In the Land of Lies and Perjury

I read some of the highlights from the recent Vanity Fair interview with Angelina Jolie and was a tad confused. Seeing as how I skimmed the article, though, I shrugged off my confusion and started worrying about more important things. Like whether or not I could get away with putting onions in the spaghetti sauce without Aidan or Wes noticing.

Then, I ran across this post on Mama Pop. It’s perfect. It sums up so perfectly why I was confused by the VF interview. To wit:

[Angelina Jolie is] making her screenwriting and directorial debut with the upcoming film  In the Land of Blood and Honey.  She tells the magazine that the screenplay was the result of trying to cope with a two-day stint with the flu.

“I had to be quarantined from the children for two days,” Jolie says. “I was in the attic of a house in France. I was isolated, pacing. I don’t watch TV and I wasn’t reading anything. So I started writing. I went from the beginning to the end.”   Alright.  I’m calling shenanigans on this one.

  1. Who paces while they have the flu?
  2. Can we just cool it with the self-righteous “I don’t’ watch tv” claims?  WE ALL WATCH TV.
  3. Really?  A first screenplay in TWO DAYS?  Either the story sucks or she has a really talented ghostwriter with a rock-solid non-disclosure agreement.
  4. The attic?

These were my thoughts exactly! I have no doubt (or, well, maybe a little doubt. I don’t know her personally, so I can’t vouch for her integrity) that Ms. Jolie poured a ton of time and effort into bringing this movie into existence. I applaud her efforts. It’s good to have a mother accomplishing such lofty goals. Yay moms!

On the other hand, the longer I work on my writing and the more I learn about the craft of storytelling, the more annoyed by celebrity memoirs, novels, and what-have-yous I get. That Angelina claims she hammered out an entire screenplay in two days with the flu is insulting, really.

I mean, maybe it happened. Maybe she’s some kind of a screenplay-writing savant, like a Mozart for screenplays, but I think it far more likely she wrote down a few ideas and scenes while she was sick. Either that or she hallucinated the whole thing (she had the flu, remember).

And yes, she’s been an actress for many, many years. Terrific. I’ve been an avid reader since I was seven, but that doesn’t mean I can write a first-draft novel in two days. Telling a story gets a lot more difficult when you factor things in like story arc, character development, and research. I’ve got to assume she wasn’t able to just wing this one spur-of-the-moment because she had the flu. Otherwise, I might cry.

I mean, if celebrities are more attractive than us, and wealthier than us, what is the freaking point if they’re able to do things we find difficult quickly and while impaired? Am I to assume Angelina doesn’t dissolve into a miserable, feverish pile of nausea when she gets sick?

I agree with Kristen from Mama Pop. I call shenanigans on this claim. I have to. For my own sanity.

The Perils of Being Fast

I read a fascinating Slate article today on how to write faster. This is, either fortunately or not, something I never struggle with.

Blogging helped me learn how to write quickly, for one. Blogging is a terrific way to hone writing skills, because it’s almost always really easy to write a blog post when you’ve got one roiling around in your brain. NaNoWriMo helped too, because you have such a huge daily word requirement that you have no choice but to just get stuff on the page.

So how fast is fast? I’d consider myself a fast writer. I can consistently churn out about 1,000 words per hour, but this number can go up or down depending on how much research I have to do. If writing was all I did every day, I could conceivably write a handful of novels and short stories every year providing my fingers and supply of ideas held up.

Still, there are pros and cons to writing fast. On the pro side, if you have a short attention span (like me, and almost everyone I know who’s my age {darn Internet, making it easy to access short, easy-to-digest morsels of information}) it’s much easier to stay engaged and interested in a story if you’re able to write it quickly. Plus, it’s a huge rush to complete an entire novel in a month or two. I met people at the writer’s conference earlier this month who’d been writing their books for years. I was almost a little afraid to tell them I wrote my first draft in a month.

On the con side, quantity doesn’t always equate to quality. The more I learn about writing, the more I realize this. For example, the value of an outline. I don’t outline, as a rule. I like to meet my characters, get them in trouble, and then watch how they get themselves out of it. It’s fun to write this way, and can lead to some surprising twists.

However, this also means I end up with some pretty ragged first drafts. Take the novel I’m working on right now, Enemy Accountant. I wrote the first draft last November, and now I’m “revising” it. And by “revising” it I mean I’m rewriting the whole freaking thing because I know I’m capable of telling the story so much better and I’m unwilling to send it off to agents and publishers when it’s anything less than the best I can possibly do.

