Moving Targets

Quick updates on the writing and submitting fronts.

  1. I’d originally hoped to complete It Begins by January 15th. I’d begun it on November first. Writing had progressed to the point that I really thought I had a chance to finish it by the end of 2019. Now, though, I think it’s more realistic to believe that I’ll finish it by the end of January. Fingers crossed.
  2. More dismaying, I had a target of three hundred pages for the first draft. I’m on page 292, and I can see that it’ll be more than three hundred pages. I’m hopeful that I’ll finish it with less than three hundred fifty pages. I can then edit it down.
  3. I responded to the agents who requested more material on the last novel, April Showers 1921. After I finished editing it in October, I’d submitted it to agents. I’ve had some response but, knowing how long it is before one says yes or no, I decided to submit to more agents. I kicked it out to ten more. I have good feelings about several of the agents, but I tend to be an optimist.

Those are the main things. For background, the completion target of January 15th was simply a spur of the moment decision, a whim to provide focus, grab my attention, and stimulate my discipline. It seems to be working.

The page count was a more practical matter. I tend to write long books (or books that turn into a series of books). April Showers 1921 is six hundred pages and one hundred eighty thousand words. Incomplete States, the series that I completed at the end of 2018, is five novels and four hundred twenty-eight thousand words. I felt like I needed to write something smaller.

It was another excellent day of writing like crazy. Let me give credit to the muses; I couldn’t do it without them.

About the only detail that marred it was that I had to work at a counter in the coffee shop, sitting on a stool. I don’t like sitting on stools. Nothing personal against stools, but I can’t get comfortable on them. Due to that, I ended up standing for most of the writing session. Now my dogs are barking (an expression that I’ve always enjoyed).

Time to call it a day. One, there are other things to do. Two, the coffee cup is empty. Three, I’m very hungry.

Humaverse

“Listen,” she said. “It’s very simple.”

Although she was a little girl (four, I’d guess, and then remembered, oh, yeah, she told me that before, she is four) with a high-pitched voice, her tone carried a judge’s authority.

“I’m listening,” I said, injecting a hint of jocularity.

My hint gained me an eye-roll. “We remain in a humaverse. It’s only the timeverse that’s changed.”

I conjured up more questions. She stilled them with a small rosy palm.

“Stop. I know what you’ll ask,” she said. “The humaverse is the universe as humans perceive it.”

I pursed my lips to issue another question but faced the all-powerful palm again.

Eyebrows going up, she tilted her head. She did that often, resembling a small dark-haired, white parakeet when she did. “I’ve been through this before. Let me finish. Humans have certain perceptions and observations that create agreed and accepted preconceptions about how everything is supposed to work, like gravity, time, and light, for instance. I’m talking classic physics, of course. Light travels at cee. Gravity is a force that causes bodies to be attracted to one another, as Newton expressed in the most commonly accepted explanation in this humaverse. Time flows from the past to the future and can’t be revisited. Well, it can but you need to shed preconceptions to make that work. Most people can’t.”

Her glance lashed me. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m sure that you can’t.”

“Hey, that’s — ”

“Excuse me, I’m not finished. So, that’s why it’s called the humaverse. It’s the universe as humans define it. Others can use it, though, but they’re not usually limited by the humaverse’s laws. It depends.”

“Okay.” It depended on what? “And a timeverse?”

“A timeverse is an agreed upon reality within a humaverse based on the constraints and parameters established by the results from major events of a specific time-period, as humans think it happened.”

“Like…who won world war two.”

“Everyone always brings that one up.” She sounded mystified. “That, and Jesus of Nazareth. But, yes. There are many timeverses. Some people call them alterverses, but they’re not really. To be a true alterverse, enough residual chi-energy to change humaverse rules must be present. I’m talking about classic physics, of course.”

“Of course.” Like I knew, but I didn’t want another eyeroll. If her eyes were weapons… “So…there can be more than one humaverse?”

“Of course. Now we’re wasting time. Yellow will be coming after us. Let’s go.”

Swinging around, she marched off. “Adults,” she said. I wasn’t sure if she talked to herself, me, or someone else. All were possible with this child. “They can learn if they can just forget.”

As I hurried to catch up with her, I thought with cynical amusement, I never will.

One More Time

I was frothing with surprise and delight for a while today.

The morning’s email brought interest from three agents. They wanted to see more material from April Showers 1921, a surprise. I thought that all interest from the first round of submissions had died (accomplished in October, 2019). I was regrouping for another round of submissions.

