I am hurtling towards the novel’s midpoint. Once I get to the midpoint, the tempo of the novel speeds up considerably. I’m now on the cusp of writing a really important scene because it introduces a risky — but necessary — aspect to the plot.
It’s risky in a Phoebe Waller-Bridge type of way. I’m going to challenge the audience not to accept the orthodoxy on an very, very touchy subject. But the novel is meant to encompass the entirety of the clusterfuck that is the Trump Era so I feel my hand is forced. The great thing about the conceit of the novel is it lends itself to being my own Apocalypse Now. I have the opportunity to talk about a wide swath of the Trump Era in a fast paced, fun manner.
But by definition there’s also a good chance I’m going to piss a whole lot of people off. But just like Waller-Bridge, I’m not going to choke. I’m not going to blink. I’m going to wade into a situation where the media narrative is there is a right and true way. The great irony of it all is, of course, is I’m very empathetic to the conventional wisdom on the matter. It just fits the novel’s narrative to flip the script a little bit. Yes, I’m being intentionally vague.
The scene I’m about to write is so important I may wait until tomorrow morning to actually sit down and write it. I may write and re-write my longhand beat structure of the scene to really prep myself for writing it.
Anyway, the novel’s first draft is going to be a huge mess. But I’ve finally given myself the right to write shit. You can’t edit a blank page as they say. I just have to finish the first draft so I can turn around and do it all over again after I read it and annotate it for the purposes of revision.
I went to see the newest Zombieland today and was pleased. It was worth the price of admission. Definitely got the impression Emma Stone HATES Jesse Eisenberg. She’s a good actor, but she’s not that good.
Not really related, but has an update on the state of the novel.
Going through the process of seeing the movie that I came up with some really great scenes in the latter pages of the first half of the novel. These scenes are so good, in fact, that I had a momentary bout of existential creative angst. I started to think maybe it should be TWO books with the first book ending on a cliffhanger. But since then, I’ve thought better of it. I really like the idea of just writing one novel that’s really accessible and fun but actually has something of a deeper, darker meaning.
One issue I keep toying with is how much to ground the story in a specific year and how much I should just make it “now” and have it run as a scenario. I’ve long called the novel a political fairytale for woke Park Slope moms and there is something to be said for making it a gauzy story that is simply set in the modern era. I worry it will come off as dated if I make it specific to an exact time.
And, yet, given that it’s meant to be my own person indictment of the clusterfuck that is the Trump Era, there’s something to be said for setting in in a specific year of that clusterfuck. If people go into it knowing that it’s set in a specific year, then it won’t feel dated (I hope.) It will simply feel like a way to have catharsis about about the Trump Era which, hopefully, will have come crashing down by the time this novel is set for me to pitch it to an imprint. If it HASN’T come to and end by about August 2020 then, well, I’ll just roll with the punches. The moment it sank in that wasn’t going to be able to finish the novel in time for it come out in summer 2020 when people would be thinking about the presidential election, I became a lot less concerned about being rushed.
I’m well on track to finish this novel by August 2020, but it’s my impression there is a good six months of post-production after you actually sell a complete manuscript. Of course, it would be like winning the lottery if I actually was able to sell the damn thing at all. I’m not the greatest writer in the world, but I am a decent story teller.
One thing I’m a little uneasy about is how cinematic some of the cooler scenes are. I mean, does that mean I should just write a screenplay? I quickly push such thoughts aside, however. All of Michael Crichton’s books pretty much read like a movie treatment as it is. I think I can forgive myself if I come up with a scene or two that depends on you knowing a song well enough to have it playing in my mind as the scene unfolds.
Anyway, I continue to worry that Phoebe Waller-Bridge is going to steal a creative march on me. But that’s just being really paranoid. My story is uniquely American. It wallows in its Americanism. Though I definitely admire and gain inspiration from Waller-Bridge because of her creative courage. I’ve made some creative decisions on this novel which are potentially fucking huge risks for any number of reasons.