One could argue that my first draft has become my outline. Bob Mayer has a great quote about this, he says, “I would offer that all writers outline. Some just write a really extensive outline called the first draft.”

My writing style is consistent with my personality type, though. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda person, whose spontaneity works out great sometimes and gets me in huge trouble at other times. I admire people who think things through and have a perfect plan and know exactly where they’re going with their writing. That’s just never going to be me.

So I guess it’s a good thing I write so dang fast. This way I can just proliferate bunches of mediocre first drafts every year, and then spend the rest of my time cleaning those drafts up and rewriting them entirely. This makes me feel like a crappy carpenter who’s perpetually measuring once and cutting twice, but hey. It’s working for me so far.

Biding My Time

Two weeks from today my left foot will be free from Boot Penitentiary and I’ll regain the ability to do cool stuff like walk quietly, sit on the couch without my foot going to sleep, and exercise!

Still, I’ve been in the boot for four weeks now and I hate it. It was all fun and games when I was all, “Ha ha, this is my first broken bone” but now I just want to be able to walk across the house without feeling like a dang pirate, y’know?

Also, I’m keeping the weight off but I’ve noticed a gradual…softening…going on. All my hard-won muscles are melting back into chub and it’s driving me bananas. I mean sure, I could keep going to the gym to exercise my arms and core, but I very much dislike weight training and it’s just too frustrating to go to the gym and only get to do the stuff I don’t really like doing.

Instead of going to the gym, I’ve been waking up early to write. It’s been nice. I hobble to the kitchen, brew some coffee, and then write my little face off until 8 AM, when it’s time for me to start my day of stay at home mothering.

There’s a plus side to everything, I suppose. Flabby arms in exchange for progress on my novel? Meh, I guess I’ll take it. I suppose my stomach muscles are going to be destroyed by Future Baby anyway so I might as well get used to it.

This is yet another reason I’m waking up early to write. Newborns don’t afford many opportunities to sit down and write, so I’ve got to do it now while the getting’s good. I think it’s absolutely realistic to write a novel and finish revising my current book sometime in the next few months, don’t you agree?

Feeling-Superior Fail

I have opinions on something I shouldn’t have opinions on. I’m irritated at myself for having opinions about it, and I wish I didn’t. It’s annoys me so much I’d rather be living in a hermetically sealed cavern without Internet access than know enough about it to have an opinion.

Man, think of all the writing I’d get done if I didn’t have the Internet. Still, I’d be limited in my research so the writing would probably be a tad shallow.

Anyway, the thing I’m so mad at myself for having an opinion about is the whole stupid Kardashian wedding thing that happened last weekend. Ugh, even just typing in that name makes me feel like bleaching my brain and then reading some Tolstoy.

Angsty teenage Erika (who read Tolstoy for fun) would write some scathing poetry indeed if she knew I knew about anything relating to a reality TV family.

As much as it pains me to admit, I’m curious about the wedding only so much as it pertains to pretty things. I do so love pretty wedding things. It’s a holdover love from my job at Bottle Your Brand, when it was my job to research weddings and pretty things.

This wedding, where money was no object, is bound to be full of pretty things. But in order to see them I’m going to have to watch an episode of the reality show it was filmed for. And that will ramp up the self-loathing to a dangerous place. So that’s annoying.

I don’t really care anything for the people involved. Yes, I think it’s awfully vain to talk about your own wedding as the wedding of the century, and then go on to say you’re American royalty. Then again, they seem awfully good at talking about nothing but themselves, so in that way I suppose they are American royalty.

But insomuch as they seem well-known, they’re well-known for being reality stars. And that makes me uncomfortable. Because people who are famous for having no shame are not the people I want associated with the reigning royalty of where I live.

And yet, as much as my mind quails in horror that I care, I do. Not about the people involved in the wedding, but about the pretty things. And that’s not really much different than caring about the people, because when you get right down to it, it all boils down to being interested in pretty things, doesn’t it? Pretty things, pretty people. None of it’s going to help me write better, or be a better mother or wife, or change the world.

And yet and yet, I still care. Feeling-superior Fail.

A Little Something to Help You on Your Way

There. Now we can have a weekend.

(I know I haven’t done Things That Do Not Suck Thursdays in ages and ages, but I categorized this as such because, well, this really does not suck. And if you ever feel hesitant about asking for what you want in life, think about this guy. I promise that whatever you’re up against is nowhere near as scary as a hungry Great White Shark.)

(Also? I found this image here. Go there if you want to see lots and lots of funny pottymouth things.)