Hold breath. Release.
Relax. It’s okay.
Sure. Yes. It’ll be okay.
So it went on Monday. My wife and I left on a car-cation. Just a road trip to Yachats. I wanted to write, of course, but I knew she was jealous of that. She wanted to break out of our regular structure of existence, hence the trip to the coast.
So, with reluctance, I agreed without speaking to her unspoken concern. It’s the kind of thing that works after being married through a few ice ages.
I worried, though, oh, I worried that I’d forgotten what I’d written, where I was in the ms., and what I was about to write or change. It helped that I was on draft number seven of April Showers 1921. It’s probably ninety percent written, with changes being made to sculpt the story, structure the plot, polish the prose, and exercise the pace. Still, I worried that the muses might decide to teach me a lesson because I’d ignored them for four days.
A more rational aspect of me reassured me that all would be well. That piece of me proved correct. I sat down with my computer and cuppa coffee today, opened the doc, and said, “Oh, that’s right. This part is wordy and awkward and needs some lovin’.”
Then I was off. Good day of writing — and editing — like crazy. Good to be back. Time to go on to other things.
Butt’s asleep, ya’ know? Yeah, writer’s butt; it’s the worse. They never warned you about writer’s butt when you told them you wanted to be a writer, did they?
Time for a rant. Are you ready, boys and girls? Point of order, sir, but this is as much a whine as it is a rant.
Okay, point accepted. I’m full of complaints and do a lot of poor, poor, pity poor me first-world blues rants. This is another. That aside, let’s rant.
I’ve written fifteen novels.
People say, “Fifteen? Really?”
Yes, sure, but that’s a number. There’s a story behind the number. There’s an asterisk beside it.
The first novel, as with many writers, was five-star crap. In the crap world, five-stars means it’s the worse possible crap. There’s no crap that exceeds its crappiness. It was an experience, though, that helped me understand more about my writing process.
Knowing that it needed more attention and focus than I was willing to give it, I printed out the stack, along with editing notes, and put it on disks, and set it aside. Someday, I’ll return to you, I promised it.
“Point of order, sir, but, despite that quantity, maybe you’re not a very good writer.”
Thank you for pointing that out. You’re right. That might be the case. I’m trying to do the best that I can. I keep trying to improve.
“Another point, sir.”
“Isn’t this really about your laziness and unwillingness to learn?”
Excuse me, but who are you? How did you get in here? Out, out, damn you.
Being obstinate, I proceeded to write five more novels. They were probably three-star and four-star crap. I knew where they had problems and what needed to be fixed. I didn’t want to fix them, because I wanted to write more and I didn’t want to bother with editing and revising. I liked writing, not editing and revising. I promised, someday I’ll edit them, but I knew that model a novel and setting it aside for editing and revising at a date TBA was unsustainable.
The next novel that I wrote, I said, “I must edit and revise this one. I need to learn that discipline.”
So, I did it. Yea, me! Sure. I then sought agents. I followed all of their parameters for submitting to them in hopes of persuading them to represent me, find a publisher, and get the novel published.
After almost a year of dealing with that, going through five agents, I hated that process. Maybe, I convinced myself (without too much difficulty), self-publishing is the way to go.
So I did that.
It was another process to learn, with as many obstacles and challenges as Ninja Warrior. Yes, the book was published. Yes, I sold some copies, but not nearly as many as hoped. I knew that I would need to market the book.
Oh, boy, more to learn.
I wanted to write; I didn’t want to learn how to market myself and my wares.
I told myself, someday I will. Then I wrote and self-published three more books, with just as little notice and sales, reminding me again and again, you need to market these books.
Here I am again, this time with a complete series of five novels. Here I am again at the crossroads. Find an agent? Self-publish? Screw it all and just keep writing?
Not wanting to, first, hunt down a cover designer, copy-editor, acquiring an agent drew me. That’s the original dream, to write a novel, find an agent, have the novel published. In a sense, I’m returning home by taking that route.
Yes, I was again easily persuaded because that self-publishing journey had been less than rewarding and satisfying. I’m hoping that this journey will be more so.
I began with the standard search process. Who is out there? What do they want?
Lo, Jane Friedman had a decent article about finding an agent, and pointed toward #MSWL – Manuscript Wish List. That’s helpful, I thought with new gleams of hope.
I have such rose-colored glasses, they should be illegal so that we can all save time and energy.
#MSWL has a search engine. What genre do you want? Put it in. Here’s the results. Wow, pages of results. How exciting.
Not after reading a bit more.
I searched for science-fiction. #MSWL’s search results include whenever science-fiction is mentioned. This includes when agents say, “I don’t want to see any science-fiction.” Ah. That was certainly fucking useful.
I spent hours searching #MSWL and PublishersMarketPlace, seeking someone interested in someone like me. I found some promising folks.
Well, it’s the year’s end. Many of those agents aren’t accepting right now. Check back in a few days, weeks, or months, and then they’ll be happy to see your work.
What agents say they want on their website, in their Twitter blurts, in articles and interviews, and in #MSWL do not align. One will say that they’re looking for SFF or some science-fiction variant while the other locations won’t mention it. Yes, and I understand from my efforts that it’s hard updating everything and every place.
YA seems to remain the hot market, judging from the number of agents hunting for YA manuscripts.
Also clear is that most agents will reply to you if they’re interested. They’ll usually respond in two weeks. However, if they’re not interested, you’re not going to hear back from them. Do not, of course, submit multiple submissions or simultaneous submissions, or anything like that, because that’s not far to them, and please don’t follow-up to see what’s going on with your query. They’re busy, you know.
