The Flowing Dream

Posting a great deal today, I know. I blame the dream. 

Last night’s dreamisode had me spilling out out of myself. See, I was me, and the hairy flesh-colored white male that I am, except I spilled out like mercury, flowing over sidewalks and streets, splashing around buildings, plants, and fire hydrants.

I’d been walking through a warm, sunny day in downtown Ashland when this began. I didn’t understand what was happening at first, and then, I panicked, because, oh my God, I’m all over the place. I worried about people walking on me, or having my liquid flesh clogging the sewer drains and drowning others. In a fit of Lucille Ball-like comedy, I scrambled to collect myself and return my mercury-ness to my corporal existence, scooping up handfuls of myself and shoving it into my shirt and jeans. But I couldn’t hold onto myself. It just flowed through my fingers. As my efforts to collect myself wasn’t working, I just let it flow.

Then I was sitting, trying to understand what was happening. Settling back, I watched me flow across the land. My body, like went around others, but didn’t kill them. They embraced it with surprise. As I sat on a chair by a table on a patio and watched myself flowing out, I saw that there was more, that I wasn’t everyone, that I was spreading, but I was still there. I wondered, how far do I go?

With more astonishment, I saw that where I flowed, other things grew and flourished. I wasn’t killing anything at all. Whether the light had changed or my vision was clearer, the day seemed brighter. As I watched, I realized that I was growing even as I sat. From where I sat, I began to see over trees and houses. Soon I saw across the valley and then over the mountains, to the beach and the sea.

Then, in a part that brought tears to my eyes in the dream, the sun was rising wherever I looked. Even as I thought, that’s not possible, I saw, but, yes, that’s what’s happening.

The dream ended.

***

I’d forgotten the dream until I was walking and thinking about my character, Anders, and who he was. In a flash I remembered the dream. I was walking in Ashland, and for a startling moment, I felt like I was in the dream, and experienced this bizarre sense of duality. As that passed, I sharply aligned with Anders and who he was. A black teenager in America, I was trying to get a handle on him, but then saw that I was tagging him through the prisms of my experiences.

He, though, doesn’t think like us, not because of his skin color, but because of his generation. His parents are black, and he loves and respects them, but their experiences don’t shape him. To him, that’s an old way of being. The new way is to shape himself. He eschews and shuns much of popular culture because of that because popular culture attempts to normalize him and push him to conform to a popular conception of who he should be, what he should buy, and how he should behave. Anders rejects and resists that.

As I explored him and his friends, I saw all of this, and how it applied to them. We have stereotypes of our segments of culture and society, from the one percent down to the homeless, from the self-proclaimed Greatest Generation through the Boomers and the rest. Anders and his friends are resisting being called a generation. They’re seeing and seeking fragmentation, breaking old norms and behavior. They don’t want to build something new; they just want freedom to find for themselves if there’s something new out there. 

They think there is something new. They can’t see it, but they’re looking through other’s eyes. It’s not until they can find their own way of seeing that they’ll discover their own country.

***

After all of that, it was a powerful and liberating day of writing like crazy. I know that it’s silly, but I felt privileged and flattered to have experience that dream, because it felt so empowering. I felt special, humbled, and amazed as I wrote.

The session is over. Time to go on to other things.

Advertisements

What’s What

Out of what I am, what I read, what I know, imagine, and think, come thoughts that I didn’t know, things absorbed which now push up out of my mind’s mantle of thinking and into the novel.

The characters develop sympathies that I didn’t expect. Vulnerabilities and phobias that I’ve never known are introduced. Their attitudes harden. The new attitudes shape their directions and decisions, flexing the story’s direction.

I play catch up with my thinking, but I’m always falling behind. The characters and I go through the story together, seeing what happens and catching our breath.

It’s been a good day of writing like crazy, but it’s left me somber and reflective. After all that’s happened so far, the main character now faces a large metal door. It seems to be brushed steel.

We’re both waiting for it to open.

Even as I contemplate it, the door sneaks open. Whispers of the next conversation float out. “Who are you?”

“I think that’s my line.”

“How’d you get here?”

“That’s also my line.”

So it begins unfolding as doubt and confusion wrestles with truth and expectations, and story forms.

Another day of writing done and gone, at least one more time.

 

Negotiations

Thinking about my writing process this morning, I think I may have left people with the impression that my muses just dictate to me. That’s a false impression. I write about it in that vernacular a lot because of how the entire process ends up happening, but it’s more involved than that. I’m sure most understand that, but as I’m overly bent toward being pedantic and over-analytical, I’m going to enlarge on my process.

The muses fill me with a concept, general story arc, and the main character. A few other characters and some reveal points follow. This all happens very fast. Ideas constantly bang on my mind to enter the writing realm. Many are rejected outright. Some are briefly entertained about how they can be expanded. Others get a more thorough mind treatment but had deferred until later (which may not ever come).

A few ideas enter the writing hopper where they’re given more writing cogitating time. This is where the muses really enter, tossing ideas about the story and how it can develop. Sometimes, these come on very strong, concrete, and specific. When that triumvirate arises, the writing urge is ignited. It then depends on my schedule and projects that are underway. When I was younger, I split myself between projects. With more experience, I’ve developed a routine of focusing on one project until it reaches some stage of completion. They’re then often edited and revised. After that, they can go in different directions.

