April Showers 1921

I wrote about a new novel that came to me in a dream the other night (“Spinning Up”). One unmentioned aspect was the newly conceived novel’s cover. I saw it in the dream. The cover felt and looked so real and substantial to me that I was nonplussed. The title, April Showers 1921, was embossed gold letters on a silver cover. It seemed so real that I looked up the title to determine if that book already existed. Without surprise, I found songs, books, and short stories called April Showers, but none had the 1921 addition, and none featured silver and gold covers. I seem safe with it.

I’ve worked on April Showers 1921 some since dreaming about it, fleshing out characters, setting, and writing some scenes, but I didn’t throw myself into it. After two days of that, I wondered, why not? I realized that indecision caused by my greatest weakness, over-analysis, was paralyzing me once again.

It’s a familiar scenario. I overthink something. That drains my resources, and I stop making progress until I resolve what I’m overthinking.

Naturally, this paralysis is all founded on a writing issue, specifically — this time — finding an agent for the Incomplete States series. I think I’ve identified several potential agents. I narrowed my search to one lucky agent. I’ve written a synopsis and query letter. That’s where I stopped.

The Incomplete States series employs several styles. In terms of recent books, it reminds me of Cloud Atlas. My series science-fiction infused, but its mostly literary, except the first novel has a science-fiction military noir feel to it. Fantasy flares strong in another book, while yet another has the sensibility of historic fiction.

Yes, I enjoy genre B&B – bending and blending – whether I’m reading or writing it.

On a side note, the great and all-knowing Internet says, don’t mention any of the rest of the series when seeking representation and publication of the first book.

For grins, I hunted down the rejection records for successful writers. I’ve followed this path before, so it’s very familiar to me.

J.K. Rowling. Her Harry Potter series was rejected twelve times, you know. Dr. Suess was rejected twenty-seven times before he found a publisher willing to take a chance on his Cat in the Hat book. The author of  The Martian, Andy Weir, had given up on being published, but kept writing and self-published. When The Martian found success, publishers came running. Kathryn Stockett, The Help, was rejected over sixty times. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, had twenty-six rejections. Catch-22, Joseph Heller, twenty-two rejections. Twenty for William Goldberg, The Lord of the Flies. Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected thirty times. Pretty amazing was that Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, experienced over one hundred rejections. After she self-published and had success, publishers came calling, and her novel was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore, who won an Oscar for her performance.

There was also Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, over five times, and Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, rejected one hundred twenty-one times.

Reading about these rejections is invigorating and inspiring. You gotta have hope, optimism, belief, and determination. You gotta keep writing for the love of writing.

Writing about my paralysis cleared matters up and broke the log jam. (I now have a featured image of logs floating through my mind.) I’m ready to submit. (Ha, ha, I love how that can have multiple meanings.) All they can do is say no, right?

The day is full of promise. I got my coffee. Time to submit, and then write and edit like crazy, at least one more time.

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Spinning Up

I’ve been conducting an agent search pursuant to having my novel published, writing the query and synopsis for it (and the series, as it’s the first novel in a series of five), and editing the novel (and series) again.

My agent search uncovered a lot of agent hunger for MG and YA novels. That seems to continue as a hot market. Apparently my subconscious took note, because the muses delivered a YA character, premise, and title to me in a dream last night. As I recalled the details this morning, other characters jumped into existence in my mind. Dialogue, scenes, plot details and twists began racing through my mind as I showered and shaved. Sitting down at the computer, I typed up dozen pages as I drank a cup of coffee, and then had a chortle.

My muses love novel writing’s inventing and imagining phase. A new project? Yes, naturally, they were excited. They kept on through the morning, punching more of the novel into me, spinning up my excitement as they fed me words. Like them, though, I enjoy the the inventing and imagining phase, putting it all together, playing with the logic puzzles behind motivation and voices that underpin establish a novel’s underpinnings. That shouldn’t be a surprise since my muses and I share a mind.

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

Rough Diamonds

I’d hoped to have finished editing An Undying Quest, the fifth novel in the Incomplete States series by yesterday. Only two chapters, forty pages remained three days ago.

Issues were encountered. The chapters suffered from being the last ones written. As the final chapters, they’d not been polished, edited, and revised as the others had. They were raw, beta chapters. They needed work.

