Writing Wednesday: To fictionalize or not to fictionalize, that is the question

It’s Writing Wednesday. It has been, in fact, since I woke for the first time last night at 12:30 to put a soothing hand on a stirring baby, and since I fed him at 4:30, and since our wretched dog starting whining outside the bedroom door at 5:00, and since Dominic decided morning had indeed broken at 5:45am.

I do hope no one is expecting anything too profound from me today.

I also hope one of these days soon I’ll stop expecting anything too profound from myself during this particularly fatigue-fogged season of life.

So let me tell you a little more about the story of the book baby that hasn’t found a publishing home. If I were to cast this as a children’s story (of which I’ve been reading no small number out loud recently) it would go something like this.

When the agent overseeing book baby adoptions organized for publishing families to have a look at book baby, many of them said very nice things. Indeed, they said the writing was fabulous. Just like the bear’s porridge though, book baby never seemed quite right to them. Some of the publishers wished book baby talked more about Lisa’s faith and some wished it talked less. Some wished that book baby talked more about Lisa’s work and less about Lisa’s love life, some wanted exactly the opposite. Several wished book baby were not a memoir at all but a novel. And so, eventually, book baby arrived back to the book orphanage without having found a home…

Don’t worry, I’m not going to quit my day job to take up writing children’s stories (although when you read some of the crappier ones that actually get published you have to wonder how hard it could be to kick ass in this genre).

But back to my homeless book baby…

It seemed there were several editors who were seriously interested in the prospect of this book as a novel, and I spent weeks mulling over whether I wanted to rewrite the entire thing.

It felt weird to me. I’d spent three years working hard to make sure this story conveyed emotional and factual truth and here I was being asked to turn it into a novel. Where would I even start with that? By spicing up the details of my past, or adding a serious addiction or abusive parents?

In the end, I’ve decided not to do it. There are multiple reasons for this but here are just a couple.

Rewriting it as a novel doesn’t stay true to my original vision for the book. I realize that in saying this I’m running the risk of coming off as precious. I don’t mean to be. It’s just that the book I wanted to write to tell this story was a memoir. Three years down the track, after I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to carve an actual story out of the therapeutic mind-dump of my first draft, that hasn’t changed. I don’t get all that excited at the thought of taking this story and fictionalizing it, and at this stage I don’t want to see it published by an establishing publishing house badly enough to make that effort.

There is also the other baby.

Yes, that one. And the presence of this other baby means that right now I don’t feel that I have the time or the energy I’d need to embark upon a massive creative re-write. Freelancing, I can do. Essays, blog, even some consulting, I can do (on a good day). But I’m genuinely unsure as to whether I could stretch to writing a novel at the moment. At least, not one I’d be completely proud of.

So what to do about homeless book baby?

That has, indeed, been the question of my life this last three months – right alongside: Is Dominic hungry/wet/tired? If not, why is he crying??? And, what on earth am I going to do to entertain him today?

There are only so many afternoons you can spend gyrating to ABBA’s Dancing Queen in front of the baby bouncer, you know.

Come back next week for more news about the fate of homeless book baby, and if you have good suggestions for entertaining a three-month-old baby, leave them below! I guess you could leave a comment or question related to writing, too, or let me know what you think about the topic of fictionalizing memoirs. It is after all, Writing Wednesday.

I’ll leave you with this quote by John Berryman because it made me laugh. Here’s to a happy Thursday all round the globe. Thanks for stopping by.

“The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business.”

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7 responses to “Writing Wednesday: To fictionalize or not to fictionalize, that is the question

  1. I don’t really remember Andrew needing much entertaining at 3 months. He was pretty content to watch me do whatever. But then again, I could be wrong. I think I have forgotten a lot! You know, sleep deprivation and all! Now I live from nap to nap so I can get some much needed pregnancy sleep.

    • Ugh, yes, trying to snatch needed pregnancy sleeps while looking after another little one would be really hard sometimes. Hoping for lots of long sleeps by Andrew during the remainder of this pregnancy!

  2. LOVE that quote!

    I’ve had four babies go through the 3-month-old stage, but I don’t have any wisdom to share. I was too sleep-deprived to remember much. 🙂

    • Yes, I’ve read about how sleep-deprived you’ve been at times during the last decade, and my heart ached for you. Knowing how Dominic changed my prayer life during the first eight weeks of his life (in that every time I heard him stir during the dark hours, and often during the light ones :), I would send desperate requests heavenward along the lines of “please don’t let him wake up”) I can imagine how that was amplified for you.

  3. Something wicked inside me is prompting me to suggest you read the ms to him… (glad for once that I’m several hundred miles away so I don’t have to start running!) I used to put #1 in the baby bouncer and talk to him while painting the walls- we were doing our renovations at the time. That’s not exactly a suggestion though!

    • Look, no running needed. If he wouldn’t start crying within three minutes (which might be super-demoralizing and depressing in my over-tired state, I’m not willing to risk it and see) I would.

  4. Pingback: A Big Decision: Writing Wednesday | Lisa McKay Writing

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