Right after my book sold, my agent asked if 55,000-65,000 words sounded good to me as a word count in the first step of negotiating my final contract. In my head, I was like, "Girl, how many pages is that?" but I hate feeling like I'm some kind of big old dumb dumb so I quickly replied that this would be totally manageable and like, I could totally write more as needed. And this week when I surpassed 30,000 narrative words written that amounted to more than half-formed ideas and a handful of orphan metaphors, both of those things were still true.
But the other truth is, for the most part I don't know shit about shit and had absolutely no concept of how many words 55,000-65,000 really is in the context of a book. And because at my freelancing peak, I was publishing 4-6 stories a week that came out to about 10,000 words total on average, I was like, "Shit, I'm going to finish this book in like a month and then go smoke cigarettes and wear leather in fuckin' Paris for the fall!"
But what I didn't take into account was that my freelance work is not thematically linked nor is it going to dwell inside a bound physical object that people invest more than eight minutes and zero dollars in. I produce at that volume to accommodate the metabolism of social media, not to live on someone's bookshelf or in their Kindle as a single work threaded together by well-established themes. I want people to want to share my book with their mom in a way I don't expect them to with my stories that have titles like, "The Dickonomics of Tinder."
As I worked on multiple essay drafts at once, I became acutely aware of my tendency to repeat the same metaphors and turns of phrase. As it turns out, there are just not that many fucking synonyms for "fragile" and "clumsy" can be used to describe everything from foreign words mixed in with one's tongue to the way a particular kind of woman stands still. Worst of all, I discovered some latent interest in restoring the monarchy because I want to describe everything (fucking everything) as some kind of kingdom. Wild kingdoms! Tastefully appointed kingdoms! Kingdoms in the valley of the shadow of death! It was like that time Oprah told everyone they got a car except I was handing out like, land and castles and standing armies.
Just as I was prepared to give up hope (not really, but this story needs an arc), I found deliverance in an angel. Her name was Lana Del Rey and she cannot stop repeating herself to save her goddamn life.
An article in The Verge about the lyrical universe of Del Ray reads:
To be a fan of, or even just have a healthy interest in Lana Del Rey is to enter a world and mythology every bit as dense and geekable as something by George R. R. Martin. Since breaking out in 2011 with her langorous first hit "Video Games," the aggressively self-styled singer songwriter has gained legions of fans, many of whom are inspired and egged on by the foggy relationship between her lyrical truths and biographical facts. Blue hydrangeas are the dizzying Carcosa-spirals of Lana Del Rey fandom.
I was like, "You had me at dense mythology and aggressively self-styled and foggy relationships!"
A guide at NYMag from 2014 actually delves into an exhaustive guide to how much she repeats herself. Like, girl cannot stop talking about Elvis or her own death or blue hydrangeas or America or dads ( in all their glorious forms). Here are four gifs that kind of sum up her catalog nicely:
I mean, Lana Del Rey is problematic as hell but her music doesn't sound like something coming from a one-trick lyrical pony. These references create history and texture, placing her songs in the ecosystems of her evolving but persistent obsessions and the sustained physical presence of certain objects. When you think about it, it ends up seeming strange that other artists aren't repeating themselves as often. Are there environments so fleeting, their moods so fleeting?
Now, I am well-aware that pop records are not essay collections and that my mileage may vary. I do believe in rigorous reflection on word choices and that I should actively expand my linguistic horizons. But I am also the most consistent presence in my book and if I related to the subjects and people I explore therein in the language of magic and monarchy, then it would be dishonest to go pillaging in the depths of the English language and shoving clever metaphors into stories where they don't belong.
Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to write another 10,000 words in time for me to make it to Paris in the fall because even though she loves America, you can just tell that Lana is secretly French as fuck.