Among the issues encountered were a brief POV change and a few matters of grammar and punctuation. Dialogue needed tidying, but most critically, details were needed.

I love reading details in novels. I think they often add immense value. That’s how I tend to write, then. Not in the beta draft, though.

In writing’s first rush, I capture scenes and action, coloring in broad, fast strokes. It’s an intense rush. They’re here, they’re there, they did this, and then that, which resulted in this, but unexpectedly —

The writing is bang, bang, bang, bang. Even when they’re action scenes, more is required after that first rush to help the scenes breath and flow together. Sometimes changes are required to adjust to the characters’ past, and sometimes continuity matters exist.

I instantly realized that I’d not polished the chapters. The difference was clear because the reading cadence was mildly askew. That realization tempered my approach. I read both chapters completely before doing anything except fixing the most basic errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Everything else was left untouched until I knew the entire picture. After reading them, I’d established strong ideas about what to addressed, and then began reading, revising, and editing the chapter again.

So, An Undying Quest isn’t fini yet. I’d hoped to complete it by Christmas, and then by the end of the year. That may still happen today. I won’t rush it. I don’t want to be hasty or lazy. Number one, I enjoy the process. Number two, I don’t want to sabotage myself for such a silly, random idea as a self-imposed deadline.

Time to edit and write like crazy, at least one more time in 2018.

Still Having A Ball

Forty pages remain to edit in the Incomplete States series’ fifth novel, An Undying Quest. I’m still grinning with enjoyment as I’m reading and editing.

Just forty pages, I think. I should finish tomorrow. Then I begin writing the sixth book, The Final Time, with full-time energy and focus. I’m looking forward to it, because as I’ve been working on it on the side while editing, new, exciting, interesting ideas occur to me. The series gains complexity and textures as novels one through five progress, and what’s shaping up in book six spins my head.

I look forward to people reading the series. I know several friends and fans who will absolutely love the series. I can imagine them reading them and laughing as they realize what’s going on. I can imagine the final pause of thought after they close the last book. That ending is gaining substance in my mind, but there’s so much to write to get there. Each of the first five books have their intense chapters, but what I feel rising in the sixth book is such an intensity that my body feels like it’s thrumming like a guy wire in the wind as I contemplate it.

I caution myself, well, you might just be crazy. True enough, but WTH, I’m happy in my craziness, at least for today. It might be different tomorrow.

Deep breath. The coffee is gone, the fog is gone, the sun is out, and I’m ravenous. Time to stop editing and writing like crazy, at least one more time.

The Limit

Sitting up, I looked around.

Rain and fog had subdued the sunshine outside. My butt was numb and my eyes were tired.

I’d just finished editing the sixth chapter today. Lifting my coffee cup, I discovered nothing but dried residue inside.

What the hell?

I hadn’t been working that long, guessing it was two hours, but it was focused and intense. I loved what I’d written. I remembered being in such a zone when I wrote those chapters. It was just last June, June 2018. I’d hesitated to begin them, working around them for a few days before telling myself, just write them. Just do it. 

So I did, and they worked out well.

I want to go on, but I’ve hit some limits. Other things require my attention and presence, and why be greedy? It’s been an excellent day of editing like crazy.

There’ll be more tomorrow.

The Anxiety of Not Writing

TG Christmas has passed. 

I appreciate that so many enjoy and celebrate Christmas. I do, too, in my way. It’s not actually Christmas that dismays me, but those places closed for the holiday. I don’t begrudge people that, but with the closed coffee shops, I miss my writing. More critically, I get anxious about it.

My anxiety when I don’t write is that what I’ve written is crap. Panic rises like Yule log smoke. It reminds me of a friend.

He’d been a football player, a wide receiver in high school and college who tried out for the pros and didn’t cut it. As a wide receiver, he was expected to be fast and to be able to run and run and run. So that’s what he did. Every day, he ran five miles.

He continued his habit after he didn’t make it as a player. He’d become a high school assistant coach by then. He moved on from football when he was thirty, going into serious business to make serious money.

Still, he ran five miles every day. He told me that he runs every day because he’s afraid that if he stops running, he’ll lose the ability.

Yeah, that’s not me with my writing, but I understand his thinking.

I thought about writing at home on Christmas day. Alone in the office in front of my laptop, I thought, I can write now. I’ve tried it before.

