Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Red Zone

"It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't." - Josh Olson, screenwriter, History of Violence, in the Village Voice, Wednesday 9/9/09

I realized yesterday that I hadn't actually blogged anything at all, so far, for the entire month of September and being that it is now the month's half-way point, well... I felt a little guilty. I mean, that's not fair of me, right? It's not fair of me to force you, my legions of devoted followers and number one super-fans, of the one thing you love most above all else, is it?

No. No, it is not.

So, here I am, blogging without course or rudder, and all for you, my gentle and constant readers. Where will this blog lead us? I don't know. However, I'm sure you can't help but wonder: "What the hell does that quote got to do with you not blogging, Jon?"

The short answer: Nothing.

The long answer: Noooooooooooooooothing.

(Ha! See what I did there? Ah... comedy...)

Anyway, for serious now, the real answer, honestly, is that I pasted it up there, got distracted and had to go do some stuff, then I came back and started typing and promptly forgot to mention it. And at this point, well, I'm rambling a bit and I'm well into it and I can' be bothered erasing it all and starting over, SOOOOOOO... I'm circling back. Slowly. I'll get there again eventually...


I am knee deep in a very busy time right now, cats and kittens, slogging through the morass toward my goal, which is one part of the reason for my extreme lack of blogging of late. Long time readers will also know, of course, that the other part is due to an overwhelming sense of general laziness on my part. (General Laziness... salute.) But mainly, it is my main focus at the moment, people, my priority Numero Uno, if you will, that is keeping me from spending time with you here. I got a new game going on and the name of that game is Queries.

Yes, it is true, finally, the long and winding road has begun to wind down and, as a result, Q-Day is in the Final Countdown. I'm talking single digit territory here, folks. This is an undiscovered country, one I have never even set eyes on before, let alone foot, so as I'm moving forward, it is with extra caution and care. I am checking and double checking, arranging and rearranging, preparing and re-preparing, and, as a result, anything that can be set aside for the moment, has been... momentarily.

I shall return to the daily grind soon, of course, but for the immediate future, I intend to finish my Query Letter on my end tonight, and then have a last perusal done from a separate pair of eyes or two. And while I'm waiting for that to boom-a-rang on back, I will busy myself with hammering my synopsis back into fighting shape. This is not a chore I am looking forward to, but it is a necessary one. Once those are done, and with my sample chapters completed, my intent is, baring any unforeseen difficulties, that I will be sending the first batch of queries off sometime late Sunday night/early Monday morning and then it begins... and after that...

Well, we'll just see, won't we?

Yes. Yes, we will.

So where does that quote come in then? Well, besides linking to a pretty funny article about an awkward situation, something that even us unpublished writers encounter now and again, and the hilarious amount of Internet slap-fighting that takes place in the comments section that you can peruse for your reading enjoyment, (Can you spot the ones where the truth might have hurt a bit? I bet you can...) I find the quote to be completely and unequivocally 100% right.

Now, on that article's comment section and on a myriad of other writing blogs and forums out there, you'll find some folks, usually people who are bad writers, bad story-tellers, or both, and also, often smell like pee (I assume)
, claiming: "You need to read X amount in order to understand what I'm doing!"

And that is just complete bullshit. It is. It's bullshit. It's complete bullshit and if you disagree, then you too, are bullshit. Here is why...

A. First off, I think the majority of these people are getting Good writing/story-telling mistaken for the general definition of plot. You may need to read a bit in order to figure out a story's plot, true, but I can still tell in the first sentence whether or not you write like a slope-foreheaded, mouth-breather.

And B. A boring first chapter is a boring first chapter, just admit it. If everybody keeps telling you that they're struggling with it, accept it. Rewrite it. Trash it. Write something else. Many people claim to adhere to the old adage of "kill your darlings," but in actuality, the majority of them are lying, flat out lying, and believe their first draft to be sacrosanct. They're bullshit. These are the people that make the classes so tedious, the ones who don't actually want a critique, they want a hug. F U, you effer. If you can't tell this oh-so-needed and all-important information in a way that is somewhat exciting or at least spread out in a way that doesn't bore your reader to tears, then either your story sucks or you do, choose.

I mean, your first page doesn't have to be the literary equivalent of boobs and explosions and car chases soaked in 100% pure adrenaline, but it does have to be interesting. I don't understand why these hacks think they can even fight this... with the sheer number of wanna-bes out there today, their submissions stacked in teetering columns on Agents' and Editors' desks the world over, one page is all you get. One page. It is down to you, and only you, to make them want to read on and if you think you need 15 pages to get going, for people to understand, then guess what? You are a black hole of unpublished suck.

I ranted a little bit there, but in a nutshell: One page. Accept it. Prepare for it.

And I've tried. I've really, really tried.


But... Also, riding shotgun with all of this, swirling around and around in my head, is that little nagging voice... the one that reminds me: I'm about to send it out. I'm about to enter the game. Time to put up or shut up. And that... that is intimidating. What if I suck? I hope I don't suck. I don't think I suck, but what if...? What if I suck...

There's nothing to be done about it now, of course, like Joe Cabot said: "Only one thing to do in that situation... shit your pants, jump in, and swim." But still... I stand on this precipice and I look down upon a storm tossed sea of hopefuls, their dreams dashed against the rocks... and it is intimidating.

Single digits, people. Single digits.

Fingers crossed.

I'm about to jump.

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