Wednesday, September 22, 2010
The Worst Thing I've Ever Written
No excuses. Naked and embarrassed. I'm about to show you something I wrote. Not twenty-five years ago. Not five years ago. I'm about to show you something I wrote THIS MONTH.
A writer/editor/teacher once imparted the advice that it is impossible to write over the top. If you think it's maudlin or overly dramatic, it's probably just perfect. I'm here to tell you (and then show you) that not all advice is good advice. At least not 100% of the time.
Two questions come to mind: What was I thinking? and Why in the world would I admit writing such drivel?
Before I answer those questions, here are the uglies (if you happen to be an agent or a publisher, please stop reading now and move on to that long list of queries you're considering):
"Tonight, the FBI agent fell to his knees in front of the fire. He fought to breathe. Pulled in tortuous, nail-filled air. His lungs could hold no more and he expelled the gaseous oxygen."
If that wasn't bad enough, the following was a mere two short paragraphs later:
"Nick rolled onto his stomach and crawled to the phone, the pain casting around in his back. Fire and ice battled for victory and his body was the battlefield."
What was I thinking? I adore deep POV. Strike that. I adore deep POV that's done well. This was an emotional moment. Emotional moments often call for deep POV. But clearly, this would have been better written almost any other way. Or not written at all. Maybe I was tired. Or desperate. Or distracted. Whatever I was, I was not on top of my game.
Why in the world would I admit writing such drivel? To make two points. The first one is that it is possible to grind out over-the-top garbage even after having written for years. And the second one is . . . (this is important) . . . I now have something to fix.
Several people have said, "You can't fix a blank page." I don't know who said it first, but they got it right.
The words are awful. But the idea is there. I have something to work with. Something to move forward with. I've already changed those words, and will probably change them again before I'm done.
It's a process.
What's the worst thing you've ever written? Dare to share?
CR: The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan.
It's all better with friends.