Friday, August 28, 2009

My Fiction Writing Career Part Deaux -- Or, why I stopped writing in the first place.

So, I'm trying my hand at fiction. Don't know what I'm doing, seeing as how I've never done this before, unless you count the short stories my friends and I wrote in seventh grade about the new boys we had crushes on, which I certainly do not.

Since I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to fiction, I thought I'd take a class. I went to a free class given by a self-published author at a nearby library. The author had written six or seven books that she had published herself. I was duly impressed. She gave us a formula for writing books. (I like knowing the rules, I just don't always choose to follow them.) She, being the Type-A teacherly person that she is, was emphatic that her method would work for everybody. It was kind of a mix of "outline, make notes and have all your stuff together at hand" and "put your butt in your seat and your fingers on your keyboard every day and write at least four pages a day and do not move from said chair until it is done." That's one way of doing it. Probably a fairly good way of doing it, too.

But silly Type-A people, don't you know that the rest of us live a life you could never imagine? We do not put our notes in one place -- we write one set in a steno pad that sits next to the stove, one on the back of an envelope we found in the car while stopped at a red light, and several in scattered notebooks around the house that may or may not still have our son's name on them. *Oh, you other Type-Messy people don't do this? That's just me? Oh, I can see*

Needless to say, my ways are not her ways. And yes, my ways cause me lots of stress, and it would certainly be better if I broke down and got my proverbial "stuff" together and got organized. Yes it would. It'd also be nice if my six-year-old could sprinkle herself with fairy dust and take off into the air and fly like she keeps wishing for, but that's not going to happen any time soon either.

So, back to the keeping notes in my 8-year-old's notebooks. I don't actually do that. I've taken notes in notebooks that were formerly his. Yes, technically they have his name on them, but that's just because when I bought his supplies last year I accidentally wrote his name on about eight notebooks and I think he only used four. And yes, one of these notebooks has about three pages of his scribbles in them, but the rest of the used pages have things like to-do lists for Girl Scouts and other stuff from my life. He has not used these in months, and I need them, so that means they no longer belong to him.

Now that that's clear, let me tell you about my wonder boy. He will be nine in October. He started third grade two weeks ago. He read the first two Harry Potter books over the summer. I don't know exactly what level he is reading on (I seem to be the only parent on the planet whose child's teacher last year did not tell her her child's reading level, or maybe she did and I lost it. That is a distinct possibility.) but I'm guessing it's slightly above third grade, probably around eighth.

Anywho, I was writing away on my just-another-coming-of-age-in-the-South story, trying to figure out how to e-mail it from the laptop since my e-mail is on the desktop, and my son comes up behind me. I did not realize he was looking, or I would have closed the file. This story has exactly two "bad" words in it, one is a place where every child knows the devil lives and the other is a bad word for a girl/woman that rhymes with witch. These are fairly run of the mill, nothing to get excited over kind of words if you are an adult reading fiction. An 8-year-old reading fiction is another story.

Him: Oooh, you said a bad word mom.
Me: What? What are you doing? Are you reading that? That is none of your business. And I didn't say the bad word, my character did.
Him: What?
Me: I'm writing a short story, and my character said it in the story, and it's not for you to read. It's for adults. Aren't you supposed to be doing your homework?
Him: But why does your story have bad words in it?
Me: It has exactly two bad words in it, and it is for adults, not kids, and it is none of your business really, and I don't appreciate you reading my things, and exactly why aren't you doing your homework right now?

*Playing the homework card really helps in these situations.*

Argh! This is why I have never kept a diary. This is why I have not written since seventh grade. Oh, if I'd kept writing bad fiction back then, maybe I'd know what I was doing by now, but my mother found my short stories back then. I was as innocent as they come in seventh grade, although I did know the basics about "The Birds and the Bees," but I made the mistake of wondering, WONDERING, about S*E*X and why people would want to do that and then was WONDERING about kissing and other silly, innocent seventh-grade-crush stuff and my mother FREAKED OUT! Now, I'm not saying as a mom that she wasn't entitled a freak out moment. I'm sure I will freak out about S*E*X with my children, and what they are thinking about and when, but it scarred me. Not about sex, about writing. I figured if anybody could read what I was MAKING UP and NOT REALLY THINKING ABOUT WANTING TO DO IN REAL LIFE, EWWW! and judge it, and I could GET IN TROUBLE FOR IT, then I really ought not be doing it. So that pretty much ended my interest in a career in fiction.

Fast forward 20 years, (okay 25 if I'm being honest) and it's happening again. A family member is reading my writing without my permission and making judgements and I hate it. It is more a feeling of my right not to be read until I am ready being violated than worrying about what he was thinking or reading. The story he was reading was about a sixth grader and, except for one minor part, I would have no problem with him reading it by himself. The other minor part I would let him read while I explained it, so he'd understand. And the bad words, although shocking to see in print, are nothing worse than what he has heard slip from my lips on more than one occasion. *I am not perfect! Quit judging me!*

Oh, and back to those notebooks. He found one of his, er my, notebooks that same day that had a few questions in it. I'm also working on another novel where the protagonist gets pregnant her senior year in college while living on her sorority's dorm floor. He did not read about this! I needed to research what would happen to her. So I wrote these questions to remind myself: "What happens if you get pregnant in a sorority? Do you get kicked out? Do you get kicked off the floor?"

Him: What did you write in my notebook? (a little shrill in tone)
Me: (To self, "$#@%, he's found the questions. Seriously, what is wrong with me!?! Why can't I put my crap back where it belongs. I am the world's worst mother!") What? Those are questions for a story I am writing. What are you doing looking in my notebook reading my things? (a little shrill myself)
Him: It's my notebook.
Me: That is not your notebook. It only has your name on it, because I messed up and wrote it on there last year.
Him: But look, I wrote on a couple of pages.
Me: You haven't used that in months, and I needed a notebook. It has lots of lists and notes and things I need in there and what are you doing reading that notebook when you should be doing your homework!?!

Now, looking back over the actual questions and not the meaning they held for me, I could have handled this differently. There was no need to panic, because they really aren't that bad. I'm sure he was confused, but at least they didn't say what I was thinking, "What happens if you get pregnant in college by your jerk of a boyfriend you shouldn't have been in love with and who now won't marry you, and then you lose your housing and end up on your own and you are told by more than one friend to get an abortion, but you soldier on and decide to have it without the help of the 'father' and your 'friends' and you manage to somehow make a good life for yourself anyway?" No the questions, thankfully, did not say all that. They didn't even say you got pregnant when you were not married. I could have played them off, but instead I went for changing the subject and bringing up the unfinished homework, which is guaranteed to cause him to scramble since he is not one to sit down and dutifully do homework.

Yes one day, dear reader, I will get my proverbial crap together and keep my notes and computer files where they belong, and I will write a book that is well received by critics and the public alike, and then I will have to deal with my mother and my oldest child reading it and being upset that their daughter/mother writes about such things as, oh I don't know, life? But for now, I'm getting the Sharpie out and plastering my name across every notebook in the house and then hiding them in my room. Maybe that will serve as a deterrent.

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