Okay, so here is my big reveal: I am writing a novel. And I am pleased to also reveal that I am nearly finished with the first draft—that is, I’m sure that there will be some editing, adding, subtracting (hopefully no multiplication or division) and tidying up, but I can see the ending—in fact, I am so obsessed, at this moment, with getting to the ending that I feel, in my professional writer’s experienced opinion, that I need to take a break and write about something else.
So I’m writing about the writing—meta-writing we writers call it. I think.
I realized early on, you know, as an experienced novelist, that I must write the truth—not the “truth” that reveals that the characters are all based on real people, because they’re not—they’re not! The truth to which I am referring is the truth of what would really happen in certain situations. We writers call it verisimilitude.
And what’s a good story without some sex in it, huh? I mean really, is it enough to read about bucolic landscapes and quirky characters and their clever antics juxtaposed with evil characters and their diabolical plans without the addition of one of God’s greatest—um—gifts to mankind? You know the one: it’s the gift that keeps on giving, the one that keeps the species from going extinct. It’s sex, silly!
Now hold on, Scooter, aint no Fifty Shades of anything going on in my story, no sir. This piece of fiction is PG all the way. For the record, I detest gratuitous references to sex. For the uninitiated, gratuitous references or retellings of sexual encounters that are thrown into a story in order to titillate the reader and are not germane to the plot are known as gratuitous. That’s how we writers define it, anyway. There exist, as of today, no gratuitous sexual references in my soon-to-be literary masterpiece. At least I don’t think there are.
Occasionally, as I write, I like to stand back and admire my handiwork and seek some sort of gratification for what I’ve accomplished, and so I often recruit my husband to sit across from me and listen to certain passages that I’ve just written and get his take on the language I’ve chosen, the imagery present, and the connection of the character’s feelings to the actions described within the passage. In exchange for his attentiveness, I promise him certain things, but I digress, and I don’t want to be accused of being gratuitous.
Last night, I asked him to listen to a recently penned portion of my Pulitzer-bound tome, one that had a—ahem—rather remarkable reference to an altogether different kind of gratification. My husband never strays far from his über conservative roots. As he does after every one of these readings, he remarked, “Are you sure you want to put that in there? What if my parents happen to read it?”
It got worse. As I was reading to my husband, my mind at one with the mind of my character, my sixteen year-old son, apparently unaware that his mother was in the throes of, well, in the throes of what we writers like to call ‘a reading’, walked into the room, stopped, turned, and walked back out. I haven’t seen him since. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he hitchhiked to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Nothing like having your mother sitting at the kitchen table in front of her laptop reading to your dad her very own version of a particularly gratifying experience. The boy’s scarred for life, I’m afraid.
Admittedly, I am somewhat uncomfortable writing about sex—actually putting pen to paper (or keystroke to Microsoft Word) in order to describe the most private and intimate of subjects, is, well, daunting, to say the least. Add to that the inexperience of the writer (that’s me), and I’m blushing all over the place!
Most writers will laugh at my Puritan-driven mindset with regard to sex, but despite my hubris, writing the truth is hard work. Writing strips layers away from the writer’s soul; it forces the writer to examine feelings of joy, pain, sorrow, fear in their most naked and raw form. Naked and raw.
Practice makes perfect.