One Sip at a Time

Now that that dark drive through LA night is over – at least for now – I can start thinking about how to publish my story, and who the audience may be. So, Michael started talking about serialization and I started reading everything I could about it. Serialization, a way to build audience before a book ever gets published, before it’s printed and bound between covers. A way to infuse the work with cliffhangers, but maybe that’s not a good thing if they’re artificially imposed, but is there a way to fold them in or find them where they lie in the course of events the writer recalls? And momentum, tension, suspense – all elements of a sound narrative – to leave readers dying for more – somewhat like thirst itself. A way to give it to them in small doses because maybe just dumping it all at once is simply too much and how many people have time to read a long, long piece in one sitting? Many people, maybe, and if a reader wants to binge on it, she or he should have that option. But something about serialization – keep them reaching, craving the next hit. I think the Story Lab site itself is similar to a kind of serialization, at least in spirit – not of my story per se but of my “notebook,” the digital version of it, the process as it unfolds and as I set it out in this online space, bits and pieces, wreckage I have to blast away before I can get to writing.

As for audience, this I must figure out and test it on people, and I will, in coming weeks, but, probably, I think, at this point, the story could be for people who are addicted to some relationship or a person or a place or some thing they know they need to break up with because it’s bad for them but can’t because it feels too good or they can’t let go of something it gives them – money, power, prestige, security or some kind of high. By no means did I write the story specifically for a nightlife audience because I think, as I’ve said again and again, it isn’t about tending bar or clubs or alcohol – all of that is just the vessel. But, of course, I hope people in the trade get something from it if they read it. I guess you could say it might speak to East Coast transplants living in LA, but it could be for anyone living in LA who’s not originally from there, and now having lived in both places and working on this story I don’t see myself as “East Coast” or “West Coast,” just as a person who lived in both places and LA, especially, left a mark on me, but I don’t pledge allegiance to either city or subscribe to some side in a culture war of any sort or think one is better than the other. They’re extremely different in so many ways. LA did what it did to me and it is what it is, as the saying goes. Time to move on.

I hope the story resonates across age boundaries although it’s possible young people hustling to get by in a workaday survival gig may identify with the soul-crushing weight of something that kills slowly – not literally kills although a physical job such as tending bar can break you down over time, mentally as well as physically. Maybe people in their late 20s or early 30s who are trying to figure things out, where they want to go, what they want to do, chasing waves, as it were, can feel a little less lost if they read this, although I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to suggest they are lost or even feel lost, and maybe “lost” in this sense is the ideal place for someone who’s young and wants to write to be. But, in any case, my going through that decade of drink slinging in nightlife depths and now having this opportunity to reflect on it, what I saw and what I heard, strained through the filter of memory, I hope, may offer some insight, or at least make people want to turn the page, or click on the link and scroll down.

So I honestly think serialization, for this story, at least, about thirst, is like doling out shots of barrel-strength bourbon – take it in small sips, maybe add a little water, although if you’re crazy and grew up drinking the stuff and you can handle it, by all means, sip it straight. But best not to finish the whole bottle in one sitting – that would just be too much, even for die-hard bourbon drinkers. (Or, maybe not.) And once that lovely burn and mist and tingling goes up in the nostrils and the warmth comes over and through the drinker, she or he can take another sip – something like that. And hopefully it opens up to her or him new ways of seeing things, as whiskey may, or just loosens her or him up, or, if the person likes whiskey, is good to sip in any setting.