Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Book That Will Never Be Published

Advanced Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart. It is graphic and a bit icky. Don't read if you aren't ready for that. 

So I'm writing a new book. It's called MANHOLE. It's about a girl who was raped by an undetermined number of guys at a party. There may or may not have been date rape drugs involved (she tests negative for them, but date rape drugs don't last in the body very long). She was drinking at the party. Several friends witnessed her kissing one of the guys and many people heard her announce that she was going to "get with" a bunch of guys before the night was over. She doesn't remember anything. But her perpetrators left a lighter inside of her. The girl begins to fall apart at school after the event, becoming increasingly promiscuous and withdrawn from the people who love her.

It is written from the point of view of her boyfriend. He tries to help her, fix her, make her how she was. It doesn't work, of course. The book begins and ends with the boyfriend watching from the window as his girl goes down on one of the male teachers at their school. 

I know that this book is too dark ever to be published. And yet I keep writing it. I can't stop. Part of the reason is because it comes from a truth inherent in every rape victim I have ever counseled in hospital ERs. Part of it is because it's complicated and our girl isn't a "good rape victim." And part of it is because it doesn't end happily. It ends with a glimmer of hope, yes, but it is clear that it's a crap shoot whether this girl will ever be whole again. That is also true and real.

I think it is some of the best writing I've ever done. I have woken up at 5am for the last 10 days to write. And it will still never be published. Not because I wouldn't try, but because publishers wouldn't know how to market it. And who would buy it? It's not SPEAK. It's not easy to empathize with our girl and I don't want it to be. 

This whole thing has made me look at the reason I write. I always knew it wasn't just about getting published. If it was, I'd be happily working on RADIO STATIONS right now, revising it and selling it because it works. Instead, I've put it on hold so that this one can get out of me. And no, it's not therapeutic to write this one. It's painful. It's like reading PUSH, not warm and fuzzy or cathartic. 

But writing it has become a compulsion. I won't have my head completely back in the game of life until I'm done with it. I don't really know why it's happening this way, but it is.

Have you ever had something like this happen?  What do you do about it?







13 comments:

Heather Howland said...

That book you read of mine? Same. And just because publishers don't know what to do with these kinds of books doesn't mean there isn't an audience. Self-publishing is always an option. Or, you can do what Elizabeth Scott did... Put out two market-ready books, then release LIVING DEAD GIRL and shock the hell out of your readership with your dark awesomeness!

Edward said...

I read about the new Antonio Banderas movie and its reception at the Cannes Film Festival causing many in attendance to leave. http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2011/05/report-antonio-banderas-rape-movie-shocks-cannes-audience However, the story and directing are getting high reviews. If your story is not about the salacious details of rape but rather the turmoil of recovery then I think it worthwhile. Also, don't make it too much like that Jodie Foster movie the Accused.

mooderino said...

I'm not sure if this si man to be a book aimed at a YA audience or not, bu tthere are plenty of darker books than this out there (the work of Hubert Selby Jr for example). What makes them palatable to a wider audience, I'd say, is that they are more than one note. Your story sounds very on the nose, down to the title. I could make a very strong case for war being bad, but if I relentlessly show the horrors of war people are going to grow weary of it, because ultimately no one is disagreeing with me, not even those people who benefit from war.

Obviously I don't know your story well enough to make any really specific comments, but as long as you don't make your point too blunt and obvious, I don't think the content will matter as long as the narrative is engaging.

mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino

Matt Kuzma said...

I've never had a creative impulse that strong. I'd like one.

Lucy V Morgan said...

I'm writing a similar novel; it begins and ends with three dead bodies and it's about three characters who are defined by their faults. Like you, I feel it's some of the best writing I've ever done. I write it because despite its dark subject matter, I enjoy it--it's just clawing at the inside of my skull, needing to be told. (The novel I have on sub has also suffered because I chose the realism route as opposed to the genre-friendly one; I'd struggle more to write something different, though. What can you do?).

I'm not sure I would resign something to the "not publishable" pile until I'd tried. Sometimes, these kinds of stories are bought as literary or even commercial fiction; you have nothing to lose by querying it. If that doesn't work--and at least you're prepared for that!--then you could start to think about the self-pub option, depending on your situation at the time.

Stephanie said...

It's wonderful to lock into the kind of writing that fits you. The first book I queried was dystopian--I wanted to try writing in that genre because I love reading it. But, writing an entire dystopian novel showed me that my strengths lie elsewhere and that I can be more emotionally connected to the writing if it's drawn from a real place. Now I'm writing a realistic fiction that, I think, draws from much more authentic places. There's some terrible tragedy and horror in my book, much like Manhole sounds, and it might not be publishable either. But it feels RIGHT to write this book, which the dystopian never really felt.

I think it's actually really healthy to go into writing a book knowing its chances for publication. Many of us are too much the opposite, thinking from day 1 that it's going to sell like Twilight. When Manhole is all done and polished, it might be more publishable than you think. There's always hope for well-written books!

Kristin Rae said...

While it sounds like something that would be very hard for me to read, I don't think it necessarily sounds un-publishable. I think if you're this on fire about writing it, there is a reason for it. And like someone above said, it might not be something that's published anytime soon--you may need an audience first--but you never know who needs to read something like this. Who needs that little glimmer of hope you're offering. It sounds very real.

And in the meantime, it's making you a stronger writer.

Mandie Baxter said...

You peaked my interest. It sounds like a good story and from a very interesting view point. I'm just one person, but I'm sure there are more people out there who would want to read. But also, it is good to write, even if it is just for yourself.

AliyaPM said...

I say you just go for it! If the inspiration is there you should not let it go. If nothing else, I'll read it!

Carrie said...

Just write it and don't worry about being published. You are writing an honest story that you need to tell. That said, I do think there is a market for this story and I believe you will find it if that's what you end up wanting to do.

P.S. I'm also still pulling for Kyle :)

moljoe said...

So, a friend asked me the other day: What do you do that makes you feel passionate and whole. The friend continued to ask, "When do you feel most in "the zone?" You know, like when the world is moving around you, but you don't hear or see anything else but what is right in front of you and the positive energy it brings you."

I seriously could only answer, "When I have dance parties with the kids." You, my best friend, have a much more alive, exciting, and compelling answer.

I am thrilled for you and can't wait to read it.
xo

Alexis Bass Writes said...

YES! I've been there too. I keep holding onto the hope that one day there will a place for all my stories that aren't currently publishable.

ALso, I would definitely read Manhole. And I would probably be unsatisfied with a happy ending to an unhappy story - so if this book ever finds a home, I call ARC!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Keep going with it. You never know what could happen. I am always very compulsive when I write first drafts. It's addicting. Don't worry about marketability. Even if it's just a practice novel, you're getting better and closer to publication just because you've got your butt in the chair. :)

Amy