Mary Karr, who used to be one of my writing heroes, until I wrote to her, sent her MY memoir/essay collection shortly to be published, and asked her for a blurb, and she didn’t bother to answer. Of ALL the people I asked for blurbs, she was the only one to totally blow me off.
Not that I’m bitter.
At any rate, I felt special because I loved “Cherry” as much as “The Liar’s Club” — and I think I’m about the only person on the planet who did. But did Mary care?
No no no.
So, here I am, five days longer than I wanted to be in a Hampton Inn under renovation in Lansing, Michigan, where I get a USA Today that I don’t want, every day outside my door. And here’s an article on Mary, and her new book “Lit.” Where she says, and I quote: “There are too many books. Most writing is mediocre. Most memoirs are mediocre. Quality is rare.”
Thanks Professor Karr. Way to attempt to perpetuate the rule of academia. I won’t mention how EVERYONE ELSE thought “Cherry” fell short of mediocre. Perhaps that was yet another book too many.
(I could point out here that her last book was pubbed ten years ago, in 2000, but that might be petty, so I won’t.)
So, I read that this morning. And thought about it off an on all day.
Not that I’m brooding.
Then, this evening, one of my old friends posts on Facebook “Howcum I just lost interest in my own book? O. Could it be because I’ve been writing it for EIGHT years?” Old literary-type friend. From my writing group of many moons ago.
All of my genre-writing-buddies, both pubbed and unpubbed, are heavy into NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to take the month of November and write 50,000 words. Which is really novella length, but who’s counting?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked if I’m participating. There are buddies. And groups of buddies. Word count scales, twittering and lashing one another on. The genre writers welcome the opportunity to churn out another manuscript in a month’s time or so.
I’ve said no.
Mainly, because I tried it last year and, while I got 36,000 words that I mostly like, I don’t need the additional pressure. And I’ve been telling them that I like my process.
Which is the truth. I do like my process. Which I’ve spent the better part of a decade refining. For better or worse.
As usual: I fall somewhere in the middle.
I wish to spend neither eight years nor one month writing a novel.
Sometimes I feel like a pariah from both sides of the camp, neither of which acknowledge the other. I think Mary Karr is pretentious and full of shit for saying such a thing. I also don’t believe the fast-draft process, novel in one month thing, works very well.
And someone save me from spending eight years on one book. Or worse, ten, and being snooty about it.