This guest blogging gig is weird. I’ve been writing for a living one way or another all of my adult life, but I always had a topic. Granted, a lot of the topics sucked – topics like, say, give us 3,000 words on the ramifications of pending international tax treaties on transfer pricing for US-based multinationals. That topic sucked. But I knew where to start. Besides, what do you think drove me to write about killing people in the first place?
But this guest blog thing? Ms. White dropped me a line saying she’d like to review my online novel experiment, The Gravity of Mammon, and, as part of that exercise, could I send her a guest blog post. Of course, I said, sure. I mean, I’m as narcissistic as the next guy. Somebody wants to talk about me, but wants me to talk about myself first? Hell yeah, I’m all over that. It’s like a threesome – me, myself, and somebody else talking about me and myself.
But then I ask her what she wants me to cover, and she says whatever I want. That she likes to let writers off their leashes. Which tells me that Ms. White must like the smell of writer urine everywhere, because, as a group, we’re really not housebroken and we do like to piss all over everything. But that still doesn’t give me a topic.
Oh, yeah, the book. I can hear Stacia’s voice in my head saying “write about the book, dipshit.” Stacia being crime über agent Stacia Decker, with whom I have a parasitic relationship. She buys me drinks and I write her books that don’t sell. (My one piece of writing advice? Get an agent – the rule is they always have to pay for the drinks.) Fortunately, she’s got the likes of Frank Bill, John Hornor Jacobs, Owen Laukkanen and Joelle Charbonneau writing books that actually do sell so that she can keep buying me booze.
So the book. The Gravity of Mammon started as my online novel experiment. I worked as a freelance writer for 25 years, so I’ve always worked on deadline. Novels were a whole different deal. The first one took me forever. To keep that from happening again, I wrote The Gravity of Mammon online, in public, on my blog, or the first draft of it anyway. I started out putting up a chapter every couple of days, but then I made this dumb-ass public pledge to write a chapter every day until the book was done. And that’s what I did. You can read the whole damn thing right here, typos and all. (Remember, it’s a rough draft. I’ve been working on revisions and Stacia should be shopping the finished product around soon.)
The book started the way everything does for me, with an imaginary friend in my head. I read an online article about this guy over in Africa who worked as a fixer for TV news crews. They’d show up to get some story, and he’d be the one that would get them where they needed to go, make sure they didn’t get killed getting there, and get them and their gear back out again in one piece. And I got this picture of a guy like that in my head, started wondering how he’d end up doing that for a living. And started bouncing that off of some other stuff I’d been reading about the old West African blood diamond trade and how some of the terrorist groups had muscled in on that after the bigger local civil wars had backed down to their usual low simmer of tribal violence and, well, shit happened. My imaginary friend got himself in a bit of pickle, he made new friends, new enemies, and I followed them around my noggin taking notes.
I guess that sounds like a pretty haphazard way to write a novel, and I suppose it is. There are lots of folk out there that are big into detailed outlines and such (you can head over to Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds blog if you want yourself a big taste of that), but the planned approach doesn’t work for me. For me, it’s all improv.
Anyway, I hope that wets your whistle some, and that you’ll come back to see what Ms. White has to say come tomorrow. I know I will. I hope it’s nice. (I may be as narcissistic as the next guy, but I’m also just as insecure. And geeze, it was a rough draft.)
Thanks for the soapbox, Your Monkeyness.