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MADE FOR BLOOD
I cannot tell if we are falling out of love
with each other, or, if this is the love
they warned us of: the love that doesn’t
trim its grievances into neat, pleasing
bushes but instead grows itself wild
as the jaguar—raised in captivity—will
realize one day it too is made for blood.
The love that will hack up the wet,
pink carcass of an argument months after
its neck was snapped and swallowed.
The petty love. The selfish love. The love
that will stop apologizing and start
admitting to Sundays spent masturbating
to the thought of other men’s fingers,
the way her head tilts back as she laughs.
- Sierra DeMulder
The Truth About First Drafts
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
The empty page is a scary thing. When you’re faced with something so open, so full of potential, it can be difficult to know where to start. Writing the first word can be terrifying. That first word means a leap into the unknown, and it can change your life.
What if everything I write is rubbish? What if my idea is stupid? What if no one ever wants to read this? The only way to overcome this fear is to realise that it simply doesn’t matter.
Your first draft is yours. No one need ever read it. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to make sense. It may read like your head just exploded random ideas all over the page. But who cares? Your first draft will never go to print.
Write for yourself. Edit for your readers.
When I ask if you have fallen
out of love with me and you do
not answer, I picture you
holding a tin can up to your ear.
I imagine a string tied to its middle
as if it were a leash around the belly
of a fat, silver worm. The string—
an escaped vein—runs down your arm
over your knees, along the bed, up
my chest and into my skin like a fish
hook or a feeding tube plugged
straight into my heart, threaded between
my bones like a letter slipped into
the mouth of a public mailbox.
- Sierra DeMulder
Ten Stages of Writing
- 1. The Idea: This is amazing, I can't believe it how good it is! It needs to be written!
- 2. Outlining: No, wait. It's not working. It makes no sense. This sucks.
- 3. Final Outline: This is amazing, I can't believe how good it is! I'm a genius!
- 4. First draft: No, wait. It's not working. It makes no sense. This sucks.
- 5. The end of first draft: This is amazing! I can't believe how good it is! I'm a genius!
- 6. First revision: No, wait. It's not working. It makes no sense. This sucks.
- 7. Second revision: This is amazing! I can't believe how good it is! I'm a genius!
- 8. Third revision: No, wait. It's not working. It makes no sense. This sucks.
- 9. Fourth revision: This is amazing! I can't believe how good it is! I'm a genius!
- 10. Fifth revision: No, wait. It still sucks. But I need to let it be and move on to another idea.
- Real writers are those who reach the last step. You need to move on even if you think your work is not perfect. It will never be. That is ok. You need to move on to other ideas in order to keep writing.
- ~ J.F. Lion
7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter
1. Generic beginnings: Stories that opened with the date or the weather didn’t really inspire interest. According to Harmsworth, you are only allowed to start with the weather if you’re writing a book about meteorologists. Otherwise, pick something more creative.
2. Slow beginnings: Some manuscripts started with too much pedestrian detail (characters washing dishes, etc) or unnecessary background information.
3. Trying too hard: Sometimes it seemed like a writer was using big words or flowery prose in an attempt to sound more sophisticated. In several cases, the writer used big words incorrectly. Awkward or forced imagery was also a turnoff. At one point, the panelists raised their hands when a character’s eyes were described as “little lubricated balls moving back and forth.”
4. TMI (Too Much Information): Overly detailed description of bodily functions or medical examinations had the panelists begging for mercy.
5. Clichés: “The buildings were ramrod straight.” “The morning air was raw.” “Character X blossomed into Y.” “A young woman looks into the mirror and tells us what she sees.” Clichés are hard to avoid, but when you revise, go through and try to remove them.
6. Loss of Focus: Some manuscripts didn’t have a clear narrative and hopped disjointedly from one theme to the next.
7. Unrealistic internal narrative: Make sure a character’s internal narrative—what the character is thinking or feeling—matches up with reality. For example, you wouldn’t want a long eloquent narration of what getting strangled feels like—the character would be too busy gasping for breath and passing out. Also, avoid having the character think about things just for the sake of letting the reader know about them.
Hope these tips are helpful. Do you see any of these mistakes in your writing?
The first time you took me to your mother’s
grave, we were full of turkey and gravy
and the kind of fruit salad made from Jello.
