Fiction Writing – Cut Material, Failure

As a novelist, I have entire books of slashed material (as well as entire failed books).

This morning, I cut a series of postcards from my current novel-in-progress. These notes are from my narrator’s best friend from childhood, Tomás, after the two of them had a falling out.

A little background on the writing process: I asked my friend Ben Temple (who was a captain in the army during peacetime) to give me specific details and stories to make Tomás’ postcards more realistic. But they didn’t fit the narrative arc anymore, so here they are.

14 POSTCARDS FROM TOMÁS BEFORE HE WAS DEPLOYED

  • You dont even know how to say sorry after a thing like that. Just get up and walk away and say to yourself dont ever fuckin make that mistake again. Ever. So Im feeling like that but also Im here just thinking about being in a war and hoping to become a hero, a brave soldier that at least everyone could respect for that thing, am I right, Cabron? I imagined a sniper rifle in my hand, obstacle to obstacle or house to house. NVGs on my head at night, destroying the enemy, but apparently were gonna stay here in the USA and train…plus clean shit all the time.

 

  • Everythings still the same here Klay. We got something called “sequestration” sometimes…I guess? My CO yelled in my face, “Do you like sequestration?!!” and I had no fuckin idea what that was, but the way he said it, his tone, I just yelled back, “Sir, no, sir!!!” and he smiled. So I guess he likes me?

 

  • Heard ISIS was training in Pakistan now. Knew we had a battalion just over the border in the Aff desert. We all watched CNN in the briefing room like we were about to go to war. But then we didnt go. We waited another week on base like it was peacetime and there wasnt even an enemy we needed to destroy. Thats the army sometimes: too much time to think. I still feel bad about everything with you. It was once, I promise. Only once. And that shit is NEVER happening again. Write me back when you can.

 

  • Peacetime means PMCS pretty much everyday: Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services. Boring fuckin daily. Example: Checking the fire extinguisher in each vehicle. But we got bored after a while and just checked the boxes without actually checking the items. Got me and this kid Teague in trouble. Were warming up our LMTV when the fire extinguisher (which we had NOT inspected in a while) went off. Covered us both in white foam. Captain laughed his ass off, then assigned us latrines for a week. Only latrines. I dont know how many we cleaned, but it was morning til night!

 

  • Every day.  But at least that reminds me of high school workouts. Its a infantry unit, so difficult compared to other parts of the branch I guess, but nothing like high school wrestling, and I wrestled varsity for three years. Braceros Fuertes! State finals senior year. Wish I could go back and win that match. Wish I could go back in time and do a few things different. Thanks for the letter the other day. It meant a lot to me.

 

  • Ugly fuckin’ Guerra in the desert over there. You seen any footage? We watch a shit ton here on base. The marines keep getting deployed, but not us, at least not yet. Were just sitting here on our asses in Washington State, fuckin ready to go, twiddling our thumbs. Its like were in full-on peace-time, and the mantra of the peace-time U.S. Army infantry soldier is this:

“Somebody – anybody – start a war now.”

 

  • Cleaning (always something to clean: the motor-pool, barracks, grounds, equipment…). Cleaning and cleaning and cleaning. I wanted to make one of those boxing champion of the world warm-up robes, all red silk, have it say “LIMPIADOR” in big yellow letters on the back just put that shit on in the morning and wear it to work, cuz – apparently – Im a fuckin janitor.

 

  • This is how it is: An infantry unit in peacetime or not yet on deployment “goes to the field” for about 10 days every 3 months.  Really just El Campo. The woods there. Most common thing heard after field training in the Northwest: “We were in the field last month for 10 days.  Wettest fuckin FTX Ive ever been on too.  Were still rotating the tents through the motorpool… setting them up and drying them out until the end of the world.” Dios guarde mi.

 

  • I know you said its okay now and you and Olivia are talking again and hanging out, and Im happy about that but Im still so fuckin sorry about everything. You and me have been friends since when we were little and thats all that really matters to me now. That shit is the real stuff. Also Im bored as fuck here and I appreciated your letter. I liked your description of the country out northeast. I could picture it all. Made me miss Sisters, not the town really, just the high desert.

 

  • Cuate, theres this shit called STAFF DUTY: a soldier, a sergeant, and an officer, at the Battalion Head Quarters every night.  The solider is awake by the phone all night long.  The officer and NCO find some quiet corner of HQ to hangout in and then sleep.   If an emergency occurs, those 3 use the alert roster to wakeup the Battalion and get everyone moving.  Classic convo: “Want to go out with us tonight? Pitchers?”  “I cant. I have Staff Duty.”  People just watch regular movies during staff duty…if theyre smart.

 

  • Shit got a little more interesting this week: We had a platoonlevel live-fire training this week: M4’s, M249’s, & M203 simulators plus a vehicle mounted 50-cal all firing together. Went like this: the OIC rotates (let’s say there are 12 platoons in the Battalion) through his range over a 5 day period.  Got to snipe 6 people, two on one day, plus we did an ambush that worked. Then I slept in my own bed like I hadnt just been out. Youd have liked this week.

