Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Even Hemingway had his duds

By R.J. Harlick

My apologies for my tardiness in getting this up this morning, but I got caught up in a minor crisis. A skunk, and a rather large one at that, has managed to get his head stuck inside a small plastic bottle. The poor thing has been wandering rather drunkenly along the sidewalk and road. Needless to say no one was keen on getting close to him to remove the bottle. He’s now found refuge in a back yard, while we wait for the animal rescue people to arrive.

So onto my blog

What’s the worst thing you ever wrote? (Or maybe the "least best.")

Gosh, me? Write something bad, something I’m not especially proud of, something I’ve stuffed away in a drawer never to be read by any eyes, not even my own? How could that happen?

Maybe way back in Elementary School, when I tried writing my first mystery. It was a tad tedious, if I recall correctly. Too intent on detailing every step my protagonist took in solving the mystery, I had it limp to an awkward close. I think I managed to put my class to sleep while I read it out loud. But I tell you I was rather proud of myself at the time. It was, after all, my very first mystery story.

I will say that I’m not especially proud of my first attempt at writing a mystery novel, though at the time I thought it was about to be the next Great Canadian novel. I was so confident, after all I’d managed to finish the bloody thing something I wasn’t sure I could do at the outset, that I sent it out to all the big publishers and agents. It, of course, was summarily rejected, many, many months later. Fortunately, though the story remained essentially the same, the words were rewritten many times over until the resulting published novel bore no semblance to that very first draft. But you know what? I didn’t throw it out. I still have a copy of that first draft of Death’s Golden Whisper hidden away somewhere in my basement. I don’t know why I am keeping it. I don’t dare read it. But I guess I feel it is part of my journey in becoming a writer.  

As Meredith said in yesterday’s post, “no one ever sat down on their first try and wrote something brilliant”, not even Ernest Hemingway who admitted in an interview by George Plimpton that he rewrote the last page of Farewell to Arms, thirty-nine times.

Before I sign off, I just want to mention to those of you living in the fabulous city of Vancouver that I will be out your way next week promoting my latest Meg Harris mystery, Silver Totem of Shame. I am doing a number of library and bookstore events. For details check my blog. I would love to see some of you there.


Meredith Cole said...

Great post, RJ! I hope the poor skunk gets rescued soon... And you didn't put up your post as late as I put up mine yesterday! I think we're on summer hours here at the blog...

Catriona McPherson said...

But when it comes to best excuse ever - no contest. There's a skunk with its head in a bottle in my garden cannot be improved upon.

My first ever work of fiction was a rip-off of Enid Blyton's Tales From Toyland but it was a crime story. Also a crime.

Susan C Shea said...

Promise you'll post the outcome of the skunk's sad tale! Agree with Catriona that your 'excuse' (not needed) will be hard to top. But I'm already rehearsing a few possibilities. Hey, maybe a contest?

Paul D. Marks said...

Like Catriona said, best excuse ever. Certainly beats my dog ate the draft. Hope that Pepe le Pew got out okay.

Re: Hemingway, not only did he do all those drafts, but he had one of the greatest editors of all time in Max Perkins to help him tweak his work.

Great post, RJ.

RJ Harlick said...

I'm sorry I can't report any positive news on the poor skunk. Unfortunately I had to leave, so I have no idea whether rescue finally arrived or whether the hapless skunk is still wearing his new headgear. I only know that he has disappeared from our neighbour's back yard. Poor thing.