Monday, April 4, 2011

Howard Carter Saved the World :: Writing As Performance Art Redux

I have often described writing as the fine art of talking to yourself.  And many times, that's what it feels like: a writer goes into a corner with his or her computer and a few months later, comes out bearing a ream of paper and a couple of new nervous tics.

I prefer the idea that writing is a conversation between writer and reader.  A conversation that starts with the writer and then is gifted to readers to carry on with on their own.  Writing Howard Carter Saves the World has cemented that idea in my mind forever.  For me, this is the first time that this conversation has happened in real time.  Getting more or less constant feedback from people who were reading along as I wrote was mind-blowing at times.  At times, it resembled improv or stand-up more than writing.  I was able to "read the crowd" and react when something wasn't working or if a joke fell flat.

That's a gift.

It's also a bit nerve-wracking.  Sometimes we need that insulating blanket of time between the day the words hit the page and the day the reader reacts to them.  I gave myself some of that by pointedly not looking at the Google pageviews.

Sometimes, it's better not to know.  The idea of an audience was sufficient.  That much of the insular relationship between writer and words I felt it necessary to protect.

If you were reading along, I thank you.  If you haven't read it, there's still time.  If you want to wait for it to pass under the editor's pen, I certainly understand that too.

This has been a strange, sometimes harrowing, and always rewarding experience.  Writing the whole thing in public and posting it online as a serial gave me an entirely different relationship to the text -- even though it's still a first draft and a bit rough in places, it's a lot more polished than most first drafts have any right to be.

At times, it was like writing and publishing a new short story every couple of days.  And at other times I ran dry or ran aground and didn't know if I could keep going.  Knowing the audience was out there reading -- no matter how small or large it might be --  kept that next chapter coming.

And in the end, we saved the world.


It panned out to be about 95,000 words spread over 42 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue.  I predict that in revisions it will lose between 5,000 and 10,000 words, so some of what you've read will never make it to the final edition.  That's the way of things.

For now, rest well, citizens of the Earth!  The story is complete and your world is safe once more.  Howard Carter is getting a well-deserved rest before I hop in my time machine and revisit his tale for the next phase of its journey from daydream to finished book.  The poor kid's been through a lot!

If you were waiting until I was finished to read it, now's your chance!  I will very likely take it down sometime in May, which is when I will begin revising the manuscript to begin submitting to agents and editors.  Click the image below to be taken to the front page.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).