Picture this.

The cats troop in to see what I’m doing because I’m typing. Typing attracts the cats. Click click, click, they hear. What’s that, a mouse? Curious to see, they crowd around me.

These cats, all male rescues, don’t get along. Within seconds, they begin complaining about the others’ presence, locations, or existence. “What’s he doing here? want that space.”

“I was here first. You better leave while you can, hairball.”

“Who are you calling hairball, hairball?”

“You both would be well-advised to get the hell out of here before I turn you into a fur coat.”

“Oh, you think you can?”

My wife will typically come in then, jumping onto her laptop to surf the net and play games, and read the news.

The news must be shared. “Did you read what happened?” “Did you read what so and so said?” “Did you see this video? I think you’ll like it.”

I can tell her that I’m writing, and she tries to respect that, but as writers know, writing often involves sitting silently, staring at nothing or studying your fingernails or looking at something else on the net while the muses get their sierra together. So she’ll then say, “Are you writing? Or can I ask you something?”

Of course, nothing can be done about the cats. I can send them outside, yes, but I’d pay for that later.

So, no, I decided not to write.

This left a void. Into that void crept my imposter fears, my insecurities, doubts, uncertainties, fears, and anxieties. It’s amazing how fast, persistent, and subtle they are, how they move in with little noise. Then, suddenly, my head is filled with their sound. They’re like a destructive, pessimistic flash mob.

All this isn’t why I began the practice of daily writing. I started writing every day to finish stories and novels. I write everyday to learn and improve my writing skills. I write everyday because the muses deliver scenes, dialogue, and concepts. Their deliveries excite me, and I want to pursue them. I want to write to understand what I think, and I enjoy writing, conceiving and imagining, story-telling and resolving, visiting these places and events that mushroom in my thoughts.

It’s all complicated, isn’t it? Better to just write than to consider it all. Hold your breath and jump in, and see how far it goes.

The coffee shop is open. I have my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Merry Christmas.

Ho, ho, ho.

 

 

A Reminder

I was down yesterday when I began my writing and editing session. I’m still editing Book Five in the Incomplete States series, An Undying Quest. Halfway through it, I was bummed about what I was reading. I thought, man, I have some work ahead of me to fix these issues.

I didn’t feel like addressing those issues, so I made notes, and continued editing, working on subsequent chapters. When I did, I discovered that those chapters addressed the holes and plot issues, and fixed them.

I was friggin’ astonished. Thinking back to then, I remembering writing and arranging the chapters. I hadn’t realized I’d done this. By that, I mean, I knew that the story went sideways at that point. I knew it as a deliberate choice. I didn’t appreciate how sideways it went. I do remember thinking hard about it, recalling Part One of The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner, 1929), a book that I strongly admire. Back when I first read that novel in sixth grade, I remember gritting my teeth and thinking, “WTF? This is crazy.” Finishing Part One was challenging. But everything is illuminated (sorry,  Foer) with the subsequent parts. So I thought, be brave. Do it.

Now, after editing it, once I grit my teeth through the doubted chapters, the rest are magically explained. It comes together.

It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this. A friend, after reading one of my novels, said that he’d created a list of questions about things that bothered and confused him, then he said, “I was amazed because you brought it all together.” I loved that feedback.

So, I’m hanging with it as written. We’ll see if it makes publication, or what changes come about from outside feedback.

Meanwhile, it’s a powerful reminder that when editing, go through the whole damn manuscript before addressing any major changes. I specifically decided to edit the entire series before having any of them edited or read by another because the series is organic. Events opening in the first chapters of the first book are resumed in subsequent chapters and books. Changing one means hunting down and addressing those changes in other chapters and books. It has multiple points of views and storylines. It’s a complicated exploration. Events and decisions are rarely fully explained, as I like inviting readers to take the information and conceive the answers.

The series was originally conceived as a single, fat novel. I felt breaking it apart into eras of growing awareness and development lends itself to telling the story. I was also aware of my wife and her friends’ complaints about holding up large books to read, yes, even in this era of digital publishing.

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

 

The Gophers Dream

Walking this morning and thinking about writing and music, I suddenly recalled last night’s gopher dream. OMG, how could I forget it?

It was so weird but so nothing. What dream about gophers isn’t weird? They are for me, because I don’t have memories about dreams with gophers.

