Funny to Think

Next month will mark the end of the second year of working on the Incomplete States quadrilogy. I hope to finish writing the fourth book in the series soon. At least, I sense the end feels near. Then I’ll have a beta version of all four books in the series.

Then the work begins, yeah, the real work. The creative writing part, hell, that’s fun and easy. Just turn your mind lose, and then tidy it up so it resembles correct written English and aligns with everything else written until then – to the best of my memory. I know from previous novels that I’ve finished that, in two years of writing these four books, I’ve forgotten a lot of what I’ve written. In fact, novel writing often feels like I’m a channel, a conduit through which the words and ideas flow. I write without remembering large swaths. That’s why the work begins after the beta versions are completed. Hidden in these four books are dead-ends and roundabouts, wandering paths and cliffs. Motivations have been established, shifted, and challenged. Facts must be checked and confirmed.

So on completing four books and about a million words in two years, it’s staggering and funny to realize, the work is just beginning to take the books from beta to first drafts to final drafts to publication. 

Once I finish the fourth book’s beta version – I call them beta because they tie in so completely with one another, they’re not truly a draft until the ties are cleaned up, so they have all the major features, but they’re not complete — I’ll probably take a break and write something simpler. Fans have been asking, where is the next book in Life Lessons with Savanna mystery series. Those books are usually less than one hundred thousand words, and a lot easier to write and finish.

Another day of writing like crazy has to be stopped to attend to real life. I love the tension of this moment, stopping while writing, when so much remains to be written. Makes me eager to jump back into it.

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Speed

I bought a science-fiction novel on Tuesday afternoon and began reading it that night. I cut out time from other things each day to read it. It had five hundred seventeen pages. I finished reading it Friday afternoon.

I wish I could write as fast as I read. That’d be something.

For the record, the novel was The Exodus Towers, the second novel in Jason Hough’s “Dire Earth” series.

Saturday’s Theme Music

I stumbled across an article about the rise of arena rock. The article mentioned that Cream, on its farewell tour, headlined the first rock concert at Madison Square Gardens. That’s all it took for me to start streaming some Cream. As a big Cream fan, I enjoy a number of Cream songs. I started with “Strange Brew”, shifted to “Brave Ulysses”, followed with “Sunshine of your Love”, but then went to an old blues standby, “Crossroads”.

There I stayed, caught on the rock rhythm, but thinking about the lyrics, fixated on the final line. “And I’m standing at the crossroads, believe I’m sinking down.”

Every day brings a crossroads. You make choices. Some blindly follow the same road, and some willfully follow that road. Both refuse to consider the crossroads that they’ve reached, pressing on.

As writers, we’re often at crossroads about what a character will say or do, and how the story will change to advance the plot. Every day brings the opportunity to feel like you’re sinking down, or the belief that’s what’s happening. It’s easy to get caught there, especially when you thought you’d be making more progress, or that things would become easier. Each novel and chapter, though — each crossroad — is unique. You can learn some hints about how to navigate these places, but they often require a fresh approach.

The Cat Dream

Seems inevitable that I’d have a dream about cats. Four cats deign to let me live in the house with them. All were strays or left another house by their choice to come live with me. Besides them, Pepper from next door stays on our porch and wants me to feed her (which I do), and two other neighbor cats seek me for hand-outs. I’m a soft touch.

But when I started writing about the cat dream, I concluded the dream wasn’t about cats. They were symbols being used. The words I chose to explain what was happening indicated the dream was about other things.

It was another dream of chaos (like, straight out of the courts). So much was going on, and my dream started in the middle of it. I was carrying a cat (not one that I have, nor have ever had) from one end of a busy, hectic place, to another. People kept calling me over to come and see or do something, or help them out. I ended up multi-tasking, and ending up losing the cat.

Now the dream became a story about a flooftective. Calling the cat, asking others if they’d seen her, I walked around shaking a kibble box, my agenda re-arranged. Thinking I’d heard it back by my place, I went there.

The dream gets weird. My place didn’t have walls, but was framed for walls. Doors and windows had been installed, but there wasn’t a ceiling. There was a fireplace, and a wall-less bathroom. Instead of using it, I chose to go up the hill to a public restaurant, clean, but not convenient.

My place was also unbelievably disorganized, with boxes strewn about, including empty cracker boxes. Anyone who knows me will recognize how different that is from my real life.

Without walls, people walked in and out of my place at will, exasperating me. I became stern about stopping people as they did that. A cat fight erupted, distracting me again. As I hunted down those involved, I discovered a cat that wasn’t mine as at the fight’s center. He looked like my current cat, Tucker, with thick, black and white fur and a bushy tail. As I was talking to this cat, asking, “Who are you?” in a calm voice, I heard a woman calling for Harold. While I called over to her, asking if her cat was black and white, the black and white cat left. I decided it was probably Harold.

The dream, or my memory of it, ended.

***

Writing about the dream, I found myself using expressions like ‘multi-tasking’.  I ended up applying it to my writing efforts.

Other clues were there, like being side-tracked, the missing walls, and the sense of chaos and disorganization. See, while writing this series this week, I became diverted into a fifth book in it. I soon recognized it would be a stand-alone novel that shared the concept and setting, much like the relationship between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Then, I realize how much I enjoy the creative side of writing. I dislike the rest of it. I don’t mind editing and revising – that’s like solving puzzles – but the business side is anathema to me. So, if I don’t finish, I’m working on a series, but there’s no pressure to finish and publish.

Cunning, aren’t I?

So, after thinking of the dream and situation, I knew that I had to stop working on the new, fifth novel, and finish the original series as envisioned. I can later go back to the fifth novel, if I want.

Right?

Right.

Catwich

Catwich (catfinition) – inserted or stuck between two or more felines, often in a bed or restricted space, reducing its comfort.

In use: “Once again, he found himself pinned in bed, the human lunch meat in a catwich, with two floofs on either side acting as slices of bread to hold him in. It was like they planned these things.”

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