Friday, August 22, 2014

Learning and Moving Forward

For my second novel, I am in the process of dissecting two of my favorite novels by two of my favorite authors, books I have read multiple times each, so I can full understand how they work, more so, than perhaps, I do already--I have actually written a paper on one for a linguistics class. Actually, I have written two papers on works by that author, so I am already well familiar with how his style works, more or less. My goal is to immerse myself in these novels so I can draw as much influence from them as I am able. I already have my novel all plotted out, but studying these works will allow me to hone what I have planned already and, when I am actually writing it, use what I have learned and absorbed to write the best novel that I am capable of writing, currently.

One thing that really click for me over the last few months has to do with editing, which I will be able to use, not only when I am editing this novel, but also when I am writing it. I have figured out my process and I feel confident in it, and know that I can produce top quality work, which, even though I believe I could get it published, I am going to self-publish, since one of my goals is to change the way people perceive self-published novels--that they don't all have to be genre fiction in order to draw an audience, and that they can be well-written and intellectually challenging.

My goal as a writer is to produce works of artistic and literary merit, that go beyond mere entertainment and escapism, to push boundaries, to challenge people to think differently and go outside of their worldview and see life from a different perspective.

It feels good to be figuring things out, making decisions, and doing what I have to do to move forward in my life, professionally and personally, and as a writer. Even though I am only a hobbyist, I do take what I write seriously, and I try to push myself constantly to be better than I am, and that will likely never change.

Choosing A Choice

While it is entirely arbitrary to most people, my gut instinct is telling me that, if I am going to take one version of Out in the Garage off-sale, it is going to be the second edition. While that might seem counter-intuitive, I do have what I feel is solid reasoning to support why I would do this, which I guess makes it more than just gut instinct, but, hey, you know, whatever... It really all comes down to the fact that I never should have written the second edition in the first place. I should have just stood behind the first edition and not let what other people think bother me, since there are plenty of people who read it and liked it. While it might not conform to contemporary ideals, that is not necessarily a bad thing, and I have spent much more time reading and studying literature that was written well before I was born, and my biggest influences as a writer were either well dead or quite old when I was born. I studied literature, I didn't go through an MFA program, and, as of now, I don't intend to. Not that there anything wrong with getting an MFA, it is just not my choice. I believe, and have been taught, even by people with MFAs, that the best way to learn how to write is to study how writers you like do it, and then do it, and do it, and do it. So that is what I am doing. When I started writing Out in the Garage, I didn't know what I was doing (and some would argue that I still don't, but hey, whatever, you can't please everybody), and, over the course of writing, editing, rewriting, and editing, over and over again, I, sort of, developed my artistic vision for it, which I then compromised when I decided to rewrite and edit and make the changes that I did to get the second edition. While yes, in theory, the changes were designed to make it more marketable, it was really just stupid and weak on my part. The first edition, for all its faults, is genuine. When I finished it, it felt finished. I just lack the self-confidence to not continuously second guess myself, which I am trying to change. Anyways, I like the first edition, and if I have to choose one (which I don't, really), it is the one that I am going to choose.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thinking Out Loud; or, Battling the Indecisiveness

Thinking about taking off sale one or the other of the two versions of Out in the Garage. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I feel like I should stand behind one or the other as the official version, as having two versions is probably somewhat confusing for potential buyers, and probably makes me look indecisive.

While I have not sold a lot of the first edition, I have sold some, and it has generated more interest since they both have been on sale. It is also closer to the original idea, and I tend to lean towards it as my favorite version.

The second edition is more focused and cohesive, or, rather, more obviously cohesive, and is more directed towards a young adult market, which, in theory, should help increase my sales, since young adult lit is a popular genre right now.

I made the second edition as a response to criticism about the first edition, but I feel like it was an impulsive, hastily made decision that might have hurt my credibility, or at least the credibility of that first edition, which is bound to not be liked by every one who reads it. That is just the nature of any product in the creative industry. Not to mention, I am not really coming from a perspective influenced by popular contemporary fiction.

However, since I have taken the time to make the second edition, shouldn't I stand behind it, since I haven't really done so, I just released it for sale, quietly, and have not done anything really to promote it. It's not like I have given it a chance to be successful, or have really taken the time to build an audience with it. It is definitely more focused than the first edition, and I have addressed the criticism about the narrative voice of the first person being too unrealistic by changing it to a third person narrative, which was no easy task, mind you.

Technically I don't have to make a decision, but realistically I do, as I feel I will be more successful in marketing and promoting one or the other, but if both are fore sale, one will be a distraction for whichever one I decide to stand behind. The goal here is to learn and grow from what I learn, and I want to be able to take what I have discovered and will discover from this project into future projects.