I also thought how odd it was that these agent things happen in clumps. But then, I submit in clumps, and the agents describe similar processes and response times. It shouldn’t be a surprise when they respond in clumps.

What WAS a surprise was an agent expressing interest in Four on Kyrios, the first novel of the Incomplete States series (five books). I submitted to her in February, 2019, ten months ago.

(A pause to consider that I’d finished writing a five novel series last year (Incomplete States, 430,000 words), and then wrote a novel earlier this year (April Showers 1921, 180,000 words), and now I’m finishing a third book (To Begin, 73,000 words so far). And yes, that does please me. Plodding along at about five pages a day does start adding up. Especially when I remember that Incomplete States and all of its support documents (side stories, character, planet, and cultural histories, etc) added up to one million words.)

Although it’s exciting to receive the emails from the agents, after reflecting, I thought, well, I’ll do my writing session today, and then try to respond to these agents tonight. I wasn’t being contrary or sabotaging myself, but in thinking through where I was and who I am, I enjoy the writing process, I’m enjoying writing the current novel, and I have momentum. (The muses are being friendly and I don’t want to alienate them.) So, although my goal is to find publication for those previously written novels, writing the current novel entices me more.

It’s a curious sensation. Yeah, I seek publication beyond the self-publishing of the four novels that I’ve already done. The agent interest is validation, in one sense; someone is interested! In another sense, I shrug; I’ve always written for myself, creating mysteries and logic problems for me to solve, building and expanding worlds in my mind, and discovering characters who emerge as people to me.

I’m also a tinge jaded, reconciling myself, yeah, you’ve been shown interest by agents and editors before, and it’s come to naught. (Really, are you so cynical, Michael?)

Yes, I am. More than cynicism, in the course of writing novels and following a quest to be a better thinker, story-teller, and writer, I’ve fallen out of concern about what others think about my writing. I can argue that some of that is self-preservation (and perhaps a tincture of imposter syndrome). See, if I don’t get excited, then I’ll be less dejected if the agents decline my project. That’s the theory.

It’s also short-sighted; being in a bubble of my own thinking, reading, writing, and criticism means that I don’t receive feedback that could help me grow.

Yes, true.

So, being cynical, jaded, short-sighted, and dubious, writing, with all of its challenges and frustrations, is more immediately rewarding and satisfying. Solving these self-made issues generates a sweet dopamine infusion. Perhaps that’s the lesson — and warning — that I should really find in my response today: I’m a writing addict, looking for a quick fix.

Today’s news does want me to treat myself to a scone or muffin. Comfort food, I believe, to help cope; the potential for advancing also carries the angst and burden of failure. Have something to eat, right? It’s a humorous pattern.

Yet, again…there was that time when I came across a woman reading my novel at a Starbucks here in my town, a cool experience. I’ve received feedback from readers about how my they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written, which was a powerful jolt to the ego. Multiple those intangible rewards by the potential that being published on a larger scale could bring.

Also in passing, though, I do enjoy reading my own work. It’s fun to read what I’ve written, and it often surprises me. I understand what that says about my process and being in the tube. What was originally conceived and written (in my methodology) frequently evolves under editing, revising, refinement, and polishing. I write to know what I think, and I rewrite to clarify it and deal with loopholes in my thinking (and plotting and problem solving).

As a final piece, of course; this is me, today. Me, tomorrow, or yesterday — or even later today — might respond differently. Moods (and the hopes and expectations related to them) are dynamic. Hence, I needed to write all of this out just to think about it, a prelude, perhaps, to discovering how I feel.

Well, it’s all thinking fodder. Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Got to feed that addiction, you know?

 

 

Bang Bang Bang

I had three agents interested in April Showers 1921. Bang, bang, bang, all three came back yesterday and this morning, and said, “Thanks, I’m passing.”

Bang.

Conspiracy, I thought. They’re all conspiring against me. Then —

Rejection.

Dejection.

Frustration.

Depression.

Shrug.

Reset.

Go on.

Check on the other places where I’ve submitted. Remember that three out of the original twenty (which later turned out to be eighteen) were interested, not a great percentage (let’s not do the math, okay?), but still, somebody. Hey, I’m a writer. I’m required to be moody, temperamental, pessimistic, optimistic, and stubborn. At least, that’s what my muses insist.

Meanwhile, there are other agents. I’ll submit to them.

Meanwhile, there’s another novel being written, and it’s a lot of damn fun.

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

Boom Days

Boom days are here. I’ve had four or five great writing days in a row. The muses have arrived on time and sober each day and fed me the tale, sharing character details, pointing out the story arc and plot lines like they’re good friends. They’ve been amazingly generous…so far.

