Hey, guys! Welcome to this week’s Muse. I’m C, writing to you from a much more crowded than usual local Starbucks. The only table left was the wobbly one, which is making this blog an adventure in holding the stable steady so I can hit the right keys as I type. It’s not that difficult, or anything, but it is something else to think about when I could otherwise be reveling in my usual stream-of-consciousness ramblings. Oh well.
So, some updates on writing. Particularly in the world of Killing Mercutio.
Now, many of you already know we haven’t queried this since last August, when we went up to Stratford the last time. So, yeah, it’s been on a six-month hiatus. That doesn’t mean we’ve given up on it. Absolutely not. I spent half my trip to NYC staring up at buildings I knew housed agencies and thinking positive thoughts. (Note to any agents who might read this: I did not attempt, in any way, to be disruptive. I mostly sang ‘You Can Fly’ in my head, and then forgot precisely where the building was located.) But, after almost forty rejections, most of which seemed to give us the feeling that it was good but not salable in this market, we decided it was time to regroup and think about where we are.
As such, the query has been redone (masterfully, I must say, by the wonderous A) and I am in the process of bringing the novel down from 120k to closer to 110k. It’s not easy since this is something like the fifth pass (our original draft was well over 150k), but sacrificing a little on the formality of the language and giving Benvolio a few more contractions (he’s one of the only characters who uses them regularly), I have cut quite a bit. My hope is that I can get close enough to 110k (the upper end of acceptable for this kind of book as far as I can tell) that there’s some sort of margin of error.
So, Mercutio is not shelved. He’s just going through a bit of a nip tuck.
Now, on to my current project. Not writing related. I’m going through and re-reading all the books I hated in school (except The Scarlet Letter, which was in a league of its own with regards to hatred). I got the idea when I had to re-read Wuthering Heights for the Brontë-off and… hated it exactly the same. I mean, I enjoyed the actual readability and obvious skill of the author (whom you’ll remember I crowned the best writer of the three sisters), but I still hate each and every character the same. Actually, I think I hate Catherine even more. But it made me think about whether or not I actually hated the books I read in school or if I just wasn’t ready for them. Or maybe my notorious loathing for anything I’m forced to do (nothing like 1000 pages of reading in three days to make you hate the American Civil War) got in the way.
So far, I have re-visited Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens. One has improved in my eyes (Hardy) and the other remains mostly the same (I know Dickens was trying to get that money, but all I want to do is cross out, like, half of what he writes as interesting but irrelevant). Yes, I am aware that Dickens was all about exploring class and society and whatnot, but the man was verbose. It felt like reading every tangent his brain went off into as he wrote and because he wanted the money, he left it in. That being said, I never hated Dickens in the way I hated, say, Moby Dick. Oh, yeah… that’s another one I’m not entirely sure I want to give another chance to. My personal best is 50 pages. I might just let Melville win that battle.
Now, I admit to an obvious bias toward English lit (we mostly read Brit or Am Lit in school, with some forays into Dumas). Most of the books I couldn’t finish were furnished by my fellow countrymen (The Good Earth, Moby Dick, etc), though I was one of the only people to really enjoy Fitzgerald and Alas, Babylon. I plan on giving Steinbeck another try, though his books are among those I ended up SparkNotes-ing. Holden Caulfield stays in purgatory, but Franny and Zooey will get a go (never read that one in school, but I hated Catcher in the Rye so much, I gave up on Salinger for years). Only the guys seemed to like Caulfield.
You’ll notice a distinct lack of women and POC here. That was because we read very few. My 10th grade English teacher recommended The Color Purple to me, but it wasn’t an assignment. I read Pride and Prejudice for a project because I knew the book so well, it was a chance to ease my workload. It wasn’t until college that I read anything resembling magical realism (real magical realism, not the fantasy-lite being passed off as M.R. these days). Hell, I was in my mid-twenties before I read Middlemarch for the first time, and that is my favorite book in the world (Will Ladislaw is ♥). And I am going to get to all the people I missed or my education decided not to introduce to me, but for now I’m focusing on the stuff I hated in school.
Again, except The Scarlet Letter. That book can continue to rot in hell. I’ll try Moby Dick again before I try that book. Hawthorne’s short stories will more than suffice for me.
So, be prepared for a lot of the classics in the coming weeks. And maybe some round-ups, since I’m starting with The Three Musketeers (which is the greatest travesty to me. How could I possibly hate anything involving Athos, Porthos, and Aramis? D’artagnan, I can take or leave, but Athos? No. High school me was a culture-less twit), and I think I… might have paired that one already? No? I’ll check.
I’ll be back on Friday with something that isn’t a classic. I have to break it up, you know, or I think I’ll go into classics fatigue.