Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hot Rewrites at Midnight

Well, it’s not quite midnight -- yet. That’s when my GLW post is due, at the (theoretical) latest, so it appears, as agreed upon, on the anointed Tuesday.

I even have a book I want to review -- written by an author pal here in L.A. I’ll caveat and disclaim my familiarity with the scribe when I actually do write it up -- next month.

Right now though, in the sultry L.A. night, I’m in the midst of rewrites for one of my own books, coming up briefly for some air (well, it’s not officially a book yet -- manuscript?). My agent has been waiting for it for months. Her wager was that if I had it finished by Comic Con, she’d buy me a drink. If I didn’t, I’m picking up the tab when I see her.

Well, though I’ve made it close, I think I’ll be buying the drink. Unless the next 24 hours are somewhat miraculous. There’re a final two-four chapters to write, and about 100 pages to rewrite, (or “polish,” as we like to say when we want to make it sound less daunting).

What might be germane to our conversation here is not only what the book is about, but the way I’m approaching it. It’s a “boy’s book,” in the same sense my previous four published books were (i.e., written by a former boy reader-turned-middle aged single dad writer, for current boy readers. And girl readers), though of course since boy worlds -- outside of “Lord of the Flies” -- are usually informed by girls, in their various mysterious-yet-sensible ways, who wants to restrain themselves in a book that would only appeal to boys? (Appealing mostly to boys is something else altogether, I think - -and anyway, what would Robert Bly say?)

In the “Danger Boy” books, I had alternating narrators -- my titular time traveler, and then Thea, daughter of the last librarian at Alexandria. To be fair, there was also an evolved dinosaur who narrated some of the chapters, as well.

The latest book is -- well, pre-Mel Gibson meltdown, I might have said “Road Warrior”-ish, grafted on to some horror tropes. You know, good old fashioned newfangled apocalypse stuff. I conceived of the book with this new titular character in mind, though the book -- I’m trying not to give too much away here (it has to be finished and, well, sold, and then we can talk about it some more) is actually narrated by a girl.

So my other main character -- think “Thea” again -- is the one observing and recounting the boy’s encounters with this particular apocalypse (which soon enough become enmeshed with hers). There turns out to be a fairly clear reason (I hope) that the recounting comes more easily to her, than to him.

None of this is not to suggest I’m some kind of genius of narrative structure -- far from it, I suspect. But I seem to like a big of cognitive dissonance -- and distance? -- when recounting my boy adventures. I seem to need “other prisms” through which those boy adventures are refracted and reflected.

The result of being the one boy raised with two younger sisters? I don’t know[Image] -- I’m raising two boys now, and hey, was one for a couple decades before hitting that ostensible “man” demographic, so I theoretically have enough material to structure a “just guys” narrative perspective.

And maybe I will, if the early stirrings of what the next book, the next story, telling me what it wants to be, are to be believed.

Until then though, I’m writing up a stew of spears and go-karts and biodiesel and the tattered remains of the L.A. landscape, navigated by one Lost Boy, and the girl he saves, and who, in turn, saves him, by giving voice to his experience.

Or am I really just writing a parable addressing the fact that the whole reading/writing thing tends to come more easily to girls in traditional school settings -- and in the eyes of traditional kid lit publishing biz decision-making?

Well, another intense few days of rewrites -- Comic-Con bet notwithstanding - and then I’m done, and I’ll know more. I’m going in for more frenzied rewrites now -- cover me.


tanita✿davis said...

Good luck! Totally know how the frantic revisions go...

gonovice said...

"reading/writing thing tends to come more easily to girls in traditional school settings"

Here's an article suggesting that traditional school settings may be the problem: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10663353

Children are natural learners. We've known for years that testing does not promote learning.

"Professor Sugata Mitra... noticed that children will learn to do what they want to learn to do."

Also see John Taylor Gatto's book, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.

MarkLWilliams said...

Gonovoice, thanks for the comments and the links!

I have no doubt that "traditional school" thinking and set-ups impede curiosity, creativity, etc.

Perhaps, had I been less frenetic when I was writing/posting, I could've been clearer, speaking of "conventional educational wisdom" (and conventional publishing biz wisdom) about girl readers vs. boy readers, etc...

gonovice said...

It's a serious problem. Young guys in the schools generally don't see a lot of men reading. So they don't see reading as something guys do. They grow up to be fathers who don't read, so their sons are less likely to.

Professor Mitra's experiments show us a better way.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete "
— R. Buckminster Fuller