Margot Merrill on modern parenthood and the writing life


My First Novel (gag)

My Little Pony My First Novel

I feel shy about it. "My novel," I'd say as an awkward pubescent might say "my private parts." I labored over my love-story-gone-wrong for years. I grew it paragraphy by paragraph. I wrote and re-wrote. I cried and got stuck and fought my way onward. I kept writing, and I finished it. Yes, that I can say with relief: I did finish a novel. And it's not bad. But I'd let it go, and given up on "being discovered" completely randomly. I wasn't working on it. I've had some other things on my mind.

But today my friend Cindy mentioned she'd read the parts of my novel on this blog, and she wanted to know what will happen with Brody and Cherise. I pulled out a manuscript for her. It's the light-blue-covered, bound bastard of a manuscript I had printed at crazy hell hole Kinkos more than two years ago. I don't want to recount the steps it took to get those few copies. I'd buried them in a mental and physical closet after I didn't hear back from the one agent who expressed interest way back when. But, because this good friend asked about the book (thank you Cindy!) I pulled it out. A copy of my novel is sitting, quite cleanly and beautifully, on our dining room table. Of course, I can't really open it.

If I read it I might break apart into a billion pieces. It might be terrible and boring and dumb. It has typos. It will kill me to revisit it yet again.

Why so much emotional drama related to a big bundle of words? I guess I need to clarify: I will be a novelist when I grow up. It's a dream, and what I think I should be doing. I don't know how I'll get there; how I'll ever have the time and space to do it again. But my life will be spent writing stories. Deciding to write that book, starting at age 30, was my first step in commiting to seeing that dream through despite my fear of failure. Whenever people have said that my first novel might not be "the one," I wanted to kill them. Because who would want to keep working on something that might NOT be the one? In the darkest of times I still had to believe it could be a story worth telling.

Maybe it is interesting, or "good." (Though God knows how I'll define that, or how I'll know when I've achieved it.) Maybe it isn't. But it's somethin' as my dad would say.

So here's my big plan: I'm going to publish it serially, online. It'll all written of course, I just need to queue it up and edit down as I go. And hope that people might be interested in a bit of fiction now and then. I have to ignore the fact that my designer friend didn't have time to fancify the site I'm working on for it> I'll just appreciate the conversations she and I had about it, and use a standard WordPress template. At some point I'll also cram my Word doc into a book format to publish it myself, to allow people to buy a paperback if they're interested. All 3 of you people, please do! ;)

The story is done, it just needs to be shared. I so hope you'll read it. More to come,



Antidote to the Y.S.Y.D.S. game

In writing the novel, there were moments when something beautiful happened; when sentences appeared onscreen as perfect as pie. And weeks did go by when I was happily obsessed with the secret lives of the characters unfurling. But most of the time it was a just a fuckload of work. I doubted it would ever be good enough to share. That's why I choked at the very end of the process, as I was submitting it to potential agents.

You see, by keeping my story in my laptop and head, I could play this really cool game called You Suck You Dumb Shit …whenever I wanted! (Y.S.Y.D.S.–don't you love it when the acronym is harder to say than the words?) If my book is never published and never read, I reason, I can keep torturing myself by playing out ridiculous fantasies where:

a)   It’s praised as “the voice of our generation,” “a cunning retelling of a classic love story gone awry,” and “San Francisco’s best tale since Tales of the City."

OR (still in my head, that glorious beast):

b)   It’s assessed as “Crappy white girl drivel. Its author should be water-boarded for adding to the piles of typewritten trash in which the world is already drowning.”

If I never share my writing, you see, I can inflate and berate myself at whim! I’m then bound to stay twisted up like a stale old pretzel, unable to produce a word…thereby avoiding all possibility of criticism and failure!

Yes, it’s hard to be such a genius of mental gymnastics.

I spent all of 2009 in a dark and fallow state related to my novel and creative pursuits in general. I crawled out from my cave in December, relieved to see a glimmer of a vision for a future life. I agreed to be here happily in idyllic Rockridge; to go nuts for this beautiful family and life; and to take a risk and just start blogging, even though I HATE that term. Yuck. A blog sounds like something coughed up from a smoker’s lung.

Anyway, Praise Be to WordPress, it’s 2010 and I’m writing again! (God, I do annoy myself sometimes. Anyway–I was trying to be positive.) Through this simple outlet of words on a screen, about whatever I want, I feel so much more…myself. Just happier, period. I’m also getting more sleep this year–but that’s another story.

To conclude this one I just have to say, to whisper in everyone’s ears: take that little bit of time you need. Do something small, another step towards your dream, the one you think is too far-reaching.

I have to remind myself that trying and failing makes for a much better story than never trying at all. We have to believe. We have to try. It’d be too painfully boring if we didn’t!

Thanks for reading,

Your Margot