Basically, the dream found me cooking. The house I was in wasn’t any that I live in, but I knew it as my house. I don’t know what I was cooking except that I was tending a pot on a white porcelain stove. To my left was a lawn area, but the lawn area was in my house. That took me a bit to put together as I was cooking, because the lawn’s surrounding walls were interior house walls.

As I cooked, stirring the pot and peering in at the contents, I realized something was moving in the lawn. A few newspaper sections were on the ground. Something had moved under one of them.

While I’m cooking and pondering this, a female friend entered and started chatting with me. Then she said, “Oh my God, I think I just saw an animal in your grass.”

“Yes,” I said, “I thought I saw something before.”

I stopped cooking to check it out. As I did, I found, yep, a hole under the newspaper section. I didn’t know what made it but while I was checking it out, a big gopher popped out of another hole and looked at me. Then it ducked back.

I had gophers in my lawn in my house, but I was till cooking, and returned to the stove. As I cooked, another large gopher popped up from a different hole. I realized I had more holes than I thought. There were more and  new holes. Holy crap.

About that time, my wife entered. As the female friend explained what was happening, my wife went onto the lawn to look at the holes. Comically, she’d go by a hole, and the gopher would pop up behind her, but she would never see them. More newspaper sections were on the lawn, too.

My wife finally went to the corner. Pulling back sections of newspaper, she peered into an exposed hole with our female friend beside her. “M,” my wife said, “you should come and see this.”

“I know,” I answered. “We have holes. Gophers are causing it.” As I said that, several gophers popped out of holes. They were all looking at me. My wife, with her back turned to them as she studied the hole, never saw them.

End dream.

###

There is a post script.

Working on this section of novel, I’ve been dismayed. There are holes in the part I’m editing. Thinking about it, I realized there were holes in the proceeding chapters to these chapters. That’s where I think I need to put some energy and effort to improve it.

After I thought about that, remembered the gopher dream, and typed it up here, I realized the gopher dream was about the holes. I was cookin’, yer know? Writin’ and editin’, everything was copasetic. Doin’ good and feein’ fine. Then, suddenly….mmm…this isn’t working. Drat.

I decided that’s what the gopher dream was about. I’d missed holes. They’re paper over but if I look, their cause can be seen.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Got my coffee. Time to start editing and writing like crazy, at least one more time in 2018.

Dissatisfaction

I remain in my editing process, working on Book Five of the Incomplete States series. I’ve edited sixty percent of the book, An Undying Quest, but I wasn’t pleased with what I was reading and editing yesterday. In fact, I found myself dissatisfied.

That was ironic, because the chapter’s title is Dissatisfaction. As I read it, I found myself pausing to frown. The coffee shop was empty except for me (the baristas were in the back room), so I went back and read the chapter aloud, trying to feel the flow and understand what seemed wrong.

Too wordy and cumbersome, I concluded. Some cutting and editing is required.

I began reading it again to identify what bothered me, but it just bogged me down. Let me tell you, it’s not reassuring when you, the writer, finds that what you’ve written makes you wince. I gave up for the day, but continued thinking about it.

I thought, well, one, it’s just too wordy. Two, I’m re-hashing what’s already been said and done, so it’s not advancing the story. That’s also killing the pacing. I think I need to cut and perhaps write a brief summary – one, two short lines – to capture the sentiments.

With that in mind, I came back to it today and began anew. It wasn’t simple, but doing this, I’d discovered that the writing was passive. I told, and then told again. Little showing was there. Ugh.

And, interesting, it was too wordy for the character’s perspective. The series is told via several perspective. Each character has their own voice, and this character, Kanrin, is spare in thinking and speaking. He dislikes complicated, rendering things to basic and simple conclusions, and here he was, in convoluted thinking about what was going.

Now seeing how the complexities were entwined and the issues understood and clarified, I could process and edit more thoughtfully. Took time, though. All of today’s session was about reading and editing that chapter.  No summaries were required, just cutting and editing to reduce wordiness and tighten the pace.

I feel I need to edit it again, and will tomorrow. I’m too deep into it now to clearly perceive it. Then, I’ll see what happens on the next editing go-around, planned for the entire series has been edited. For now, it’s been another good day of editing like crazy.

Time to re-join life.

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