The Phil Wells Dot Com

I Got A Big Mouth

Tag: writing

The Mediocre Dream

Sometimes I just want to crank out genre novels. I want to resist the urge to try literary fiction because, you know what? Literary fiction is tough. Those are the novels that take ten years to write. I want to throw darts at a wall full of index cards: “Dog protagonist,” “In love with a ghost,” “1990’s New Orleans,” and just pump out detective stories one every four months. Walk into a Borders and you’ll see the veneer of Hot New Fiction blanketing a continent of mysteries and romances with quirky titles. Series of books whose titles play the alphabet game, with room for Halloween editions. That’s what I want to write sometimes. The rest. The schwag. I guess in the end I don’t care about the book. I just like the writing.

Listen to a Dudesong Excerpt

Want to hear me read an excerpt from the book?  That’s what I did for funny man Sam Dingman’s podcast:

That’s right.  I finished the first draft of Dudesong, my epic poem version of “The Big Lebowski”.  The first draft weighs in at 5200+ handwritten lines of rhyming heroic couplets in iambic pentameter.  I’m in the process of typing it all up into a manuscript.  The process is weird, and definitely different from the way I wrote the thing in the first place.  I’m making little tweaks here and there but largely this is just typing and typing and typing.  Still, when it’s done I’ll be able to hit ‘print’ and have a physical actual manuscript of this thing in my mitts.  My groin parts shift just imagining it.

Then there’s the matter of what to do with the manuscript.  I guess the obvious answer is to mail it to everyone.  Licensing agents, literary agents, publishers, journals, bloggers, Jeff Bridges, and anyone else who’ll receive mail.  God only knows whether I’ll be legally allowed to publish the thing for sale.  To tell you the truth, I’d be pretty crushed if I got ceased and desisted.  I want this to be published and distributed.  Not for the money, though money is nice, but more for getting this thing on bookshelves in the big bookstores and placing it in the hands of as many fans as possible.  If I give away free e-books instead of selling this thing, less people will read it.  That’s just how it goes.  I didn’t take a second job and work 8 months for this thing to be some PDF on Bluehost.

I’m stressing about this now but the good news is still that the important part is done: getting the damn thing written.  I like it so far, and I hope lots of people will get to enjoy it.  Wish me luck or, even better, help me get this distributed.  I need helpful fans!

I Could Never Do That

People find out that I’m writing a book and that’s what they say: “I could never do that.” They say this and they mean, what? “I could never work on a single thing for 200 hours or so?” I’m not buying it. Everyone who says this to me has something they’ve committed several hundred hours to. Work, school, improv, acting, poker, exercise, television fandom; these things are all hour-hungry activities and they all, to whatever extent, return on the investment that you put in. Your level of ability in poker is your book. Your flat abs are your book. Your paycheck is your book. You do it every day. If you don’t have anything in your life that you’ve chosen to dedicate hours and hours to, then go find it.

Product is the excrement of action. I have a book because I fill my hours with writing.


I should say right off that this is one of those blog posts that could spark an urban legend by getting its author, me, canned. But probably not.

I’ve taken a second job. It seems in a year I’ve gone from hating all forms of work to filling every day of the week with someone else’s idea of how I can be useful. Honestly, I kinda like it this way.

These two jobs are polar opposites. On weekdays I’m using my left brain, making courageous decisions, managing others and myself, attending meetings, and taking on a lot of responsibilities. On weekends I’m standing in one place making sure people can get into a building.

What’s so nice about that, you ask? Well, for one thing, every full weekend I work is another hundred dollars off the debt. Snowflaked! The debt is starting to look pretty feeble. At this rate I’ll be back at zero before my wedding in February.

On top of that, I’d been looking for a way to tell the world that I need roughly 16 hours a week to just be somewhere with my thoughts and a pen and paper. At 20 lines an hour, I’ll be able to crank out 320 lines of poetry every weekend. And now that I’ve got a little momentum, 20 lines an hour bursts out of me pretty easily.

Yeah, I’ll miss lazy weekends. There will be times when I feel cranky and defeated. I’ll ask myself why I’ve done this. But then I’ll add up my debts and see how they’ve dwindled. I’ll flip through my notebook and see the way all those lines are flush in the left margin and zigzag on the right, the way a big long poem is supposed to. And when my goals are met and people ask where I found the wherewithal I’ll say it wasn’t easy. I’ll say I worked two jobs.

Writing the Song Takes Time

I got to thinking about National Novel Writers’ Month in November ( and how it applied to my next book.  That program is appealing to me because I love counting my progress in tangible measures.  When you sign up for NaNoWriMo you get 30 days to write a 50,000-word novel.  It’s simple and yet mind-harmingly daunting.

Until I considered the math today, I looked at 20 lines in a day as fierce progress toward completing this book-length poem I’m working on.  20 lines certainly feels like a lot of work.  Each line has an average of 8 words in it.  If I wanted to meet the NaNoWriMo standard and top 50,000 words in a month, I’d need to do 1,667 words every day.  That’s like 209 lines!

Clearly, it’s time to raise my expectations.

As an aside for you purists, there is a camp the lobbies against the counting of steps in artistic progress.  The fear is that it stifles the magic.  I don’t feel that applies to me.  I’m looking at this project as more of a translation than a straight-up novel.  When Dryden was translating the Aeneid you can bet he counted his progress at the end of every day by considering how much further he had left to go.  I’m like the artistic director for a film shoot.  I use every shot to express a specific vision through placement of lights and camera.  But when we’ve run out of script, my work is done.  It’s possible to see the end on its way toward the present.

Personally, I’ve got miles and miles left to go.  Time to get cracking and write the song already.

Writing the Song – Progress Report

I’m coming up on 500 lines written for this epic poem project I’m working on, which has a working title of “the Song”.  The title will change.

I started this project as a preamble to itself about two years ago, after the publication of my first book, Try the Veal.  I took months and months off from the project.  I considered it a false start.  But false starts, once tucked away into drawers, can have a way of nagging at a guy until he picks up the pen and gets cracking anew.

I worry about it.  I don’t know if it’ll be long enough to be published like a novel would.  I don’t know if I’ll even get permission to publish it, as it is a parody of sorts, and the rules regarding parody in literature are inconsistent to say the least.  I write 23 lines or so before my brain demands that I stop and I worry that this is too slow a pace to complete the thing.  Maybe I’ll get better at that with practice.  Maybe this is just what writers go through and it’ll be done and great before I even know it.

Anyway, 500 lines of poetry.  And I used to hate poetry.