Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Failure of the Day: Lesson

You know what’s hard? Re-writing your novel. You know what’s impossible? Re-writing your novel in a rush. While you have your period and are so hormonal that you are moved to tears by how much you love diet orange soda.

Such was my state last week, leading up to the reading on Friday night. By 7 PM Thursday, I had edited the chapter I was planning to read down to pretty much one single sentence, and I suspected that one had to go, too. I was in trouble.

Chris had Thursday off work and had spent the whole day happily cleaning, so I felt bad about interrupting the ritual of the Dusting of the Action Figures. But it had to be done. I dragged him into my room and sat him down in front of what was left of chapter 18. “Tell me how to fix it!” I shouted.

He read it and told me gently that he thought it was very good but that it seemed not quite done and so maybe not the best choice, and anyway, maybe trying to edit in my, uh, fragile state was not the best idea in the world, and he recalled that chapter 1 was good so why didn’t I just read that one? I rejected that idea out of hand. I mentioned chapter 12—the best-written chapter, I think—and chapter 15 is my current favorite. 12 is the spinal tap and 15 is the emotional core of the book. He suggested that maybe those are not the most appropriate for a room full of people happily munching on all-you-can-eat pizza.

This was turning into a disaster. The chapters I wanted to read were wrong for the venue and the chapters that were good for the venue were not ready to be read. Chris pulled up chapter 1 on my computer, read it, and said I should read that one. Totally defeated, I said fine, whatever.

I had a really good time at the reading. It was awfully nice to see everyone again, and about 60 people came out so it was quite a good little fund-raiser. People seemed to like chapter 1; I got compliments from strangers and those are the only ones I tend to believe so that’s always nice. To top it all off, Jenny offered to publish the book on Manic D when I’m done with it. Holy Majoley! I’m a novelist.

The lesson of the week is: Don’t argue with Chris. When he says chapter 1, read chapter 1.


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