Moose Groove, Network, and Weddings

18 May 2002

I realized that in my description of the books I've written yesterday, I left out my first two novels. I was 11 when I wrote the first and 14 when I wrote the second. They are no longer in existence, because I read them again when I was 12 and 15, respectively, and decided that they sucked so badly that they should not continue to exist. So I destroyed them at the time, and now I wish I hadn't. I don't usually count them when I tell people how many books I've written. Also, Mark makes me count the nonfiction and sometimes the children's books, which seems to me to be not the question people are asking when they ask how many books I've written.

So I didn't rework the outline yesterday -- had too many actual scenes or scene fragments I wanted to get down. So the outline reworking is still ahead of me, but I know exactly what I need to do. It's just a matter of doing it. Which I can. Timprov and I have already had our walk today and finally watched the end of the Eco-Challenge (it was on when Ceej was here, so we had better stuff to do than sit around watching people ruin their feet -- so we taped it and watched it today). I'm hoping that Mark and I can spend some good time together and maybe get some errands run this afternoon, and then this evening I'll work and read. It sounds suspiciously like a plan.

I'm really getting into the groove on the Not The Moose Book. One of the ways I can tell is my use of my "starters" file. When I'm not grooving on some book, if I get a fragment of story, I try to develop it, figure out where the thing is going, who the characters are, all of that. I give it its own file and don't usually write less than 500 words of it at a time. But with the Moose Groove in full force, I just pull up the starters file, write down whatever bit of dialog, description, etc. is chasing itself around my head, minimize the file and keep going on the book. I actually do go back to the starters file later, when I'm feeling restless, and I've pulled several stories out of it. It's sort of like my paper journal that way, but less rambly, more focused. In my paper journal, I may go a page or two or three without a new story idea or title or fragment. In the starters file, that's all it is, no rambling about what I've read or what's going on in my life or any ideas that I've already been working on.

I really feel like I've rediscovered my paper journal in the last few weeks, and I know exactly why: I stopped using the Waterman. When I have to go back and fill in strokes on every single word, I'm not going to write longhand for very long. I'll do more with a scratchy rollerball pen that actually writes than I will with my smooth and beautiful broken Waterman. So I've gotten back into paper journaling, and it's a lovely thing, very good for me. I'm still afraid to do too many freewrites that are truly free -- I don't want to get more story and novel ideas to ignore while I go grooving with the (non-) moose.

I'm in the middle of a rejection drought here, people. I've gotten one rejection in the last week. Which is pretty amazing considering that I have fifty items out right now, and I didn't "just" send any of them out. I'm starting to feel ignored. Fifty! Come on! It's time. Let me know, editor-people!

Mark says it's because they're all talking to their accountants about how much money they can afford to pay me.

Yep. I'm sure that's it.

So I haven't heard any convincing arguments against posting the synopses of my completed novels, and some of you seem to want to read them. So I'll be doing that soon, when I get the chance. I'd like to emphasize two things. One, a synopsis is supposed to take you to the end of the book. It's supposed to give away the major plot points. I found remarkably little information about synopses when I was trying to write mine, but one thing is clear: editor- and agent-people want to know how it ends. They don't want you to give them the "stay tuned!" In part, I've heard, this is because they want to know that it actually does end, and that you haven't just come up with a cool idea. So if you've changed your mind and would really like something more like a jacket blurb, please don't read the synopsis (and please do let me know -- I'm not going to have time to post them for awhile, so I could change what I'm posting if anybody cares one way or the other). Second point of emphasis: if any of you have any nifty synopsis pointers, please do let me know. I am not a pro at this yet.

Right then. Well. Yesterday I finished up the Jane Yolen stories (obsessions become so transparent in short story collections!) and read Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah Ross' The Fall of Neskaya. It was a halfway credible job of being a Darkover book, which was all I really asked. I loved the Darkover books when I was in junior high, and reading a new one is something like hanging out with my younger self for awhile. If it's halfway credible. One of the last ones I read was so awful that it jolted me out of the book completely, and I grumped all the way through it. But for what it was, this one wasn't half bad. Then I started Margaret Atwood's Dancing Girls, which reminds me that I don't really like Margaret Atwood's short stories. I don't know if I'll finish it. Ah well.

I was talking with David about how our lives are different (yeah, I know, long conversation), and one of the things he pointed out is that I exist in a pretty dense network of people. I think that's true, but it doesn't feel true right now. I know I keep track of a lot of people. I keep in touch with a lot of people, and I probably have more people who are at least somewhat important to me than average, and possibly more people who are really important to me, too. Hard to judge the latter. Anyway, yes, there are lots of people in my life, lots of people whose lives I keep track of.

Sometimes this is a problem when I'm getting to know new people, especially because importance of person doesn't necessarily correlate to number of stories I tell about them. I tell stories based on what comes up in conversation, what seems interesting. But sometimes I feel the need to give people a roadmap, some kind of a chart -- except that it would have to include all of my acquaintances, ever, because I never know when Steph, who was much more La Michelle's friend than mine, is going to be the key player in a story. Or C.J.'s brother's roommate from his sophomore year. Or someone like that. And someone like La Michelle herself is less likely to come up than her importance in my life would indicate, just because my stories about her are best for people who actually know her.

