2.03.2015

Writers Are From Mars, Novels Are From Venus: An Author's Dysfunctional Relationship with Her Own Books

First of all, I got this idea from the great Chuck Wendig, who recently (and hilariously) detailed his emotional milestones of novel writing. I could relate to several stages of his experience (Old Man Lost in a Mall, yes yes yes) and decided that since I have just finished a thorough colon cleansing and restructuring on the book currently with my agent, I was in a good place to relive own experience here.

After finishing eight novels, I've come more and more to see the experience as a very strange, messy, but ultimately gorgeous relationship. One of those May-December things that leaves you wrecked but eager for more, because like most writers, you're clearly a masochistic headcase who will never be satisfied.

What I've also discovered is whether the novel in question is 50,000 words or 100,000, the stages of the relationship are the same. They're just condensed. Of course the benefit of recognizing these stages is that you can anticipate them to some degree and hopefully devise strategies to work through them. Or, realistically, just repeat history because as John Cougar Mellencamp once told us, sometimes love don't feel like it should.

In fact, it hurts so good.

So let's tour this screaming vomit comet of love, shall we?


Stage 1: Checking out the Idea's Ass

You may be sitting by your lonesome, but chances are you already have your head tangled up in another story when a hot piece of literary sex meat walks in. Promising yourself not to get too eager, you just give it a good once over, imagining yourself in various compromising positions with it. Is it relationship material? Maybe it can be incorporated into an existing scenario if the idea's into that sort thing. Or perhaps it's just short story fodder, something you tuck away for those occasions where you just want a short fling.

But say this particular idea can't be ignored. The chemistry is that intense, even from across the room. You amble over and start talking and discover all the things you have in common and the great ways you would fit together. The idea makes you laugh, think, and feel good about your ability to attract really good looking concepts. You decide you're going to ask it out. (Tip: if you happen to be canoodling with another idea, you may want to finish that fling first before moving on to the next one. At the very least, get the new idea's phone number and promise you'll call just as soon as you're free).

Stage 2: That Awkward First Date Kiss and Grope

You've finally decided to let the idea court you, and things get off to a nice start. It produces promising gifts right away, and the conversation flows remarkably well. You're still not sure where exactly things are heading just yet, and there are a few tiny awkward moments as you get a sense of one another, but you've already decided you would like to continue seeing the idea, and you just hope those few awkward moments don't scare it away.


Stage 3: Let's Go Steady

By this point, you're going pretty hot and heavy. You only see the good things in one another, and the makeout sessions are mind-blowing, such that you're telling yourself this may be the Best Idea You've Ever Had. Even if you said the same thing to the last idea and the one before, you're pretty sure that while those other ideas were indeed great, this idea is The One. In fact, if the idea asked you to marry it and spawn a bunch of baby ideas, you would immediately say yes.

Stage 4: First Real Fight

You love the idea and all, but the idea stood you up one night, and when it finally showed up, it wasn't really saying much. At first, you tried to play it cool, but then it happened again, and you realize it's totally disrespecting the commitment you've made. The fight finally happens, and there are a few tense moments where you ask if maybe you moved a little too fast, but ultimately you decide the idea is worth saving, and maybe you're not so perfect either. You've been down this road before, and you still want to move forward, even if the stars have faded from your eyes a bit.


Stage 5: The Idea Farts in Front of You Now

It was inevitable. You've been together awhile, and comfortable with each other's company. Perhaps a little too comfortable. Does it have to rip one just as you're settling down for a night of fun? The stench is so overwhelming sometimes you can't even focus on the good parts of the idea anymore, and it doesn't even excuse itself. Did this idea always have such bad manners? You tell yourself if you'd known that from the beginning, you might have thought twice about bringing it home. But you've been together long enough that it would be stupid to just end everything now. It's just a phase, you tell yourself. Just a phase.

Stage 6: Passive-Aggressive Bliss; No Really, I'm Fine

Except you're not fine. The mask has come off the idea and now you can only see its shortcomings. Never mind that you've now had several babies with the idea and you've put in so much work. You're nearly halfway to fruition, and it all feels so pointless now. This wasn't what you signed up for, but this seems to happen every. single. time.

Stage 7: Maybe We Should Have an Open Relationship

You and the idea still like each other, but maybe the problem is one of exclusivity. It feels like ages since you've checked out anything new. A little bit of strange is all you need. You promise the idea you'll still come home to it every night, though. Don't worry, you say. It's just a phase. So you start dabbling with other ideas again, and a couple shiny ones catch your eye.

(it's at this point, most people and their ideas go their separate ways, even if they can take months or years to actually admit it, because you still sometimes send flirty texts back and forth and make plans to get together, though they always fall through at the last second).

Stage 8: Okay Goddammit, Let's Work On This

You wake up one morning after a very naughty dream with your main idea, and you realize maybe you were just going through a rough period and pushing it away because you were feeling insecure and unworthy of it. After a tense conversation where you lay it all on the line, you both agree this thing is too good to let go to waste. You've made beautiful prose together before, and dammit, you can see this thing through. The makeup sex is phenomenal.

Stage 9: Let's Take Acid and Elope Yesterday

Pure bliss has been achieved. You've never felt so euphoric and certain of your destiny. It could be because you've been up for the last 72 hours and you've had enough coffee to split atoms with your mind. But you and the idea are so fixated on one another you wouldn't know how to quit if you tried. At the height of your brain-crackling frenzy, the two of you decide to strike west, get married, and seal the deal on this sucker once and for all. Don't plan. Don't think. JUST SAY I DO AND WORRY ABOUT THE REST LATER.


Stage 10: Until Death, For Better or For Worse

You don't even remember the wedding, because you were so blitzed out of your mind. It came and went and now the ring is on your finger. The idea is part of your life forever, which is both scary and awesome and also scary, in case you weren't sure the first time. You look over at your newest life partner, so unique and flawed--a perfect reflection of you, and as special as all the others you've had. Perhaps even better in some ways, because you realize the more you go through this, the better at it you get. Of course, like every relationship, it's still a work in progress. You'll have to work on a lot of issues still, and there will probably be a lot more drama and push and pull in store. But if you're doing it right, you'll soon discover, as you always do, that you're making each other better, and that's the point of this whole exercise.

But your search for more ideas isn't done. What, you thought this was monogamy for life? Yeah right. It's time to shower, fix yourself up, and get back out there again. The Best Idea Ever of All Time is out there somewhere, and it's waiting just for you. Don't let another moment go to waste.

You whore.

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