Ah, good times. One hundred pages are completed, twenty-seven thousand words, on It Begins, the novel-in-progress begun at the beginning of this month. I know, doesn’t sound like much, but this is the foundation stage. Once things are established, the story starts flowing more quickly. Ten main characters have been introduced. Think of it as And Then There Were None, but in reverse.

Having multiple main characters with separate points of view and varying story arcs complicates matters a little. I solved that (for now, at least, as it’s working) by focusing on one or two characters, writing their scenes until they reach a major plot pivot point where the first three characters stopped. Today, I continue to focus on Selena, the four-year-old. She amazes and surprises me.

I’ll take the boom times. I know from my experience that there will be bust days sooner or later, forcing to take a deep sigh and a long swallow of coffee, gird myself with grit teeth, sit down and type, damn it.

But for now, all is well.

Meanwhile, I’ve not heard anything from agents on my previous offering, April Showers 1921. Three expressed interest a few weeks ago and requested more material. That was sent. Now I wait. Is longer time of waiting good or bad? It’s a Schrödinger situation, innit?

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

 

The Whirlpool

I finished the tenth draft of the latest novel-in-progress, April Showers 1921, several weeks back (Surprise!, September 26). I thought it was the final draft but knew that I had notes which called for more work before I could say that it was finished as a draft. I hesitate to say final draft. Nothing is final about a novel-in-progress until it’s published. I prefer to call it the working final draft. Yeah, that’s pretty ambivalent, isn’t it?

I’d begun April Showers 1921 back in January, 2019. It originated with a dream of a book that I’d written, resulting in a powerful impetus to make it real. It’s a hefty ms., one hundred eighty thousand words and six hundred thirty MS Word pages. I recognize that an editor will probably cut through some of that beef. The story is told by skipping back and forth through multiple versions of the same fourteen-year-old protagonist, Anders. I struggled with that, and that facet pushed multiple revisions until I fully recognized and understood why and how the multiple Anders interacted (or didn’t interact) with one another.

The other matter is, I’m sure that the working title of April Showers 1921 will probably be changed. April Showers is a machine invented specifically to interact with Anders, a human. As a machine, she generally acts and looks human. That simple claim gets complicated because the novel is about how multiple levels of filters interact to create realities and alterverses. After exploring everything, April Showers’ role was reduced from what I’d originally expected it to be.

I was right about having some work remaining. I’d identified five sections in my notes for further work. Before I dove into them, I read through the notes, remembering why I’d jumped ahead of those sections. Two of them deleted. I thought they were needed but they weren’t. This happens to me. As I write a novel and explore everything, I develop a sense about where it’s going and what’s going to happen. Sometimes, though, those insights are overtaken by events and turn out to be superfluous to the final tale.

The other three sections were filler/bridge sections. Impatient critter that I am, I didn’t feel like dealing with minutiae that these three sections demanded. As I read the preceding pages to them, I easily slipped into what needed to be done (all hail the muses!).

What became more time-consuming were the side roads I frequently stumbled down. To confirm a point of continuity or clarity, I’d open a second window and hunt my notes and the manuscript for specific points. I inevitably ended up becoming engrossed in the ms, reading chapter after chapter, which I call the writing and editing whirlpool, because it just sucks me in. Small errors, pacing matters, and typos were typically addressed during these periods, but I was mostly indulging myself. Part of the process was sometimes coping with surprise about what I’d written and where that section went.

Seems strange, doesn’t it? I wrote it, so it follows that I should know what I wrote. My conclusion about it is that I’m working on a different level. Two, my writing process is like weaving. I don’t hesitate to dip into a section of the book and edit it to meet my preferences. That tangibly results in many sections being re-written, revised, edited, and polished multiple times. I often wear reader or editor hats when I’m doing that, instead of my writer hat. Maybe I’m just blowing smoke, though, to cover a weak or faulty memory.

Anyway, I’m out of the whirlpool. The final working copy is completed. Now, the part I loathe, presenting it to the world begins. I need to write up a blurb, summary, elevator pitch, synopsis, etc., to entice others into my world.

It’s been a good nine months of writing, editing, and revising like crazy. As other writers have mentioned, and I’ve echoed before, finishing the novel leaves a void. A friend is gone, a puzzle has been finished, a routine has been completed, a desire has been fulfilled. Leaves me with wondering, where do I go from here?

Well, yeah, there is the aforementioned loathsome tasks. I don’t really celebrate the completion except to mention it to a few close, supportive friends and family members, and privately toast myself, “You did it. Well done.”

