Q&A

mknholt: What is your writing process and how do you deal with rejection?

I’m as much a mess writing as I am doing anything else. I start with a sentence that turns into thirty shitty pages before I consider making an outline. Subplot torpedoes smack me upside the face when I’m running or doing the dishes, never when I’m in front of the computer suffocating in a vortex of anxiety and self-deprecation. It’s a very hard thing for me. I wish I could write without rereading every sentence, like the best authors advise. I like to write in little bursts about different things, like in this blog. It’s the way I do everything in my life; I sprint for 10 minutes, I clean for 20, I fold the laundry and leave it in neat little piles for a week. I’m not very good with finishing things that take very long.

I feel like a d-bag calling myself an artist (that pic is of me feeling like a d-bag promoting my book at a horror convention), but I guess it’s not crazy to do that. I’m just as mortified when I read a bad review as any artist is in the face of criticism. I hate my first twenty drafts, but when I’m done I’m really proud and stupidly expecting fame and glory. When I see things like, ‘a good read, but needs a little tweaking’ I feel like my mother has just told me she’s never loved me and that I’ll never amount to anything.

Before Rich forced me to untrunk my book I’d accumulated enough rejection letters to circle the earth three times. That’s not unique; it’s not an easy thing to get an agent, particularly when the economy crashes and amateur novelists sprout from the woodwork. Agents from here to Sunday get annihilated with query letters. I don’t know what percentage actually makes it to review, but I can imagine it’s not very high.

My point is, though I teeter on suicide when someone leaves a bad review, it doesn’t stop me in my tracks. I keep coming to the devil computer, I keep typing through my tears. It’s just what I was put on the planet to do. Rejection’s just a flesh wound.

jforesst67: What’s wrong with ‘ly’ words?

Aha! An anonymous user out for my own heart. Jforesst67 is talking about adverbs that end in ‘ly’, like ‘sadly’ or ‘happily’. There’s nothing inherently wrong about them and sometimes they can very much enrich a sentence. But most of the time–and I’m only talking about personal education and preference–it’s just unnecessary clutter.

For me it’s a matter of faith in the reader. I want to read books that assume I have half a brain, that set pavers leading me to the point rather than throwing me on a bus to take me there. I don’t want you to tell me that the MC smiles ‘sadly’. I want to see that the smile doesn’t reach her eyes. I want to notice that her nostrils are flaring, or that she holds her breath. I want to guess a little bit.

I guess it depends on the target readership. For me, it looks much cleaner without the excess flourish.

Martin H: I’m not doing your scavenger hunt, but please send me a picture of your boobs.

Thank you for your participation, Martin, and for proving Rich right when he called me an idiot for broadcasting my phone number.

lehendery: What’s the hardest thing about being a mom?

Bill Burr does a hilarious bit on this. If you’re not a fan, I suggest you become one.

The hardest thing about being a mom is being a mom. Not for the playing or the messes, the injuries or the temper tantrums, but for the extraordinary mutifacetedness of mental survival. In any given ten minutes, moms go through a bevy of critical whiplashes. We put everything we’ve done up until this moment under a microscope. We examine it at all angles, calculate how it could’ve gone differently and how we’ll be sure it does when our child is faced with it. If I had just done well in high school I’d have had a plan in college and I’d have a good job and Mila could be at a private school and have new clothes and a playhouse. If I hadn’t done those drugs, if I had done that homework, if I had taken that promotion.

What kind of parent do I want to be? The one who lets the kids drink at home as long as they don’t get in the car? The one who forbids going to Homecoming because she got a B in English? Not any answer is completely wrong or completely right, and all of this introspection and planning is done with a gnawing suspicion that nothing you do will make any difference anyway.

Compounded by a right hook of simultaneous conviction and guilt (I make my point by sending her to bed without dinner, I don’t sleep all night because she hasn’t had dinner) it’s an emotional clusterfuck. Loving your kid and wanting to throw her out the window is no easy thing. It’s true what they say: parenting does not come with a handbook.

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