Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Endorphin on the Rocks

There was never a time when you were working on the project whose name your literary agent asked you to change from The Fiction Writer's Tool Kit to The Elements of Fiction where you did not intend for it to be published.  You still in fact intend that; most of what you write is composed with that thought in mind and is appropriately given your rapt attention to the end of making the work as clear, resonant, and reflective of you as possible.  To bring it to this point, you fuss and obsess here and there as well as structurally, your overall goal being to have pushed the project to the point where you have learned something from having written it that you did not think you knew.

Connecting the previously unconnected dots in your universe gives you a more confident base on which to stand your emotional easel and its creative process.  Whatever the work, your goal is to experience through thought, writing, revision, and editing a web of presence that has dimension and a subtext of humor.  A subjective sign that you have achieved this or perhaps come as close as you are likely to get is the sense of experiencing the excitement of endorphin being released.  Other satisfactions such as revenge or revising some personal history as you would have had the event give you enormous satisfaction, but nothing matches the exultation of having produced a satisfying connection of idea, identity, relationship, and emotion.

Because you have been an editor (and indeed still function as one), you have sympathy and empathy for the process.  You expect to be edited; you want to be edited, believing as you do that with an editorial nudge, you might be persuaded to think a concept through to a deeper nuance of result, chose a better word, or give up entirely some outrageous trope that caused you such mirth when you first keyboarded or penned it.  Your literary agent was editorial director of two major literary publishers; her own friends are editors, and even now she has working for her as editor an individual whose work you respect.  One of your literary agent's friends is also a journey person editor and ghostwriter who has just accepted the position of acquisitions editor with an as yet unnamed publisher, asking your agent if she could take your project along with her when she reports to work.

Your agent has shown you an email from this acquisitions editor to be, wanting to talk primarily about your work, offering what she describes as minor adjustments.

The Elements of Fiction is also at a major eastern house, with decisions on it promised for "after next week," which effectively means into the first or second week of January, 20011.  The Elements of Fiction is essentially three hundred seventy separate essays on different aspects of dramatic structure and story telling, each successive essay adding to your own belief that there is no other book dealing with the construction of fiction that resembles your project.  In addition to being arranged alphabetically, the essays are meticulously cross-referenced, your goal being that the user would approach your work in search of one particular term, then become lured from essay to essay until they had all been read, at which point the reader would tuck the work beside his or her writing area as a kind of trampoline of idea and emotional understanding of the elements you see orbiting about the cosmos of story.

You have a list of potential blurbs from writers whose names will impress potential buyers of the book; you believe you have in mind a former student with an enormous imagination and following to supply the introduction.  Unless you are hit by a rogue truck or a safe falling from on high or, as Graham Green wrote with such delicious irony, killed by a falling pig, the work will be published, but what you are looking forward to now is what the acquisitions editor will say in her or his notes to you and what new potentials will emerge, and what new endorphins will be squirted forth as you once again reenter the overall landscape of the work and seek to own it after being away from that part of the process for the better part of a year.

You have frequently quoted in these vagrant entries and in other appropriate opportunities the lines from the Hindu epic, The Bhagavad-Gita, "To the work you are entitled but not the fruits thereof."
It seems to you appropriate to a degree higher than you are able to calculate that enjoying the work so much and realizing there might be even more from a particular source rides the great ironic cusp between your happiness and comfort and the boredom and acceptance of Sisyphus.


Matt said...

That's great to hear, Shelly. You have much to offer anyone looking for a fresh perspective on writing.

Querulous Squirrel said...

I'm standing on line at the bookstore.

Anonymous said...

Shelly, Congratulations! Now my faith in the system has been at least partially restored. Of course your book will be published; will the reader enjoy it as much as we blog readers have - seeing each entry rise fresh and whole each morning, born out of the one from the day before? Currently I see you are writing another book through your blog. I'm not sure how to express what it is about except to say, the title may be: The Zen of Fiction-Writing. -Karen