Christine Said

Writing Reflections

A friend’s question prompted some post-response thinking as I conducted my pre-writing walk.

Before 2014, I wrote six novels. I never edited or revised them, and never sent them anywhere.

Between 2014 and 2016, I wrote four more novels. Since 2016, I epublished them. None did well. In fairness, I barely marketed them. I still remain fond of Returnee.

Since 2016, I’ve written five more novels. I haven’t published any of them. The first four were the Incomplete States quadrilogy that begins with Four On Kyrios. I shopped them to forty agents or more. None showed interest.

I finished April Showers 1921 last month and began shopping it with agents. Sent it to twenty. Three agents are showing interest by requesting more material.

Progress?

Last week I began writing another novel. The writing is the thing, you see. The new project has me laughing as the muses pitch crazy new twists on the whole thing. It’s the fun stage. It’s hard to keep up but I’m going to try to enjoy it while I’m on it.

Of course, like ocean waves, it’s not all linear, writing a novel. Ups and downs, setbacks and advances, excitement and frustration are ahead. Each will probably be endured multiple times in the months it takes me to write, edit, and revise this piece. That’s part of the process.

Got my coffee. My ass is in the chair and the computer is on. 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.

Draft Ten

Here’s a casual writing update, since I was thinking about it.

I thought I was on draft number seven of my latest WIP, April Showers 1921. After yesterday’s writing session, though, I was going through old docs while closing down – browsing the past, if you will – when I realized, wow, this is actually the tenth draft, if you include three false starts.

As I walked yesterday, I looked back on the process of writing this novel. I’d say that the first five or six drafts were about exploring and gasping the concept, characters, and story. A sprawling story, grasping all of its elements and ramifications was difficult. It reminded me of attempting to tell about World War II. So much happened and impacted on other areas, but things needed to be sorted and put into some order that could be followed.

I’d been free-flowing, writing like crazy, with those early drafts, leaping into different aspects of the story, exploring and expanding scenes and anecdotes, hunting for the handle on the characters and relationships. From that came the sense of the story arc, the concept’s fullness, the characters’ complexities, and the beginning and ending.

Each draft was being organized around what had been previously written. The chapters would be cut and slashed, re-written and re-arranged as needed to fit my evolving understanding. Then more was written to expand scenes. Everything was shifted as required to address pacing and coherency.

With the next draft, number seven (or ten, as I see it now) which is the current draft, it finally felt that I was fully in tune with what’s going on. I’ve been rocketing through it. Most of the writing sessions are not long, but intense and explosive. Progress has been strong. As with most of my writing process, regardless of their purpose, my mind continues working on it no matter what I’m doing. It’s not unusual to have an epiphany in a grocery store or while driving the car. Most often, though, as I walk away from the writing day, the muses carry inertia forward, delivering more material for the next day.

It’s fun writing like this, learning the story, telling the story, and feeling it opening up, expanding to include more while contracting to deliver more impact.

Okay, got my coffee, and ass in chair. Time to write like crazy again, at least one more time.

Take That, World

A friend’s daughter recently published a short story. I ended up with it in hand to read. It wasn’t her first. She’s been published about a dozen times.

Oh, how the urge to edit pulsed through me as I read it. My inner writer was shaking his head. The story was wooden, with passive verbs, a weak concept, and slow pacing. There was much telling, then showing what’d been told, and then sometimes told again.

I was dismayed and baffled. This was my take, but this was a recently published short story. This must be what editors like.

Novels that were recently published that I’d read were recalled. With many designated as bestsellers, I often thought the writing was clumsy, particularly in the early chapters, but they knew how to tell a story, and that came through in the end. Of course, there were a few where the writing was sublime. Those tend to be the award winners.

Yes, I know, every reader brings their a unique set of expectations, and finds their own story from what the writer offered. My take will be different from what others find and enjoy. Yet, something like the things I found that I wanted to edit seem like the basics of strong writing.

I concluded, I’m out of step with what’s wanted and desired in the writing and publishing world — and the reading world — and probably destined to be so forever. Accepting that, I’ll resign myself, again, to writing for myself and trying to improve my writing.

Take that, world.

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

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