Monday, February 21, 2011

McLit Checklist

Ten Signs That You May be Writing a Literary McNovel

Coy McTitle: Your title implies that your novel is not, in fact, a novel, but some sort of potentially explosive factual account, secret diary, scandalous sexual memoir, actual criminal evidence, etc. which you in turn cleverly disguised as a novel in order to smuggle Its Truth out right under the noses of those who would immediately seize every copy and burn them before deporting or incarcerating you.

False McStarts: The story in your novel doesn't begin until page 15, stops and restarts on page 16, fumbles around a bit, talks to itself and then finally starts up again on page 32. And starts again on page 42. The actual beginning of your story, however, can be found halfway through the third paragraph on page 52, after the third weather report and before the nineteenth introspective interlude. At least, this week.

Handy McArtwork: Something you hand-wrote or drew is included in the manuscript, probably an arcane symbol, a partly-torn note, a crude map or a message rendered in blood (which you will use ketchup to draw because you're convinced that will make it look authentic.)

Lofty McStyle: You consider your writing style to be something like stream of consciousness (and maybe it would be, if a horde of angry dyslexic beavers took up residence on the crumbling banks of that small and sluggish stream and dumped a lot of tell-not-show debris in it every three feet or so.) You plan to speak of your writing style only when you guest-lecture at a small, prestigious university, and only then to shoot down any student's proffered earnest theory about it.

Mysterious McWordage: Your novel is chock full of archaic, ambiguous, difficult and enigmatic words, most of which no one has employed in real conversation since Rome was sacked for the first time. One pretty-sounding phrase you filch from a foreign language to name a character, a place or an event will translate to something extremely unpleasant in English, such as "aborted fetus" or "projectile vomit."

Offensive McPromo: Your plans to promote your novel after publication include anonymously submitting a copy to a national organization run by parents who ceaselessly lobby to have books they consider offensive removed from school and public libraries. Your anonymous submission will include a shell-shocked letter with lengthy descriptions of explicit/offensive elements (that aren't really in the novel), how horrified you are that your sixth grader (who doesn't exist) brought it home from school, and a babbling gusher of gratitude for the important work these parents are accomplishing (you really think they're idiots, but acknowledge that they can provide plenty more notoriety than the fake comments you leave under assumed handles on censorship-oriented web sites.) You end it by quoting Ephesians 6:11-17, 1 Corinthians 6:13, or Psalm 18:16-24. Bonus McPoints: You deliberately include in the novel enough explicit/offensive elements to guarantee the book will be shortlisted for the year's top twenty most frequently banned new books.

Radical McPunctuation: You consider the use of ellipses to be the mark of a brain-dead amateur, yet employ the interruption mark so often your manuscript pages appear to be basted by an inebriated quilter. You also disdain the proper use at least one common form of punctuation as a deliberate flounce of your skirts at convention.

Sage McQuotage: You use a minimum of three quotations to preface the novel. The first will be a line of lyrics from a song written and performed by either a very famous or completely obscure rock band; the second will be an excerpt from some manifesto spouted by a controversial pop cult fig who was arrested multiple times before dying too young of an STD (the third will quote either Nietzsche or Kafka. Always.) All of these quotes will sound very cool; none of them will be particularly applicable to your story.

Sex McScenage: If there are any sex scenes at all in your novel, they will be composed of a confusing mish-mash of inappropriate euphemisms and clinical terms orbiting a lot of personal compensation-sized phallic references that obscure the actual doing of the nasty, or an overlong droning play-by-play as might be worded by a virginal voyeuristic wannabe thespian who knocked back one too many Diazepam with his fifth gin-and-tonny of the morning. Either way, by the time your reader realizes what is happening, your characters will already be sharing a cozy post-coital joint.

Writerly McBio: You do not refer to yourself as an author or a writer in your lengthy bio, which is a rambling list of your academic achievements, your tiny and entirely OOP backlist, the odd people who parented you, the name of the star that hovered over the place of your birth the night your unsuspecting surrogate Mom went into labor, and/or that award you won from the miniscule underground writer's organization in that foreign demilitarized zone just before they were bombed out of existence. If you're not already divorced, your long-suffering spouse will get a brief one-line thank-you, usually followed up by a startling and lengthy outpouring of your love for the family pet(s), who really got you through this wretched experience. If you are divorced, you will thank your current honey for helping proof the manuscript or looking after you during the time you still think of as your Disheartening, Damaging and Yet Ultimately Worthwhile Struggle to Release Your Art on an Ignorant, Ungrateful and Undeserving World.


  1. :) Just the best!!!!!

  2. Pretty sure I read this book in my book club. More than once.

  3. Anonymous2:39 PM

    This is the book I wrote on and off for ten years. I'm coming up on the second anniversary of the night I deleted all 80 files and felt free (and briefly compared myself to Gogol, Virgil and Kafka on their deathbeds).

    I sleep better.

    Dan Luft

  4. I love this post.

    Regarding "Mysterious McWordage", at university I read Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving, where two characters are named for the German terms for "abortion" and "miscarriage". Since I am German, it was very jarring constantly reading about "abortion" and "miscarriage".


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