LIFE ISN’T FAIR

Heard this just last night, apropos of the inequities of life. A rule when playing golf in Thailand, also useful under the heading of general principles: you have to play the ball where the monkey drops it…

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 Norm's Thoughts No Comments

DON’T LOOK UP

The re-write I have been working on sometimes seems like a monumental task. The marked up manuscript itself is only a couple of inches high but larded on top of that I have a couple of notebooks half filled with questions, ideas, answers and more questions. If I work on the thing a page at a time I manage to make some progress and I think I have a handle on most of what I need to do, but if I look up from the page, man, if I step back and try to look at the whole thing all at once I get queasy. God, this is a long process.

Monday, March 31st, 2014 Norm's Thoughts No Comments

PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING

My agent, whom I have promised to stop calling Darth Vader, recently returned an edited manuscript copy of my latest writing project. He did it the old fashioned way, it was a printed copy liberally scribbled-upon and covered with FLYNs (effing little yellow notes). The whole mess was accompanied by a three page letter outlining in detail my crimes against literature.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. A bit.

Anyway, on such occasions, I have found it constructive to wait a few days before diving in, because without the correct frame of mind and the willingness to do the work I will not be able to atone for my sins, which are generally related to plot, or the lack thereof. This time around I decided to change things up a bit, so I showed the edited copy to a friend of mine, also a writer, first, because I value his opinion, and second, because he’d already read the work in question and he’d had generally positive things to say about it.

Moral support, don’t you know.

My friend read the letter first, then thumbed through the manuscript, looking at all the Flyns. And when he was all done he handed it back to me. “Wow,” he said. “This is great.”

Not what I expected.

Bastard. Whose side was he on?

“No, it’s really great,” he said. “And I agree with him on almost all of this, by the way.” Then he told me about his own recent experience with his editor, who had done nothing much, really, except to complain about his deficiencies in spelling, punctuation, and other such inanities. What he wanted from his editor, and what he thought I should want from mine, is an informed and objective review on what he’d done wrong, what he’d done right, and some thoughts on how to improve, which is pretty much what I’d gotten from the aforementioned Mr. Vader.

My attitudes still need work.

Monday, February 24th, 2014 Norm's Thoughts No Comments

FEH

If I ever get to Purgatory, I’m sure I’ll recognize the place, having spent so much time there in life… I think anyone who’s ever tried to get something published will understand exactly what I mean.

Saturday, January 18th, 2014 Norm's Thoughts No Comments

COEN BROS

Great movie, but if you are an artist and you are trying to get someone to look at, listen to, read or otherwise check out your stuff, you might want to think twice before going to see INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, because it will not help you. Cuts pretty close to the bone.

Sunday, January 5th, 2014 Norm's Thoughts No Comments

AUDITIONS

So I thought I’d take a break from writing. My agent at Vader and Co. is reading the manuscript I just finished. My current title for it is ‘A Sensation of Shadow.’ This waiting period is maybe the most uncomfortable step in the whole process, at least for me, and this time around I really don’t have anything in mind that I want to do next. So, a break should be just the thing, no? Give me a chance to catch up on the giant TBR pile in my office. And for a week or so it did seem that I was able to put the whole thing behind me, other than checking my email every day for a message from the Dark Lord…

So there’s this guy I run into the The Bronx every now and then. I’ve been trying hard not to hate on the guy, but I’m finding it very difficult, for a variety of reasons. A lot of reasons, not relevant here. Anyway, we happened to be thrown together the other day, he and I, while in pursuit of our separate goals, and he stops right in the middle, says, ‘I gotta make a call.’

So I wait. Probably was not the image of grace and good humor.

‘Babe,’ he says to the phone. ‘It’s time to get up. You gotta get outa bed.’

Pause.

‘Why?’ He looks at me like I might have an answer. ‘Because. You gotta. Go on into the kitchen now, okay? Open the fridge. See them pills? Top shelf. Says ‘brain’ on the bottle. Yeah, ‘brain.’ Take two of ‘em. Two pills. I’ma wait while you do it. Shit.’ He looks at me. ‘Fuck, man, she put the phone down.’ Makes like he wants to throw his cell at the wall, but goes back to talking into it instead. ‘Yo, babe. BABE! Sorry, okay okay, sorry. You took the pills? You took ‘em? Good. Now don’t go back to bed. Because you can’t stay up in bed alla time, it ain’t no good for you. I’ma be home soon. Yeah. Yeah. Love.’ Makes kissy noises, ends the call, sticks the cell back in his pocket. ‘Sorry, man. Let’s do this thing.’

Run with that.

Where’s that take you, what do you see?

I guess what I’ve been doing, instead of really taking a break, I’ve been holding auditions. Looking for sparks. The NY Daily News is one good place to look, and The Bronx, despite its considerable drawbacks, is another.

