This shall be the culmination of this month’s Penmonkey Boot Camp, wherein I take a more, erm, “aggro” tone with you fine young upstarts. This post in particular is juicy with NSFW-isms, and may in fact be NSFL, or “Not Safe For Life.” Those with frail constitutions, weakened aortic walls, or little wormy egos in pink Barbie dresses should probably just skip this and go somewhere to glumly masturbate. If you find yourself offended during this post, I apologize. Please see me after class, I will hand you a Xanax.
I’d like to thank you for coming today.
It doesn’t really matter why you’re here. Could be that you find my dubious writing advice somehow useful (“He just told me that writers write! Genius!”). Could be that, instead, you find me a hateful little gnome and want to know if I’m secretly planting conspiratorial codes about you into my work (“This whole blog post is a ROT13 cipher about my weird nipples!”). Maybe you just like watching me body slam the plexiglass walls of my enclosure and leave poopy handprints everywhere (“I think that one looks like a turkey”).
The point I’d like to make today is that, holy shit, I really enjoy yelling at you guys. It just gives me a total boner. And I don’t mean a real boner. I mean a — oh, hell with it, yes, I mean a real boner. A good firm — grr! — baby’s arm kind of erection, you know? With a little fist on the end you can use to punch out goblins.
I enjoy yelling at you in part because it’s also me yelling at me, and that is also one of my favorite pastimes. I figure I’ve got a lot to learn yet about This Thing That I Do With The Pen And The Ink And The Storytelling and I learn best through hateful booze-soaked tirades against myself and others.
Oh, did I mention I’ll be drinking during this post?
I’ll totally be drinking during this post.
At the moment, the drink of choice is Basil Hayden’s Bourbon.
If I were singing a song I’d say, “sing along,” but instead I’ll pause and also ask you to pause and say — hey, go get a drink. Drink along with me. Won’t you join me? Do it. Yes. Nice.
Good? Got a cup of the ol’ sauce in hand? Right on.
Think of this like a Gallagher show. Get a tarp or a rain-slicker or steal a fucking sneeze-guard from the salad bar at Wendy’s (preferably one speckled with minimal phlegm-flecks). Beware my froth.
Now — hold still while I yell at you, goddamnit.
Stop Cheating On Your Manuscript With New Ideas!
What a word-slut you are. There, on the desk, is that sad lonely manuscript. And what are you doing? You’re out behind the shed, cornholing some new idea, bending over some pretty young thing with big “characters” and pointy “plot points.” You adulterous whore-badger. Listen, I get it. The one thing that really feels like it can derail a novel is the wandering eye of other awesome ideas. But you better learn how to deal with that. That is, in part, what writers are. We’re idea antennae, constantly receiving insane frequencies from beyond the margins of our brain. If you can’t manage that noise, you’re fucked. Stop acting like a hyper-sensitive spider-monkey with fetal alcohol syndrome. Calm down. Manage your new ideas. Your ideas won’t amount to a hill of beans if you can’t take one and drive it like a herd of cattle toward execution. Shelve new awesome ideas. Marry the manuscript, and divorce it only when it’s yielded to your marital creative power. New ideas, take them out of your brain, write down some notes, stick them in a jar and pop them on a shelf. Now write the thing you were supposed to write.
Stop Slagging On Editors Or Agents, Cock-Waffle
Editors? Rule. Agents? Rock. Fuck the narrative that says they’re part of big publishing and they don’t care and blah-de-blah-de-blippity-bloopy-bloo. (Too much with the hyphens? Too bad! Ha ha! Bourbon!) You may have some gnawing scarab stuffed up your ass about gatekeepers, but seriously, grow up. I’m happy if you take the indie path, but editors and agents are not your enemies. They’re good at what they do. Moreover, given the state of the industry it’s not like they’re doing this so they can finally afford their own personal robotic colonic technicians. They do it because they care. Because they love it. They’re in this for the same reason you are: because they really like books. Yes, yes, fine, the world is home to some shitty agents and editors. They’re the exception, not the rule. End of story.