 

  • This is MESSED UP: I was locked down for 4 days before thanksgiving. We all were. People missing flights. Chingalo. And it was after a weeklong FTX…were in Battalion buildings… no clean clothes, no personal items except the ones we had with us on FTX.  Felt like those days when were cutting weight for a tournament except all of us eating in the chow hall. All for one pair of stolen NVGs! 800 fuckin soldiers locked down for that!  I wanted to track down the brigade commander and tell him to Chupame los huevos but he finally blinked on the night before thanksgiving. Said he would let us go but we all had to be back in 48 hours, and just as we were leaving post, the NVGs showed up MYSTERIOUSLY on the hood of a Humvee. Fuck whoever did that.

 

  • December: Private Wilson got busted for watching porn on the DOD computer during his staff duty assignment.

Then Private Jeurgenson.

Then Private Wonokoswki.

Then Private Childer.

Common article 15s from the UCMJ. Every single one of them.

Radioman Thompson said, “Why don’t they just watch Top Gun or some shit?”

And I said, “Somebody, anybody, start a war now.”

 

  • Looks like were finally gonna get deployed. Felt like I was dying…or becoming a professional cleaning lady.

Also, Im glad you and Olivia are back together. That seems good.

I guess Ill catch you on the other side. Im off to the Aff desert!!!

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Reading With Willy Vlautin, Wed, Feb 21st

I’m reading with Willy Vlautin tomorrow night in Eugene as part of his release tour for his new novel Don’t Skip Out On Me. We’ll be at The Foundry, Sam Bonds on 8th, at 7PM.

Willy was in London last week, and Portland last night (reading at Powells). He’s one of my favorite authors and an incredible reader.

Come check us out if you’re free!

Vote For The Teen Choice Awards – Too Shattered Nominated!

I just found out that Too Shattered For Mending has been nominated for the 2018 Teen Choice awards because of its starred reviews. This is the book equivalent of the top-200 Billboard songs at the end of the year. Voting starts now and goes through the start of February. If you liked the book, please vote. Also, please share this link with your friends on Facebook and Instagram. I need teens to help promote. Would anyone mind helping me spread the word?
Click here to vote!

TOO SHATTERED In The New York Times Book Review

My new novel TOO SHATTERED FOR MENDING was selected as one of four crossover books by the New York Times Sunday Book Review this week (“crossovers” are books that can be enjoyed by both mature teens and adults).

Here’s the full review:

TOO SHATTERED FOR MENDING
By Peter Brown Hoffmeister
373 pp. Knopf. $17.99.

Little is called Little because he’s big — a sophomore in high school and already 6-foot-5. But his nickname in his gorgeous but meth-ravaged Idaho town is more than an easy joke. Hoffmeister is reminding us that this person we come to care about and fear for — who’s been abandoned by his drug-dealer grandfather, who has to hunt illegally if he wants to eat meat, who’s been exposed to every kind of toxic masculinity but still puts everyone else’s needs above his own — is just a boy. Early on, a deputy seeks Little’s help finding his grandfather. That request eventually becomes a threat, adding tension to a portrait of the heart and will that’s so tragic and beautiful it singes.

Little has an older brother, JT, a promising football player who is ruining his prospects with alcohol and violence — and may soon ruin Little’s with faulty advice. JT’s girlfriend, Rowan, on whom Little has a heartbreaking crush, is a ragged free spirit who can’t understand her own worth.

“Too Shattered for Mending” is as spare as a bird in a bare tree, but it’s cathartic, not depressing. Little’s struggle with dyslexia alone — he places a red transparency over schoolbooks to make the page clearer — is enough to launch a thousand of those tweets that say, “I’m not crying, you’re crying.” In the end, you realize that what Little needs, what we all need, is a red transparency to put over the world itself so that life and love aren’t so hard.”

“Failure as Fuel, Staying Hungry, and Wolf Naps” – PBH on the CNF Podcast

Here’s my new interview on The Creative Nonfiction podcast with Brendan O’Meara:

Click to listen.

New Interview On Too Shattered, Failure, and What’s Next

This interview just came out today. I talk about my new novel Too Shattered For Mending, what a real writing process looks like, having no talent, hip-hop, and my next book – An American Afterlife:

Click to read.

Release Readings For Too Shattered

Book release week for my new novel Too Shattered For Mending (Knopf, Random House):

  • Reading at Tsunami Books, Eugene, Oregon, September 13th, 7 PM.
  • Visiting Rogers High School, Spokane, Washington, September 15th, all day.
  • Reading at Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane, Washington, September 15th, 7 PM.

Look for copies of the novel at your local independent bookstore, or order online by clicking one of these links: