The Writing Life: Struggling For a New Idea
- The Writing Life
- The Writing Life: The Beginning
- The Writing Life: Getting Down to Business
- The Writing Life: Lessons Learned
- The Writing Life: A New Millennium
- The Writing Life: A Blessing in Disguise
- The Writing Life: Finally!
- The Writing Life:”Darker” Days
- The Writing Life: Struggling For a New Idea
- The Writing Life: The Last Straw
- The Writing Life: Floundering
- The Writing Life: Opportunities and New Lessons Learned
- The Writing Life: Turning Point
- The Writing Life: Opening Doors
With the manuscript of “November Rust” in the hands of my friend, I began to get to work on this new idea that I had been toying around with. I had this vague idea about setting it in Barcelona but wasn’t quite sure what the story would be. At first, I thought about making it something of a “continuation” of the last one—a “sequel” of sorts, sort of following the Miller/Kerouac idea of creating this sort of fictional series of books, based on my experiences and fictionalizing others etc and concentrating on a “theme” in which to wrap the story around. At the time, that was my approach: to create fiction based around an idea. It would be much later on before I discovered that this was not the way to go but at the time, this was what I thought. So I considered revisiting some of the characters in the last book and moving the story “forward” in a sense, only this time concentrating on one single idea rather than the hodgepodge, out of control way the first book went. So I got to writing it…and found myself running into the same problems. I had initially written about 20 pages or so and discovered much to my dismay that it was basically looking exactly like the other one…as if I had just lopped off 20 pages from the “November Rust” and just continued on with a new title. Frustrated and seeing that I really didn’t have any idea at all to speak of (I only thought I did), I let it go for the time being. In other words, I scrapped these twenty pages and went back to the drawing board, forgetting the idea of making it a continuation. I had to come up with something else.
In the intervening months, I met up with my friend and discussed what she thought of the book. At first, it seemed to me that she didn’t like it at all but was unwilling to tell me. She hadn’t gotten that far into it, just a couple of pages, really. I told her that Iwanted her to tell me what she saw wrong with it. I wasn’t looking for her to tell me it was perfect because I knew it wasn’t. The idea was to get her to read it, then perhaps trimming it down even more. I told her, read the book, if you can get through it all, that is, and tell me what you find wrong with it, tell me what you find right with it and just be honest with me. Sparing me to not hurt my feelings wouldn’t help me, I explained. I desperately needed to hear criticism and told her not to lie to me and tell me it was “perfect”. She agreed to and went on with reading.
I continued with the poetry only now, since the small press scene was disintegrating at an alarming rate (many publishers were running out of money, or they were getting tired of doing it, or their lives moved on, many of the magazines that had taken my poems in the past were folding up, and it was getting very grim. It pretty much died out by this point, with the exception of a few brave souls willing to stick it out). Many of these journals were now becoming on-line ventures, which made sense. There’s no overhead at all, there’s no piles of unsold chapbooks and magazines lying around, etc etc. But now it was time to reach a little higher. I told myself that I wanted to try to get into the more prestigious journals out there. I figured I had enough poetry published in the small presses by this point that they would at least look at it. I stopped submitting to the small journals now, except for a few of them that I really liked and who were always good to me.
I stopped with the random approach and began to really look at what I had and where I was sending them. Like it or not, the bar was much higher now and a lot of these journals had standards that were much harder to reach than the underground scene. I had no illusions that it was going to be easy nor did I think I would get as many acceptances as I had previously. I wasn’t so naïve to think this way. The standards a journal like the Paris Review was going to be much higher than a magazine created in someone’s bedroom. So I really started to go through the poems, pulling out those I felt were my strongest and had the potential to get accepted. Still, I knew it was going to be a tough slog. Getting all those poems published in all these underground journals was great. It showed me that there were people out there who valued what I did. It gave me the encouragement to keep writing, despite the hundreds that turned them down. But now I wanted to venture into AA ball so to speak.
This is not a slight to all the wonderful journals that accepted me and many others since a lot of hard work and dedication went into them. They were labors of love by those who truly loved literature and felt it important enough to want to get it out there. But the reality was they were limited in scope and I had aspirations for something more, something with a wider reach. Poetry was one way to do this but even poetry in the more established journals were limited as well. The truth is, not many people read poetry these days and while it may be fine to establish yourself as a poet, you are only going to reach a certain amount of people with your writing. I was beginning to feel the stirrings of wanting something more and if my goal was to hopefully one day make a living writing, poetry is not the way to go. That’s just the reality of it. Unless you get very lucky but there is only one Bukowski or one Ginsberg for the thousands of others who try to do what they did.
The one way to reach this goal was writing fiction, I surmised. I wanted to be a novelist anyway, not a poet, ultimately. This would mean I would have to write something really good, something that would appeal to the widest number of people as possible; and I didn’t want to write genre fiction either. Not that it’s easy to break in doing that but I wanted to write more “literary” type books, meaning, something with a good story, something that would make people think, something that people would read and say, “yeah, that was really good.” I was a long way off but I was determined to try. So I went back to work on my new idea, this time trying a different approach, while I waited for my “audience of one” to finish reading my first novel.
I had a lot of work to do.
(To be continued…)
Tags: Barcelona, continuation, dismay, drawing board, experiences, fictional series, hodgepodge, kerouac, manuscript, rust, sequel, sorts, vague idea