East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Digging ditches


I’m writing a 30.000 words story that will not be published under my name. Work for hire, paid in three months time (If they’ll pay me at all). I’m 10.000 words short and today I just scrapped 3500 words because, let’s be honest, they sucked. I’ve a three days deadline. I can do it.

It’s being a fun ride. The story is not my usual genre, so there is a component of challenge, but also the reason why I am ditching so many pages: sometimes the ideas are right, and cool, but the tone is off. It’s like playing a different instrument from the one you usually play, like driving somebody else’s car.

The fact that is fun is, at the moment, even more important than the fact that I’ll be paid. Mind you, I need the money and all that, but a work paid in three months (if ever, because paying the writer is considered in poor taste by many in the book-publishing business) needs to have some collateral bonus to keep my interest up. And fun is one good collateral bonus.

Which reminded me an old Harlan Ellison quote, that said that if you don’t find pleasure in the actual act of writing, the act of putting together the pieces and telling the story through words you type out on a keyboard, then you might consider looking for a different job. Like, you know, dig ditches.

And so I count myself lucky for the fact that I still find writing pleasurable.

As usual ideas are coming ceaselessly, and it would be nice to just stop sleeping, and eating, and just write. I keep accumulating projects and then putting them in the freezer, because paying the bills is still a priority, and as a friend was told yesterday, it’s OK to pay 2.99 for a true pleasure like a good coffee, but ephemeral things like books should not cost more than 99 cents.

An ephemeral thing. A superfluous thing.
Something that should go for 99 cents.
Not a true pleasure – that’s a cup of espresso.
At least let’s try and have fun while we write it, this ephemeral thing.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “Digging ditches

  1. It gives me a subtle solace to know that sometimes you too press the canc cutton 🙂


    • I generally throw away 1/3rd of what I write – I tend to stop while hot, leaving a sentence incomplete, and when I pick the story up again I re-read the last 1000 words or so. Usually this is the phase in which I do massive cuts.
      Unless I am very lucky, I need to write 6000 words to get a good 4000-words story.


  2. button, sorry


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