Meanwhile, my organic writing-like-crazy process isn’t that straightforward. The muses suggest and I counter suggest. I’ll often consider and present multiple possibilities for character development, story arcs, and how a scene goes. I present them to the muses. They reject, accept, or modify them.

Even then, when I sit down to write, it often doesn’t come out as envisioned. Things take place that I never foresaw. This is the true writing-like-crazy process, and when I give full control to the muses. It comes out and I do my best to type it up without analyzing it or putting it into perspective with the rest of the story, arcs, etc. That comes afterward, when I think about where this piece has taken me and what needs to change, along how it’ll be changed, and why it needs to change.

Of course, the muses and the entire process is mine. There aren’t little elves or gorgeous creatures inhabiting and haunting me, telling me what to write. What I call out as the muses is a deeper subconscious level of thinking and creativity that seems to work at high levels of complexity and speed, and its my intuition. I can’t keep up with that thinking on my conscious levels. I’ve learned to trust that process, not because of great creative or critical success, but because, from that process comes the story-telling, novels, and tales that I enjoy. I write for myself. It saddens me that others don’t enjoy it. I hope that’ll change someday, preferably while I’m alive.

Likewise, when I say that the characters have taken over, I’m using a shorthand to describe a process. The characters were put into a situation. I thought about what could happen and different directions that they might take, and then let it settle into my subconscious mind’s chasms for greater process. Results then spring out when I sit down to write. Sometimes, of course, they spring out beforehand, and sometimes they just explode into my thinking an awareness at awkward moments. Words heard or read, realizations, photographs, a piece of song, a splash of light, a burst of noise…multiple things trigger that explosion.

In the end, my process is all about negotiations, negotiations about how commercial or artistic I’ll let myself flow, the directions I do and don’t want to take, and my acceptance to write like crazy, accept that it needs work, and then keep working on it later, and the intuition to accept this feels right, coupled with the understanding, nothing is permanent. Better ways might emerge. Stay open to them.

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

This Phase

I began a new novel project at the beginning of the new year, April Showers 1921. I’m in the exploratory phase. While the character, story, and its cover popped up in a dream, and I can see it and hear the characters and story, sometimes ‘watching it’ like I’m seeing it on a television or movie screen. Then I’m scrambling to capture all the details, translate them to words, get the order right, and get it on paper.

It’s difficult. The pace is fast and relentless. My brain power lacks the capacity to absorb it.  Stopping to do and enjoy other things is hard because novel scenes are always popping out. Details spring into mind in the middle of conversations with other people. When I’m in an actual writing session and everything is channeled into a coherent order, the inexorable flow quickens. The faucet is opened but I have no control over the volume that pours into me. Becoming intense and exciting, I fall behind again, forcing me to break off and pace to regain control, take a deep breath, and go at it again.

I also want to jump ahead to learn more about the villains. They intrigue me, but my muses are being coy about them. They offer tantalizing glimpses but won’t let me see the whole thing yet.

Yeah, weird, but it’s my process. If I could, I’d just stay here with this novel, hour after hour, watching, listening, shaping and writing. I’d probably deprive myself of sleep and exercise, but not coffee, water, and food – a man needs to know his limitations.

I remind myself of my basic writing approach.

  1. Discipline: write every day.
  2. Patience: it’ll all come. Just keep writing.
  3. Persist: stay with the story and keep moving it forward.
  4. Write like crazy: capture what I can as I can, and then edit, polish, revise, and re-order scenes and paragraphs as necessary.
  5. Finish. The goal isn’t just to write but to tell a story in a novel.

These sessions leave me spent, as you can probably understand. I vex others because most energy is being diverted into writing this novel while I submit my last finished work to agents in search of publication.

The coffee shop is closing, and they’re kicking us out. It’s their usual Sunday thing. Done writing like crazy, at least for now.

Catching Wind

I encountered a friend last night. “How’s your writing going?” he asked. I’m paraphrasing the conversation.

As I’d been socializing more, I’d created an elevator answer for that question. “Great. Finished writing a series of five books last year, and then I edited and revised them, completing that at the end of the year, wrote a synopsis of the first novel, and compiled a list of agents for submission. Meanwhile, I’ve started writing a new novel.”

“You’re already writing another book? Don’t you need to take a break?”

“No. Writing is a pleasure. I didn’t need a break. Starting a new novel is always energizing.”

“How do you come up with ideas?”

“There are always ideas. Ideas come on from watching animals, the weather, people’s voices, expressions, and stories, newspaper articles, new inventions, dreams, reading, watching television, movies, music. Deciding which one to pursue is the challenge.”

“How do you decide?”

“It’s really about which one catches the wind and takes off. I don’t make a conscious decision about what to work on so much as I start writing. Then it comes out.”

Thinking about that today as I finish my day of writing like crazy, I reflect on all the story, novel, play, and musical ideas locked up in my mind, wondering which will ever be realized. I think if I physically could, I’d be writing twenty-four hours a day to satisfy my imagination and muses, and that still might not be enough.

Ironically, I dislike socializing. Socializing is an energy thief. It requires that I carve time out, set it aside, and focus on being polite, friendly, and speaking with others. All that is exhausting. Yet, inconveniently, socializing stimulates my writing ideas. Listening to people, watching them, and breaking out of my routines fire new ideas. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

Now, sadly, time to stop once again. Bummer.

#AWL

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.”

What now?

“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.

But…but…but…

Yeah.

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.

Hah.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: