his soul being cleansed. And what is that stuff on scratch and win tickets called anyways? "Latex" is the best description I can find on Google. What did writers do before Google? Am I copping out by using Google all the time for research? What would a real writer do? Call someone at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation? Does that mean I'm not a real writer? Oh God, and then there's the word "loom." Let’s pretend -- just for a moment -- that that word doesn't suck, okay? Now here's my real problem: a little kid wouldn’t think "loom." Unless…. Maybe she’s a really smart kid? Like, gifted smart? Yeah. Yeah! That’s it! She’s a gifted child with the vocabulary of a graduate student in English and the easy wisdom of Maya Angelou! And what about the word "lotto"? I really want to write "scratch and win" but I can't think of a better word than "scratching" -- which comes directly before -- and that would be so repetitive...
I warned you. You never watch the sausage being made. Even if it's vegan.


  1. There's a reason sausage makers don't work on display like fudge makers. It's ugly. And other people's sausage always tastes better, er, you know what I mean. And I know what you mean.

    1. Ha! I certainly do know what you mean, RL. ;)