Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thank You Andre Dubus III

Here is a fun story for you. Quite a few years back we were up at a friends on Cape Cod. It was late, probably around 12:30-1am, and I was reading what is now one of my favorite books, "The House of Sand and Fog". As I reached a pivotal scene, I gasped and jerked my hand and slapped my husband in the arm since I could not scream. He woke up, none too pleased, but I was still riveted and began to babble at him for twenty minutes.
That poor man.
I did see the movie, but like most interpretations, while it was good, the book's impact was far greater and haunts me, still.
Odd thing is, I have never picked up another thing by the author, Andre Dubus III, and I should. I read a recent piece of his in The Atlantic and it had such an effect on me that I read parts of it out loud to my husband. (There was no arm slapping this time.) Seriously, even if you do not write, you should read the article.
The Case for Writing a Story Before Knowing How It Ends

I do most of what he talks about. I can't outline. I have tried. It is not my gig. I am better off planning some of it and then winging it. But listen, Andre and I? We have a similar process. Do you hear me?
I AM LIKE ANDRE DUBUS III. (Small piece of trivia. I went to Bradford College for two years and left before his father, the author, Andre Dubus, taught there. Freaky.)
Okay, you laugh, but when you have very little training in a tough field you question your right to belong. He made me see I do belong.
Or at least I have the right to crash the party. ;)
The one thing he recommends it is walking away from a written story for six months or longer. So when you go back to revise it you see it in a whole new light. I cringed a little at that because that feeds into my biggest fear. What is that you ask? My biggest fear is that someone else will write the same story and get it out there before I do. And then what? Do I still continue? Do I work on something else and then return once the hoopla of the other novel dies away? If there is hoopla of course.
There is no doubt in my mind that someone out there was working on a very similar story about vampires before Stephenie Meyer and Twilight came along. I cannot imagine what that person went through. All that hard work and now they are holed up in a closet somewhere. Or they cashed in on the craze, their book lost among the many in the same genre. I don't knock them. I understand. The hopes that your book will stand out among the hundreds that the publishers grabbed to cash in on the craze.
All it took for me was a Google search to see if there are any books dealing with the same subject matter. There are, but they do not deal with it in the same manner. This eases me, but only a little. Imaginations run wild and sometimes they cross and run parallel. None of us reinvent the wheel. We just find different ways to make it squeak or run smooth.
Maybe it is irrational to worry.
But every day that I cannot get any writing done is another day that I despair. I despair that my characters will lose their voice, lose who they are and I lose the plot and the desire. Drama. Writers have it in spades.
Then I read Mr. Dubus' article and really listened and I was transformed. I know my story. I know who they are and I will not lose a damn thing. I will improve it and gut it and listen to the characters and hear them. The delay will not harm nor hinder, it will enhance. Hell, it has already has as I have made the most radical changes when I was unable to write. I would be doing some mundane chore or be at the gym and BAM!! A major plot point gets added or resolved. That God for smart phones and their voice recorders! And as for the "what if someone else writes it first?" So what? So what? Let them tell their story. Mine can hold its own. It is funny, it is awesome and it is interesting.
I don't really care if Hollywood knocks or I become a millionaire. (Though it would be nice, it is not a requirement of why I do this.) At the end of the day, I just want to tell you all a story. And I want it to inspire you to smack someone in the arm at 1am.


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