A Letter From Your Unfinished Novel

Boston-based novelist, screenwriter, and stand-up comic Erica Ferencik strikes again. This time she has a few choice words for you from your best friend and worst enemy: your unfinished novel.


My dear writer,

          To be blunt, I’m not even sure I start off all that well. A little heavy on the “sense of place” and not enough in medias res, in my humble opinion. Maybe drop the first chapter; start where she jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge and she’s saved by the hot cop with the yellow lab police dog? No? Really? We have to start where she wakes up in bed, stretches, yawns, and pads over on her bare feet to the kitchen and starts making coffee? Then she – please help me – pees? What does her bladder have to do with the story?

          And I hate to bring this up, but isn’t it a little convenient that the cop comes along and saves her just as she falls into the icy water, and the dog turns out to be the puppy she thought died in a fire years ago? Are you on drugs?

          Don’t get cranky. You’re not some lifeless collection of pixels rotting in the cloud like me. You’re out there living the life, shopping at H&M, going for after-work drinks, having sex with your husband. (No? Well, you were when we started this thing.) The only sex I have is on the page and frankly, I don’t think it works all that well. She “cleaved to his throbbing member”? Seriously? I thought cleaving was like, cutting, no? Whatever. You’re the writer. I’m just the helpless recipient of your subconscious. Your muse’s plaything.          

          What am I, rewrite number six? Seven? With all due respect, I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel here. Your beta readers seem all right I guess, except for that Shelley person (you two are like oil and water) but do you really have to rewrite me every time someone clears their throat? My God, in the beginning you were enthralled with me; my first five thousand words, ten, fifteen. Remember how mad drunk you got when you hit 50,000? I felt so important to you and then…then I don’t know what happened. You decided I wasn’t exciting enough or didn’t move quickly enough or wasn’t even timely anymore. Not my fault.

          So here we are again, hanging in the ‘ole Starbucks. Just you, me, the venti chai latte, and eight million New Yorkers. Look – I get it. The apartment’s too quiet. You like the hubbub. It helps you think, or so you tell me.

          The fact is, I feel you reaching to make this book more than what it’s about, but maybe I just am what I am, my friend. Something you needed to get off your chest.  A bad imitation of…well, don’t get me started. Now don’t get pissy. Every character is really you anyway, or a part of you, so get over all your selves.

          Why not take a long weekend, just you and me, off somewhere quiet where we can really get into it together? Blow off work a few days – hell, let’s make it a week. Leave the hubby at home. He’s not even talking to you these days? Even better, he’ll hardly miss you.

          Because I’ve got plans too, you know. What I wouldn’t give for a kind word from a reader, maybe a New York Times review. A novel could live with that.  Make some decent hardcover sales, pop off some foreign rights, maybe even snag a movie deal. Ryan Gosling for the lead? Sure. At this point, I’d be happy just to get printed out.    

          Okay, I’ll calm down. But hear me out: you’ve yet to come up with a subplot to resonate with my through line which – don’t get me wrong – still has its strong points. You and I both know I’ve got story problems: flat characters; leaden dialogue; a middle that sags like an old mattress.

          You say you want to take another writing class? “Finding Your Inner Writing Goddess”? Sweet Jesus, you’ll be six feet under by the time we’re done here. Yes, it’s about the community. But it’s also about finishing my ass.

          And – don’t lie – I know you don’t have an ending. Do you know how this feels? I’m a wreck. Can’t eat, can’t sleep… I lie awake wondering if I’ll ever feel whole... look, I don’t even care if I’m earth-shaking anymore. Great American novels are so last century. I just want to get out there. Catch a few eyeballs if that’s all right with you. So pass me out at bars, staple me to trees, use me as the signature on your email! Whatever. Because frankly, I’ve been drinking more than I should, even for a novel.

Yours (because who else would put up with me?),

Your Unfinished Novel

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