Writing Drunk and Editing Sober.

Ernest Hemingway, a favorite writer of mine, is famously quoted as saying “Write drunk, edit sober.” It is no secret that Papa was a fan of alcohol, however, the amount to which it played a part in creating many of his masterpieces of prose is dubious at best. There is no disputing that Hemingway liked to drink, and there is no disputing that alcohol itself played a large part in the content of many of his greatest works (my favorite included), but it is surprising to learn that alcohol actually had very little to do with the creation of these same works.

“That’s not how he wrote,” Hemingway’s granddaughter Mariel Hemingway said in an interview, “he never wrote drunk, he never wrote beyond early, early morning.”

So if the man himself did not follow this advice, what can be gained from it? Well, a lot actually. First, there are many, many correctly attributed quotes about drinking from Hemingway; like “I drink to make other people more interesting,” which I happen to have engraved on my favorite flask. And secondly, there still might be some truth to the quote. There’s actually a surprising amount of science behind it, in fact. Drinking, in moderation (with a hard limit at .07% BAC), can help spur creativity by inhibiting that ever-present editor in the brain. What can be detrimental to conversation can be vital to writing creatively; without a filter, every idea can come out, good and bad, and that is where editing sober comes into play.

So, in conclusion, writing drunk and editing sober is good advice when not taken literally. To me, it means (whether tipsy or sober), to write uninhibited, and to edit diligently, and that’s advice for anyone.



Meat & Potatoes

One of my favorite words is ampersand. It’s one of these ‘&.’The word ampersand comes from a contraction of the phrase ‘and per se and’ and the symbol used to be the 27th letter of the English alphabet taught to schoolchildren; the symbol is itself a contraction of the letters e and t, from ‘et,’ the Latin word for and (more on this fascinating story from the OED).

Anyway, the phrase ‘meat and potatoes’ refers to the main part of something, the unadulterated sustenance. For this blog, the meat and potatoes is me going through the editing and publishing process. This is going to be tough. I haven’t gone back to the book since the last time I sent out queries in the fall of 2016. Now is the time to get back though, to take all of the criticism, constructive and otherwise, and look at what I can do to make every word and every page count. Vonnegut was said to have obsessed for days on individual sentences, just to get his signature cadence just right. Fitzgerald worked and reworked his novels with trusted editor Maxwell Perkins for months until they reached perfection. And then there’s me looking up to those giants. But hey, if you look up to giants, you’ll always feel short.

“I remember when I used to think people our age were adults. I remember when I used to look up to my father. Now I’m taller than him.

When I was at the start of my junior year of high school, I really had no idea how much would change over the course of the next two years, I could never have imagined how Ken, Lila, the road trip, or any of it would change my life, but I’ll get to that and all that Holden Caulfield kind of crap about my younger and more vulnerable years later.

In short, I am a millennial. More specifically, I’m a 90’s kid. I am a member of the New Lost Generation, Generation Apathy, Generation Why; the kids that were around for Web 1.0 but were raised on 2. The generation that saw the technology around them grow faster than they did, born in a period of Unraveling and growing up in a time of Crisis. The last group of human beings to remember 9/11 as an event in their lives rather than a history lesson. The sons and daughters of the Baby-Boomers who stayed together for the kids. We are not just the outsiders or the inbetweeners, we are the lost.

But that’s just Juvenoia at work.”

This is the opener of my novel; four paragraphs that I’ve spent many many hours working and reworking to get just right, because first impressions are important, and opening lines are even more important. Let me know what you think of this beginning, as I begin again my journey into more editing. And yes, it’s a YA novel as I’ve said, and I’m not trying to write literature, but I am trying to write well.


World enough and time.

Life is short and distractions are many. Had we but world enough and time, this would not matter, but we don’t; life is short and we nave neither world enough nor time. But procrastination is difficult to avoid. And yes, there are numerous studies into the benefit of small doses of procrastination, or procrastination by other names; however, like anything, and especially like any vice, procrastination in large doses can be the difference between success and failure.

I, like many other people who write, have faced writers block. But not the abstract, Shining-esque, concentrating and can’t write sense, but the very real, ‘I’m distracted by all the things around me that are far more engaging than doing the work of writing’ sense. And writing is work, I whole heatedly believe that creativity is not a mythic, muse-given skill, but a simple work ethic (in fact, I have this poster above my writing desk). And because it’s work is why it’s often so difficult to get to work.

