Monday, January 22, 2007

A Fan Base of One

by Pat Hart

I had a writer-ly experience last week.

I’d promised myself, sacred vow, that I would finish my current WIP before the Pennwriters in May. I made that commitment in August when I’d reached the 100-page milestone. Today I am at a whopping 125.

I’d skipped Pennwriters last year because I’d “put aside” my first finished manuscript, Go Fish, and had just started on my new darling and therefore didn’t have anything to sell. Plus it was way over on the other side of the state and I was being cheap.

I regretted it.

I didn’t want yet another year to slip by without at least trying to get published. So, faced with the impossibility of reaching my original goal of completing my current WIP, I revisited Go Fish.

I have the document in printed form and it would have been so picturesque to dig a dusty box out of the back of closet, wrap up in a crocheted afghan, and settle into a stuffed chair, mug of tea steaming in my hand, calico cat purring on my lap…in actuality I just clicked a few keys and it appeared on my screen.

I edited as I read my old manuscript and I found plenty to change. Previously, I’d worked to tatters the first ten pages of that poor story. I’d flopped back and forth from first person to third person narrative and then back to first person and traces of the old point of view would pop up unexpectedly. I was alternating between putting an “s” in and taking an “s” out. Comma in, Comma out and so forth. No wonder I’d put this thing aside.

But then around page 10, I forgot to edit, forgot I was the author, and just read.

It’s a strange thing to read your own words and not really know what you’re going to say next. I don’t know if it’s because I’m over 40 and can’t remember the movie I saw a week ago, or if it’s every writer’s experience when reading work from a couple of years ago.

As I read, I forgot to think of structure, motive, story arch, and point of view. I was thinking: “that girl’s screwed, he’s a jag off, and HA, that’s funny!” and I was entertained.

It was a great encouragement to me that I could at least please one reader, even if it is just myself.

Hope to see you all at Pennwriters this year!


Annette said...

Finish that thing, Pat! Go, Pat, Go!!! Go Fish Go!

Whatever. Finish it, darn it. See ya at the conference.

Tory said...

I'm reminded of the joke of the man who prayed every day for 40 years to win the lottery and never did. At 70, his retirement before him, he shouted at God, "Why, God, why, have I never been able to win?"

A voice came down from on high. "Give me a break. Buy a ticket!"

Yes, Pat, buy a ticket!

Gina said...

I've had the same experience of getting caught up in the story when reading my own stuff. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, "This is really great! I can't believe I wrote this!" or thinking, "This is horrible. Crap. No wonder no one wants this garbage." Isn't it fun to be a writer?

Cathy said...

Does seem crazy that you can read your own work as if it had been written by someone else, but it's true. And exciting.

See you at Pennwriters. You gotta get in the swim (Go Fish) of things.

Joyce said...

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Whoops, wrong story!

I had the same experience when I has to go back and revise part of Lost Summer before I sent it off. I found myself reading parts that I didn't remember writing. And they weren't too bad, either! It made it all the more exciting to dig into the revisions.

Pat, I know you can whip yours into shape! Get moving!

Anonymous said...

It's important to put a manuscript aside for a while and then read it with fresh eyes. And then it becomes even more important to FINISH it. You can do it. Just take it one word at a time.

Pat said...

Thank you all for the encourgement. My plan is to polish up and pitch "Go Fish" to agents at Pennwriters and finish WIP by the end of summer.
That'll sound good, won't it? "Here's my completed ms and there is another in the works. Oh, by the way, I don't do Oprah..." Okay, maybe I'll leave that last part out, a little too cocky.

Nancy said...

Confession: I picked up one of my old romances a few months ago and DIDN'T REMEMBER A WORD of it. Not a single character. Not anything. I wrote it about 20 years ago. And it was mostly terrible.

Well, okay, the sex was pretty good.

Tory's right. You gotta buy a ticket!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I'm still debating going to the conference this year... Pat, if you'll hold my hand through the conference, I'll hold yours while you buy that lottery ticket!