Closing on the Finish

It’s a weird thing, actually, but then, the writing process, organic and raw, often strikes me as a weird thing. In this case, as I wrote yesterday and today, I thought that I’m closing on the books’ finish. By that, I mean the beta draft, of course.

This isn’t a matter of page or word counts. The first is three hundred twenty-five Word pages, and the second is seventy-seven thousand words. I’ve cut away whole chapters as the story found shape.

No, this is just a feeling suddenly that it’s all coming together for a final rush toward the ending. I wrote a sense of the ending a few weeks into the novel-in-progress, sort of a light in the tunnel to aim toward. I’ve not revisited it in over a month, I think, so I know it’ll require major revisions to incorporate all the threads and ideas that’ve germinated into storylines since.

As always, I have a mixed response to this feeling that I’m coming to the end. It reminds me of being on vacation and realizing that I’m going home in a couple of days, that vacation will end. It’s been a good time, but I’ll go on to another phase of living.

I can be wrong. The muses might be pranking me. They may jerk the rug out from underfoot at the last minute, laughing as I fall on my ass.

Or I might finish and begin reading it and then discover that it’s a miserable load of dinosaur feces masquerading as a manuscript. It’s all happened before.

I address that with a shrug these days. Writing is always a process of discovery, re-thinking what’s been found and presented, twerking changes, refining what I think I know and what should be told. Editing and revising is a shift of how it’s done but it’s a continuation and refinement of the process. That’s my view, and I’m sticking to it.

Been another satisfying and productive day of writing like crazy. You know the scene: the coffee is gone, my ass is asleep, my stomach is rumbling, and the day awaits. Time to save and close the docs and walk away, at least one more time.

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Don’t Anger the Muses

I love it when I get in here to write, and I seem to know exactly where to begin and what to type. Little thinking is demanded; it’s just go, go, go. 

I know it’s not from ‘nowhere’ or some mysterious regions of my brain, or a gift from the muses. Truthfully, I’m agnostic. I’m not going to be categorical and say that it isn’t the muses. Maybe it is. Don’t want to outrage them by denigrating their contribution, you know. If it is due to the muses and they cut me off, I’d be bereft.

In my defense, I know that I stopped in the middle of a scene yesterday. I was following a trend. Once I’d shut down and was walking, thoughts arrived about what to do. Walking frequently acts as a laxative on my thinking, out there, going somewhere that only requires me to think, left, right, left, right — which out for the bus — permits to me to think.

I’d not been planning my thoughts and wasn’t actively thinking about the novel in specific ways. It was more a part of multi-streaming that I often do, especially while walking, surfing a little of one before jumping to another. This idea popped up, found its roots, and grew. More grew, developing new angles, as I showered and shaved this morning.

I guess it’s probable that I was thinking, but the muses were directing the streams and deciding what came to what. How’s that for a compromise?

Got my hot coffee. I’m in my chair. Time to write again, at least one more time.

 

Cliffhanger

I worry, is there too much dialogue? Is the story too obtuse? Is it too, is it too…arg.

I try to follow the muses as they flash their lights and urge me forward into the foggy writing night and a cocoon of dark imagery. Anxiety ripples through my torso. I want to ask the muses if they’re sure that this is the way, but you know that you dare not question the muses.

Peeking to either side to see what else could be there can’t be resisted but the muses have led me into a precarious wasteland. I feel like cliffs abut the path, and the path is growing narrow and precarious. I follow but I struggle with the catch the muses have clamped on me, a catch almost as beautiful as Catch-22‘s catch. My catch (for the characters) is that they need to remember to know what to do but if they remember, they can be tracked and dusted. (Dusted will be explained at another time, but use your imagination.)

Now all those characters are remembering and the protagonist, Anders, is freaking out, because he’s starting to remember, despite efforts not to remember, what happens when you’re dusted, and what this is all about. The others are coming, the trap is closing, and then, ‘lo, here’s a new fucking group running toward him from the opposite direction.

The muses gave no warning about them. In a panic, I wonder, who are they? What’s Anders going to do now? He was trying to ditch Jazmine and Petty because he remembers with growing certainty that remembering in one person is reinforced in another — memories beget memories — and that’s not good for here and now.

Pooh-poohing my worries, the muses wave their dainty fingers, dismissing my concerns. “We’re stopping for today,” they inform me. I picture them nibbling chocolate truffles. “We’ll pick up here tomorrow.”

It feels like, you know, I watched Avengers: Endgame, and here I am, waiting to see what happens. It feels like I’m watching Game of Thrones, waiting to be see the next death, the next twist.

Cliffhangers. Fun to watch, harder to write when the muses are guiding you on an organic writing trip.

Good day of writing like crazy in one sense, cause, hey, progress. We cheer progress. Mystifying day in another sense because of the questions created by this cliffhanger and the writer’s angst that it enjoins.

What happens next? Well, I go home to wait and see.

