I’ve Been Hearing the Voices Again or Thank You Chuck Palahniuk‏

I’ve been MIA. I was somewhere between writer’s block, HitList revisions and [The Next Thing], which up until Sunday was nothing but white noise. I wanted, I needed, I swore to finish HitList but instead I found myself shuffling words around the pages of my manuscript, composing imaginary emails to my editor and having mental arguments with the literary agent who gave me a lengthy, encouraging, kind-but-firm rejection letter.

LITERARY AGENT: In your book, I didn’t find the voices of your three narrators sufficiently distinct.

ME: But they are. I can prove it to you. I Write Like says so. Ahem. Well at least two-thirds of the time it does.

YOU: Okay… Well. Whatever. But what does this have to do with Chuck Palahniuk?

The website—I Write Like. They have an online form that matches your word choice and writing style with famous authors. I clicked-dragged-copied-dropped each and every chapter from HitList into it, to see which author each character sounded like. And for whatever reason, one protagonist continually came up as Chuck Palahniuk.

I’d never read his books and if you’re a fan, I apologize for this shortcoming. Here’s why: I haven’t been reading much lately. Not since I started writing. Well, since I had kids. Okay, okay, I haven’t been reading at all—but it makes me feel terminally insecure and what can I say, I’ve been occupied watching my daughter’s Pocahontas DVD for the past three years.

But Sunday I went out and bought Damned, just to hear Mr. Palahniuk’s voice. And let me say that while I don’t possess the man’s biting wit, delicious timing, full-throttle-rhythm or a fraction of his talent–if you put that aside for a second–I can write exactly like him. Well… we both write in English.

What I didn’t expect to happen was that reading his book would be mental Drano, creative WD-40, effectively pulling a thumb from the dike of my imagination. They started talking again—my narrators. They had a lot to say and there were more voices, and more stories too, so much so that I can’t possibly keep up. But despite the chaos of all that chatter, I now have the clarity I need: I know what I must do to put the final tweaks and polish on HitList.

I can’t say what it was about the book that did it for me. Damned has little in common with HitList, aside from a rainbow spectrum of messed-up teenagers. Maybe it was the book, or his protagonist, or perhaps it was only the unapologetic sound of Chuck Palahniuk’s voice. So, if you’re face-down in a stagnant pool of creativity, or hopelessly bogged in a mire of revision, there may be other ways to unstick your stuck. Or, you could always try Chuck.

2 Comments

  1. Sharon

    Congratulations for getting unstuck in such a creative way! And I’m still jealous because I don’t have literary agents to have any arguments with mental or otherwise.

    1. Too funny… But you can always have mental arguments with literary agents. It’s only when the agents are imaginary and you do it aloud that you need to worry…

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