One thing is for sure, I am not going to have this same issue with my next novel. I am not going to spend ten years figuring it out, and I am not going to re-release it once I have released it the first time, which means that I need to get it right the first time, and I won't be able to do that unless I figure out what is right now, and I can't do that if I don't actively try to promote one or the other version of this novel.

What I think I will do is read the second edition, as I have not read it just to read it, and then make a decision. Perhaps it is time to leave the first edition behind, which is what I am leaning towards doing, as it seems like the logical thing to do. Unfortunately, sometimes, particularly with creative projects, the logical thing to do isn't always the right thing to do.

Thinking Can Be Dangerous, But It's Usually Not, and Actually Sometimes Quite Productive, But Not Always, And That's Okay

It occurred to me as I was watching Letterman. He had nothing to do it, it was just what was on the boob tube. I have been watching Lost on Netflix but the storm fucked it up on my Wii and haven't been able to connect. It's not the internet, so I don't know. Anyways, I was thinking, as I have a tendency to do, on occasion, and it occurred to me that I wrote the rough draft of my first novel when I was living in Chicago, when I was working like 50-60 hours a week, so why can't I write the first draft of my second novel when I am working about the same amount of hours, especially since this one has been meticulously planned out already? I believe I can balance teaching and writing, and do both successfully. I will always be busy, but then again, I am always busy, have always been always busy, will always be always busy, always. It's just how I function. I have never been very good at sitting around and not doing anything. Even when I am sitting around, doing nothing, I am actually probably also doing something. Perhaps, I will get one of these two jobs for which I am in the early stages of interviewing, and I will not have to worry about teaching and writing--although instead I will be writing and writing, but it will be different, because my work writing will only help my hobby writing, which will only help my work writing, because I will always be sharpening the tool. Of course, I will also be writing flash fiction and short stories, in addition to my novel, but if I ever want to get good at writing novels, I am going to have to continue doing it on a regular basis. Perhaps I will never make a job of it, but, maybe someday I will. It's not going to happen overnight, and it's not going to happen without effort, but it can happen if I keep putting effort to it, it is not guaranteed to happen, but it can happen because it is a possibility, because I am working towards it, and attempting to learn from my mistakes and grow, and get better as I continue to do it. Anyways, it's time to stop being a student and to start being productive and making money and also putting effort into what I truly want to do. It's time to find a career where I can be successful so I can support my wife and myself, pay our bills, buy a new car, pay off our debt, buy a house... You know, all of that adult crap that every tries to do sooner or later, and I aim to do it more sooner than later. It will be nice to reach a point in my life where I can pursue my hobbies and not feel guilty about it because I don't have something else I should be reading or writing. I guess it has not fully struck me that I am no longer a student, that I am moving on to a new stage of my life, where school might still be a big part of my life, but not as a student. In a way, I am still learning and studying, but it is not the same, because I already have some expertise at the subject, and I have some experience at teaching, and I just need to building my confidence and further develop my ability to communicate these ideas in ways that will reach the students who want to be reached. I am not looking to teach forever--at least not working three part time jobs just to make ends meet--and I am hoping to get one of these two other jobs, but if I do end up teaching full time, I would not be upset about it. Ultimately, I think, it comes down to the fact that where ever I work, it will be my life as much as it has to be, but it won't be my entire life, because I have so much else. I have worked hard to work less but do more and have it be more appreciated by the people who are affected by what I do.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


While I might not be rewriting or re-editing Out in the Garage these days, I am still attempting to hone my publishing and marketing of it, seeing what is working and what isn't, and one area where I struggle still is fitting it into a genre. I started out very generally describing it as literary fiction, but that isn't really working, so, after thinking long and hard about it, I have gotten a bit more specific.

The first edition I am going with coming of age and satire as the genres, since, because of the structure and the additional parts, is more general than the second edition. Even though the genres are still pretty general, they are a better fit than literary fiction or general fiction. Coming of Age works for the genre because it is, on the surface, about a teenager dealing with changes in his life and transitioning into adulthood. Satire is also an accurate description, since, as Wikipedia describes, "vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement." While this was more obvious in the original Escapes version, it is still pretty evident if you read through the layers and don't just taking it at face value. At least I think it is pretty evident, anyways.

The second edition, like the first edition, is still labelled a satire, for the same sort of reasons, but because of the focus, and the structure, the other genre that best describes it is young adult/juvenile fiction -- visionary and metaphysical. Since much of the story is the mental journey of a young adult character through his life, which comes across as a sort of dream-like, altered state of reality, and is written in a way that might appeal more to an adult audience that reads young adult fiction, it made sense for me to label it in this way.

