Tag Archives | Writing

Writing The Fatness

The Fatness

Click the image to get it at Amazon!

I’m not sure how interesting it is for readers to know the story behind the story, but I thought I’d share my experiences with writing this book.

This one was personal.

I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my life, so I found it quite difficult to write a humorous account of what it would be like to be imprisoned for your weight.

Really difficult.

As is the case for many of my novels, the idea for The Fatness first came to me, in a dream. I’d been reading The Obesity Myth, by Paul Campos. It’s an eye-opening non-fiction about the bad science surrounding the idea of the obesity “epidemic.” This was sometime in 2005, the year ENC Press published my first book The Amadeus Net.

So that’s a horrible notion, I thought. Concentration camps for fat people. That’s terrifying. And strangely compelling. I could see people thinking this was actually a good idea, policy wise. But I trust my readers to know satire when they see it, so I wrote four chapters…

They were terrible. There was nothing funny about the book. It wasn’t biting satire, it was just bitter.

I made several other attempts, all failures. Six years ago I even got as far as completing an outline and a large chunk of a draft. But it wasn’t really what I wanted the book to be. It was strained and really not funny in a way that was compassionate for the inmates of the Calorie Reduction Centers.

Then four years ago I got serious about my own weight issues. I worked with two wonderful personal trainers and got my weight down below the dreaded 30 BMI for the first time in years, and for some reason, that gave me the ability to write the book. I think I needed to understand the process of losing weight so that I could communicate it properly. Within the course of a year I managed to produce a draft of the book I felt was good.

The following year I worked with my editor and produced two more drafts. Then my life got really complicated. My long-term relationship ended, my dog died, and I started a new and extremely challenging work position. (Sounds like a bad country and western song, doesn’t it?) So it took a few more years until I was ready to start the publishing process. Yeah, sometimes it takes that long.

This is the longest gestation period for a book I’ve written. By comparison, my first novel, The Amadeus Net, was a breeze. It only took 10 years from start to finish.

But I think it’s the best book I’ve written (so far) and the positive reviews seem to back up that feeling. I’m particularly pleased that readers feel the book is satirical, yet has a big heart that is compassionate for people struggling with weight issues. As the book taught me, there’s no easy answers.

Learn more about the book here.

Buy the Book

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Feeding the Beast

This is a script for a piece I read on CBC Radio (Ontario Morning) way back in 2006, when some people still didn’t know what a blog was.

Feeding the Beast

by Mark A. Rayner

Hi, my name is Mark, and I am a writer with a problem. There is a monster eating my novel.

It is an insatiable beast. A slobbery demon that greets me every day with an obscene wink, and asks:

“What are you going to feed me this morning, Mark?”

It’s my weblog. Or blog for short.

#

Blogs are the latest version of the personal web page. (You know, the kind of website that has lots of cat pictures on it.) But blogs are used for a wider variety of things than that. There are blogs about technology, history, books, politics, bat-grooming. You name it and there’s probably a blog about it.

Some people treat their blogs like a diary, except instead of writing in a book with a lock on it, they’re posted online for everyone in the world to read. Many of these blog-writers — or bloggers — get fired from their jobs for revealing wildly inappropriate things about their workplace. I’d say that happens to about half of them. The other half thinks its cool.

But the one thing all of them have in common is that to be successful, blogs must be updated on a pretty regular basis. The more often, the better.

They must be fed.

#

“Skwib requires sustenance Mark. Must have copy.”

My Beast is called The Skwib. I feed it short fiction, satire and the occasional bit of humorous commentary.

It likes the short fiction and the satire the best, which figures… That also takes the most time to write.

And so, part of my morning writing time — time I should be devoting to my new novel — is taken up by the Beast.

This would be fine if I was some kind of genius, a prolific scribbler. But I’m in the Thomas Mann school of writing. He’s the German dude who wrote The Magic Mountain, and said:

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Though I imagine he said it in German.

So why start and feed a blog? I don’t know. It’s kind of like asking me why I used to wear a leather tie, or rugby pants. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, I’m not so sure, but the act of feeding it does keep me writing, no matter what.

#

“Feeeed me.”

The Fatness

Click on the image to check out an excerpt.

Okay, gotta go, I think it’s started snacking on my short stories now.

The End

Update, 2017: I’ve been starving the beast of late, which I why I have a new book coming in November, called The Fatness:

A satire about concentration camps for fat people and bureaucracy gone mad. (A love story.)

You can check out an excerpt here.

Originally published August 2006. Photo by Danielle Blumenthal, via Flickr.

Kurt Vonnegut on the shape of stories

The lecture goes on, but unfortunately the video doesn’t; this is too bad, because then Vonnegut describes Kafka’s The Metamorphosis:

Kurt Vonnegut's sketch of Kafka's The Metamorphosis

Poor old Gregor Samsa. Not only does he start really low on the GI-axis (good fortune, ill fortune), he turns into a cockroach and experiences infinite ill-fortune.

The full text of Vonnegut’s lecture can be found at Lapham’s Quarterly, where he goes on to explain why Hamlet is still regarded as one of the world’s great bits of literature.

Alltop prefers that Scottish play.

Selected Media Fads Through the Ages

Von Willendorf venus statue, circa 24,000 bce

24,000-22,000 BC: chunky fertility goddess statues (pictured at right: notice the prominent and large brains.)

10,000 BC: cave painting

4,000 BC: ziggurat construction

3,000-1,250 BC: pyramid raising (later revived by Mesoamericans and I.M. Pei)

1480-1700: Witch burning

1500s: homoerotic sonnet writing

1600s: pirate singing

1700s: pamphleteering

1760-1762: spreading syphilis

1790s: opera

1800s: novel-writing

1900-1914: being optimistic about the future

1919-1922: cutting up pieces of paper and pulling them out of a hat, also, painting

1925: jazz music

1927: soap-based radio

1933: burning books (mostly in Germany)

1951: find-the-commie (kind of like peek-a-boo, but with Senators)

1964: screaming (usually Beatle-related)

1966: TV

1976: disco

1977: DIY pet rocks

1982-1988: taking odds on Reagan-related nuclear holocaust

1987-1997: making answering machine messages (see below)

1998: web sites about your cat

1999: cappuccino drinking (related to dot-com bubble)

2000: looking forward to the future (this didn’t last as long as the previous fad in this genre)

2003: Friendster

2004-2005: blogging

2006: MySpace

2007: Facebook

April 2008: Twitter

2009 (Jan.-Aug): talking/writing/broadcasting about Twitter in MSM.

2009, Sep. 15: Blogging (again, briefly, but only about Dan Brown’s latest “masterstroke of storytelling”

2010 (Jan.-Feb.):getting really excited about the release of the iPad.

2010 (Mar.): trying to remember what all the fuss about the iPad was all about.

2010: “winning

2011: pretending the British Royal family is important

2012: posting pictures of every frickin’ meal on Instagram

2013: twerking

2014: “binge-watching” TV

2015: laughing about Donald Trump’s presidential run

Jan-May, 2016: crying about Donald Trump’s presidential run

Some old-fashioned media here — satirical novels and flash fiction to keep you from the fads!

And yes, Answering machine messages were the most important creative outlet of the nineties!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KH7nJns39c[/youtube]

Video here if it doesn’t beep.

Alltop and enjoys their Bebo. From my collection, Pirate Therapy and Other Cures. Originally published in 2010, and updated every once in a while.