Right now, my sense of humor is flickering like a dying light bulb in a scary basement. Ironically, I’m a little tired from writing funny books, not to mention the kids never sleep and my husband has been out of town. Right now it’s 11 pm and instead of sleeping I’m writing and listening to a cat puke. I’m just going to hope I don’t step on that in the morning. Even so, it’s mostly the funny books that have me beat. I’m currently in the final round of edits for a summer camp romance novel. I sent in a proposal to write the book last year (book for hire kind of thing). The publisher picked me to write it because of my light and funny voice and my amusing plot idea. Let me tell you, writing this light, funny romp has been absolute torture. The first draft I sent in was too funny and quirky. There wasn’t enough romance (bad considering it was supposed to be a romance). I pretty much rewrote the book. The next draft was better, but I was still light on romance. Clearly, I’m not a very romantic person. I’m still tweaking things. There are some funny parts left, but I’m getting pretty surgical with these jokes. I cut most of them. This funny book is dead serious business. I can’t wait to take a nap when I turn it in. I think my sense of humor will come back after a few nights of good sleep.
I’ve been watching a lot of stand-up comedy lately. I’m too tired to watch anything with a story I have to follow at the end of the day. The funniest comics basically make fun of themselves. It’s all anecdotes about trips to the doctor’s office, bad dates, insecurity. This avoids the problem of meanness in comedy. If you’re making fun of yourself, it’s not mean and most people will relate. Although, I have to say, I’m sick of hearing about how slutty Amy Schumer is. Who cares!
My favorite funny mystery writer is Lisa Lutz. I love The Spellman series! I also love Heads You Lose. If you haven’t read it, it’s almost like a manual on how to write a mystery because it contains notes from the authors, Lisa Lutz and David Hayward, at the end of each chapter. They’re jokes, but I found them useful. I still need to read The Passengers, which is “a dead serious thriller (with a funny bone)” according the New York Times Book Review.
You know that quote, “Bad decisions make the best stories.” That pretty much sums up humor for me. Comedy and regret go together like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson (I leave it to you to decide which is which). My first book was certainly a study on some of my own bad decisions, not to mention societal bad decisions. (Reviewers who called it fluff–they had no clue how much personal struggle went into that book!)
Anyways, if the foundation of humor is spinning bad decisions into comic gold, it’s the one career that can legitimately be built on poor judgment. Well, I guess any career in the arts. If you fail–you can write a country song, tell some jokes, paint a picture–your imagination is the limit. I’d call it a silver lining, except that implies it might be worth money. It’s just a lining.