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.

Advertisements

The Twelve Stages of Writing

Thoughts on a novelist’s life as they cope with conceiving, writing, revising, and publishing a novel.

  1. Jubilation! What a great idea! I must start thinking about this and writing. This is brilliant! Coffee, quick!
  2. Doubts. Wait…what was it about? I don’t know…that’s more complicated than I realized, and derivative as hell. What the hell…why would those characters do that? What’s their motivation? Man, I need some caffeine just to make sense of this. Better go get some coffee.
  3. Bargaining. Look, let me play a computer game and then get through just one day, just one hundred words, just one scene, just one paragraph today, and I promise that I’ll write more tomorrow and catch up. Give me some coffee.
  4. Denial. Why am I doing this to myself? I don’t have what it takes. I’m not smart enough or talented enough. I’m such an idiot! Why did I ever think that I could write a novel? Let me just finish my coffee and go.
  5. Acceptance. Well, I’ve gone this far. Might as well finish the damn thing. Then, maybe I’ll set it aside for a century, and take a look later, see if I can edit and revise it, and make something out of it. I need a fresh cup of coffee.
  6. Jubilation! Hey, this isn’t so bad. This is pretty good. It just needs some work. It’s all coming together. Give me some coffee.
  7. Doubts. I don’t know…what was I thinking when I wrote that? I don’t even remember writing that part. Who is that character? I don’t remember them. I have never seen so many typos in my life. Even the coffee tastes bad. What a waste.
  8. Bargaining. Listen, self. If I can just finish reading and editing this part and sleep on it, I know that I’ll find a way to make this all work, and then I’ll take a break from it all. More coffee, please.
  9. Denial. Who am I kidding? This is absolute garbage. I’ll never make it as a writer. I can’t even type. Even if I finish this, who will ever read it? Maybe I should work on something else. I need more coffee.
  10. Acceptance. No, you’ve come this far. You owe it to yourself to at least finish it. Maybe more coffee will help. Come on, you can do it. What’s the saying? Just open any vein. Sure. Give me some coffee.
  11. Jubilation! This is pretty damn good. Now all I need to do is find someone to publish it. Let me hunt for an agent. But first, some coffee.
  12. Doubts. I’ll never find an agent or a publisher. Maybe I should self-publish. But then I’d need to have a cover made, hire a copy-editor, and then do all the marketing once I publish it. Let me drink a cup of coffee and think about it…

How ’bout you, writers? Any thoughts on the stages of coping with your writing efforts?

Food Choices

My friend nan referred me to Mary Roach’s book, Gulp, when I wrote about how my urine tastes, and I’m in her debt. After working down through my book piles, I started reading it on Saturday. It’s one of those books that forces me to set it down to think and conduct research. I’m still reading Gulp, but it’s a fascinating read. Ostensibly about the alimentary canal, it includes much about animals and humans’ eating habits, and some of the psychology behind our food choices.

One of the early facts that she stated is that most people only eat about forty flavors. When I shared that with my wife, she asked, “Is cheese one flavor?”

Good question, right? Is an IPA the same as a porter, stout, and lager? Why, no. I drink each for the different flavors they share with me. My choices also depend on what I’m doing and eating. So, do I put down beer as one flavor choice, delineate between the different beverages, or go more deeply into what makes it all up?

These are important distinctions because my wife and I immediately set out attempting to catalog our flavors. We quickly became trapped in a ball of mud about what parts of what flavors we like. We like dark chocolate but I don’t like it overly bitter, like past seventy-two percent. She likes it a little sweeter. Is dark chocolate a flavor, or is it chocolate with sugar, with whatever else is in there?

Those of you who eat gluten-free foods probably understand what I mean, along with the folks that eat sugar-free and fat-free offerings. They taste different. They’re a different experience in my mouth and on my tongue. Some of that may be psychological. In taste tests done with white and red wine, being able to see the color makes a difference in how the flavor is interpreted and described. Likewise, tests have shown that frequently, most of the differences observed between ten dollar bottle of wine and more expensive ones are often about perceptions of quality and expense; the more that something costs, the better it’s supposed to be, right?

It’s a knotty question. The whole thing about pet food was pretty mind-blowing. According to Mary’s research and writing, most cat food tastes about the same to the animals, regardless of what the flavor is supposed to be. To which I respond, say whaaat? My cats seem to show definite preferences, preferring to eat fishy stuff — which smells fishy to me — over the chicken, and chicken over beef. None of them are impressed with “Supper Super”. Gulp claims that these preferences are mostly about my perceptions, and not the animals.

It could be that I’m reading the whole thing wrong, or mis-interpreting the data. It does explain the waffle and fried chicken cat treats that have arrived. It’s not that the animals like waffles and chicken, but we, their owners, think that they’ll enjoy them.

The book fascinates me, too, because of the connections between tasting food and smell, and our brains’ acceptance about what is not good for us. I’m often smelling things and trying to analyze what I’m smelling, a process that I call, “What the hell is that smell?” My wife does the same. This leads to a game at our household that goes like this:

Her: “Do you smell that?”

Me: “You need to tell me what you mean. I smell many things.”

“That smell.”

“Again…”

“It smells like cat piss.”

“No, I don’t smell that.”

Sniffing the air, furniture, and carpet, we start looking around the area to see if it looks like a cat has pissed where they shouldn’t.

Me: “Maybe it’s the litter box.”

“It smells too strong. It smells like it’s right beside me.”

“Maybe a cat peed on your clothes. Are they wet?”

“I think I’m going to go change.”

Me: “I don’t smell cat piss, but I do smell someone’s marijuana crop. Or maybe it’s a skunk. Do you smell a skunk?”

The game goes on forever, it seems like.

I’ll keep reading Gulp. If more is explained, than I’ll come back and read another post.

That’s just the way it goes.

 

 

Book Light

She loved reading books, and not just reading them, but researching what to read next, talking about her reads with her friends and family, and prowling book stores with her book list in her hand. Non-fiction, fantasy, young adult, historic novels, mysteries…they were all on her list. She read everyday, often reading four or five books a week. Finding a new author that she enjoyed was her greatest pleasure.

Then her mother died, her mother, who’d always encouraged her to read, introducing her to The Three Detectives series and Nancy Drew Mysteries, her mother, whose idea of a day out was taking her girls to the public library, where each was allowed to check out one book.

With her mother gone, she no longer wanted to read. It was like her book light had gone out, and would not come back on.

Floofworm

Floofworm (floofinition) – a housepet who manages to worm themselves into every activity.

In use: “He laid down to read but before a paragraph was red, a floofworm jumped up, edging onto his chest and blocking his view of the book.”

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: