The Hot Mess

Dreams wrecked my sleep like booming thunderstorms. While the dreams went all over the place, often with multiple storylines and settings, and frequently anxiety fraught, one theme stayed true: the leads were missing or broken. I kept hunting them or trying to repair them. In one example, others brought in a large and heavy broken motor. “Know what we found in this?” one man that helped deliver the heavy electric motor said. He was affable and burly, curly-haired and sunburned, a little dirty and greasy in his blue uniform with its red and white name tag with “Mike” in script, and a gap in his teeth.

I grinned. “Broken leads, right?”

Mike grinned back. “Yep. You got it. The leads weren’t working.”

Stepping back, I’d finished the first draft of April Showers 1921 a few days ago. I found it a hot mess. Good writing, yes, but shitty storytelling. The concept had over-excited me, and I’d peed all over the place. It’s my big friggin’ writin’ weakness. The first draft had become six hundred Word pages and one hundred fifty thousand words. The last quarter and ending were weak. The beginning and middle were confusing.

When something goes wrong, I try to figure out what to do. That’s been try for me for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, the process requires me to walk away from the project. Grant my mind some space and let it work. This isn’t one of those projects, though. I felt an urgency to keep working on it.

The writing hadn’t been a waste of time, of course. One, it entertained me. Second, I learned more about the concept, and then the story. As I’ve quoted Terry Pratchett before, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

Now I knew the whole story, and it needed to be re-worked. Many hours of thinking and walking were conducted in search of what to do. Well, I roughly knew what to do: revise and edit. Sure, but I thought, more structure was needed than to proclaim revise and edit and go forth. I needed a better, more solid plan. I just wasn’t satisfied enough with this draft to begin considering revise and edit. I was thinking, write again.

I didn’t wanna write it again, I whined. I know, I answered. That’s writing.

Decisions were made. Each decision took me down a tangible plan. I began seeing how and why I’d concluded the ending and last quarter were weak. Glimpses of what to do began emerging.

Wasn’t easy to get there. The journey from proclaiming hot mess to saying, okay, this is what I’m going to do, took hours of thinking and plotting. It was intense. I was not a good person to be around. Fortunately, I was mostly on my own.

Then came the dreams.

The dreams were beneficial. They didn’t dictate, “DO THIS,” in a deep voice that might’ve been Jehovah or James Earl Jones. No, the dreams were more like a thundering rain storm with strong winds, blowing out the mess.

Now, it’s been accepted. The first hot mess was done; work is required. The path has been defined. Jaw is set. Coffee is at hand. I’m in position.

Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

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