What do writers like even better than writing? Pretty much anything, when it comes right down to the actual writing. It’s like my youngest daughter: she likes the idea of books more than actually reading books. If we’re perfectly honest with ourselves, I think a lot of people felt the same way about “Breaking Bad.”
But one thing writers definitely do love is talking about writing, which is why I readily agreed to take part in the #mywritingprocess blog tour by the talented and lovely Julie at J-Bo.net. I’m not sure what the hashtag has to do with anything, but, unlike the spry and insightful Julie at J-Bo.net, I am old and out of touch. But you know what they say: you only live YOLO.
Seriously, go check out J-Bo.net; she’s great. But first here are my answers to the #mywritingprocess queries:
1. What am I working on?
Don’t you roll your eyes at me!
I know, everybody’s doing it, but now that I’ve actually begun (I’ve been thinking of it for several years), I’m enthralled by the process, particularly mapping out the logic of the plot, which is like working on a jigsaw puzzle. Or maybe a Sudoku. Word search? Battleship.
It’s a comic novel, and some of it is drawn on my experiences as a small-town reporter, but it’s not autobiographical. In fact, I made the main protagonist a woman specifically to distance the character from myself. It’s working. In fact, it’s fun to be a girl. Seriously, I don’t know what all the complaining is about.
If this were The Great Gatsby, I’d be finished at 50,000 words, but it’s not The Great Gatsby and never will be – look, it’s a comic novel, an entertainment, not earnest literature, and that’s perfectly fine – so I still have a way’s to go. But get this: I have a small publisher interested in it. And by “small,” I mean invisible to the naked eye, but that’s not the point, is it?
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, it doesn’t really. (See “comic novel” above.) As with my humour writing, I’m not breaking ground here, just trying to project the world through the cracked prism of my brain. As recently expressed by my blogger friend Nic (who you’ll meet shortly), I feel my job as a writer is to “make someone’s day a little less shitty.”
But in addition to being a traditional narrative about a small town, a sinkhole, a newspaper and rare turtles (there are also beavers… of course), each chapter is separated by stories and editorials from current and past issues of the local newspaper, The Beaverly Modicum¸ as well as radio transcripts, a Grade 9 essay, government letters, a refrigerator note, etc. These provide information for the story in a non-narrative way while allowing me to use various satirical techniques and multiple voices. Original? Hell no. But hopefully entertaining.
3. Why do I write what I do?
See the quote from Nic above. But that might actually be more effect than the cause. I’ve always loved humour and satire, going back to all those Mad magazine I read at a probably not very healthy young age. An English degree, though, put in my head that I might write the Great Gen-X Novel (curse you, Douglas Coupland!) and, in fact, I gave it a shot. It was lit-rah-turrrre. And it was terrible. Cringe-y stuff. But while I was doing that, I was also trying to earn a living as a freelance writer and learned that not only was there a small market for light humour but that I was good at it. When I landed a job as an editor (later owner) of a regional weekly, I started writing a humour column. My passion for journalism abated but the humour stuck.
Plus, you can reveal the ridiculous through humour and satire in ways you can’t with straight facts. And let’s face it: this world is all about the ridiculous.
4. How does my writing process work?
I have a full-time job and a family, with two out of four kids still living at home. I have to make time to write. My regular gigs are deadline-driven, so I make sure to set time aside to do those, usually in the evening. For the novel I try to find snatches of time between my other deadlines. But then I start giggling because I just said “snatches” and get nothing done.
Thankfully, in the coming and going of my life, I’m able to do a lot of pre-writing in my head prior to sitting down and typing. This works well with humour, where I’m coming up with angles and gags that can be patched into the text or used to build something around. With the novel, my in-between thoughts are often working out how A is going to lead to B. It also means that if you talk to me, I might not be fully paying attention.
I don’t have a space of my own for writing at home, so I use my laptop and find a quiet spot where I can work. Because of this, along with my natural tendency to be distracted, it takes a while sometimes for me to settle down. There’s lots of getting up for tea and snacks, chores, WordPress stats, dogs, cats, children, WordPress stats again. What have I learned from this? You can’t eat an ice cream cone and type effectively. Bowl. Always the bowl.
I write more about my approach to humour in this post.
None of this, I realize, is particularly helpful to aspiring writers. But if you were looking for help, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Maybe these guys can help you. I’m passing the hashtag torch onto three of my favourite blogger guys.
I like to call Nic DiDomizio of The Nicolas Blog my favourite work in progress. He’s a questing, self-analyzing, beautiful and hilarious young man making his way in a harsh world that doesn’t fully appreciate the majesty of Mariah Carey. From Connecticut, Nic has written for The Advocate as well as a handful of other websites that he says “definitely aren’t reputable enough to be listed in a bio (hint: one of them rhymes with ‘shmought shmatalog’).” One time he wrote a memoir about his search for identity amidst a seven-year string of combative relationships and absurd hookups, and then a bunch of other times he tried to get it published. He’s in one of those times right now.
Ned Hickson of (appropriately) http://nedhickson.com/ is a fellow humour columnist in what the old folks call “a newspaper,” specifically the Siuslaw News in Oregon. He’s a real mensch and probably doesn’t want to know that the firefighters in my novel are kind of jerks. But he ain’t. Not our Ned. He’s one of those bloggers I hope to meet in real life one day. In 2002, he took his self-syndicated column online and it now appears in dozens of newspapers in the U.S. as a syndicated feature for News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, was published in January and is a collection of his most popular columns (as opposed to the kinds he usually writes, he says) during his 15 years as a newspaper columnist. Ned lives on the Oregon coast with his wife, four children, two dogs, a cat and entirely too many seagulls.
Finally, there’s my favourite philosopher blogger, Bill Pearse from Seattle, whose meditations on making your way in the world as a father, artist, man are beautifully written and thought-provoking. Bill’s pieces are like poems, wherein sometimes you intuit more than fully understand. Don’t let my vague descriptions intimidate you; go see for yourself over at www.pinklightsabre.com. Bill is working on his first novel — a Künstlerroman, or artist’s coming-of-age story honoring the James Joyce tale of the same genre. “It describes the writer’s discovery of identity through bouts with madness and the supernatural, akin to Joyce’s conflicts with the Irish Catholic church. A ‘selfie’ for the modern age, it follows a writer’s journey creating (and losing himself inside) characters that reflect his relationship to the world,” Bill writes. Bill lives with his wife, two daughters, a dog, two cats, one of whom is unwanted, and talks about all of them on his blog, pinklightsabre.com.
Over to you, gentlemen! Hashtag away!