We were driving home, north, from Iowa—
the tired sigh of the Midwest—and I was
talking aimlessly of the day, of the desserts,
the small talk, lost in the importance
of my own thoughts. I did not expect you
to turn off the narrow road onto the dirt
driveway of the graveyard. The moment
my eyes registered this—the sagging trees,
the stone stumps like scattered teeth, the green
green grass—I started to weep. I knew this
was the moment I would meet your mother
or, at least, where you lost her for the final time,
back to the earth, the farmer’s wife
who bore land and harvest and six sons
all before that last, long winter.
- Sierra DeMulder
my father’s fingers quiver
whenever an earthquake is near.
he comes home from 12 hour shifts
with hunched shoulders and cracks across his arms
from all the broken pieces of the human body
he held that night.
“tonight, a girl died and her eyes lit up for a moment
and she cried out: look at these stars.”
his voice is heavy and overwhelming,
tipping over with languid sorrow that moves
from his fingers to his vocal chords
to settle like dust and ash at the bottom of his lungs.
in the mornings, he wakes early and breaks apples
with his palm and his fist
and i’m not sure whether he wants to save anymore.
before my mother left, she said, you have an earthquake
shuddering beside your bones and i cannot live
with a natural disaster; the ruins of shaanxi, 1556
should have taught you something.
listen: the visceral layer of the pericardium
touches the heart muscle and my mother’s
is like the inside of an apple peel, bruised
my father learned the difference between patients
and patience, and some nights the dead outweigh the living;
some nights my father comes home split open,
shaking, an earthquake shifting beneath his skin.
some nights all he can do is close his eyes
and wait for the aftershocks.
Healing is a volatile lover. He is an easygoing lover. An authoritative lover. A tearful lover. He is a contradiction. He is an angel and a devil, and both of his personas have chosen to live on your shoulders. He is. He is. He is here for the long haul or until you don’t need him anymore. (You suspect you are going to need him for a long time. You use him as a crutch, and you wouldn’t know what to do with a healed body. You use him as a crutch. You don’t let on.) He is easy to fall asleep next to, and you hold him like holding too tightly distant tomorrows and yesterdays sorrows, and could have, would have, should have beens. And he is gentle, like the covers you might have hibernated under all winter would have been gentle to your body of bones. But instead of hiding and storing old memories under your pillow with you, he convinces you that there is softness to be found outside too. Healing is a patient lover, but he doesn’t let you take back your promises, and he will be there to watch you climb trees, and run in the rain again. Do you remember when you climbed a tree minutes after acquiring a taste for beer and spiked energy drinks? Running trails in thunderstorms, and wearing your bruised and scraped legs like living maps of where you’ve been, living proof of fearlessness? Hiking in the dark. Drunk confessions. Brave sober kisses. I’m not saying that you had the best ideas, but you were full of life, and Healing is going to help you return to the body that once both worked with you and sheltered you. You will use him as a crutch, until the day you know what to do with Recovered. Until the day you know what to do with Freedom.
I want to know you
I don’t want to know you naked the most.
I want to know you in your pajamas drinking warm beer in our tiny twin bed, while you wear your hoodie from the college you went to but hated, but you still wear it because it is the most comfortable thing you ever bought on a rainy day when you had nothing else to wear and your classes were still a twenty minute walk away. But now you’re wearing it and smiling because of memories you’re telling me that I wasn’t in, but after tonight I’ll know them as if I were. We’ll drink the warm beer until we run out, or until one of us falls asleep after we keep kissing each other in between each story. They come like commas, or periods, or chapter marks.
I want to know you in your favorite dress, at an event with all of our friends dressed up for an unusual celebration where everyone takes pictures and for once we are happy with how we look, so we volunteer for them. We keep our cell phones tucked away unless we want to grab a photo of our own, our cheeks hurt from smiling too much. On the ride home you pick out the music, something soft and warm that eases you into your nap.
I want to know you in your jeans and tear soaked t shirt while you are crying because your stress is too high and you can’t manage anything in your life.
I want to know you as something you allow to cling on and not something you kick out because you control it.
I want to know you in my baggy long sleeve and your comfy underwear while you are wiping your snot on the cuffs. We pull the sheets on until you’re too hot and then we throw them off. You let me hold you when you’re cold and push me away annoyed yet slightly laughing when you feel overwhelmed.
I want to know you in your hospital gown when we are in the ER because you’re afraid you have cancer. Demanding you squeeze my hand as tightly as you can and that we can get through it together.
I want to know you in your favorite dress laying in your casket. I want to know you got to pass first, that you won’t have to worry about being alone in our house with the animals. I know it will hurt when I get back home, but at least it will only hurt me, and not you.
I want to have known you.