Then, I begin thinking about the next novel. There’s so much to read, research, think about, and write. Existence is a rich mine of potential stories to be found and written.

Off I go, at least one more time, to write like crazy.

Surprise!

A moment ambushed today that I really wasn’t expecting. I finished writing, editing, and revising draft number ten of April Showers 1921. 

I’d finished writing the novel, and it ‘felt’ correct, a coherent and complete tapestry of time, characters, settings, events, and story.

I was pretty damn astonished. Just like reading an entertaining book, writing a book that entertains me leaves me breathless and lost, wanting more while processing, it’s over. It’s good. It’s done.

Draft number ten is a hefty boy, let me tell you, six hundred ten pages in MS Word, one hundred eighty thousand plus words. It’d required eight months, my gosh, almost to the date I’d officially started it after a dream in early January. I’d first mentioned it in a January 27, 2019 post. Eight months of thinking about it, writing, revising, researching, editing, processing, and editing, revising, and re-writing again and again. It’s odd and startling to realize that I’ve written all those pages in that time, and doesn’t count all those pages that’ve been removed during the revising process. It was just such a short spurt of time, and just a few hours each day of typing.

Now, I’m contemplating, what do I do with myself? This is my writing time, but I’ve finished writing the novel. It’s like getting out of school early. Such possibilities! Should I go eat? Well, I’m not hungry; this is my writing time. Tell someone? Well, of course, I posted this, to share with my online friends. Many of you are writers and appreciate the satisfaction of writing and finishing. I think you, of all, will most understand, and have been quite supportive.

I suppose I’ll take a break today, and then return tomorrow, and start going through my notes to confirm that I’m not leaving something out there hanging. Then…well, we’ll see.

But, um, yeah, I guess I’m done writing like crazy for today.

Yeah.

A Writing Update

Short, simple, and sweet.

My writing progress on the novel in process, April Showers 1921, has been going well. It hasn’t been easy; I sweat over details, sentence placement, sentence length, descriptions, verbs…argh. I sweat over paragraphs, pages, and chapters, and the three Cs: clarity, coherence, and continuity.

It’s not easy, but it’s satisfying and rewarding. Going back over the work the next day in preparation to begin another writing session, I’m happy with what I’ve written and the shape that the story has assumed.

I sometimes speculate on when it’ll be done. I began writing it in January, 2019. I’m on my tenth draft. That means most days are spent editing and rewriting, with new bridge material, verisimilitude added, or scenes more carefully addressed. While I hold true to the original concept, I love the expansion of thought and understanding that accompanied the writing process.

So when will I be done? Well, I often shrug and say, who knows? Who cares? It’ll be done when it’s done. I’m surprised, too, that I don’t want to explain anything to anyone. I’m happy with what I have, and that’s good enough for me.

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

Cake On My Mind

If you know me and my blog scribblings, reading the post’s title might prompt you to think that I’m talking about the alt-rock group, Cake, being in my stream. They’re not, although I sympathize with them and the theft of their music gear in Portland, OR.

But, if you read my blog posts, you might also think I’m talking about food. I like food. I don’t often post about it, but it’s been on display recently in conjunction with health issues (nothing too serious).

The cake, though, comes from my writing and dreams. Ahah, there we are the other tracks that I’m often following when I post.

Cake has been part of my writing and dreaming worlds the last few days. My April Showers 1921 protagonist encounters a survival group. The group is made up of children. After rescuing him from an attack by a pack of dogs, they take him to their fort to have cake, incidents and details delivered by the muses on Wednesday. Thursday was spent broadening and detailing the scene. Several cake options are available. He likes chocolate, so he chooses to have a large slice chocolate layer cake with buttercream chocolate between the layers and fudge frosting on top. A team of children baked it; teams of children baked all the cakes. Anders wonders where and how they have these resources to bake cakes, but other important matters are at hand, and he can’t pursue the answers.

So, okay, been writing about cake. It must’ve bled over into real life, because, last night, I dreamed about cake.

In a rollicking dream, a competition was going on. The activity was too frenzied and chaotic for me to keep hold off upon waking, but I know that I did damn well in the dream competition. What I do remember very well was that cake was being served at the end, to reward participants. I was so happy, I was giddy. The big piece of sheet cake presented to me on a plate had yellow cake and white frosting with roses, and it fell apart on my plate.

The server apologized and told me that she’d get me another one. I took the plate, though, telling her, it didn’t matter. I could eat it even if it was falling apart.

Then I ate it with my hands, laughing as I did.

It was a weirdly satisfying dream.

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