Edits and Eggshells
Los Angeles, CA
Over the last ten days, I struggled immensely with a plethora of writing/work/project issues including deadlines and of course editing Lost Vegas, which has turned into my personal white whale and the bane of my existence.
I already spent four years and four re-writes on the fucker. I had a book deal and lost one. I had another one then the UIGEA (anti-online gaming legislation) happened. And over the summer I secured a kick ass deal with a publisher in Paris to publish the book in French. That's still in tact, thank God, but that all hinges upon me finishing this draft so their translator (aka Benjo) can get a head start on the project.
Alas, Lost Vegas is nowhere near ready, despite the endless days and nights over the last few years where I sacrificed sleep, days off, and personal time with friends, family, and the girlfriend so I can complete this project. Six months ago, I was hoping that this would be the week when I'm working on the book cover and on the verge of submitting the final draft to the printers. Nope. Not even close.
The good news is that we're now on a path that will make Lost Vegas a good book (as opposed to a mediocre piece of Americana trash), but it is going to take a little more time to get there than I originally expected. I have a new editor and co-pilot who believes in my vision, he just doesn't think I'm presenting Lost Vegas in the best possible manner. We're in the middle of a massive shifting in structure. As much as this scares the bejesus out of me, I took a step back and realized that it's the right way to go.
That's the whole point of shunning traditional publishing venues and going the solo route... that I can have 100% creative control and not rush the manuscript in order to maximize sales for the said publishers. I know how much money I made in the poker industry since I began, and those who hired me and exploited my work and good name must have made a killing over the years. The last thing that I want to do is get pennies on the dollar for my blood work.
Since it's all on me, I decided to push back the release date and not rush this process. It might only be a few weeks, but if by chance it takes a few months, I totally cool with that because in the end, it will be a better book. Instead of worrying about commerce, I needed to focus on the art. There's a slim chance that we can still meet my original deadline, but we're not worrying about that.
So, thus begins the fifth re-write of Lost Vegas and the second attempt in 2009. Sigh.
I was hoping to have some time off for the rest of this month and in October, but that's not going to happen. I need a real vacation to unplug and regroup, but I lost that window of opportunity. I doubt that I can get any time off until Spring 2010, but I have to use some of that time towards another new project (e-book for a business project), re-writing Jack Trip Stole My Dog, and promoting Lost Vegas. Oh, and then the 2010 WSOP will begin and then I lose my sanity for the summer.
I would kill for a huge chunk of unstructured time without deadlines or worrying about the multiple web sites and projects I have undertaken. Alas, that's the path I chose.
At one point, the Lost Vegas manuscript was over 300,000 words of material. I trimmed that draft before the summer began down to around 150,000. During the Spring round of edits in April and May, I spliced off more than half the manuscript. To put that in perspective, short NaNoWriMo novels are supposed to be 50,000 words. I essentially killed three of those, and it looks like another 50,000 will be spliced (although another 20,000 added). Yeah, four NaNo novels... gone.
It just amazes me the amount of writing that did not make the cut. Some of it is hopelessly mediocre (and I'm glad I finally had the balls to let it go), while other bits maintain my highest standards of quality, yet the subject matter is redundant or a derivative of something I already stated. For example, the strip clubs bits? I have to cut about 50% of those. As much as I love some of those sections, the material is repetitive. Ergo, their future is the trash bin.
The volume of scribblings that has ended up on the cutting room floor is more than some people will ever write in a lifetime, and all of those words are now gone. I feel like absolute shit because those cut passages represent a waste of time. When I count up all the hours I spent on this project since 2005, the numbers make me dizzy. I started to doubt myself. Is all this really worth it?
This part of the process has put me on edge and the biggest obstacle to overcome is that I'm completely uncomfortable in my own apartment and office. Nicky has to work nights for PokerStars, which means she's sleeping during the days at odd times so I can't blast the music like I normally do when I write, or wander through the apartment when I'm on the phone. I prefer to stand and walk while I talk. I need to be in motion because it stimulates my brain.
Sometimes I get a little stuck on the edits and need to jam out with some air guitar or listen to loud funky tunes that will get me fired up to write, or give me the necessary distraction to take my mind off of whatever has been annoying me (sometimes re-writing a simple sentence takes twice as long as it took me to write the entire chapter). In short, I have to walk on eggshells at a time when I'm going a little crazy and it's adding to the frustration. I'm trying to be respectful, but it's not working. Thank God that Nicky's assignment is only short term and over next week, otherwise, I'd be considering finding a place where I can do my own thing.
I had so much more to say about this and the humble nature of editing, but I'm out of time. I told myself that I'd take today off so I can relax and watch football. It's five minutes to kick off, so now I'm going to just rip a few bong hits, sink into the couch, and watch the Jets.
It's 10am on the west coast and I'm ready for a welcomed distraction and won't think about Lost Vegas until I wake up in the middle of the night in a deep sweat nursing a panic attack when makes me jump out of bed, sprint towards my laptop, and finish the fifth re-write.