Of Course You Suck, We All Do, Get Over It Already
I don’t care that you think you suck or you’re having trouble writing or gosh this manuscript is haaaard. Shush up, Nancy. I know you suck. I suck, too, a lot of the time. But I don’t want to talk about it, and I damn sure don’t want to hear about it. Be a fountain. Not a drain. Or some other twee cliche bull-snot. Be positive. Be awesome. Own your role as storyteller. Stop sniveling. Do the task at hand. Your purported suck-fest doesn’t make for compelling reading. And you know what? Writing’s not even that hard. You know what’s hard? Kidney stones. You know what else is hard? Being born in oppressive country where the people have no food and no freedom. You know what’s really hard? My bulletproof abs. Okay, shut up about my abs. I know they have the firmness of a bean-bag pounded to a pulp by a ceaseless parade of dry-humping college students. You keep quiet. My point is, writers get the glorious chance to constantly rewrite. You have the ability to forever up your game. You’re telling stories. It’s pure. Perfect. Weird. Wonderful. Stop complaining about it or I will choke you with a sock full of your own teeth.
Shut Up, It’s Okay That We Talk About Writing
Writers are going to talk about writing. Get over it. Nobody said you had to read it. Nobody said you had to pay any attention at all. But I’m tired of the narrative that writers shouldn’t talk about writing. Listen, writing? Publishing? It’s some crazy shit. And we’re all crazy for doing it. If some of us don’t think about it or talk about it? Our skulls will rupture and monkey-demons (or demon-monkeys, I gotta be honest, I was never clear on this point) will escape. You don’t want that to happen, do you? Hell, you ever hear the phrase “talk shop?” This is that. What’s next? “Hey, teachers, stop talking about teaching. In fact, just stop teaching, teacher. It’s like that band says, leave those kids alone.” Every job I’ve been at, you know what they talk about? The job! Because it’s fucking relevant! Fnuh! Bbbt! See what you made me do? Now I’m just typing sounds. I’m not even making the sounds. I’m typing them. That’s the first sign of clinical insanity. I’m going to be over here still talking about writing sometimes. Don’t like it? Here’s my butt pucker. You can give it a little smoochy kiss and then hit the door. HA HA HA THAT’S NOT A DOOR IT’S A GREAT WHITE SHARK YOU JUST GOT SERVED
And Sweet Motherless Goat, Writers Are Cranky
YOU CAN’T SAY ANYTHING oh — damn, caps lock still on. Ahem. You can’t say anything anymore to other writers without someone getting their nipples into knots. You talk about traditional publishing, self-publishing, price, character, content, review, platform, and somebody out there is going to hike on the ol’ cranky-pants and cinch the drawstring good and tight. Mention something, anything about writing or the industry and somewhere a writer is quaking with inchoate rage or sudden venomous snark. What happened to having a reasonable response? It’s no longer, “Hello, I do not agree with you and here’s why,” but rather becomes “HOLY SHIT WHAT DID YOU SAY ABOUT MY MOTHER? No, no, I see what’s happening here, you said that thing about how science-fiction should be considered as important as literary fiction but what I heard was, your mother fucks hoboes on CSPAN.” Hell, haven’t you read the news? You say the wrong thing, something called a “YA Mafia” will hunt you down, shit in your mouth, then write nasty teen novellas about you. Holy crap, writers get so mad about stuff! Why are we so mad? What is wrong with us? Is there something wrong with our adrenal glands? Does writing cause mood cancer? Everybody, just chill. Yesterday in baby class they taught us soothing noises, and apparently that means I get in your ear and go SHUHHHHSHHHHHH SHHHHHHHH PSHHHHHHH FSSHHHHSHSHHHHHH. So. Imagine I’m doing that. Feel better? Of course you do. I am… the Penmonkey Whisperererer.
OMG YOU GUYS BOURBON
This bourbon — Bourbon? Capitalized? — is delicious. I was always a Scotch guy, you know? But, mmm. Bourbon is nipping at Scotch’s tartan heels, it is. You know what else is awesome? Bluecoat Gin. Best gin I’ve ever had. And it’s not only American, but it’s Pennsylvanian, and we do shit right in Pennsylvania. Hello? Soft pretzels? Cheesesteaks? Yuengling? The Amish? Hatred? We’re good at so much. Yesterday, the makers of Bluecoat, Philadelphia Distilling, sent me a box full of goodies. Big bottle of gin? Little bottle of gin? Little bottles of vodka and absinthe? And a hat? Yes to all of the above. Thanks to them for sending a writer alcohol. Smart move. Customer loyalty, earned.
