Thursday, March 13, 2008

HNT - Continually Exposing Myself

Over a year ago, I began a journey as I started a new writing project. I wanted to take a long short story that upon reading my friend (and awesome horror author) Sean Costello suggested would make a great book and rework it into a novel length work.

It went something like this:

Sean read the story, offered some great comment and feedback on it. But his last comment was: "Okay, that was great. So what happens next?" I said, "What do you mean? The story is over." He said. "Is it? Here's an interesting character with a dilemma he hasn't actually resolved. You could easily continue this story into a novel length story." I started to argue that the whole point was this was a snapshot in what I was trying to say was a typical day (or at least morning) in the life of a man who happens to be a werewolf. The whole point of the story I had called "This Time Around" was how he deals with the side effect of being a werewolf -- in this particular instance, waking up naked in Battery Park on the lower tip of Manhattan Island with the goal of trying to get himself some clothes and get across town. I wanted it to be about the human dealing with his monster alter ego, and not about the wolf itself.

But Sean made me start to think more about it, since the whole point of the story was to get Michael (my werewolf dude) home, or rather to an early morning appointment in Midtown near his home. I didn't resolve for the reader the partially remembered flashbacks to his time as a wolf the previous night. In my mind, that was just one of the side-effects, the mystery of what might have actually happened to him during his "blackout" time as a wolf. But Sean made me think more about it, and about what might happen next.

So I decided to embark on the exploratory project of turning this short story into a novel I was tentatively calling "A Canadian Werewolf in New York."

Since one of my very favourite podcasts on writing (The Writing Show) was looking for "reality show" participants, I offered myself and my desire to turn this story into a novel to host Paula B. Paula was interested and started interviewing me during the course of starting to write this novel in a series called "Getting Published With Mark Leslie." I particularly loved her press release at the time, entitled "HORROR AUTHOR EXPOSES HIMSELF ON PODCAST-BASED REALITY SHOW."

And that has really been what this whole experience has been about: Exposing myself.

That's what HNT is all about, isn't it? A celebration of exposure. Of course, exposure doesn't necessarily mean flashing some skin. There's also exposure of the internal kind -- and often, that's the most "risky" way of exposing one's self.

Over the course of the last year and a half, I've been regularly exposing the behind the scenes look at myself as a writer. From the triumphant moments of achieving a goal or task or making a short story sale, to the more regular moments where life gets in the way of my writing, where I fail to meet my own deadlines, where I get rejection after rejection after rejection for short stories and novels, where I get frustrated with my own lack of progress or accomplishment.

I've received some great feedback from other writers out there who appreciate getting that "behind the scenes" look at the actual struggles. Normally, when you see an author interviewed, they talk about all the work it takes to get their book published -- but rarely do you get into the details of the struggle and frustration, of feeling down, dejected, and just how debilitating it can all be. All writers have been there, sure. And I think that by putting myself out there I might just possibly be helping writers by providing an example of how they're NOT THE ONLY ONE who goes through this.

Similarly, I have exposed several samples of an unedited first draft (Yikes, now THAT's a scary thing to do -- in so many ways it'd be a heck of a lot easier to parade my bare butt around in Times Square) to Writing Show listeners -- Writing Show guest host and book critic Mick Halpin took up my cause and has offered in depth and thoughtful critiques of the novel in progress, helping me refine it into what will be a much stronger, much tighter, much better novel.

Besides offering his insightful and intelligent (and often humourous) commentary, Mick also recently expressed he has had enough with how bloody long it has been taking me to finish this novel, allowing myself to be overcome with distractions and tangent projects. So in late January, he challenged me to write 10,000 words of the novel in February, then another 10,000 in March. (See Episode 6 for more details or right click here to download and listen to it.) I also challenged Mick to write an essay explaining how writing led to his losing a tooth (an aside he made when issuing me my challenge)

Well, February passed, and in Episode 7 of The Writing Show's "Getting Published With Mark Leslie" you find out whether or not I actually made my target word count and whether or not Mick rose to the counter challenge. You can download it by clicking here.

This week's HNT picture is the original photo of me in front of the New York Public Library (which I cropped and sent to Paula to use with Episode 7) . Given that my novel is set in NY and my main character lives not all that far from this location, I thought it'd be an appropriate picture. Oh, and for what it's worth, that is a wallet in my pocket; I might be a big book nerd, but I wasn't THAT happy to visit the New York Public Library.

* A side note to my many HNT friends - I really miss going around to visit - but I'm desperately trying to use every single free moment of each pushing out that word count -- once I get back on top of things, I do hope to get back out there and visit and play catch up with everyone)


TK Kerouac said...

Cool, I've been to that NY Library. Good luck with your writing! You write well

Bunny said...

That's one of my favorite spots in the whole city. My ex-bf used to work across the street from the main entrance to the library.

HHNT and good luck on meeting your word count!

Lucia said...

I love the New York Public Library! ... in retrospect, I love all libraries in general :-)

tons of luck in finishing up your work of art, and happy HNT !!!

Mascota said...

Hey Sweetie,
When i used HNT to post a piece of art i'd made about some feelings i'd had, the reaction was interesting to say the least...but i'm with ya, it's the exposure of stuff INSIDE that's much scarier!
HHNT & hope you have time to come see me!

I Smile 2 Much said...

much luck to you! & great pic, btw. happy hnt to you too! ; )

lime said...

getting here very late but what a terrific post. thanks for exposing all those thoughts and sharing what it has meant to you. giggling at your quip about the picture too ;)