Monday, August 31, 2009

I Finally Finished My Novel ... Now What? (or So What?)

In the summer of 2005 I began what started as a short story about a boy going to college and working at a pizza delivery store. It was based in part on my experiences as a college student and pizza guy. The story continued to grow roots and branches until I realized I had the makings of something bigger. I continued working on my "novel" off and on in the following years, periodically writing poetry when I didn't have huge chunks of time to devote to prose writing.

I didn't mention this to many people. I mean, it seemed every writer had an unfinished novel they were working on, and they never seemed to have it finished. I didn't want to be one of those writers of the "Great American (Unfinished) Novel." I told my wife about it a few times, who nodded her head and replied, "That's nice," and then dismissed it when I had trouble telling her what the story was about. Who can blame her? I might have read a chapter or two over the years at some SAWC meetings, but other than that I felt I shouldn't talk it up if I didn't have a "finished" completed novel.

This summer, four years after starting it, I can safely say that I have a finished product, tentatively titled The Slow Constellations Wheeled On. Of course, finished is a relative term, as I expect to do some tweaking or overhauling of the story after having a few close writer friends do a critical reading of it. The ending was the hardest part I found. The closer I came to the end the more difficult it seemed to draw most of the loose ends to a close. I felt like I was trying to tie the end strings of a mop head together. When I did finish the last chapter, I printed the 247-page hard copy and read from the beginning, making notes of the character's names, fixing inconsistencies between details in the story, and looking for grammar and usage mistakes. Then I revised the whole thing on the computer.

Now what?

I read an article somewhere, and conversing with a writer friend about her own novel confirmed it, that the one thing I had to have in order to make my novel marketable is a "dust-jacket" summary of what the novel is about, so when someone asks me what my book is about I can have an answer for them. The following is a rough draft of what I think a good description would be. I don't want to be too specific in giving away details, and I don't want to be too vague, but I tried to describe it in a way that people could relate to its thematic elements.

"A coming-of-age story about Randall Spivey, a boy trying to survive the college scene in a small mountain town on his own in the absence of family support, balancing school and his job as a pizza delivery person, wanting to make it on his own yet battling the despair and loneliness that both pulls him to and repels him from his troubled life at home, facing hardships that challenge him emotionally and spiritually and bring him to the edge of the abyss."

The synopsis needs work, for sure. Eventually I hope to send my novel out to some recognized contests that offer the winner a publishing contract of some sort. I think I have something worthy of being shared with others. I've heard the hardest avenue to take is to send it to an agent. However, I am prepared for a future time when I realize that I will never publish it unless I go "vanity" and publish it myself (in which case it probably won't be published) and just chalk it up to a labor of love.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Ipod Shuffle List, Almost Random

Lately I've been over at Facebook and seen where people are posting the next 10 consecutive songs on their Ipod shuffle feature (as a way of sharing their musical tastes?), and thought I would try that out myself. I haven't had my Ipod for a year yet, and am still figuring out how to use it (you should have heard me cuss when I first got it). I have learned that the shuffle feature is not truly random, as it will play songs by the same artist back to back or sometimes three times in a set of 10 songs. So I find myself "fast forwarding" to the next song (do people still say that? I know it's reminiscent of cassettes, and "rewind" is even more so). Here is my list of 25 consecutively different artists from my Ipod . To be honest, I only cut 4 songs out that were repeat artists.

1. Drunken Angel -- Lucinda Williams
2. Rainy Night in Georgia -- Hem (a Brook Benton cover)
3. Temporarily Blind -- Built to Spill
4. Ten Degrees and Getting Colder -- Nanci Griffith (a Gordon Lightfoot cover)
5. West Liberty -- Glossary (the best Southern Garage Rock band no one's ever heard of)
6. Short Life of Trouble -- Carolina Chocolate Drops
7. Whistling in the Dark -- They Might Be Giants
8. High Life -- Counting Crows
9. Psycho Killer -- Talking Heads
10. Happy Birthday -- "Weird Al" Yankovic
11. You Might Think -- The Cars
12. If I Could -- Jack Johnson
13. Again & Again -- The Bird & the Bee
14. Joy of Love -- Victoria Williams
15. Godspeed -- Mortal ( a Christian Industrial Metal Band from the '90s, no kidding)
16. Escape (The Pina Colada Song)-- Rupert Holmes (I know, but it's a guilty pleasure)
17. New Slang -- The Shins
18. Whatever Way the Wind Blows -- Kelly Willis
19. Nobody Gets a Smooth Ride -- The Choir
20. Just How Lonely -- Southern Culture on the Skids
21. Pretend -- King's X (one of the most eclectic heavy metal bands in their day)
22. Oh Molly Dear -- B.F. Shelton (an oldie but a goodie)
23. Past the Mission -- Tori Amos
24. Sandy Land -- The Whites (from "Down From the Mountain" O'Brother Soundtrack)
25. Gin and Juice -- The Gourds (a Snoop Dogg cover, I'd call it the "Hick-Hop" version)

I don't consider myself a music snob, unless it's that modern top 40 corporate mess, but if you are like me you like what you like. One thing I will say about Ipods, I forsee the death of the concept album with this new techology where you purchase only the songs you want. For me, I couldn't listen to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon or The Beatles Sargeant Pepper's albums without listening to the whole thing. Each song fits with the next one and connects to the one before it in some way. It's kind of like what happened to album artwork. In a way it died with the vinyl record. Most of the time ITunes doesn't have the album artwork of CDs I transfer to my playlists, anyway. I hope, however, that there will always be those dusty music stores you can walk into and dig through record bins or pick out a use CD for 3 bucks while listening to the cashier's album pick of the hour.