I went on a camping trip this past weekend. It was a close friend’s 40th birthday party, so we all drove up four hours north and hung out for two days. It was lovely, I’m glad I went.
I even took my laptop. I didn’t work there, but I worked on Friday morning before the drive, and I worked on figuring out what’s happening next while I was there, and then I worked tonight some. I’m at 55 k by the skin of my willing to round up 200 words teeth.
The past two books have been 90k almost on the nose, so I know I’m in the downhill slide now. I feel like 35k is both enough and not enough space left to finish the story I want to tell. My publisher won’t care if I go a little long, but I want to dial things in if I can, and would like for my perception of the ending to stop oscillating. (Story length is a weird learned skill. I know what a book I’m writing feels like in my head, before I start, with minor adjustments along the way. There’s no way this one’s going over 95k.)
There was a haunted house nearby where we were camping. Some people went through it (not me — I walked over and looked at it in the daytime, and didn’t feel great about walking through something that looked like a ramshackle firehazard while people tried to scare me at night) but I got my own alternate universe scare.
One of the girlfriends (who I hadn’t met before) of a friend on the camping trip is finishing up a degree in creative writing. I can pretty much think of no more useless a degree…it was physically painful to talk about it with her. I wanted to be nice, but there wasn’t much to say. I don’t have any connections to help her get a job. I don’t even think jobs in that field (such as it is) exist. I write for commercial publication, in genre fields. I have no idea how literary people do things, or even indeed get why they do those things, because those things have never appealed to me. Not that she wasn’t super nice, because she was…but oy. So young. And to start out doing this. I realized then that I couldn’t actually encourage someone to be a writer.
Encourage someone to write? Yes. Everyone should write. It’s fantastic. It’ll help you organize your thoughts, become more self-aware, make your life better on every level.
But to be a writer? To tell someone they should do the heart-and-soul-lost-in-words-for-real thing? Without having a back-up plan? And to probably have student loans from a fancy university….just oy. Prose-poems are not going to get you anywhere, no matter how pretty they are, unless you went to Iowa State. And that made me sputter a bit. Because prose-poems…have no plot. AND HALF OF WRITING IS PLOT. Learning how to plot is the best skill you can give yourself. People don’t read Dan Brown for his stunning prose or characterization — they read him because of his effing plots. A good plot will hide a ton of other flaws. Prose poems don’t buy food or sell or anything really. A prose-poem never changed anyone’s life when they were eight, or saved someone, or taught them how they should be, showed them how they could hope. A prose poem will fuck your mother and then kick your dog on the way out the door is what I’m saying here, with all my inverse-pro-genre-snobby passion. Be a writer if you have to do it, but teach yourself through intensive, thoughtful reading and hours of actual practice. Don’t pay for four years of a degree for the privilege unless you utterly have to. Don’t just pick it out of the career lottery because it’s a degree that doesn’t involve math.
Anyhow. *ahem*. Bedtime now. Tomorrow, back in the saddle again.