Monday, November 26, 2018

Gone Fishing

We're still picking at the remains of Thanksgiving dinner here at my house, still delighting in turkey and stuffing (a once a year thing), sweet potato casserole and apple crisp. Thanksgiving is, in many ways, the loveliest of holidays, both because of the sentiment and the fact that you never have to ask, "What're we eating tonight?"

We had a nice time here, though we were bothered with the coldest weather of the year on Thanksgiving morning--the thermometer on the backside of my house registered about -18F at 6am, and I don't think it ever got into double digits on the day. Brr. So much for making that new tank of oil last! On Saturday, we went to see Bohemian Rhapsody. Good film from a film's perspective, though I'm not sure how accurate a biography it is, and it had a curious way of dealing with Freddie Mercury's homosexuality, but more on that next week, perhaps. I also read (in a day) Stephen King's newest book, Elevation. I enjoyed it, wished there was a little more of it (something I haven't said about King in a while), but also more on that in another post.

I haven't spent much time writing this past week. Of course, part of that is just being busy. Picking up and dropping off the Catbird burns two days out of the week, Thanksgiving itself can be hard to write on, going to movies, etc. (oh, the Bruins had a couple of games this week, too). There's not a lot of time. But the other issue is I haven't quite found my way in to the next project yet. Over the course of the week, I've been dropping a hook in the water and jigging it around, looking for a bite. I've written 3200 words, but there's nothing cohesive there, not yet: a single paragraph description of the overall plot, a couple of scattered ideas for scenes, with dialogue between nameless characters. I'm waiting for something to really grab the hook and run: the right voice to tell the story in, the character who will assert themself as the hero (or Great Enemy), the scene that will really kick the whole thing off. So far, only the barest ripple on the water, the slightest movement of the hook to indicate that something might be nibbling. But I think there's something there, just beneath the water. I hope it's a big one.

How do you get yourself into a new writing project?


Monday, November 19, 2018


It finally happened.

On Saturday morning, after inserting and feathering in an 810-word sequence, I sent off my manuscript to that "one more reader." I kind of wanted to feel like Rocky running up the steps while training; I felt more like these two guys:

I'm not sure which one's the manuscript and which one's me!

It's amazing how tiring it is, isn't it?

So, for reasons I can't explain, I do keep stats on this sort of thing. As I have stated, when I started the revision process way too long ago, I had a 138,000-word, 426-page monster on my hands. My revision process this time was to start with a blank page on the screen, and marked-up, printed pages on the desk in front of me. I copied off the printed pages. When I finished that version, I was down to 124,000 words, 415 pages. Better. Not ideal, but I thought I might be able to live with it. My spell check run through netted six words cut, but added two pages. Location is everything. Over the next three weeks, I went back through and tightened and trimmed (and added). The result is what I hope is a sufficiently-sleek beast, standing in at 119,500 words and 'just' 402 pages. I am happy with it right now.

On Sunday, I started noodling a bit, chewing a little over an old idea that might just be able to have new life. I opened a new document, asked myself some story questions, even wrote something of a scene. Will it go anywhere? I don't know yet. I hope so. Also on Sunday, I spent some time resurrecting the query letter for my now out-of-my-hands manuscript. Query lettering is hard. Ugh. The good news is I'm off all week, so I might have time to make some headway on both.

This and that

*John Oliver's Last Week Tonight continues to be one of the best things on television. Last night's piece on authoritarianism, like the best segments on that show, is funny, timely, and scary. The world has been shifting in an uncomfortable direction for some time. It used to be, America at least made a show of standing up to strongmen and standing up for freedom (when we weren't selling them arms or propping them up in the name of strategic interests, that is). That time now seems to be over. If you haven't seen the segment, you can find it here.

*I'm not sure what it is, but over the last week or so I've had unusually vivid dreams, and been remembering them more than usual (or remembering that I had them; aside from one in which I was being chased around a lake by a small snapping turtle, most of the rest are really kind of fuzzy). At least they're not nightmares.

*The Catbird comes home tomorrow. It will be nice to have everyone here for a short time.

*At the grocery store yesterday, while wandering up the cereal aisle, I realized they were playing Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like We Do?" I thought, "This is grocery store music now???" Especially because I'm pretty sure he says, "I want to fuck you" through his guitar talk box at one point. If you're a certain age, that album was pretty inescapable. Still is, on a lot of classic rock stations (and, apparently, in grocery stores).

*Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the States. Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans, have a great week to all!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Almost there

I'll admit it, I'm a little disappointed in myself.

I was hoping to be done by now, but when I finished working on The Weighty Tome yesterday, I was on page 376 of what is now just 400 manuscript pages. So close! But I had put probably close to four hours in over the course of the day (it occurs to me I might want to log my hours on these projects, because why not?), and when last night's Bruins game was over, I couldn't go back to it, even though there were still a couple of hours left in the day. I just didn't have anything left in the tank, and I've learned not to force it when that's the case.

