Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Haunted By My Failure - Fiction Month

The Story I Heard - Blind Pilot (mp3)
Dial - School of Seven Bells (mp3)

The title of the first story I remember writing was called "100 Leprechauns." I think it was first grade. This group of 100 leprechauns took count of their group before they left the house in the morning, and they took count again before they went home at night. One day, they only counted 99. The group searched and searched only to find out they had counted incorrectly.

I stole from church. The story of the lost sheep. I mixed in a little bit of my love of Lucky Charms, and for my dramatic climax, I took a lesson I'd learned from my dad about checking your work, something I'd continue to struggle with for at least the next 35 years.

Pretty much every bit of the story was cribbed in one way or another, but it was mildly amusing, and for my age it was quite a snappy piece of writing. So it got an A+ and was posted on the wall outside the classroom door, all by itself, for a whole entire week.

That's all it took, really, for me to keep writing the rest of my life. Who knows how our lives might diverge with the slightest of changes? If she had given me an F on that paper, would I have kept writing? Maybe. Probably. Who knows?

I'm a decent writer. Sometimes I'm quite good. Once in a while, I'm downright awesome. Essays, letters, poems, newspaper columns, bulletin board debates.

My whole life, the only genre of creative writing where I feel I have failed, consistently and repeatedly, is in writing fiction. Short fiction ends up lacking bite or confidence. Long fiction never quite gets finished and rarely even gets remotely close to even a halfway point. Part of me panics, as if every day I wake up means one more day of potential kick-ass fiction writing gone.

But y'know what? Raymond Chandler was over 50 when he published The Big Sleep. Richard Adams gave birth to Watership Down when he was 52. Annie Proulx was 57 when Postcards hit the stage. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't even start her damn Little House series until she was over 60. I find just enough comfort in this not to panic.

This blog was, for me, in many ways, borne to maintain and hopefully improve my writing chops while building up my consistency, an ability to write and keep writing week after week, even when the ideas dipped or faded.

We're 42 months in, and the Bottom of the Glass still hasn't quite hit the bottom. You are reading BOTG Entry #886. Not bad.

But lately we haven't had many comments. Some of our once-loyal readers have become too busy and burdened with life to stop by and read as often, and I totally understand. Feelings aren't hurt, but it's always a little sad to go week after week with a mere handful of comments.

So, I'm taking advantage of this commentary dip to flex my emaciated fiction muscles. I'm going to work on the I Don't Know If This Is A Short Story Or A Novella Or Something Even Bigger project I started last year. I'm going to go all Dickens on it and post a chunk of it at a time. I can't promise it will end with any kind of finality at all. It probably won't. But something about this particular project continues to swim around my head and haunt me, so it's time I give it a little of my attention.

Feel free to offer advice, suggestions or even harsh critiques if you feel so moved. Otherwise, I'll return with something goofy or opinionated to say in October.



stowstepp said...

Excellent, and good luck (or is it "break a finger"?).

FWIW, I continue to read all the posts, but I'm more of a lurker and rarely comment. They almost always give me pause to think and ruminate (which I enjoy). Just who I am I suppose.

troutking said...

Looking forward to it!

BTW, have you considered that many of your loyal readers are simply so excited about and obsessed with Rick Perry's candidacy for President that they don't have time to read the blog?

John said...

I, too, am a loyal reader; once the rhythms of the school year get going, I bet you'll see some uptick in comments. Love your non-fiction (Bob's too) and look forward to seeing what sh*t you make up.

Billy said...

@stowstepp - Thanks for the comment. I'm sure we have a healthy number of lurkers, and I don't intend to guilt-trip you or them. That people even read this crap at all is a compliment, so thank you. Lurk all you like.

@trout - I must admit that your theory had not yet crossed my mind. Everything becomes clearer now.

@John - We gave up on you a long time ago. And I'm not including my novelized and highly-fictionalized version of our New Orleans trips. Not yet, anyway.

Sara C said...

Love the idea. Can't wait for the first installment.

Daisy said...

Yay for fiction month! I love it....even if you are a comment whore!

Elise Lewis said...

Back to my Rick Perry obsession now ...

Arthur Dent said...

Happy 42nd month anniversary!

rodle said...

Thank you for the chance to leave a comment.

Anonymous said...

I used to post here all the time until Bob chased me off for not using my name. Oh well. More time to listen to the Avett Brothers.

Bob said...

Of course, Mr./Mrs. Anonymous, this was posted on a different blog entry of mine just the day before you posted the comment above. Is this you, too?:

"Anonymous said...
Scream racism all you want, but it's true. They drive slow, leave a huge gap between their car and the car in front of them when stopped at a light, and are just plain rude. I'm convinced it's because black people are generally less intelligent than white people."

Billy Bob said...

Dear Anonymous -- I don't believe someone who would have commented like The Other Anonymous would be someone who frequently read our blog, so I'm in full support of you being a Different Anonymous. I get Bob's point, but I'm not a fan of his customer service, which is similar to how he treats other drivers on the road.