That was the stake through my heart last time, that one-sided dimension to this whole business. Sipping a glass of medicating wine last night, I reflected that I needed to start #AWL – Author’s Wish Lists. But hell, that’s a short list. We want an agent. We want published. We want a painless process. Who doesn’t? Well, I could stipulate that I want an agent who wants me, that I want an agent who will respond to me to tell me, no, thanks.
Yes, before anyone notifies me of the obvious, that this is a competitive business, and yes, I know how many struggling writers are out there trying to find agents and get published, and, yep, I’m aware that others have gone through this, and that agents have limited resources, so they’re very sorry, but that’s what the situation dictates.
Yes, I know.
My muses are awake. They want to write. Do you see how many stories are out there, waiting to be written?
Rant over. Back to whatever.
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.
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.
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.
I found myself laughing as I edited today, because I was dealing with the holes.
Still editing Book Five, An Undying Quest, of the Incomplete States series, I have half of the novel edited. The thing about the holes and the society that use them is that I hadn’t planned these holes. The holes in discussion are worm holes, but small, controlled to some degree, such as the way that we control water by channeling and funneling it, and managing levels and temperatures, etc., that are located in a cavern on another planet. The people use the holes to travel to other places, and sometimes to other times, and, if they’re brave enough, to visit the dead.
As noted, they were completely spontaneous when I was writing that section, and created a history and structure on the go. Reading, editing, and revising it today, this society’s depths, history, and complexities surprised me. There’s a sense in reading it that it’s historic fiction, and that you have some sense of what’s meant by the terms and relationships because that’s your history.
I quite enjoyed reading it. Will it work for others? Maybe, maybe not. I think it was James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon) who said something like, “Tell the story, and let the reader catch up, if they can.” That’s what I’m employing in this instance.
I must admit, one aspect of the holes was inspired by a scene from Field of Dreams (1989), when Terence Mann (James Early Jones) accepts the invitation from Shoeless Joe (Ray Liotta) to enter the corn. Love that scene.
Done writing and editing like crazy for another day. Off to join the real people, the real world, and the real sunshine.
I’m in such an editing and writing zone, enjoying reading what I’ve written, surprised by the characters and settings. I wrote this? Are you sure? Because I don’t remember it. Yet the notes tell me that I wrote it last June. Ah, where is my mind?
Now I need to stop. Plans were made and time has flitted past with a hummingbird’s speed. I’ve been busy for hours, and sad about stopping. That’s how it sometimes goes, but I take satisfaction in that it was a good day of writing and editing like crazy.
I read so often about how hard fiction writing is. I won’t lie, it offers some challenging times. Writing will drive you mad with character and plot choices, word decisions, and problems with story-telling and pacing. It’ll daunt you with the eternal question, “What comes next?”
But when it all comes together, when you’re in that flow, whether it’s writing, editing, or polishing, when you finally encounter your results, it can be so sweet and fulfilling. I encountered that today, another moment of being surprised by what I’ve written.
It’s all not pages of gems or brilliance. I have read my writing sometimes and gagged in revulsion over what I’d written, using up adjectives to describe how sickened I felt with my attempts.
It’s so rewarding, though, when the opposite is encountered, as it was today while editing the fifth book in the Incomplete States series, An Undying Quest. There’ll be many readers, critics, and other writers who won’t like it. I know that from talking to readers. I’ve heard them say about best-selling novels, “He’s a wonderful writer, but I didn’t like the format.” Or, “She creates beautiful characters. Her writing is like poetry, but there was no ending. The story didn’t make any sense.”
Writers bring intent to their efforts to write. Our intentions as writers often morph as our brains develop insights into what we’re thinking and attempting to show. The story we were originally telling becomes another story. The ending that we stumble upon changes how the entire novel and its concept is regarded.
Through it all are the words and the mechanics of being clear, and the effort to keep the reader engaged, rolling the dice on telling too much or not enough, hoping that the readers see what you’re doing, even though you know that they will find and take away meanings that you, the writer, never saw or intended.
Our brains just don’t work the same way. Our brains depend upon our individual knowledge, emotions, and experiences to find and assign meaning to the words that we read and hear. Although we have standardized agreement about words and their definition, each of us have our own twists and tweaks.
I write about this subject often, the joy of writing, editing, and revising one’s own novel. The process is engaging. It’s a daily escape for me, and today’s editing session kept me glued to my chair and deep in the novel. People came and went as the minutes raced passed. My coffee went untouched. A loud noise finally startled me out of my focus. Then I was shocked by how much time had passed.
It was a good day. But, there are other days…
There are days when he process can drain my soul, obliterating my good mood. Sometimes ideas and words begrudge coming out. Gritting my teeth, sighing, and gulping coffee, I just keep working it and working it, knowing that I’ll re-work it later, probably several times.
I’m pleased that I’ve progressed as a writer (at least in my mind), but I know there’s much more to learn, and so many more ways in which I can progress. I have more ideas, concepts, stories, settings, and characters idling in my mind. I look forward to my attempts to write them. I look forward to progressing as a writer, editor, and story-teller. Then again, effort, hope, and determination don’t promise anything as a result. I could end up flaming out.
It becomes an interesting loop, though — despair, effort, struggle, results, inspiration, hope, despair, effort, struggle, results — and so on. Trying, and finally succeeding with writing something that doesn’t cause me to choke with disgust inspires me to try again, and again. I tell yourself, “You did this once. You can do it again.” So I try, and try, and try.
That’s what it’s all about for me.
It was a good day of writing and editing like crazy. Time to chug down my cold coffee and return to life.