imkittymyers at hotmail dot com
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
WHAT'S WRONG WITH 1985?
I have a friend who occasionally critiques my writing. I ask him because he's brutally honest, which I'm convinced he enjoys immensely. So last year when I hauled out a script, which I had begun in 1985, I asked B if he would give me his opinion. He said sure, so I warned him that it was 62 pages, longer than anything I had ever sent him before. Go ahead and send it, was the reply. So I did, and this time I added $40 -- all I had in cash at the time -- because something told me he would need a lot of incentive to muddle through.
About a week later my SASE arrived with my unfinished script and B's assessments scrawled everywhere. He began by saying, "Well, I've earned my 40 bucks," and summed it up by saying I had written 62 pages of "horseshit."
I wasn't surprised. Those 62 pages were just the beginning of a novel still in the raw stage. But I needed to know if it was worth anymore of my time and effort. I read through, and even laughed over, B's scribblings -- in red ink no less. My spelling, grammer and punctuation were fine, he said, yet he found plenty of problems.
Page 5: "Speed it up. This same stuff is boring. What's the point?"
Page 6: "Still boring."
Page 7: "And what's with the drama dialgue device?"
Page 10: "So far carefully written. No compositional boo-boos. But I'm still bored."
Besides being bored, he was bothered by the script's time period of 1985. I included bit's'n'pieces of 1985, which elicited this comment: "I don't get these cultural refs." At one point he wrote, "You're going to have to start using footnotes." He concluded that I'd have to rewrite it in the present if I had any hopes of selling it. I could understand and accept his other points but not this one. An endless supply of time period novels are cranked out every year -- historical, historical romance, fantasy -- all set in different times. So what's the big deal with one set in 1985?
Then last week I attempted to read my first Roger Simon novel, California Roll, a murder mystery set in Silicon Valley published in 1985. I didn't read more than a chapter or two before I closed the book for good. It bored me to distraction. Part of the problem was the dust jacket (shown above) picturing outdated hardware; it definitely set the mood. The 80s were a big part of Simon's book. I won't try to analyze why the book bored me other than to say that, in 2006, 1985 seems to be stuck in a time period limbo: too old to be hip, too young to be historical. Like that hunk of lumbering hardware on the book's cover, California Roll seemed pathetically obsolete.
It was then that I realized why B said I'd have to rewrite the script. However, B did enjoy the sexual references, like the couple who was caught flagrante dilecto, which, I'm told, still happens in 2006.
B ended his critique with this: “As usual, take all this with a grain of salt. What the hell do I know?”