I am at 95 double-spaced pages of The Harvest: A Novel. I also shrunk the margins to 1 inch all around. That may seem like a small victory for some writers who spend hours and hours writing (I am jealous of you fuckers with all that time to write). However, the project is coming along and is mapped out better than the two times I wrote it in the distant past. OK like 20 years ago. This time, I am processing the novel, as a novel should be processed.
That is to say, I am practicing what I am teaching in my creative writing class and learned in past writing classes, which is why this meme of one of my favorite writers is so appropriate: Nothing Works Until You Do. You have to put the work into the thinking, brainstorming, mapping, writing, editing, revising, or else nothing gets done well. Sure, you can draft a novel, and believe me, I have written some crappy ones in the past.
I wrote one about a boy who was possessed by demon and was being helped by a Wiccan bookstore owner, which is so cliché. But, I killed the main character because no one could save him. Who does that? Poor planning. I also wrote a horrible novella one time about a medieval princess who became a zombie and was in love with a prince. Terrible, terrible.
Also, you have to kill the publication fantasies and write because you love the craft or find some other motivation to write. I really think I am finally getting work done because I am writing out of love and have nothing to prove. Plus, I have a steady job and don’t have to hustle to make a living, like some writers I know. I respect them and love their work, but if I had to feed my family on writing, my family and I would be on the bread line constantly. This doesn’t mean I will not hustle to sell books in the future, if I ever get anything in print, but that whole starving artist bullshit doesn’t work when you are my age with two small kids. You also don’t need to be starving or sell a story for a bottle of gin to craft good work.
Writing, like everything, is a process and motivations vary. I am trying to teach that to my students. Enough preaching.
Yesterday, somebody asked me why I changed the main character's gender, and the truth is that I am not entirely sure why. It just felt right. I think it's because I wanted an internal point of view in the post-apocalyptic world I am crafting. I also thought the conflicts and struggles would be more interesting coming from a girl in a matriarchal society.
Today, I also mapped out the genetic modifications in the novel, which is probably the more original aspect to the work. I sent the ideas to my little sister who is one of my avid reader, and she gave me some great suggestions. My sister is also my go to person for fight scenes, and I have an arena battle coming soon, but not yet for Ashley, the main character, because she is too young for the arena.
This week, I also got some more encouraging feedback from Adam, the editor of Down South Where the Water is Warm the short story collection I finished recently. He got so scared from reading "La Bruja" that he is treading slowly into the next short story of the collection. The truth is that one is the scariest story, and is maybe a little too influenced by Stephen King. The rest of the stories, even the horror ones, are really about the connections people make and their struggles. No matter if there are zombies or supernatural creatures, human beings are the most frightening beings and do the most horrific things to each other. Still, I can't wait until Adam reads the zombie stories and werewolf story (which should probably be a novel and may very well be.) You can read "Paranoia: The Corrido of Andrea Quinta" in my Current Work link which was published before in a zombie zine. I also added a funny poem to the Poetry Section.
I haven't done a weekly writing goal in a while because I have exceeded my writing goals. Here goes: (1) Write for at least an hour every day and (2) Start the short story "The Revenge of la Bruja del Barrio Loco" for my little sister.
Well, with that, I’m off to make my bread. I have been sick and fell behind on my work, work. Plus, I spent most of Friday hacking up a lung while attending long meetings. Now, I have narrative drafts to respond to and a pile of short stories to review! I am so excited to read my students’ work.
Love what you do. Enough said.
Dr. Jesú Estrada,