Liquor drips like charred oil from her eyes as she looks at him in the rearview mirror. I hate that look. I turn and look out across the bridge, all dark blue sky stretching across the streetlamps and the rumbling waters below melting into the jazz wafting from the sidewalk bars. If they ever tell you that jazz is comforting, or peaceful, or inspiring, they’re all lying. Probably to themselves, too. Jazz will seduce you like the city itself and then you will have nothing left but a hangover and a bag of half-filled dreams and no idea what to do with either.
In the literary world, there is no cliche more timeworn and banal than the empty page. Countless movies and television shows have portrayed this inconspicuous menace in all its unvarnished glory. You’ve all seen it, I’m sure. The eight-and-a-half by eleven crisp sheet tucked neatly into a typewriter. It’s self-important barrenness, mocking the timid writer. Or more recently, the pale, vacuous computer screen. Vacant, besides the black, thin yet sinister cursor. The one blinking in wait. Tempting and taunting. Daring you to take a shot. Condemning you for balking. Judging and teasing. C’mon, it appears to be asking. Let’s see what you got?
Can you read your story without feeling the urge to rewrite every other sentence? If you can’t get through reading your story without reaching for the red pen, cringing, or throwing the pen against the wall, it might not be ready to publish.
Before publishing my first book, a historical novel called A Decent Woman, I’d read individual chapters of the manuscript…oh, at least a hundred times. I read the complete manuscript three times before and after incorporating my editor and proofreader’s changes, which were golden. I was blessed they understood me and where I was headed with my story.
One day, I was playing a friend a few of my original songs. He turned to me afterwards and said: “Those are some heavy lyrics.” It wasn’t that I had never noticed that my writing – both songs and prose – can veer to the dark side, but it did make me stop and think: why am I attracted to the darkness?
The city was larger than Alan remembered. He had wandered its old, European streets for three days and still felt he had only grazed the surface. It had been so different when he and Marion had come here on their honeymoon. They had only stayed for a week (that was all the time he could take off from work) but they knew almost every side street and alleyway by the time they left.
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