But watching Zombieland today, I took note of how the were able to give what an mainstream audience wants. It’s because of how entertaining and, well, good, Zombieland was that I am reminded of how much I fucking hated Booksmart. That movie insulted me with its contempt for middle-American values and its absolute need to cram it’s desire to be comfort food to a 17-year-old bi-curious girl who goes to like, fucking Hollywood High down my throat. Sometimes, you want shit to blow up, people fall in love in a traditional manner and to hate on hippies like was found in Zombieland.
I am quick to note, however, that I was definitely not the audience of Booksmart, so go see it! I guess if I was in the mood to see a movie like Booksmart, I would just watch Heathers again. Now THAT was a good movie. Also, I like political subtext. In these divided times, it’s nice to put your politics in your work on the sly as a treat to people who agree with you. That way people who don’t agree with you politically, who don’t have the same cultural touchstones, still get to have a good time.
Everybody having a good time reading my novel is a big deal for me. That’s why, yes, there are plot points that are pretty conspicuous, there’s at least a small chance a MAGA person will at least enjoy themselves should they hate read it because Don. Jr. won’t shut up about it.
I am going to stay humble. There’s just too much that can go wrong. But I refuse to make decisions on what I don’t know. I’ve gotten this far and the story continues to entertain me, the writer, so I keep going. I’m well on my way to wrapping up the first half of the novel pretty soonish. I just keep making the specifics of the novel better and better, often because I distract myself for a few hours by watching a movie.
We’ll see. It will be interesting to see if I manage to pull this off or if I wake up one day and see someone has completely stolen a creative march on me. But, again, make decisions on what you know — not what you don’t know.
One thing I did not expect is even if things are going well with your first-time novel, it’s still a lot of work. The reason is, I may be zooming through the first draft, but there are times when I have to pause for a few hours — at least — to figure out how to keep things spicy.
You’re supposed to have “a surprise on every page” and as such you can find yourself in need of a boost of creativity. For me, it’s watching movies. Watching movies is a great way to distract myself for a few hours. While I’m distracted, I often come up with solutions to issues with the novel.
For instance, I went to see the most recent IT movie and had a major “ah-ha!” moment when a character was introduced on screen. Now I find myself in a similar situation and I’m going to use some time watching the latest John Wick movie in hopes of fleshing out the period of time covered right before the novel’s mid-point.
Once I get to the mid-point, the tempo of the novel is set to change rather noticeably. Things are going to go a lot faster. My “all is lost” moment at the end of the second act is pretty cool. It’s delicious and covers a lot of really interesting macro issues in a very short amount of time.
But it will definitely be interesting to see how many notebooks I fill up with notes when I finally find myself writing the second draft. Once the second draft is done, I’ll show it to a few beta readers. Then I’ll write a third draft.
The first draft I probably won’t actually write — that will be the draft I hand over to some sort of editor to make my gibberish actual English. I’m hoping to pitch the novel to publishing houses no later than, say, August 2020.
I have a very harsh self-editor in my mind. As such, I find myself wading into a thicket of how to manage the universe I’ve created. I generally know everything off the top of my head, but as the first draft begins to shape up it’s beginning to grow unwieldy.
Between the first and second drafts I’m going to do a lot of the nuts-and-bolts of writing a novel that to date I’ve not done. I’m going to do character studies and write a canon. But I think I may have accidentally learned a trick about the actual process of writing a novel — don’t write the novel as one huge document, but rather split it up into chapters. Then you can better manage what might be found within each of those chapters as necessary.
I’m a little reluctant to do this without also saving the chapters into one document as I go along. Seems potentially messy and unnecessarily slow. But I think some form of this idea will work for the second draft.
Things — do date — continue to speed along with the first draft. I’m going to be able to fill an entire notebook in longhand notes in preparation for the second draft, though.
This whole thing is so much bigger and more complex than I ever imagined going into this. And I’m still not a Gillian Flynn-level writer. But, if nothing else, I won’t be embarrassed — for once — by the final product.