Friday, July 16, 2010

The Checklist (and Why This Blog Isn't On It)

  1. Buy shoes for RWA v/
  2. Finish work-in-progress -- finish 1st revision and do entire 2nd revision
  3. Finish tweaking the website (which is up but not perfect yet!)
  4. Do laundry and start to segregate clothes that need to remain pristine & cat-hair free for RWA.
  5. Get my hair cut
  6. Maintain some semblance of a presence on social media -- maybe 6 or 8 tweets a day?
  7. Cook healthy & nutritious meals for Ross Send Ross out for healthy & nutritious Subway sandwiches
  8. Make a list of all the things I absolutely, positively need to get done before next Saturday
  9. Make a list of all the things I absolutely, positively need to take with me next Saturday
  10. Source frozen venison
It's not that I'm not reading -- I enjoyed the latest Jane Feather, Rushed to the Altar, and even have some comments about it (see below).  It's not that I don't want to share with you what I've been thinking on a variety of subjects (I have a wonderful essay in my head on Barbie & Ken in love / in lust / in marriage -- for which I'll need to borrow someone's Barbie & Ken dolls for the illustrative photographs).  It's not even that I don't, technically, have time to blog.

It's that Promantica has fallen off the To Do Checklist and it can't get up.

I'm sorry about that.  I should have taken someone's advice and pre-written four or five blog posts so I could maintain the illusion of productivity.  Instead, I've been riding that fun house merry-go-round known as revisions leading to additional revisions leading to I can't stand this thing anymore someone take it away from me more revisions.  See?  Even here I'm revising.

This was mentioned to me recently:  It's facile and a bit insulting to suggest that "everyone has one book inside them."  I know I will never compose music, or create a painting of artistic merit, or write a beautiful sonnet.  I may never write a decent book.  But if I do manage that -- if, in fact, I'm working on a decent book now -- it's because I have two things: talent and the basic intelligence to know that talent only gets me so far; the rest is hard work.

No, we don't all have a book inside us -- maybe what we all have is the capacity to delude ourselves into thinking that we have a book inside us.  The real writers are the ones who can both believe in their talent and understand its role in the business of writing a novel.  I'm a better writer than I was when I started this book, but my writing is still clunky and inelegant.  If work hard enough, it might get good.

Speaking of getting and staying good, I enjoyed Rushed to the Altar, the first in Jane Feather's latest trilogy.  She may not be in the sweet spot anymore, but her writing still delivers for me.  The story is set in 1761 London, with the impoverished Earl of Blackwater desperately needing his third of his uncle's estate.  The condition set by his uncle?  The earl and his twin brothers must each find, marry, and rescue a "fallen woman," thus saving her soul.

The heroine, Mistress Clarissa Astley, doesn't qualify, but she pretends to be a prostitute because she is that desperate to recover her younger brother from the nefarious plans of their uncle.  (The Uncle Anti-Defamation League might want to protest this book.)  That, actually, was my only quibble with an otherwise enjoyable read: the younger brother is in a Bad Place, and I'd so much have preferred Clarissa to rescue him straightaway and then start her canoodling with the Earl.  But if you squint, and imagine Francis (the brother) to be a tidy package she has to recover and not an actual 10-year-old boy, the romance is pleasant enough.

Am I damning with faint praise?  I don't mean to be.  It's a keeper, mostly because I want to read it again with that squinting trick!

Now, where do you suppose I can get frozen venison out of season?

 Now this is a checklist!


  1. No, we don't all have a book inside us

    I totally agree, BUT the problem here is that language is simply so accessible whereas music is not, visual art is not. Other than the people who humiliate themselves on AI, most people know whether or not they have a spark of talent or even if they're interested (I have musical talent; I'm totally not interested in it). Visual art? I could, but I'd need to be trained intensely. Words are my notes and paints.

    But words are common, especially English words. People who can speak articulately have no reason NOT to think they could write a book. People who are good oral storytellers may not be able to translate that to the page.

    (Aside: my #1 Grandmother From Hell [paternal] was a fabulous storyteller and COULD have translated that to paper--but she wasn't interested in doing so. My father was most likely a talented writer and artist who was ashamed of having artistic talents at all, because, you know, MANLY MEN don't do such things. My "aunt" [paternal] teaches a course on novel writing in an adult continuing education series--but she's never written one.)

    People who--and this is my latest and most personal pet peeve--get degrees in writing, who have only ever written short stories, who think a novel is a long short story and have no clue how to structure one, may (and do) run out of steam around 15,000 words, unable to go further. It's not until they face the fact that novels are not, in fact, long short stories and LEARN how to structure a novel will they get it.

    I have no issue with people who say they have a book in them. Most likely, it's one of those things like where I watch So You Think You Can Dance and fantasize about calling Arthur Miller, then have forgotten about it by morning. They say it, then they go mow their lawn and hit the movies or amusement park.

    So it's really not the casual people who pop off with it that bug me. It's the people who know just enough about writing and storytelling to be dangerous to themselves and the rest of the world.

  2. Oh, I meant to say that the reason the short story writers bug me so much is that they're so damn SMUG about their superior writing skills (read: genre writers are hacks)--until they hit the 15,000-word wall and start whining about it.

  3. You remind me that there are three things all men believe they do perfectly: Drive, write & make love.

    My mother wrote short stories and racked up a lot of rejection letters. I don't believe any of her stories survived, which seems sad.

    My maternal grandmother and her sister both wrote books. Their mother (my namesake, although she went by Maud) wrote Round About a Pound a Week which I gather you can read here.

    (I'm just now realizing I should tell Evangeline Holland about this for her Gilded magazine...)

    But I'm the only one in my family to attempt full-length fiction. Unless you count Robert Graves, who was a first cousin twice-removed....and I don't think you can.

    I completely lack the music gene -- everyone else has it, but it passed right over my DNA, blowing raspberries as it went.

  4. Can I just wail and stamp my feet about my lack of musical talent? I LOVE music... but I can't even clap in time!

    I would think the everyone has a book in them is more akin to everyone has a story to tell??
    Whether anyone would want to read it or not is another thing... :D

    I must admit to being slightly in awe of anyone who writes, and writes stuff that I enjoy (even when they torment me and make me wait for their work while taunting me regularly) about the only thing I can string together is really bad angsty teen poetry. Cause I wrote so much as a kid, the skill is ingrained. ;D

  5. even when they torment me and make me wait for their work while taunting me regularly

    Oh my! Who would be that cruel to YOU, darling? Maybe you should spank her.

  6. Someone should do that!! :P

  7. I've got to start tossing things into the suitcase for RWA, too....


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