Thursday, June 4, 2015

the novel novel.

you know when you're little and an adult crouches down and asks you what you want to be when you grow up?

most of the time you're like A PRINCESS! or A FIREFIGHTER!

i was the firefigher person.

i'm very afraid of fire. this hasn't worked out well for me vocationally.

about the time i was five, i told grown ups that i wanted to be an author. i wrote my first little picture when i was five. it was called see spot run. (i do think this is slightly ironic because my first poem was published in a magazine called see spot run.)

now that i'm technically an adult and most people just ask me what my job is, i tell them that i'm an administrative assistant at a really cool ballet school.

adultier adult: is that what you want to do with the rest of your life?
me: probs not.
adultier adult: what's your dream job?
me: author.

when i was a little kid, i just assumed that whatever i wrote could get published. now i'm a lot older and wordlier and i understand that getting published is actually really effin' hard. and it's very discouraging.

kind of like:

dr. vivian, one of my favourite english professors, helped me write my senior thesis, which was a novel. he told me that before he had his doctorate, he was working as a janitor and writing in his spare time. he decorated his walls with rejection letters.

i have a large fear of rejection. i don't think i'm at the point where i can even submit something out of fear of rejection, let alone decorate my walls with all of the rejection letters.

i'm not that badass yet.

over the years, i've written a lot. i've finished about fifteen full length novels and have probably close to forty unfinished ones. i wrote my first full novel when i was twelve.


my freshman year of high school, after spending middle school writing mediocre novels that should probably be thrown into the sun, i had a great idea for a book. like, a SUPER GREAT IDEA.

i threw myself into it. stayed up until two in the morning. neglected my homework. thought about it constantly when i wasn't working on it.

i have never thrown myself into a book the way that i threw myself into this one.

i named it "come on aileen", which was only partly after the song. it was mostly because the main character, a seventeen year old girl named aileen, was told by every single character in the book at least once, "come ON, aileen!"

aileen is one of those chronically late people.

334 pages in four months. i had never been more proud of anything in my life. here was a novel that i liked and that i could publish! yaaaaaas!

about eight months later i went back to reread it, and like i do with everything i ever write, i hated. i did some basic editing for punctuation and grammar and missing words, but not much content editing. then i left it alone and refused to speak of it again.

... guess who found it the other day.

temporarily taking a break from my daredevil netflix binging, i opened up come on aileen. i had it password protected and i still remembered the password.

and i sat down and read the whole thing.


i have always been my hardest critic. but the fact remained that i was fifteen when i wrote it and after having written countless more novels and having obtained an english degree in literature and creative writing, i've slightly honed my craft.

i read the whole thing and cringed. i changed some stuff. i laughed a lot at the absurdity of how i had written it. and i figured that there was nothing to be done, this was just going to be a fun relic from 2006 when all of my characters had flip phones. (they were so cool!)

but then i really thought about it. aileen, my main character, has been one of my favourite characters. her brother, kip, whom i have blogged about before, has been my ultimate favourite character that i have ever written. i liked him enough that i wrote a sequel from his perspective that's even worse than come on aileen.

they were good characters. they were in a good story.

they deserved a better book.

i sat in my chair, staring at the open book and thinking about the implications of rewriting this book.

1. i've never rewritten a book before.
2. do i even have time to do this?
4. technology has advanced soooooo much and i should probably like, account for that.

after four hours of crippling indecision i opened up a blank word document and went for it.

come on aileen, take two.

i set to work immediately. i have a habit of listening to one song over and over while i write a novel. originally, come on aileen was written to "painted by numbers" by the sounds, a swedish band. i made a playlist of just that song, cracked my knuckles, and went to work.

then i realised that i actually like, really hated that song? and it was like, super weird deja vu that i just couldn't shake. it creeped me out.

my mind was like, "omg i've written this before. why is this different. wait. i'm in a different house. this is a different song. WHAT IS HAPPENING. you're just rewriting a book. it's fine. OH MY GOD I'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE STAHP."

besides, my new version didn't have the feel of the sounds. i'm currently writing it to "tompkins square park" by mumford and sons.

i dove in as deeply as i could, taking more liberties than i did the first time i wrote it, such as naming aileen's best friend's buick "grandpa fucknuts". if there's one thing that her best friend would name an old buick, it would be that. plus, who wouldn't want to drive to high school everyday in a car named grandpa fucknuts?

come aileen take two definitely has a different feel than the first one. it's not nearly as desperate and i think the characters are a little more formed. i've made some pretty big plot changes to account for oversights. like, really big oversights. but hey, i was fifteen and i wrote it in this crazy frenzy that i wish i could replicate.

i'm trying not to let rewriting this book stress me out. i'm trying to tell myself that i'm writing it to write it, to get it out, to hone my craft, to give a lot of good characters a good book that they deserve. i'm not out to publish anything. i would like to be out to publish it, but as soon as i get in that mindset, it's over.

writing novels as a hobby is exhausting and relatively unfun. but i don't really think i could do anything else with my life.

want a hobby that's emotionally crippling and makes you irritable and addicted to coffee? write novels.


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