But I despite existing in a much denser network than many people I know, it feels like I don't. It feels like I'm out on the edges here, sparsely connected, sometimes estranged. But then I compare it to my mom and where she is. My mom and her grocer are on first name terms. For years, she had successive scions of the Lane family for her produce boys at the same grocery store. She had produce boys. People who stocked the produce, knew her by name, and would get her particularly good produce. She had those, personally. Possibly still does, although I believe the youngest Lane is probably too old for the job now. I grew up in a neighborhood that was a neighborhood. When I got a bad nosebleed when Gina and I were out selling Girl Scout cookies, it didn't matter what street we were on, because we knew that there was someone right there who would take us in and help us out, and there was someone, Mrs. Sall, right there. And last week, when Kelli Next Door to my parents put the wrong kind of soap in the dishwasher when her mom was out and it started foaming all over the floor, she could run next door going, "Helllllp!" and know that she could get help. That's what I consider a dense network of people, geographically speaking, and it's hard for me to get my brain around the idea that some people have never had this.

The emotional kind of dense network is rearing its head of late. It looks like lots of people I care about are getting married this summer, and it's already started: Curt and Rebecca are already married. Jen and Craig are getting married in July, and Sarah and Jeff's wedding is in August. (Featuring yours truly, as pictured before.) And I thought I'd tell you what I know about having a wedding. (People who have heard my wedding rant before, it's approximately the same one -- you can skip on to tomorrow if you want. Ditto for those of you who don't care about weddings.)

This is not, you will note, the same thing as what I know about having a marriage. The two are quite distinct, and if you don't know how to be married, nothing I can tell you is going to help. But having a wedding, that's a social event, not a relationship thing. No, really. Columbine, when he and Debby got married recently, said, "I will remain stubborn to the end: Marriage is for the benefit of the people getting married. No one else." This is true. But weddings are another creature entirely. Weddings have almost nothing to do with the people getting married. And since Columbine and Debby were focused on getting married rather than on having a wedding, I'm glad that they did things exactly as they wanted them. It seems like a good solution.

My dad's father is -- how do I put this nicely? Ah, yes: a jackass of epic proportions. (No, really, that was the nice version.) But he's had a few good insights that have been relayed to me by other people. One of them was what he said to my dad about weddings the night before my folks got married, and my dad said it to me. He said to my dad, "If you're not already married to Deb by now, nothing I can say tomorrow will change that. This is not for you. This is for your friends and families." (It may clarify things to know that Daddy's father is a pastor and was the one doing the ceremony, so what he said mattered to the "main event" more than the average groom's father's comments.) I really think that's true: a marriage is about the people getting married, and a wedding is about the community or communities they belong to. You are no more or less married if you wander off somewhere random and make promises to each other or if you buy the big poofy white dress. Really. A lot of people get obnoxious about it being Their Special Day (Weekend, Week, Fortnight, whatever). Everybody is much happier if they focus on it being someone, or everyone, else's special day. Your special day (week, etc.) comes later. It's called the honeymoon, sometimes. Sometimes it's even later than that.

So. Weddings. Not for the people getting married. Yes. And a sense of perspective is key. I had mine forced upon me: my dog died three days before Mark and I got married. What could go wrong that was worse than that, short of someone else dying? So the flowers weren't as we'd envisioned them. We'd deal. This is a question to ask yourself when you're in a wedding: is anybody dead? Is anybody likely to be dead soon? Are any of the key players hospitalized? If not, then you're good. Really.

(And incidentally, yes, my dog was a member of the family, but good Lord, people, let's remember which member: the dog. Well-meaning people were telling me things like, "Booboo would have wanted you to go on and enjoy yourself and look beautiful and have a lovely wedding." Oh, whatever! Booboo would have wanted me to stay in my pajamas all day and get out of bed only to make us chicken tacos for lunch and move to the sofa. Come on, people, she was a smart dog, but she was a dog!)

Oh yeah, and you should beat your newly married guests to it and ask them, in drawling sarcasm, when they're going to have kids. Before they ask you. I didn't do this, but my friend Ben did at his wedding, and it seemed to bring him very much joy.

Hmm, wedding something beforehand. It's important. And when you register, register for items you already have and then mark them purchased. Because some relatives will look at your registry and think, "Those crazy newlyweds! They want an expensive espresso machine, but they don't even have measuring spoons on the list!" And will buy you measuring spoons. Despite the fact that you didn't put them on the list because you already had some. Oh, and also, expect things that you do not want at all. Registering for some "nice" items like vases and candlesticks will help, because then people who want to get you vases and candlesticks (and there will be some, trust me) can consider getting you the ones you prefer. But some people will want to get you something "unique," and sometimes this item will be something you would not display in your home on a dare. Also, nobody will want to buy you pillows, because they're cheap and bulky. Deal with it.

You'll want to consider how much you want to deal with alcohol. This may be the only time in your life that your friends and your family get together en masse. Ask yourself if you want your aunt Jane to have to deal with a drunken groomsman, or your groomsmen to deal with a drunken Aunt Jane. If you do, or if you have the sort of family and friends who won't get drunk, given the opportunity, good for you. Otherwise, there are lots of opportunities for pre- and post-wedding parties with smaller subgroups of people, and that avoids the problem entirely.

You will not be able to spend as much time with any of your guests as you want to spend. Deal with it. You can optimize this by planning the timing of your wedding to adjust, by getting together with people as they get into town, and so on, but there is no way, if you invite more than 10 people, that you will get to spend as much time with all of them as you'd like.

Weddings are all about being 75. I have no idea why, but you can trust me on this one: the phrase I heard more often than anything else except "you look lovely!" (this is obligatory) was "when you're 75...." Don't ask me. I certainly don't know.

All of this sounds kind of bleak and strange, lots of "deal with it" stuff. But so much of what you deal with about weddings is sugar-glazed and tulle-covered, and it involves a horrendous number of power games. And it all has very little to do with your real life. That right there may be the most important thing of all to remember: this is not what your married life is about.

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