It's funny how you get to a point in the day when you're just done, isn't it? When I'm running hot on writing, I can interrupt myself to go to the bathroom or get something to eat, but rarely does that interruption really break my flow. I can come back a few minutes later and get back into it pretty easily. But when I'm done, I'm done, and walking away for a few hours doesn't do the trick. There's just nothing there until the next day.

So, I sit on the cusp of 'finishing' this manuscript again (though I know I have to go back to a point somewhere in the middle and add a tiny bit), but am just not quite there. And November is half over which means it's really WAY to late, because I'm getting to a point where I would have to average over 2500 words a day to 'win', and that's too much. And that's also okay. As much as it would be nice to join the NaNo masses, everything has its own time and the next project will come about on the schedule it needs.

Disappointed? A little. But I also know enough to listen to myself.

How about you? Can you push through those moments when you're 'done', and how does that work for you?


One note: the Bruins had a good weekend, winning both games after turning in a horrible performance against Vancouver. The fans are very skittish this year, which I think is a product of the team being unexpectedly good last year. Funny how that happens.

Second note: I really screwed myself by posting that "McCafferty's Bib" song by They Might Be Giants last week. I can't get it out of my head! I think it's because I can't get the melody and lyrics to match up quite right, no matter how many times I listen to it. Help!

Third note: Yesterday was Veterans Day here in the US, so let me take this moment to express my gratitude and appreciation to all our veterans. Thank you for what you do.


Monday, November 5, 2018

More Revising

Hoorah, hoorah! Two weeks ago, I finally reached the last page of my WiP! When I pushed back from my desk two Mondays ago, I had cut some 14,000 words from my bloated epic. Perhaps more important than pure word and page count, I was also able, I think, to shorten the 'ramp up' time in my story. Two of my trusted readers told me they didn't get really interested in things until between 40 and 60% of the way in, and that's way too far in to make readers wait.

At the time I 'finished,' I had been thinking I'd send it out to another couple of readers by the end of the month. During the time they have it, I'd get back to work on the query and redo my synopsis, with the goal of sending it out either late this year or early next. Also, I thought I just might actually be able to ~gasp~ do another NaNoWriMo. An old idea of mine has been starting to kick up a bit of a fuss in the back room lately, and, given the way things are in the world right now, it seems topical. For the first time in a few years, the timing for NaNo looked like it might actually work out.

Three days after 'finishing,' I had the day off of work and sat down with the manuscript and ran spellcheck. Rather than use features like 'Change all' or 'Ignore All' (the grammar checker in particular has no understanding of nuance, artistic license, or even grammar), I looked at each highlighted word, each flagged sentence, even though my eyes wanted to roll up in my head. Miracle of miracles, when I was done, I had managed to reduce six words from the total (but, strangely enough, I had added two manuscript pages--location is everything).

And, of course, I discovered a bunch of things that needed to be fixed.

This is how it goes, isn't it? We tell ourselves we're ready, and then we find something else that needs fixing. On October 27 I went back to page one and started fast reading. I was aiming to do that sort of sentence-level tightening to pull extraneous words ('that' and 'just' tend to be big on extraneous usage), but I've also found enough 'big stuff' to fix that it makes me call into question my entire process! So, now I'm waiting to send this out to readers once again, my dream of having it off my plate by Halloween gone, and NaNo definitively on hold. The good news? I've already cut over 3000 words, which has shaved about ten manuscript pages off the whole thing, and I'm more than halfway through.

A recurring theme for me, indeed for any writer, is how hard it is to wait, and how often we have to do it. We're always waiting: for betas, for agents, for editors. We want to get on with it. We want our works out there in the world, to sink or swim on their own merits. But I've stayed my hand. Frankly, I was embarrassed when I saw the hot mess I subjected my betas to. They don't expect perfection, but they deserve better than what I gave them, and agents will need better.

Do you give in to the temptation to 'send,' or do you force yourself to make 'one more pass'?


Fun stuff

The same day I ran my fateful spellcheck, the Magpie and I drove a couple of hours to Ithaca to see They Might Be Giants in concert at the State Theater. My kids loved They Might Be Giants when they were little--really, why wouldn't any kid? They're quirky. They employ clever wordplay in their lyrics. They sing funny. And they use odd instrumentation. They are also far from a novelty act. The two hour plus show was a treat. TMBG is an energetic band on stage, with lots of funny banter and lots of great music. I was a little nervous about not knowing any of the songs (I only actually have the one album myself, 1990s Flood), they played widely from across their 30-year catalog, and I knew more than I thought. I recommend catching them if they come to your town on this tour (It's also nice to see a band in a 1600-seat theater as opposed to a hockey rink or football stadium). So, here are two selections from TMBG for your listening pleasure: 1990's "Whistling in the Dark" (which seems appropriate to our current times) and "McCafferty's Bib" from their newest album, I Like Fun.