Confessions From The Writer’s Hard Drive

Somewhere, in the deep, dark depths of my hard drive, I have a mostly-complete manuscript of a prurient nature. Well, it really, really wants to be prurient, anyway. I’m not sure it quite makes it, since I don’t really have the attention span for other people’s sex lives… no, not even if they’re my own figments’ sex lives. Because, uhm… **plot bunny** and suddenly, there’s a series of explosions I have to deal with.

I do, however, go through a fairly regular phase of creative despair in which I’m absolutely positive my stories suck, and I should just turn to writing for the erotica of the month club.

In general, something usually kicks in and saves me before I get too far into Butch Billionaire Bad Boys in Space. But the knowledge that whatever I’m working on doesn’t have to be good is usually a pretty good way of kick-starting the creative juices, particularly on days when I’m not sure I’m capable of being good.

If I were going to write a romance, let’s be honest… it would probably include the words “And then he standardized her spelling, cut out sixty-two percent of her commas, and did some structural things with subplot B that somehow made the whole thing work. Also, he remembered to drop those books off at the library before she got fined. The End.”

Well, the closest I ever got is this manuscript. That lives on my hard drive. 89,000 words. That I will probably never revise, and that… well, let’s be honest… if it’s grounded in the real world (it is) and nobody dies (they don’t) I probably will never figure out quite what to do with it.

I can actually tell you why it was useful to write, though. It helped me to pin down exactly what it is that my stories tend to have in common. I tend to write about complex relationships–between individuals and cultures–and it doesn’t really matter whether I’m writing science fiction, or a romance, or a murder mystery, that will be there.

I think knowing that helps me to skim over the writers’ block phase faster. You know… what are the weirdest people I can possibly put in the same space ship? Right now, I’m moving on to something sorta different, but still the same. It’s a strange sort of thing.

I also think writing a lot without necessarily intending to keep everything has helped me get to a point where I can make more objective decisions about what’s worth revising, and when it’s time to move on.

Valentine’s Day: A Brief History of Disaster

One of the benefits of being a writer is that you wind up looking at your own culture through the eyes of your characters, and you start to see the things that are… well, a little bit weird. Valentine’s Day is… well, let’s be honest… about as weird as they come. It’s a holiday dedicated to romantic love which adults celebrate with booze and lingerie, and which is simultaneously celebrated by grade school children. This, despite very clear cultural taboos against combining romantic love of any kind with children.

Humans are weird.

Valentine’s Day has never been my holiday of choice. As an adult, it’s hard to celebrate, if I’m single, and it always gets me in trouble, if I’m not.  And as a child, mostly, I remember the general stress of finding just the right card to say “The school rules say I have to get you a card, so here.”

Actually… if I could find a card that says “The rules of dating say I have to get you a card… so here,” that would still be appreciated.

So, in honor of a weird holiday, weirdly celebrated, an overview:

  • Second Grade: First Valentine’s Day, and BEST VALENTINE’S DAY EVER: I came down with chickenpox and missed school. Missed the party. Missed the handing out of cards. When I got back, the teacher handed me an enormous bag of candy and cards from my classmates. Also, by then, most of them had already eaten their candy, so whatever I brought was really, really cool.
  • Fifth Grade: First real valentine from a real boy. It opened and closed, and had an envelope and everything. Also two sticks of gum taped very neatly inside the card. Admittedly, he was the kind of boy who got thrown out of movie theaters, and who was later seen bungee jumping his(?) bicycle off a railroad bridge, but he was a boy, and that counts, and I win.
  • Seventh Grade: First invitation to actual dance. He was a geeky friend of mine. (Yes, I do have a few friends who aren’t geeky. Not close friends, but still.) This one had all the makings of a teen movie, except that 1.) I wasn’t allowed to date until I was thirty-two, and 2.) He asked in front of a classmate who looked at him and asked “Why the hell would she want to go out with you?” Boy sinks into the ground. I assume they let him up for air and meals, but maybe they just make him eat earth worms.
  • High School: Let’s be honest… guys loved me for my mind. Yes, I know that’s supposed to be a good thing, but do you have any idea how annoying it is in real life? Most of the phone calls to my house begin with the phrase: “Hey, what did you get for problem 43?”
  • College: Oh, great. We’re moving into that phase where “Marry me and have my babies” is not just an option, it’s encouraged. Me: I got you a Hallmark Card. Him: Marry me and have my babies. Me: It’s a funny card.

So, even though there’s nowhere left to go but up, I’ll be spending this Valentine’s Day locked in a convent, with ballistic missiles aimed at the local florist. One inch closer to those carnations, and it’s mutually assured destruction, baby.

Don’t think I’m serious? The last one actually mentioned his and hers matching cemetery plots. However old you have to be for that to be romantic, I’m not there, yet. Not even close.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the brave souls who are willing to risk it. To everybody else… see you when we all crawl out of our bunkers after Armageddon.