Before fame and a guest appearance on the Tonight Show, writer must read the fine print…
I sat on my bed tonight wondering how I would get though the chapter-by-chapter outline for my book. In truth, it’s been three nights of sitting and staring at the blinking cursor on the blank word document. It’s been me and my friends, the shadows on the wall, and the characters in my head, thinking the same thing—how will she do it. The shadows, so bored took to making bunny puppets on the wall, and the characters waiting for their story to be written, are opening bottles of French Bordeaux and smoking unfiltered Camels, as if they are struggling artists sitting in cafés around Prague. There I was, alone with blinking cursor in my own private version of hell on earth–a blank page and no words on the horizon. There was no tap-tap-taping, only the tickey-tick-tick-tickey-tock of the clock talking, reminding me of time lost. The outline and me losing ground and staring one another down, waiting for the other to blink first, to cave in. I have a strong dislike for these particular types of beginnings—something structured that comes with fine print, also known as rules.
As per the guidelines for fame, fortune, publishing, a guest appearance on The Tonight Show, and for a novel to be listed on Oprah’s must read list, a writer must first complete the book proposal package, which includes the outline, before fame can ensue.
The outline requirements:
- Reveal how the chapter begins
- Reveal the gist of the chapter
- Reveal how the chapter ends
Easy peezie, no problemo, piece of cake, slam-dunk, Bob’s your uncle, and glory halleluiah.
I’ve written the damn book at least three and half times, so it’s not as if I don’t know the story inside and out. It’s written on my body, if not etched by a blunt instrument on my soul. Writing is writing is writing, but writing something structured isn’t something I know how to do. Seriously. I’ve wallowed, howled, cajoled, offered that bloody muse of mine, Tobias, my first Emmy, if only he’d give me a line, hell, I’d have settled for a three word sentence. He snorted as he faded out of view leaving me alone with my friends, the shadows on the walls and all the other characters sitting around in my story waiting room. Arianna, my lost empathic Tarot reader has cursed me endlessly for leaving her story untold, glared hostilely at me with her amber colored eyes. If she could speak she’d have said, “You writers take and take, you think we will wait forever, we can’t. Get on with the outline. It’s my turn.” I can’t blame her for being angry, but I confess she scares me, she’s a fury I don’t know what to do with. But she isn’t the problem I need to resolve.
As with everything in life, there are rules and guidelines. I realize there is difference between the two, but to me they are one in the same. If you knew me—the core, the inside, the nitty-gritty—you’d know flat out, that rules and me don’t get along. Give me a rule and I’ll surely break if not ignore it like I do the number on my bathroom scale. I don’t think I am entitled, I am just independent in thought. And it seems to me I’ve already done all the hard work—writing the book—so why do I have to write the outline. HOWEVER, since the fame-forever-writer-guideline that promises a talk show appearance if newbie writers follow the ten easy steps, also said writer must blog—which I didn’t want to do nor did I know how to but did it anyway—I’ve accepted the outline is a must do.
After seventy-two hours of the blinking cursor taunting me and the air blowing through my ears I poured myself a glass of wine hoping the effects of the fermented grape would remove the double-wide writer’s block parked illegally in front of my word well—where I go for words—and allow me to write the first sentence. Just one line I begged, give me an opening. I looked at the how-to manual on my left at least thirty times before returning to the blank word document. It’s not as if I can’t write or didn’t have a thing to say, it’s just that I didn’t know how to write what I needed to write.
I sipped, swigged, and finally swallowed that earthy Bordeaux in a single gulp. I closed my eyes and felt the wine warm my veins as it traveled without destination. I had two choices, sit in the story waiting room with Arianna and let her read my fortune, or write.
What do you do when you are facing the blank page?
Post script: this isn’t what I planned to post tonight, but it’s what came out of me after I wrote the outline for the first two chapters. Is it perfect? No, but it’s a start. Glory Halleluiah.