Monthly Archives: November 2010
I was up at 3 a.m. as usual and trying to think up an interesting blog post. I had the BBC on the radio when I heard “A Somali-born US teenager is arrested in the state of Oregon after allegedly plotting to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.”
This was in Portland. I drove by the Christmas tree in Pioneer Courthouse Square Thursday with family members. I drove by his site Friday, en route to a meeting with lawmakers to talk about post-secondary education governance. We had sandwiches. A couple of blocks away, someone planned a terrorist strike.
This is the world we live in.
There’s nothing more agonizing then writing a truly terrific line in your novel, and then, later, realizing you lifted it.
In the first draft of my as-yet-unnamed third thriller, I wanted to convey that a CIA covert operation went very, very poorly. I was looking to take an existing cliché (“the wheels fell off”… “it went south” … ) and turn it on its ear. What I ended up with is, “the operation went to hell in a speedboat.”
Excellent. Clean, fun, turns a cliché on its ear. I loved it.
Then I rewatched the pilot of Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and there’s the character Jordan McDeere saying, “…America is going to hell in a speedboat.”
I couldn’t believe it.
I had subconsciously lifted a line from one of the great dialog writers in all of Hollywood. (Hey, if you’re stealing, why steal from a hack?) Naturally, the line had to be exorcised from my manuscript.
It’s a problem. I store great bits of dialog somewhere in what passes for my brain. When I write a real gem, I have to ask myself: Is that you being a good writer? Or you hacking up Joss Whedon or Quentin Tarantino?
The great cliché is to be thankful for something at Thanksgiving. Let me do my part to feed this monstrosity.
I’m at home today working on the sequel to my novel. Which, compared to, say, planting landmines or performing large-animal necropsies, is nice work if you can get it. My girlfriend is at home today working on the first draft of her novel. She’s entering Act III and can see the light at end of the tunnel. (The two best words in any novelist’s twisted brain are “…the end.”)
We’ll get together later today, but this morning? We’re slogging through our novels.
Nice work if you can get it.
Beautiful sunrise a few hours ago, all pinks and lavenders. I was on the same paragraph of the sequel then as now.
Edits at this level can be like an archeological excavation, using little whiskbrooms rather than a backhoe. Where I can bust out five to seven pages of a first draft, line editing can be excruciatingly taxing and slow.
It’s not the editor’s fault. If his suggestions were bad, I could race through them by ignoring them or arguing that my way was better. No, alas, his suggestions are really good.
I keep hearing the Sondheim lyric running through my head. “Bit by bit, putting it together…”
This must be what Clark Kent feels like.
Except, you know, without the cape.
Having two jobs can be bittersweet. At 4:45 a.m. today, Tuesday, my boss calls me to say icy conditions means we are delaying the opening of all campuses and centers for Portland Community College until 10 a.m. I get up, post the news on the system that feeds the local TV, radio and newspaper outlets, then post it on our PCC home page and the internal intranet site. Finally, I send out an e-mail to all staff and faculty.
Done. Now, do I go back to bed like a sane boy?
No, I switch to my other job, plus caffeine, and get to work on the edits for the sequel to “Crashers,” thinking, “Woo hoo! That’s a minimum of four hours of writing time today!”
Say, Jimmy, have you seen Clark?… Why, no, Miss Lane. Just that shambling, unshaven editing-thing over there….