Sunday, August 16, 2009

To Scratch and Scribble Part 5

A certain number of writers suggest that you do yourself a favor and write the crappiest stuff imaginable. They tell you to get all that crap out of your system by suggesting that you type anywhere from 50,000 words to a million. When the crap stops, the real writing begins. It's a filtering process that I guess we all have to deal with. Let's face it, all of us are not born perfect or can type up the next Catcher in the Rye.

Stephen King says, ''I'm convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.''

For this statement, I believe he was correct on a historical scale.

Let me tell you about my first bad book . . . the one you will never read.

The typewriter from hell may have caused me some problems but what I didn't expect would be the problems of the ego once I couldn't stop writing.

My first official book project was a half-assed idea. It was to be part autobiography and part fiction (don't worry, more confusion awaits). The basis was my hectic, sometimes unbelievable life, everything up until 8th grade which was also when I wrote it, and a side character who was a lackluster guardian angel. I guess I had a rotten trail of bad luck and this book of mine was the only release. I didn't care what I wrote down, so long as I wrote something. The idea would take on many forms. In some parts it would be a mystery, in others a drama, in spurts a comedy and in large a big convoluted mess.

I typed it up on an Acer computer which dwelled in my parents room. Each chapter would be two to three pages long. The book, as a whole, was 69 chapters at 156 pages. You'd think that would be it, but I wasn't finished with it and I was reluctant to work on it at all. The idea kept changing but not in a good way. It kept taking on new and unexpected forms as annoying as Hydra. Each idea I tried to vanquish, two more would pop up.

Somehow I bravely made the trek six houses down to my friend who took a liking to reading my work. Her and her friend read my tales and troubled times. They couldn't quite understand the guardian angel character or what I was trying to say when I introduced him. In one scene, I was at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal when the angels comes down, dressed to the nines in long black leather trench coat, sat down across from me and flung some ashes from his cigarette into my bowl. The chapter was no pivotal point in the book, it was just a scene with no real force behind it. Most of those chapters established nothing. They were just fillers. My personal "word vomit" book.

My friend and her friend liked some parts, and laughed in the right places. They knew how to let me down easy when they encountered a bad chapter or one that made no sense. But they were always interested in my ideas, asking what I was cooking up next.

One fateful day, I came back to the computer. Chapter 70 was staring me right in the face. This book became the bane of my existence. You can't work on an idea when it changes so much. You begin to question what the hell the original thought was in the first place. The title continuously changed as well. The first title I chose was The View. After I became sick of that, I thought up A Comedian's View. When I recognized that my work wasn't that funny, it finally became Never Shake Hands with a Jackass. I even drew up a cover with the crazy angel sitting in a chair on one side and a donkey with a censored bar across his eyes sitting in the other.

I couldn't write anything on that damn computer. I was blocked. My crappy filler moments had finally run out. The Jackass was me.

Now comes the part where I tell you why you will never read this book.

With a heavy hand, and an even heavier heart, I arched my finger and deleted the entire book. 156 pages after months of writing and it was all gone in 2.5 seconds. I was not ready. This I was willing to admit. But when you know it's not your time, you have to accept it with grace and understanding. There will always be another book to write.

"Great books write themselves, only bad books have to be written." ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


Alissa said...

Somewhere buried in a box somewhere, is the book I wrote in 8th grade. It was about a girl recovering from a car accident who gets sent to live with relatives for the summer, where she turns out to be something of a hellraiser and falls in love with the bad boy in town. As I recall, it was atrocious. Mine was written down in a spiral notebook, so no delete key. I don't think I could ever get around to completely destroying it.

Rebecca said...

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