Sunday, January 10, 2010

Anyone For a Game of Write-Sweeper?

I did some editing today, trying to get a novel ready for submission to agents, publishers, guys with unlimited access to Xerox machines. I'm not at a place where I can be extremely picky.

As is my want, I edited in sections; finish a chapter, take a break, start another chapter, realize that the first break didn't take and go ahead and have another just to be safe, go back to the chapter, wonder where I left my drink, probably lost it when I went on break better take another so I can go and find it. During these breaks I often pull up a game of Minesweeper and traverse the most deadly grid to ever come in a basic computer package.

I really enjoy Minesweeper, and I'll tell you why. (Oh, you will? In a blog about Minesweeper? You're too kind.) For one thing, Minesweeper is not editing. Quick digression, did you know that the term editing came from the Latin edi: meaning "thing which," an ting: meaning "makes your brain ooze slowly out your left ear?" You didn't? Well, I haven't heard any evidence to the contrary so... yeah, that's where that comes from.

As I was saying, pre-digression, I really enjoy Minesweeper and one reason is that you know when you've screwed up. There's nothing subjective about screwing up in Minesweeper, no "Maybe it could work," or "It's good, it's just not for me." No, in Minesweeper there is success, everybody's doing fine, and failure, the entire world is going up in flame! You have one chance, one. There are no namby pamby extra lives in Minesweeper, no hit points, no health regeneration. You hit that mine and it is game over.

So much of my life is subjective. My day job, which I actually do at night but it's the one that pays the bills, involves working with mentally disabled adults. We try to put as much structure into their lives as we can but each new day is a new game and the rules are always different. There are certainly mines to avoid in this work but you never know what will trigger them. One day asking a guy if he's ready for breakfast will get you the biggest smile you'll ever want to see, the next day the same question to the same guy will get a bottle of shampoo thrown at your head.

If the rules of that job are ever shifting, the rules of publishing are in a constant shake and bake and there's no little girl with a southern twang to help either. Publishers follow trends, agents follow publishers; one agent wants a query, synopsis and the author's life story and the next doesn't want any of that, just a photo and number where you can be reached confidentially. (Actually, that's probably a mine that you should try to avoid.)

I haven't even gotten to the text. Writing a story, be it short or long, fact or fiction, is one of the worst things anyone can ever do to themselves. There's no right or wrong, there's no final authority, you will never know if you have done something good or if trees are just being felled to satisfy your own personal hubris. People you love and who profess to love you back will tell you it's good, but just not their cup of tea. What, you were supposed to make tea too? What do they want from you?

This is why I want someone (Steve Jobs, if your reading this would be a wonderful time to start taking notes) to come up with a word processor which utilizes the function of a Minesweeper game. Feel free to take full credit for the idea, I don't want any proceeds, I just want the first program that rolls off of the assembly line. We will call it Write-Sweeper and it will function in this manner; when I make a grammar or syntax error, the words will blow up; when I use a sentence fragment that is not a part of dialogue or character driven narrative, the words will blow up; when I've written a sentence that, if there were any justice in the world I would be sentenced to death for ever putting down on paper, the words will blow up. I'm sure this means that I will be starting and restarting my project many, many times over but, when I write that 80, 90, 100 thousandth word and my book has come to a satisfying conclusion, if I can look up to the top of my screen and see that little smiley face guy proudly wearing his shades with that smirk of his face, I will know that my book is good.

And I will be pleased.

1 comment:

  1. Dude, brilliant analogy between Minesweeper and the publishing industry. If you can cobble one together for me that compares Spider Solitaire to writing a sequel, I'd be much obliged. (I hope you heard my faux-Georgia accent. It was quite impressive.)