Commerce Is Not A Dirty Word
Writing for me is a business. It doesn’t have to be for you. I don’t care. You can write My Little Pony fanfic for all of eternity — and, if my vision of Hell is accurate, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. I need to make money with my writing. If I don’t, I cannot feed myself, my wife, and my upcoming spawn, then I will have to stop writing. So, it’s something I need to think about. And talk about. It’s not a dirty word. Try to make me or any other writer feel like a shit-heel for having to earn out and I will collapse your trachea with a broom-handle. In fact, let’s get shut of a whole bushel basket of dirty words — social media, self-pub, pantser, plotter, theme, fuckface, literary, young adult… wait, wuzzat? “Fuckface” is a dirty word? Are you sure? Says you. Pfft. Pssh! Whatever. Point is, just because you don’t dig on something or don’t consider it important doesn’t mean that other people don’t. You’re allowed to not dig on it. Just don’t be a fuckface about it. Now go back to stroking your My Little Ponies. IN HELL. (See? Cranky! Bourbon!)
That Greek Semen Lady Isn’t An Emblem Of Anything
(Sorry, what? It’s Greek Seaman? Is there a difference? Oh. Oh! There is? Really? I always thought my little man-seeds were actually tiny ocean divers. With the big bell-helmets? I had biology all wrong. What were we talking about again? Oh! Oh, right. Crazy author lady.) The other day, some cranky froth-badger got on the Internet (first mistake) and responded to a somewhat negative review of her self-published novel (second mistake), and then kept on responding (third, fourth, fifth, etc. mistake). The post — found here, if you care — went viral pretty fast among writers, publishers, and editors. The narrative that resulted initially was, “This is how not to act like a professional writer,” but then morphed into something about self-published authors. No! No. The Greek Semen lady isn’t an emblem of anything but total farking space-bats who get on the Internet and act like, well, total farking space-bats. “But this is why I don’t trust self-published writers!” No, this is why you don’t trust lunatics. Plenty of self-published writers act like very nice, generally sane folk. And plenty of “traditionally-published” authors have gotten on the Internet (first mistake) and ranted at reviewers or said stupid shit or made asses out of themselves. This lady isn’t a standard-bearer for anything but unprofessional whackaloons. She doesn’t deserve your heaps of scorn, nor does she deserve this much attention. Stop rubbernecking and move on.
Thinking About Publishing Is Like Having A Brain Parasite
We think too much about publishing. And it’ll drive you nuts. (Actually, that might explain why so many of us writers are cranky.) Seriously. You gaze into the abyss, and that abyss not only gazes back, it’ll flick a lit cigarette in your eye. “Oh my god, advances are down. I have to write a query letter. What are the royalties on e-books again? Borders is closing? Barnes and Noble stock is down? I could self-publish! I could make some cover art with dried pasts and Elmer’s glue. What are the trends? Young adult paranormal dystopian giraffe porn? Vampiric zombie dieselpunk middle-grade romance? Will Oprah like my book? Why is my mouth filled with blood? OH MY GOD I BIT MY TONGUE OFF.” Guess what? All this publishing crap doesn’t matter. I mean, okay, it matters, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay a little attention. But a lot of the time, it’s like watching the news. You can’t personally do a lot about what you see on the news. Same with publishing. Books aren’t going extinct. So write one. If it’s good, it’ll have a place to land. But not if your head explodes from thinking too hard about publishing trends, first. Which leads me to…
For God’s Sake, Shut The Hell Up And Write Already
Your task is to write.
Write! Write write write write write. Write every day. Write until your heart flops out onto the desk like a bloody catfish and thrashes around, squirting your creative blood all over the wallpaper.
The only way through is to write.
Learn how to write better. Then write some more.
And keep on writing until you explode and die.
And there you go. A super-soaker full of my unfocused rage, sprayed in your face like projectile vomit. If you feel so inclined and are equally full up of such wanton and incalculable vigor, stomp on down into the comments and leave your own
deposit of weasel scat rambling pejoratives about writers and writing.
Again, should you find yourself offended, I’d casually remind you that I am including myself as a target of my own sputtering spit-up because I’ve done most of this shit once upon a time.
If you remain offended, then you can now have your Xanax.
This way to the great egress.
*drops mic, walks off stage, falls into the orchestra pit, dies*