Monday, February 28, 2011

The Novel, Guerrilla Style Part 4: The Reprieve (First interlude)

Janice and I made our way out of the woods and headed downtown to see Corrie and Tor. They are good friends from Denver, and an outing is an outing. And it's good to be with good friends.
I felt inclined to introduce them to Anna Banana's. I still love the place, even after all these years. In a way, the place is rather like an old friend too.
We got our coffee and sat in the next room and started to catch up. I work with Corrie, and we have worked together on a few projects before the current one. We've worked on Umbrella Factory stuff, and she was the one who got me started on the blog. Currently, if you haven't seen Sand and Asbestos, I hope you do. She's publishing this novel in installments on her Sophia Ballou site. Needless to say, I know Corrie. Tor, however, I always feel like I should know him better. Have you ever had friends like that? I suppose Tor and I share a few common experiences: we've both traveled around, worked menial jobs, taught college composition. It's not enough.
So, as we were talking at the coffeehouse, our conversation moved over a few recent publications to the small press to the horrors of book distribution. We come to the point of Barnes and Noble and Borders. Before we go further, I do like Barnes and Noble. I always have. Admittedly, I buy almost all of my books used, I buy them at garage sales, thrift stores, used bookstores and when I can find him, I buy they from a man sitting on a piece of carpet on the street corner. If I'm not buying books in these ways, then I'll buy them new. A new book at a new bookstore happens rarely. In that hierarchical order, I like Barnes and Noble.
So the horrible idea? What will happen if Barnes and Noble consumes Borders? The idea is horrible to me for the obvious reason: variety and diversity decreases. Having one bookstore is like having one grocery store or one restaurant. It limits options.
Tor assures me this will never happen. He assures me that there will always be the small press. There will always be freedom with the little guys.
Then he tells me about Borders. He tells me about how he worked at one, long ago and in other place entirely. If I haven't said it before: Tor is one real cool cat. I admire him, and I enjoy his stories.
I was so taken with the Borders story that after Janice and I left our friends and began out long drive back to the east side, I suggested we stop at a Borders. She agreed, poor thing, to her, it was just another excursion to a bookstore. For me, I wanted to learn something. I went to a Borders once, years ago in Longmont, Colorado. I was with Janice then too.
I wandered over the shelves and rows of books checking over a thing or two. It was not too much different from any other bookstore I'd seen.
I picked up The Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo. I haven't read it yet, but Mario Acevedo does have it right: an ex-combat soldier turned PI mixes with nymphomaniac vampires at Rocky Flats? Cool. This book has to be fun. It's got to be fun to read. And then it occurs to me that the book was probably fun to write.
It was fun to write.
Well, we're here for some of those things, right? We're here to write. In the last few weeks, four weeks today in fact, we've been here to write a novel. Sorry I haven't brought up PIs, Rocky Flats and nymphos. Well, it is already written. I digress.
In the bookstore, a few steps later, I found the reference section. Janice and I looked at the girls on the language programs. The Japanese girl looks like the Chinese girl and for that matter they both look like the Italian and Spanish girls. “Put a pretty girl on anything, and you'll sell,” I said.
“Sure, who wouldn't want to learn a language to talk to a pretty girl?” she said. Janice is great. She put the Chinese language program back down and stepped away. I was already looking at calenders or some such thing. My mind was blanking out, a perfect thing for a bookstore excursion on a dark Portland afternoon in winter.
When I noticed Janice again, she stood blankly too and just stared at some generic looking book spines.
I saw Ray Bradbury's The Zen of Writing right away. I opened it and read a few paragraphs. We laughed at Poor Mr. Bradbury's experiences typing “The Fireman” and the comedy of plugging dimes into a typewriter. I love Ray Bradbury. He would probably understand the Guerrilla Novel.
And during this brief interlude on week four, I think you'll fully understand the Novel Guerrilla style too.
Back to Bradbury, when I shelved the book, I noticed the sheer volume of how-to writing books. There were at least sixty of them. “Look at this,” I said. I pointed to all of those how-to manuals.
“Look at these,” Janice said. Behind me on the aisle, the how-to manuals continued. In a range of $7.99 to $46.99, a person who desires to write a novel can purchase a manual and go. I've compared the novel writing process to an exercise regime. More so now, right?
So here we are. This is what we're doing:
1)the novel: we know what that is, it's already been defined.
2)the guerrilla: a member of a band of irregular soldiers that uses guerrilla warfare, harassing the enemy by surprise raids, sabotaging communication and supply lines, etc.

So? Waging war? Hell Yeah. Attack it. Do it. Write it down. Take no prisoners. Just write. We're in week four. If we wanted to write 50,000 in 16 weeks, then at week four we should have 12,500 words committed to the page. Isn't that tremendous? If we just write and learn a few tactics during the process, why would we bother reading a how-to? I don't know. It's nothing worth studying, it's not worth the deconstruction of it all, and I only say this because too much thought about anything can raise doubts and cause bad things.
Don't self-edit, self-censor, or self-stifle. I've said all this before. I still mean every word of it.
If you read these books, please shelf them during this guerrilla novel excursion. We have our own style. We know enough to get started and hopefully enough to make us dangerous.
I did not feel dangerous looking at all the how-tos. I felt nothing really. I was at Borders with Janice on a day we spent with old friends.
In my interlude week, I've thought about the novel, I always think about the novel. When writing, just write. Know that you can. Write it down, it's the only thing we can really do as writers and as humans. You really don't have to follow any formula. Leave the following up to the monkeys. When it comes to this: wouldn't you rather be a guerrilla than a gorilla?

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