Over time I’ve found that the best way to beat procrastination is to give into it, and then find a routine. Before you get to work, take an hour or two or three and watch all the YouTube videos you want, clean all your dishes, make your bed, give into your procrastination in one fell swoop, and then sit down. This is where the routine comes in, after you’ve gotten the procrastination out of your system, fall into a routine of work. This is how I was able to write a 65,000 word novel in three weeks, by having a routine and sticking to it like it was my job.

My routine was simple and effective for me. I’d get up at 8, make a pot of coffee, eat a little, and then write until the coffee ran out, then I’d make another fresh pot and write until dinner, then I’d write again until midnight and sleep until the next day of writing. Because I had a routine, this was one less thing I had to worry about, because I almost always wear the same thing (I have a drawer of black, pocket t-shirts), this is one less thing I have to worry about. Having less unimportant things to think about and having a routine have been scientifically shown to help free the brain throughout the day to be more creative and make better decisions.

There’s no secret to success, but there are a lot of things successful people do in common, and one of these things is having set routines that help them preform at their best, and having very strong and deliberate work ethics. But another thing they have in common is knowing when to take breaks, procrastinate, have fun, and the get right back to work.


Embracing Failure.

So now that we’ve been properly introduced, I guess it’s time to dive in.

Failure. This blog will be about a great deal of failure. The subtitle of this blog is ‘papering the wall with rejection letters,’ this is in reference to what F. Scott Fitzgerald was said to have done when he was just getting started as a writer. He was faced with so many rejection letters that he could paper his walls with them, and he did. Every day he would have been faced head on with his failure, and every day he would have kept going. And eventually, after many many drafts of his debut novel This Side of Paradise, he was finally published, and the rest is history.

Failure is not a setback, it is not a roadblock, failure is a speed-bump. Failure tells you to slow down, but never to stop moving. As Americans today, it seems as if we have a certain adversity to failure; ‘failure’ seems like a bad word almost. But it hasn’t always been this way. In the past, failure was looked upon as a necessary step on the way to success, and not as a dead end. So now, through this blog, together, we will embrace failure, more specifically, my failure. My fifty submissions of this book alone, my eighteen outright rejections, my three glints of hope, and my twenty-nine non-response rejections. But I’m going to edit this book again, and then I’m going to submit it again. And no matter what, I will embrace failure and I will celebrate it. But hopefully I won’t have to for all that much longer.


Let us blog then, you and I…

My name is Thomas Marshall, I am a previously unpublished 21 year old, I attend the University of Southern California, and I hope to start a career in writing with my approximately 65,000 word YA novel, Millennial Fish.

This is the opening line of a query for the novel that I’m trying to get published.

This blog is my attempt to catalogue my experiences editing (and editing, and editing) and trying to sell my debut novel. There are hundreds of books and blogs about the writing process, but this blog takes place after all of that; editing, revising, and querying literary agencies and publishers, all in an attempt to go from writer to author. This blog will be full of personal experiences as I walk through this process with you (the internet), as well as tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

I started writing the book the summer after my freshman year of college (back in 2015). It took month of pre-writng; defining characters, outlining the plot, and writing snippets. But when I sat down to write the book, it took me three weeks,  non stop. I’d get up at 8, make a pot of coffee, eat a little, and then write until the coffee ran out, then I’d make another fresh pot and write until dinner, then I’d write again until midnight and sleep until the next day of writing.  I modeled this writing method after the near-mythological way Kerouac was said to have written On The Road. After these short three week came the long haul. Editing, revising, showing it to friends, and editing some more. After the summer of 2016 I shopped a finished version of the manuscript around to several small publishing houses and literary agencies. Aside from dozens of copy-paste ‘thank you but no’ responses, I got a few promising gems of praise.

One of the difficulties for us in reviewing submissions is that we make our editorial decisions by what can loosely be called a consensus process. So, when we are considering books closely, all of our editors need to weigh in. With regards to Millennial Fish, unfortunately we have reached a split decision which means we won’t be pursuing the novel for publication.  I’m sorry not to have better news, and I truly do hope you find the right home as I do honestly think you did a great job of capturing Alex’s voice, and I particularly liked the complicated relationship he has with Ken throughout…I thought you did a remarkable job with Ken’s character and spent the entire novel afraid of what might happen–you handled this part of the story with impressive nuance and deft, while keeping everything very believable. The road trip is also a great part of the novel as well.

So this is where I am now, back to editing and revising. After which, hopefully in the next few months, I’ll be at a point where I’m sending out queries again, and seeing who bites.