No matter what genre is the most appropriate, both versions are heavily allegorical and can be read as extended metaphors, and, unless I am mistaken, this is not something that many writers are doing nowadays. It is not necessarily uncommon, but it isn't exactly what the academy is teaching, either. I suppose that it would make sense that I would write in such a way, since I am most familiar with literature from the 19th and before, when it was more commonplace. Herman Melville, as many of you are probably aware, is one of my bigger influences, and it would be very difficult to read Moby Dick and make much sense out of it without reading it as being an extended metaphor, and the same goes for much of his other work. I mean, try making sense out of The Confidence Man without reading it allegorically.

While perhaps it is an outmoded way to write, it is what came naturally to me when I was writing it, and writing allegorically, for me, was a good way to make social and cultural criticism and also tell a story that makes sense on a surface level. While I do want my readers to read (either version) allegorically, and I hope that they do, it is not necessarily necessary, either.

In the end, classifying it as one genre or another doesn't really change the novel itself, but readers' expectations on what they are getting, and how they know they are supposed to read what they are purchasing. I am hoping, by seeking out the most specific genre where it fits, I will be able to find the right set of readers, who will read it as it is intended to be read. 

While I can't control exactly how people read it, finding the right genre does help lead the reader in the right direction, and that's all I really can do. I just need to do it more effectively.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wine+Thinking About My First Novel=Existential Ramblings

It's been a while since I have thought about it. Just the space of time that I needed, maybe? I stare down at my copy of it, and think, the first version is better.  I should never have second-guessed myself. Maybe other people would have written it in a different way, perhaps it would have been more salable if I had written it according to what gets published nowadays--but I don' t give a shit. I used to give a shit, but now I don't. I shouldn't have given a shit, I shouldn't have cared about what random other people thought, but I did. I shouldn't have done the second edition, but I did.

What is done is done. I can't take it back. People will have to decide for themselves. They had to, anyways. It has always been that way, even if those other people didn't realize it, because they were too affected by what other people thought, just like I was. Maybe people truly can't think for themselves. At least most people can't. We are a social species. At least most of us are. Some of us aren't. I am not. I don't give a shit. Okay, maybe that is a lie. Maybe I do give a shit, but I am trying not to. I am in recovery.

The first edition is better, because it is more true to what I wanted to do in the first place. Maybe it is not realistic, but people who assume that is a bad thing assume that it was meant to be realistic. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe I don't believe in realism as much as I want to believe in it, and definitely not as much as others believe in it. Maybe there is no realism, only subjectivism. We can only interpret the real world, not define it. We are limited to our own subjectivity, no matter how hard we try to prove otherwise. Maybe I subscribe to a different point of view, a point of view contingent on the subjectivity of the writer and the reader, where the two can't meet, since two people cannot ever fully connect mentally in the same way as we can physically, because our minds are isolated from the physical reality of our being. 

They aren't really isolated, but it seems that way. We can only see things through our own eyes. We can try to see things through other people's eyes, but we can't truly. We should try, but it is an effort in futility. That's why we should always treat each other as we would want to be treated. That's why we should think really hard before we try to tell people that they are wrong in the way they are thinking, because, they might be wrong according to our point of view, but that doesn't meant that they are wrong, and that we are right. That doesn't mean that we are wrong and they are right. It is all relative.

But what about taking life, you say? That, I say, I don't know. I would like to say that we both can agree that it is wrong, but is it always wrong? Can we know? Just because I think it should be wrong, that I believe that it is wrong, does it make it wrong?

I take a moment to sit back and read what I have just written and realize that I have gotten way off track--or have I? I didn't really have a plan when I set out to write this, so I reasonable can't really say that. It is what it is. I can change it, but should I? Is it better or worse, or just different?

I can answer those questions, but then, I would only be answering them for me and not necessarily for everyone else. That is just the nature of language.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What a Difference a Couple of Weeks Makes

Over the past couple of weeks, I have gone from one part time teaching gig, to three, from teaching two classes, to teaching five. It is going to be a busy semester, but I am looking forward to being able to focus on teaching and writing. Grad school has been fun, but I am ready for it to be over. I have enjoyed my classes, but it's time for me to move on and get to work. 

Actually, in addition to the teaching gigs, I have another job prospect, a career opportunity, which is perhaps somewhat of a remote possibility, but it is something that I would be thrilled to do with a company where I would love to work. I don't want to jinx it by saying too much, and I don't want to get my hopes up, but, it could realistically happen. I believe that I have a shot at it as much as anyone else who might be up for it. It would definitely change my life in a really good way.

I have really enjoyed my flash fiction class. I believe that I have figured out my style and that I have written some strong stories. It has been a good experience, and I like my professor and my class. I have gotten some helpful advice that I know I will continue to use as I venture out on my own and see what happens.