Archive for November, 2010


A tentative description of my novel:

A Perfect Wife is a literary novel  set in the early 1970s.  Nadine Lee is a nineteen year-old girl whose impoverished parents send her to the University of Mississippi for one year to find a husband.  Nadine meets law student George Green at the university, but does not learn his secrets until after she marries him and is pregnant with his child.

Any feedback?


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Ignoring the last post, I have been on a bit of a high about my writing over the past couple of weeks.  The exercise with the notebook has been very helpful, and it’s flowing for me in the way it really wasn’t before.  That’s one reason why I’m sending out things now — it’s so gut-wrenching for me to do so that it’s better to try when I’m doing well in at least one area than when everything is turning to dog shit in my fingers.

One thing I have noticed is that my performances with writing and my actual day job seem to move in some kind of opposite relationship to each other.  If I’m doing particularly well at work, chances are I’m blocked or not even trying with the fiction writing.  And when my characters are getting up off the page and singing, work is  . . . well it just seems unnecessary.   (But of course it IS necessary.  Let’s keep those paychecks rolling in.)  But it’s pretty rare for both to be good or bad at the same time.

Just an observation.

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I’m getting some letters and related material together to send out.  I look at the queries I sent out in the last round and am  embarrassed — the synopsis wasn’t so bad, but the sample chapters had quite a few typos.  Here’s one that Word will not catch:  “Have you pickled a major yet?”  There weren’t any typos in my letters (that I’ve seen) but the letter itself was pretty busted, to be frank about it.  I had a friend of mine take a look and I made some revisions.  So maybe on Monday, I’ll send out three more?

This is the part of the process that I really hate — both because I’m not particularly good at it and because the chances of any result from it are so low, empirically speaking.  I do it because I think the novel is good and merits the effort, but sometimes I wonder if I should just file the whole thing away and forget about it.  Then I think: what’s the point of that?

I am heartened by the fact that, even with the typos and the busted letter, I had some interest from someone out there in the world.  So perhaps with fewer typos and a better letter, I will attract more interest.  Or  perhaps I’m just wasting paper and ink and postage.

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Just an observation that trying to do serious writing outside of a day job involves giving up a lot of sunny Saturday afternoons.

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Sorry about the radio silence.  I’ve been kind of under the bloggy weather recently — by which I just mean not posting, which is pretty self evident and the reason for this post in the first place.  It is the Blog Post Ourobouros.

With Veterans Day I had a four day weekend, and I did a lot of writing.  My new discipline is to do what Mrs. Nicholson would have called “free writing” — basically to fill up at least a page, and usually just a page, of this Muji notebook that I have, before sitting down to the computer to try to bash out a page or two of the novel I’m working on.  The idea is to sit down and write whatever it is that comes to mind first, without too much reflection or self-editing. It’s mostly a chronicle of my passing complaints — work is boring, nobody likes me, people are hassling me, etc.   It’s just the self-serving trash floating on the surface of the water.

This may sometimes lead to writing more in the notebook than I do on the computer, in terms of actual word count — although I don’t really count words, unlike some people I know.  But it’s good to make the writing muscle work, either way, and the notebook works pretty well as a place to empty the contents of my mind so that I don’t mix them with the work I am supposed to be doing.  I do a fair amount of writing at my job — formal legal memos and letters, and lengthy, involved emails on some pretty arcane subjects.  Endless, involved, emails.  In fact, I’d say that writing emails is a pretty decent description of my job — it wouldn’t be misleading, at a functional level.  That writing does not work for this purpose — much of that is the clutter that the notebook is designed to eliminate.

And it works.  I find that after doing the notebook, I sit down to the computer refreshed and with a certain degree of clarity and focus that it would otherwise take maybe an hour of staring at the screen to produce.  At the same time, this does mean that most of the writing I do on my own time is not suitable for anything.  I wouldn’t ever show it to anyone — I don’t go back and read it myself, even though I do keep the notebooks in a folder.  I’ve done this in a variety of ways and in a variety of notebooks over the years — in the past, I’ve tried to keep an actual journal/diary of my adventures in the world.  Going back and reading THOSE is like a trip through  Weepy Self-Pity Land, and so it’s probably better just to turn the whole enterprise over to holding the trash of my mind and not trying to use it for any other purpose.

The Muji is a good notebook for this purpose, however.  I used to use a black and white composition book, and I’ve had people give me snappy little journals with leather covers that I’ve tried to use.   Very thoughtful, but I’ve found the big ones with the fat lines to be a bit like writing a composition for first grade about your favorite pets, and the small ones to be like writing on the inside of a mitten.

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Molly (the source of all good ideas) suggested that I make a list of television shows that influenced me when I was younger.  Right now it’s just a list — exegesis to follow.  These are not necessarily great shows, but they are ones that somehow burned themselves into my brain.

There is no competition for Number One Most Influential show: Doctor Who.  The rest are in no particular order.

  • Kung Fu
  • The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
  • Into the Labyrinth (British show on Nickelodeon as part of the Third Eye block)
  • M*A*S*H

Well, that’s five, so that’s enough for a list.  As I said, I’ll endeavor to explain a few of these picks and what they mean to me in subsequent posts. Also look out for a list of books, if I haven’t posted one already.

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I’ve been mulling over a blog post with this title, inspired (negatively) by the super-deep philosophical question, “Why is there something instead of nothing?” which has cropped up here and there in media that I have seen lately.  This is usually offered as some kind of atomic piledriver argument winner against either atheism or agnosticism.   “I mean, the unbelievers can’t even answer THIS SIMPLE QUESTION so they must be full of shit and my particular belief system with all its nuances and inconsistencies and carve-outs!” Another annoying feature of the question is that it’s almost always offered by the squishiest of all possible Christians, who are just desperate to reassure themselves that there is no reason to question the belief system they happened to grow up in.

And my post was going to be along the lines of look, putting aside that you don’t have any kind of workable definition for either something or nothing (unless you’re going to pull a cute Samuel Johnson, “I refute him thus.”) the question why itself assumes that there is some reason for things being the way they are.  Why questions have because answers, and if there is no because (i.e. that there is no reason, or no discenable reason), your question has no answer.  So no wonder someone can’t answer it.

But that was probably going to be a shitty blog post, in part because I spent too much time mulling it over and getting invested in it for it to be really cogent.  (The Rumination Effect, in which a thought disintegrates over time.)  Recalling the First Rule of Shitty Blogging, it’s true that shit can get old even before it’s published (even before it’s shit out, if you will).  So forget it.  Instead, please watch this excellent vid by Louis C.K.  The relevant portion starts at around 7:00. but the whole thing is worthwhile.


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