Edits & the Antisocial Writer

Oh, there you are. Where have you been? Why don’t I see you anymore?

Writing makes you antisocial. I know this, and have just empirically proven it by posting NOTHING for 9 weeks. Why? Because I was writing. And editing. And writing. And writing. And editing. And writing…

Please. Writing is the most inherently antisocial career path anyone can choose. You need hours and hours of preferably uninterrupted time, alone save for maybe your favorite Decemberists or Barenaked Ladies or Godsmack album, or whatever gets you through the hours.

Writing is antisocial, and that isn’t news to anyone. It’s hard on your friends and loved ones – hell, it’s hard on you, the writer, because you know you’re being a terrible friend and daughter and sister and significant other because unless you’re Stephen King or James Patterson or Danielle Steel, you still have a day job. So you work for salary 40 hours a week, and then you write for nothing for another probably 20 hours a week. Forty hours a week plus trying to squeeze out seven or ten thousand words a week, plus needing to actually get some sleep… unfortunately it leaves little time for anyone else. Including yourself.

Discipline is a word that’s repeated a lot when folks are giving advice on being a Professional Writer. Come up with a routine, they say, and be careful about quitting ye olde day job, because stability (i.e., a regular, dependable paycheck) is important. Being a regular person – as well as a writer – instead of telling yourself and everyone you know you’re the next J. K. Rowling or whomever – regular contact with regular people keeps you, well, regular. Normal. Grounded. Not completely wrapped up in yourself. (Which, in turn, will keep your query letters from sounding completely insane.)

So. What I’ve been doing while not doing this, while skipping the occasional yoga class – okay, slightly more occasionally than I’m strictly comfortable with – because I’m “on a roll,” or because “I didn’t write yesterday,” or whatever… while missing out on dinners with friends and games and sleep…

Blessed, blessed sleep.

Ah, I digress. The matter at hand: I finished the first Olivia Monck novel (we shall call it FRAMED, for now) just after Christmas, and told myself that I’d edit it and pitch it to agents before I started another one. Unfortunately, Olivia and her friends had other ideas. So I wrote the second one (HUNTED), and finished it at the beginning of the month. And FRAMED is just a few pages from having the first round of edits done – on paper, anyway. The revisions still need to be made on the computer.

As for you, HUNTED… I hate you. I love you, maybe more than your predecessor, but I’m hating you as hard as I can. This book, all eighty-two thousand, seven hundred and fifty-seven goddamn words of the first draft, hurt. This book bled me and laughed while it did. I worried, at so many points, maybe continually, that I’d lost the plot, that I’d taken too many liberties with the obvious problem of sexual tension, that somewhere along the line the narrative had turned into this monstrous hybrid of Robert Jordan and Laurell K. Hamilton and I wanted to slam my head into the wall every day, every goddamn day.

And then one day, it ended. It ended quite suddenly, I felt, surprising me in its immediacy, and I thought at the time, Surely there’s something else here? Something more? Another scene? Another conflict? Surely I missed something. 

Surely. I know I have. I always do. The clean lines of the first one – what I thought were clean lines – are now covered in scribbled, cribbed blue pen scratches, rewritten scenes and suggestions that I pick up a goddamn thesaurus every once in a while and changed names and names changed back and angry lines through awkward narrative –

And that’s the one I was confident about.

Then there’s HUNTED. A book that worried me, that induced panic, that caused me to delete whole huge heaping sections of text, thousands of words at a time, that required long walks and brainstorming and wondering what I was reading while I wrote FRAMED because its plotting is so much tighter (is it?) and worrying that the descriptions were too much, too graphic, too bloody or too violent or too sexual or too something…

The whole damn thing is just more visceral. FRAMED is a nice, clean, polite murder mystery, a tidy little introduction to these characters. HUNTED is, I think, a more accurate representation of what life might be like for them. Blood and pain and sex and death and betrayal. I don’t know. And it still doesn’t drift into paranormal romance; I’m confident of this. I was worried at the time, but it seems I kept it in check well enough – I’ve gone back and reread the sections that made me chew fingernails, and they’re fine. They’re fine. The whole vibe of it is more erratic, more wild, less structured, more panicked, more like the last chapters of FRAMED (which I think is my favorite part)… Obviously, I have my preferences.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I like uncomfortable prose. I like Jack Kerouac and Hunter Thompson and James Bradley’s Wrack. And that, I think, is what HUNTED is – 82,757 words of fear and pain and panic, of pure burning adrenaline, of feeling the wolves at your heels and having nowhere to go but towards them – and I think this is a good thing.

Now, leave me alone while I finish editing the last fourteen pages of FRAMED, will you? Jeez.

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