Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Evolution of My Influences (part 1)

I want to go to grad school for writing.

I applied to twelve schools around the end of 2006. Twelve schools rejected me around the beginning of 2007.

I planned to try again that year, but I got too caught up in different things and wasn't prepared. There was still enough time, but it would have been a very stressful one or two months. I made the decision to wait another year right after an oral surgeon told me to eliminate all of the stresses from my life.

One of the schools that I want to go to is Naropa. It does not seem to offer teaching positions & funding. I think it's my #1 choice that does not provide these things. It may be also be my #1 of schools that are not located in places that I have lived before.

I'm not sure if I would choose it over a decent school that payed my way that I wasn't too thrilled about. If money was not an option, then the answer would be obvious.

I found out that Naropa asks for a second essay. I am going to write blog entries for each of the essay questions. Perhaps I will later translate them into academic-speak. Maybe not. Naropa is a different sort of school. Maybe they would be ok with essays that are written in the style of a blog.

Question 1: "What particular authors or works have been especially significant to you as a writer?"

Mark Leyner.

Mark Leyner is my earliest influence. I discovered him during college.

Mark Leyner's writing is condensed. Mark Leyner uses a technique where there is a new idea or a joke or something ridiculous in every sentence. Mark Leyner seems to write hundreds of new ideas and jokes and ridiculous things on every page.

Mark Leyner uses this technique because he wants a reader to be able to pick a sentence at random in any of his books and be amused be it. He is successful at this, unless the reader in question is a humorless fuck.

I like Mark Leyner because not one word is wasted, even though every word is irrelevant. I never feel like I can be doing something better with my time. Sometimes when I read a book, I feel that it is too padded. It could be padded with details that are used to build the plot and characters but are dull. It can also be padded because the author tried to make what should of been a short story or a novella into a novel because NYC publishers don't buy single short stories or novellas.

I am going to quote myself in my mock essay, "How to Write a Short Story!":

"Describe every incidental detail. Use no-frills language to describe each character's appearance. Give your reader the thousands of words needed for them to conjure up the images of the characters in their head. If this fails to occur, they will be unable to follow the plot, which should proceed at an excessively slow pace. Use realistic dialogue, the sort of stuff that you would overhear in a plumbing supplies store.

Remember--artificiality is bad!

Your story should feel like an extraordinarily long bus ride from a place that you loathe to a destination that makes you want to use your return ticket before your feet touch the ground."

I am not writing about Mark Leyner here.

Mark Leyner has a problem. When he is trying to make every single sentence in his books amusing, there is no room for plot development. He has a book or two like The Tetherballs of Bougainville that are linear, but they do not have a plot arc.

Mark Leyner can get away with not using a plot. He is that good. Lesser writers who try to make every sentence amusing cannot get away with not using a plot. There work will be unreadable. If they use a plot, it will help them maintain their readers' interest. The plot will drive the readers to keep turning the page.

But plot development will be difficult if the writer is trying to make every sentence amusing. Unless they are extraordinarily talented, they will fail at creating anything except a general plot. This plot will be secondary to the word play, the jokes, the zany things that happen on each page.

After college, I discovered Steve Aylett. His writing is similar to Mark Leyner's. Every sentence is amusing. He is funnier than Mark Leyner. Unlike Mark Leyner who works in some mutant strain of literary fiction, Steve Aylett's work lies in the realm of genre: crime, science fiction, fantasy.

Mark Leyner's work is usually set in our reality. Ridiculous things happen that you will probably never experience in your everyday life, but there is still the minuscule chance that they will occur.

Steve Aylett works in a fantasy setting. ANYTHING can happen. The laws of his realities are dependent on the settings of each individual book.

Steve Aylett also works with plot. He is extraordinarily talented. He is the only writer who I can think of that excels at plot while making every single sentence amusing. His plots are still secondary to everything else, but they are not as overshadowed as the plot, in well, my novel, It Came from Below the Belt.

He made me think it was possible to write a novel with a plot and 100% amusing sentences.

I tried. I succeeded, I think. It was not as good as Steve Aylett's work. The plot ended up being a device that I used to interest myself in going on with the story, as well as maintain the interest of the readers. I used a futuristic setting to explain all the irreal stuff that was happening.

It was really hard work to make every sentence perfect. It was often torturous. It would sometimes take me an hour to write a sentence. I would edit as I wrote. I would rewrite sentences over and over again as I worked. I would make myself laugh a lot. I would yell in frustration a lot. Writing this way was rarely fun. It usually felt like work. It felt really nice during the rare moments that I enjoyed. I loved the end result of my laborious efforts. I enjoyed reading it. I always felt very satisfied, as if I had just completed a marathon.

This was my writing process for a while. I wrote many many many short stories after this and a novella.

The target audience for my writing was an army of my clones.

I wrote the sort of stuff that I wanted to read, hoping there were others like me. Or a clone army, with lots of lots of money. They could buy my books instead of weapons to kill other clone armies.

I do not use this writing process anymore. This is a recent change. I will write about this tomorrow and my more recent influences, along with a few additional minor ones.



i like leyner. he's funny. seems like he got pushed off the map a little, then he did that men's Q&A book, which was hugely disappointing. i wonder where he is.

Bradley Sands said...

I was disappointed too.

He wrote (or maybe co-wrote) a great radio drama called Wiretap:

He wrote (or maybe co-wrote) a movie that is coming out soon called War Inc. It stars John Cusack, reprising (?) his role as a hitman. The trailer looks good. The dialogue is Leyner-esque. I am excited:

I still need to write part two of this entry. I hope to do it tonight. But I will probably not post it for a ridiculous reason.