Your Only Goal Is To Get Out Alive
Man, I forgot what it’s like to be hip-deep in a novel.
Here’s what writing a novel’s like for me:
It’s a fucking gauntlet.
You start here, on this green circle, and you run all the way over there to that red ‘X.’
It’s like, mmm, a two-to-ten mile trip.
And the whole way, you’re going to get your ass beat. You’ll face ninjas with cricket bats. Big dudes will chuck rocks at your head and balls. Badgers will try to eat your feet. From all sides come fists and Frisbees and flying rodents, and they all want a piece of your misery.
Your only goal is to get to the X. That’s it. You’re not trying to make the best time. You’re not trying to run the gauntlet with finesse. No goddamn tricky dance moves. No judges wait in the wings to hold up score cards. This is not a test of your ability. That comes later. Now is a test of your endurance.
How much can you endure?
You want to just lay down. You just want to rest your tender throbbing head down on a stone and let them pummel your dumb fool ass into sweet blood-pulp oblivion.
The only thing you can and should hope for is that you make it through the gauntlet alive. You have to, day after day, keep picking up your face — which by now looks like a garbage bag filled with condoms and rusty water after it was run through the gastrointestinal tract of a fucking rhinoceros — and leveling your eye on the prize way off in the distance…
The X, the X, always the X.
Run, fucker, run.
Through the gauntlet. Through the haunted house. Down past the nightmare. Through the crowds of grabbing hands and angry shouts. Feet in the mire. Rain in your eyes.
What you soon realize is that all your training and all the stuff you hold important about the craft is basically out-of-sight: you can’t stop and think about that shit when a Viking berserker’s trying to whack your brains out with an axe handle. What you hope is true that you’ve internalized it, that when you go back and read the things you wrote after you touchdown on that life-saving red X you don’t find a mish-mash of nonsense, like some insane aphasia manifesto, some gibbering garbagey gobbledygook. You pray that what waits on the page is something cogent, something sensible, and something that maybe kinda sorta resembles the things you once learned.
But that, that is a good thing. You don’t want to stop and think about it. You stop and think, you ruin it. You’ll look over it and say, “I hate this. I hate me. I’m not [insert awesome writer] here. I’m as worthless as a short-sleeved straitjacket. I’m low like a worm. Hit me again, ninja-with-cricket-bat. Hit me again because gosh and golly I jolly well fucking deserve it.”
You don’t stop to think because that’s when the fear catches up to you.
And fear is, as we know, the mind-killer.
So you keep on running because the badgers and the Vikings, the bruises and the ruptured organs, they’re all better than the fear that hunts you, the fear with the gnashing teeth, the fear with the gnarly fur.
You just want to make it to the X.
You just want to get out alive.
(At least, that’s the first draft.)
(Let’s not even talk about the second draft, shall we? Remember. No stopping to think, tsk tsk tsk.)
So, that’s where I’m at. Head down, running for the X, hoping to get out of this book alive.
And loving it all the way.
Howzabout you crazy kids? Sound off. Status updates, pronto. What’s everybody working on? I don’t want to feel alone out here. Let’s all gather around the campfire (or water cooler if you’d prefer something a wee smidge more pedestrian). Gimme the news. Whatchoo got going on? Projects, process, progress.