Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Flash Fiction Friday, Week 61: Writer's Block
The prompt this week was to write a horror story that included the following: Writer, 50,000, month, goal, and winner. This isn’t a horror story in the supernatural sense, but some people can create a horrific situation without any help from the other side. Please enjoy.
I did it. Yes, I did it. I finished the novel on time, and it is a great success. Come to think of it, this one might be my most successful novel ever. It frightens me to look back and remember how close I came to letting myself down. All my life, I had made certain to always set a goal and then devote all my time and effort to accomplishing it. When I hit a roadblock, I simply plowed through it, until an event occurred that turned my roadblock into a cement wall. When my agent called and said I needed to drop whatever I was doing because we needed to talk, that set in motion a series of events that completely turned my life around. I remember his call as if it happened yesterday.
“Jack, I’m going to be completely honest with you. You know that I don’t only think of you as a client, I have also always thought of you as a friend. My intent is not to hurt you, but I have to be blunt. It’s the only way I believe I can help you, and believe me, Jack, you need my help.”
“Richie, don’t be so dramatic. You’ve always been straight with me. We’ve known each other for most of our lives. You should know by now that you don’t’ have to tip-toe around me. What’s so urgent that you had to call me so early in the morning, and on a Saturday? Since when do you work on Saturdays?”
“Okay, Jack, here it is. You’re currently under contract with one of the biggest publishers in the country, and you are obligated to produce one more novel before your contract comes up for re-negotiation and hopefully, renewal.”
“I’m aware of that, Richie, and I’ve been working non-stop. You’ve been getting the drafts I’ve been sending over, haven’t you? What’s the problem?”
“The problem is I have been getting the drafts you’ve been sending over.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Jack, I’m sorry, but they’re awful. Each chapter is worse than the one before. It isn’t that they’re just rough, they’re terrible. But, that’s not the biggest issue right now. The thing is, you only have a few months left before your deadline. While you don’t have to turn in a print-ready copy, you do have to turn in a complete first draft for review. You’ve been working on this one for a little over a year and all you’ve sent me is around 50,000 words. Have you been holding onto the rest or is that all you’ve got written so far?”
“Wow. Awful, huh? Are you sure you’re really an agent? Have you never heard of an editor?”
“Jack, there isn’t an editor on this planet that could fix the crap you’ve been sending me. I am so sorry to have to say these things to you, but it is all crap. A miracle couldn’t fix what you’ve done so far. What is going on with you? This isn’t the kind of stuff you produce. You are a hell of a writer, my friend. Your work makes people angry, it makes them laugh, it makes them cry, but your latest? Frankly, I can’t make it to the end of any of the chapters without nodding off. It’s all flat. There’s no emotion, there’s no action, there’s no…uh…there’s nothing. There’s nothing at all.”
“Maybe I’m just burned out, Richie. Maybe I just can’t cut it anymore.”
“Nonsense. In the past, you’ve cranked out first drafts in a little over a month and while it took time to get them ready for publication, there was something great there to work with, and from. No one expects you to keep up a pace like that, but like I said, you’ve been working on this one for over a year and you’ve really got basically nothing to show for it.”
“What am I going to do, Richie? I stare at my keyboard and feel nothing. Usually I can’t type fast enough, but for the past few months, I just hit the keys and I don’t even care if it makes any sense. Ever since Linda…”
“I know how hard it has been on you, Jack. I also know how easy it is for me to tell you to forget her, and remind you that she was nothing but a poor excuse for a human being. You loved her, married her, and all she did was take you for whatever she could get from you, and that wasn’t even the worst thing. Instead of simply walking out on you, she made sure you knew she was running off with another man. I get it, okay? I do, and I know it takes time to move past something like that, and I don’t mean to sound cold, but it’s time to pick yourself up and start living again. Don’t let the past haunt you – put an end to it.
“I think I have a solution. You’re too close to this project and you’ve reached a point where you’re just going through the motions. I want you to take some time off, a month, where you don’t think about writing at all. I have a cabin at Black Bear Lake, and I want you to stay there. It’s fairly close to where you live, and secluded enough so no one will disturb you. I’ve arranged for the caretaker to stock it with food and other supplies you may need. You can take my boat out on the lake, fish, stare at the walls, whatever. At the end of the month, I want you to go back home, start fresh, and draft me a story that I can be proud to send off to your editor. What do you think?”
“I didn’t know you had a place out my way. Why didn’t you tell me about it? I could have taken some time off and joined you for a day or two. I like to fish too, you know.”
“Uh, I don’t get down there very often, and when I do, I just want to shut myself off from the world.”
“I sure get that, Richie. That’s exactly what I need. Hey, can you get away for a few days this time and join me? It’s hard for me to be alone since Linda…”
“Jack, enough looking back. I can’t get away right now. I’m in the middle of a couple of big deals, so you go and use this time to get yourself together. I’ll overnight you the keys. Call me when you get back.”
“Will do. Thanks, Richie. For everything.”
“No problem, Jack. You’ll work this out because you’re a winner. I truly hope this helps you.”
It certainly did help. Being at Richie’s cabin cleared my head right up. If I hadn’t gone, I never would have found all those pictures of him and my wife. Linda’s always been that way. No matter where she stays, or for how long, she always has to make the place her own. She sure made that cabin home. There were photos of the two of them in drawers, along with some of her drawers, if you get my drift. I used to pay the credit card bills for purchases of lingerie, sex toys, and massage oils. Now I know why all I ever saw of those things were the bills for them.
I wished I had a camera to capture Richie’s and Linda’s expressions when I showed up at his penthouse in New York. I let them finish their cocktails before I gutted them both. Again, those looks of surprise with each thrust of the knife were priceless, and I’ll remember them until the day I die. After I tucked them both in the king size bed, I booted up Richie’s computer and wrote the draft of a true crime novel that I was later told would most likely be a best seller. It took me less than a month to complete it because my inspirations were close at hand. I had planned to leave to return home the day after I overnighted the manuscript to my editor, but apparently, some of Richie’s neighbors had reported the smell. When the police arrived to investigate, I was in the middle of making a latte, so I didn’t answer the door quickly enough for their liking. They had the concierge unlock the door, took a look around, and arrested me on the spot.
Richie was so right. I had allowed the past to haunt me, so I put an end to it. Permanently. My attorney told me this morning that my book has been number one on the New York Times Bestseller List for 16 weeks straight. Being on Death Row, I can’t collect the profits, but that’s okay. I set a goal and achieved it. Richie was right about something else too. I am a winner.