I don’t know what you all are doing today, but if you’re not looking up reference drawings of steamboats, clearly you’re living life incorrectly.
Incidentally, it’s not as easy as it should be to do failed idea sketches for something that’s already been invented. I’m in the “how to make something that almost works” phase. This phase is more popularly referred to as life.
Q:love what you wrote about Last Exit To Brooklyn.
Thanks so much! I’m sorry that I’ve only just now seen this. My lame excuse is that I was pushing towards the end of a draft. I get super focused (read that as “obsessed reclusive hermit”) towards the end of a production phase.
Last Exit To Brooklyn will always be a favorite of mine, despite its being dated and hugely problematic.
Another favorite walk on the weird side which is less uncomfortable but still has that weird harsh bite that I adore is Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, which still holds up after multiple rereads. I recommend it to people I like as a fantastic seedy little book with fearless narration for days. If you like Hubert Selby, there’s not a single thing that will freak you out about Geek Love.
Not all that Clever
- Go back and drop hint at plot device in early chapter
- Give hint side-eye at possibly being too subtle
- Make hint BLATANTLY OBVIOUS with bells, whistles, and sousaphones
- Remove hint entirely
- Put hint back in, only semi-subtle
- Drop specific year in with hint because *devious author is devious*
- Panic, realizing that specific date demands a certain degree of historical accuracy (no lunar landings in 1825 in this universe)
- Frantic googling
- First result equals year in question…
- …because the research was already done umpteen months ago when plot device was first dreamed up
Sometimes I do things and I think I’m being clever, then I freak out about having backed myself into a corner, then realize I actually anticipated this mess three drafts earlier. It’s like running headlong into a scaffold *I* built. I’m both frustrated and supremely satisfied with myself.
I’ve just used the phrase “shit out of luck” in literary fiction.
Highbrow. You may call me highbrow.
My parents always had books in the basement, in the laundry room, high up on a shelf that my sister and I weren’t supposed to be able to reach. This only served to make the forbidden books infinitely more desirable.
I read Last Exit to Brooklyn when I was way too young. I’m pretty sure I stood on a trashcan to get it down from the shelf. I doubt I was even in my teens. I was too young to understand most of it, but my takeaway was that things were happening with language in this book, things I hadn’t seen before. Not the swearing—even as a kid I could have medaled for the US in swearing—but the looseness of it, the fearlessness. It’s the first time I remember hearing an accent as I read a word.
This remains in some ways the filthiest book I’ve ever read, and one of my most loved. It’s hugely problematic and is one of those books that inadvertently changes your writing style for a few weeks after you read it.
It’s also my favorite because right next to it on the laundry shelf was In Cold Blood. Though entirely different, for me, these books are inextricably intertwined. They made the most thrilling and dangerous two weeks of my life as a young reader.
I barely get to open my copy anymore because it’s reached the point in a paperback’s life when turning a page is a minor act of abuse. Yet every time I do sneak a look, some filthy word or abhorrent act pops out and I’m once more grinning like an idiot.
I don’t know what my parents thought they were up to, putting the “grown up” books on a tempting high shelf. Clearly they should have been mixed in with The Bobbsey Twins books. I never would have found them.
Over on her blog, writer Mary Cool has been brave enough to show some of the editing I did for her short story, Still Life With Tampon, that’s currently up on storychord.com.
Editing for web reading is interesting as the primary focus (aside from as story just being fantastic) has to be length. Most people reading on the web abandon stories well before the halfway point. Somehow scrolling is more tedious than turning a page (I think this is why e-readers have gone the tap and slide routes instead). The art of the short story dwells so much in the ending that I feel it’s got to be an editor’s mission to make sure that the reader gets there. Sometimes that means cutting words. Lots of ‘em. Anyone who is game for that is okay in my book.
Go on, click that link and see what it looks like to be red penned.
AWP or Bust
I’m off to AWP tomorrow, because clearly attending one giant conference a year isn’t enough, what with San Diego Comic-Con all the way in July.
I’m already in pre-travel excessive worrying/over-preparedness mode. According to my brain my flight left yesterday and I needed to be at the airport last week. On the up side, I love writing on airplanes, particularly if I can order snacks while doing so. I anticipate a few productive hours, provided no one falls asleep on top of me. If they do, I then anticipate a few entertaining hours of drawing small rabbits on sleeping strangers.
I’ll be tackling this mammoth writers conference and bookfair with fellow writer and friend, the intrepid sarahsamudre, who has organized a full-on attack plan complete with a three-pronged panel/party/fair approach. Honestly, it’s brilliant and you should all hire her to coordinate your political campaigns.
I’m rather useless. I bring to the plate what I’ve been told is a charming case of mild social anxiety, a healthy dose of disorganization, and a three-hour jet lag. I’m a peach, really.
I’ve also accidentally booked myself in a very swanky hotel. My accidents have really good taste.
Anywho, if you are attending AWP and happen to encounter a me-ish looking person, do say hello. Particularly if I look confused or am poking at something with a stick. Clearly I must be protected from myself.
And finally, if you haven’t yet clicked the link on my post from yesterday, here it is again: Storychord Issue 79. I guest edited what turns out to be a terrific way to spend a few minutes during a slow afternoon.