When I started to put up episodes of GRRR on Vella I had to do some searching to find it in Word format and start breaking it into pieces so I could upload it. I also wanted to do some minor updating of the material, if needed. In the process of searching for a complete copy in the correct format, I found an old first draft of the first chapter.
But I didn’t know what it was, as first. Sure, it was called “GRRR something” but I couldn’t imagine what it was, because, dammit, it was SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE FINAL DRAFT.
I’m saying that I took this epic original and threw it out, and replaced it with a shitty version.
Why? Why, I axe you, would a reasonably sane and sober individual do something so dumb? Well, therein lies a tale.
When I started this project, I lacked confidence and, above all, I had the idea that if you want to learn a new skill, you find some recognized experts and you ask them for help. You might have to pay them, or you might not, but the main thing is that you receive guidance from people who know of which they speak. Professionals. People with advanced degrees.
So I sought them out. The consensus was that my writing was “old fashioned.” I didn’t know what this meant, but I tried to “fix” it by making it “punchy” and “vivid.” “Show don’t tell” became my rule to live by, and I tried to boil everything down to a broth of dialog and vivid, but short, action sequences.
This effort would have produced a fine work of fiction if I had understood that it’s meant to be read by people who can’t fucking read. It’s a sad and dismal and sad fact of our age and the publishing business that aiming writing at good readers is “old fashioned” which is a cute way of saying “doesn’t pay” or “won’t sell.” People who can’t read need books that don’t require much reading. Like comic books. Better yet, just write a novel that translates easily into pictures and you can sell it to Hollywood and they’ll make a movie out of it and nobody will have to subject themselves to the colonialism of being forced to read in English.
Finger painting. Finger painting in feces is the neutral way to express oneself, and if you are the only one who can read it, then read it like nobody is watching and make your own kind of music, baby.
When confronted by this nonsense, I folded up like an old suitcase (look it up, punk). I tried– I really tried to simplify my language so that a feces-scribbler could pick it up, but it all went wrong and stubbornly remained coherent and glib. It failed, utterly, to descend into the lower chakra regions of “genre fiction”– where there livest all sorts of worms and other invertebrates. The dark and loamy soil of Young Adult writing for the hip and cool who don’t read and have no intention of learning.
I had, my friends, been suckered into a world where the job of the author is to produce stuff that is at a fourth-grade level, if your fourth grade class is in North Philadelphia, where putting your hand on a paper and running a pencil around it, creating an outline of a hand, is both a paper on anthropology (hand drawings were found in ancient cultures, and they were done the same way, thankyouverymuch) and an essay on the anatomy of the hand (What? Look at the picture! How much explanation do you need?).
I changed my writing and I’m a jackass to have done it. I just didn’t understand the state of the hull of the Titanic at that point in time. The ship is sinking. No ifs, ands, or buts. You put your writing out there and the wolves and sharks combine with the clueless and the helpless to tell you to do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.
Stand up. All of you who ever even try to write anything now. Stand up, and write it out in big words. Use you big words and fuck anybody who can’t take the joke. Make it old-fashioned as hell. Make it fucking old fashioned.