Friday, February 06, 2009

A Teaser

While grateful for the immense amount I learned about writing from agents and their feedback and friends and their feedback, I finally got to a point where constantly re-writing my book to other people's specifications wasn't fun anymore. In fact, while it did make my book better, somewhere along the lines I lost the joy and the freedom that writing for myself brought me.

It was supposed to be fun. When I started out, with absolutely no knowledge of 'how to write', I found it deliciously joyful to be able to put in anything I wanted, and take the characters wherever I pleased, without restraint and without worry.

I needed that back. I needed the freedom and joy from writing--it was my therapy and my drug of choice, the thing that made being a mommy easier enough that I could do it happily. I needed to be able to write the way some people read 'junk' books (which is exactly what I aspire to write--good old fashioned escape fiction)--with abandon, and without getting all tied up in the themes and character development, beautiful word choice, or literariness of it all. I don't want to worry about if it's good, or even good enough, or marketable, or who the audience is.

The audience is me. The writing is good enough for me, so it's good.

Writing is supposed to be fun, you know?

So I've taken it back. I am, for now, going back to being a recreational writer.

And what am I going to do about that? Something that seems to run counter to my intention to make writing an entirely selfish activity. I'm going to 'publish' here the first chapter of my current work in progress, a retelling of a 16th century Irish Arthurian Legend as a contemporary mystery. Why am I sharing this?


Imagine you have just baked the most excellent cake ever. What do you do?

Do you call the food critics? Or send it to the author of the cook book? Or ask people to give you detailed feedback on the frosting technique you should have used (or did use) or the amount of vanilla or if a different filling would have been better or ask for a detailed analysis of the crumb of the cake?

You could do all those things, and you'd learn a lot, but it would be an educational experience, like taking a cakemaking class. But you're not in a class. You are just someone who enjoys baking, and this cake pleased you.

So what do you do?

If you are anything like me, the first thing you do is you make your husband taste it, even if he's sworn off sugar. And you dish it out to the kids, or take it to share with the family home evening group, or call your sister and get her over for cake and ice cream "because it's Thursday" (as Winnie the Pooh said). Or you put your recipe on your blog.

I'm a recreational baker. Taste my cake?

Chapter 1

Melora rushed over to the fallen man. He looked like an old-fashioned gumshoe, complete with khaki trench coat and black fedora, which was still pulled down over one eye despite the fact that he was lying on his back in a mud puddle. Both hands were tucked into his coat.

“Are you okay?” she said as she dropped to her knees beside him in the alley.

“Rosebud,” the man said.

“My name is Melora,” she replied.

“No, ROSEBUD,” the man said, looking her in the eye. He reached one bloody hand out of his coat and grabbed her new white T-shirt.

“Stained!” Despite all the years she’d been on her own, she could still hear her mother’s voice on all matters housekeeping-related. “Don’t even tell me how you got a bloody hand print on your new shirt!” the phantom mother scolded.

“Rosebud,” the man said again, laying his head back onto the ground.

“What is this, The Maltese Falcon or something?” Melora said, leaning over and looking into the man’s rugged face. He looked like every high-school football coach she’d ever seen.

“No,” the man gasped. He spit blood onto the ground beside her.

Great, she thought. There go my new jeans, too.

“No,” the man said again. He struggled to get his other hand out of his coat. “This is the Maltese Falcon.” He pushed the bird into her hands.

Melora took the black bird. It was about the size of a football and heavy.

“Hurry,” the man said, coughing again. “Take it and get out of here before Asia catches up to me.”

Suddenly afraid, Melora clutched the bird to her chest with one hand and, dialing 911 on her cell with the other, she ran across the street into the library.