Friday, December 20th, 2013 Norm's Thoughts No Comments

DONE, DA DONE DONE…

All of a sudden I have a lot more free time on my hands. I did it, I finally finished the writing project I’ve been working on. The current title is ‘A Sensation of Shadow.’

Now what I need to do is let go. I have always been able to quarantine the process of writing from the business of publishing, so for the whole time I was writing this story I haven’t spent much time or energy sweating agents or editors or money or any of that. Now that wall has been breached. And my major problem with this part of the process is that there isn’t a whole lot more I can do, right at the moment. And even if there was, I am no salesman, I’d have trouble selling cheeseburgers to a starving man. And patience and faith are not virtues I know much about.

Funny, though, the feeling I got when I finally wrapped this one up was, relief. I think it’s because you always start out with a vision or an idea of what you want your book to be, how you want it to feel, and the question for me is, how close to my ideal am I going to get this time? Can I really make this the kind of book that I saw in my mind’s eye when I began? And then compound that with the fact that this is a different kind of novel than what I’ve done before. Initially I wondered if I was a fool to take on the theme that I wanted to work with.

Did I do it? I suppose that remains to be seen. A manuscript is not a book, it has to pass through a couple of different fires before that happens, and I have a long way to go on this one. But… Reading over my last two chapters, I feel relieved. I think I came pretty close.

Sunday, November 17th, 2013 Norm's Thoughts No Comments

OHNOWRIMO

November is almost upon us. November is the month when a lot of people will set themselves the goal of finishing a novel (writing one, not reading one), or at least a good portion of one. I’m not down for it this year, the writing project I’ve been into has been working me over pretty good. My goal now is simply to finish the damn thing. I spent much of the summer being stuck, I don’t know exactly why. I think sometimes life just intrudes, sometimes the forces down below decide that you’re going to be occupied elsewhere, and that’s that. I seem to have gotten unstuck recently, and again I don’t know exactly why, but after a few false starts I have gotten some good work done on it lately. I don’t want to jinx myself but I think the end might be in sight and if I can keep a little mo going I might actually get the thing done.

This draft of it, anyway.

I like the current draft, though, I think it’s in pretty good shape, although I’ve said that before, and been wrong. Hemingway once claimed that he read his entire manuscript every day when he sat down to work, and although I wonder if he might not have been over-served when he said it, I must admit that I spend a lot of time going back, rereading and cleaning things up as I go. Most writing teachers tell you not to do that, the prevailing theory holds that you should press on regardless, just get the damn thing written, get to the end and then go back and do your housekeeping later. I really try to work that way sometimes, I think I was laboring under the misapprehension that it would speed things up, and maybe it does, but not for me. I don’t seem to be wired that way. But I do feel like I’ve finally left the last base camp and I’m climbing, and the top of the mountain can’t be too much higher.

Friday, October 18th, 2013 Norm's Thoughts No Comments

GO AWAY

I am about eighty percent done with the current draft of the writing project that I’ve been working on, and I am sick to death of it. The protagonist’s name is Saul, and I wish he would just give up and go back to his island. The hell with it, Saul, if no one else gives a shit, why should you? When does this sort of behavior become pathological? This book is ruining my sleep, it was a bad idea to begin with, but if I stop now it will never let me alone. I am inching forward, I have to finish this thing, kill it before it kills me.

Sunday, October 6th, 2013 Norm's Thoughts No Comments

ROWLING

I read somewhere that J. K. Rowling has agreed to write a series of screenplays based on the world she created for Harry Potter, but set back in time, before Harry. I was glad to hear it, I enjoyed Harry immensely, both in print and on screen. I was a little disappointed that she plans to write scripts and not books, but I suppose you can’t have everything. I think the movies were well made, and if you pay attention, you’ll find a scene here or there that tells an entire story in the space of a few seconds. One example: in ‘The Half-Blood Prince,’ Dumbledore takes Harry along on a visit to Horace Slughorn. Dumbledore wants him to come out of retirement, and Slughorn refuses. Dumbledore and Harry accept his decision and they leave, but the camera lingers on Slughorn’s face, just for a few seconds. There he is, an old man in his pajamas, surrounded by his creature comforts, all alone. You get the impression that he has everything he needs, except for a reason to continue. As you look at his ruin of a face you wonder if perhaps he has not just seen, maybe for the first time, how empty and pointless his life will likely become if he stays where he is. And then, blink, the scene is gone, the film does not hit you over the head with it. To me it is an indication that there are artists at work, that care has been taken. It’s there if you want it, or if you prefer you can eat your popcorn and wait for the smoke and the loud noises. At any rate, it is good to hear that Rowling is back at work.

Saturday, September 28th, 2013 Norm's Thoughts No Comments