Friday, July 17, 2009

Vomiting with Precision

So I've been boycotting my own blog. I'm not sure why. Maybe I should have known it was coming considering the last, bitter entry I penned, i.e. Pity Party. The party, however, seems to be over and I thank Laura for continuing to post on our behalf. Good woman, that-not-quite-a- cougar-but-she-will-be-all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips-in-five-years (see Choose Wisely) dear friend and writing partner of mine. Now, onward.

During my blogging hiatus, I observed at coffee shops, read interesting books, took my son and a friend to Folsom Lake (yikes), all of which could have inspired a blog entry. For example, I sat down to begin an entry about bumper stickers after I saw a quintessential, silver 1980’s Fiero (did they actually make them after the 80s?) with a spoiler and a bumper sticker that read “I’d Rather Be Driving a DeLorean ”. Awesome. There were so many things to say I had no idea where to start with that one, so I didn't. (But stay tuned, I still think there’s valuable stuff to mine on the topic of bumper stickers).

Where I will start is the same old place we always start—writing. Last week, I was editing the first two chapters of our second book, currently entitled Star Struck, when I noticed that we used a certain word three times. This happens when two people write together, whether it’s subliminal, by happenstance, or because we are of the same mind when it comes to choosing words. Whatever the case, it happens more often than we even realized. Take vomit, for example. Laura has mentioned (Warning! This Post May Self-Destruct!) that we couldn’t seem to get enough of vomit in the Pecking Order and, as it turns out, there’s not a great substitute for vomit. Puke is too coarse, throw-up is awkward, hurl is too colloquial, and so on and so forth.


In the first two chapters of Star Struck, we used the word precise twice and precision once. And as I was pondering a good alternative (I have yet to come up with one, by the way; precise sounds so crisp and neat its hard to replace), I realized that the difference between the words vomit and precise captures the difference between our first and second books, not only in terms of the style in which we're writing, but the way in which we're writing it. The genesis of The Pecking Order was two vignettes - one that discussed a giant fruit of the type a farmer ties to his flatbed truck to haul down to the county fair for the big blue ribbon prize (or something equally ridiculous); and a second about being lost in the grocery store in the middle of the day. After these two vignettes, which had nothing to do with one another (both were cut from the final draft), Laura and I proceeded to upchuck (see, I've learned my lesson) all over the computer screen, trying to cleanse our souls of the big firm litigation experience by writing about it. Upchuck writing: cathartic, yes; glimmers of brilliance, certainly; plot producing, no. So, and you know the story by now, we cleaned ourselves up and set about making a book of it.

We've done things differently with Star Struck, which, as an aside, is a title subject to change (a dear friend of mine scrunched up her face and said "Jackie Collins" when I told her). Before putting proverbial pen to paper, we toiled over the plot, sketched out major and minor characters, giving them birthdays and histories and quirks and hangups, and debated tone and point of view longer than you'd believe and definitely for more than several Sponge Bob episodes. Dare I say, we've approached it with--wait for it--precision. And it shows in the writing and the ease with which we edit and move on to the next chapter. The writing gods willing and the creek don't rise (method writing, I suppose - some of Star Struck is set in the south), we'll be finished in five months rather than five years. And while we might repeat the same word every now and then, we definitely don't feel like vomiting.

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