Wobble Like Crazy

I’m back in the writing space following some unpleasant medical issues. In the last three days, I’ve averaged two thousand words each. It’s delicious to feel like I’m moving forward, no matter how word counts fall upon the writing spectrum in regards to their importance. I didn’t plan any word counts but they’re proof of something happening, a minor validation that I’ve been doing more than daydreaming.

After some arguing with the muses, me interrogating them to explain every thread, decision, and insight, and them laughing at me, I followed their instructions to, “Just write.” Some of the writing could be permanent but some of it might be delicately sculpted away or blown away with heavy explosives. Doesn’t matter. What I’ve written before during other writing projects may not help me this time. Each time that I write another novel, it’s a new adventure in learning how to be a better writer. I must write to have the material to shape, an interesting cycle. Write, edit, write, re-write, write, revise…where am I?

Well, I’m on the novel-writing spectrum. I slide along, following paths, retracing, forging new paths, falling off cliffs, and climbing back up. So it goes until there’s finally enough coherency for a novel to take shape, and then, finally, enough satisfying story in a reasonable order arrives, and then, at last, I pick a place where it can be comfortably ended with reasonable reward for readers who ventured through my thicket of words.

Can you say run-on?

I’m permitted a cup of coffee a day. I apply my allowance to my writing.

Illness is depressing, not because I have it, but because of its limitations. Bending down to pick up a piece of paper, scratch a cat’s chin, or put on my shoes and socks is slow and tedious and brings a measure of stinging discomfort. Walking remains uncomfortable and difficult, but not impossible. Of course, I have a history of rushing the healing processes. Press on, regardless, right? When I had a broken neck on Okinawa and wore a halo device, I pushed to go back to work and ended up dislodging that metal mother twice, sending me back into hospital. Anyway, I wobble around at a slow and careful pace, watching the ground to find the threads and seeds that the muses leave, then trying to parse their guidance.

Yeah, just write, baby. Stop critiquing, doubting, wondering, fearing, worrying, and questioning. Just get ‘er done. Pitter-patter.

Done writing like crazy for at least one more day. Sloshy, my drain-collection bag resting against my calf, is filled. Time to wobble on and empty him.

Writing Interrupted

Ready for a rant of self-pity and exasperation? It’s all about me. Yeah, you’ve been warned.

So, sick. Nothing threatening like a terminal disease, just a trifecta of irritations, a head cold, the flu, and then a kidney stone. With each, I thought, this will pass, and then I prayed that the last one, the kidney stone, passed fast (which it seems to have done).

Three weeks mostly killed except for a few days when I caved to the obligation to defy my body, throwing ripples of confusion and discontinuity into my carefully constructed writing existence. I could little practice the rituals of writing, of  walking to clear my mind, establishing a mental framework for walling myself into a solitary zone where I coexist with word storms, of ordering coffee and sitting down to tap, tap, tap, forwards and backwards, creating and correcting, of staring out windows and trying to understand WTF the muses are trying to tell me.

Illness didn’t slow my inner writer and army of muses. Death might slow them down, but not minor illnesses. They came in waves, expecting to be released or entertained. That doing nothing routine was unacceptable, a position strengthened because my illness habits called for me to read, sleep, dream, awaken, and read, punctuated by episodes of eating, drinking tea, and the sickness processes that my body demanded in which it hurled things out. Nothing like reading to calm the writer, right? Wrong.

Perhaps, worse of all, was the limited coffee. My taste buds warred with the coffee’s flavor. Variations failed. Spiced herbal teas were substituted, but they’re not coffee, ya know?

All of that seems cleared away today. Did my walk. Got my coffee. It still doesn’t taste right, but I’ll work through it. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Sorry, No

I recently met a person at the coffee shop who discovered that I was a writer. They asked me to tell them about what I was writing.

Sorry, no.

In a hurry, I said, “Sorry, it doesn’t work that way,” and departed. But after walking away, I began thinking about my answer, constructing the reasons that it doesn’t work that way.

In my early days, I was always eager to tell people about what I was writing. My position changed for several reasons.

  1. In the early days, I was hunting for validation and encouragement. I was more insecure about writing. I wanted someone else to tell me how wonderful it all sounded.
  2. A book is a written work. The nuances live in the words and the order that I’ve arranged them to tell a story. I work hard to find the ideas, establish and grow the characters, advance the plot, and tell the story. That’s all done through written words and the supporting structure.
  3.  I’m an organic writer, also called a pantser. Starting with a concept, I build. The construction takes unexpected directions and doesn’t seem to pause until I write ‘The End’. What I tell you about today may not make it into the final first draft.
  4. Writing a novel or short story excites and energizes me. My ideas are usually complex. Chances are, you’re not going to be able to follow, because, again, I’m talking about a written work. Your lack of enthusiasm will depress me. Unless you want to read a passage or have me read it to you, I’m not going to tell you. I’m also not going to let you read it because of reason number two, already presented: it’s a work-in-progress.
  5. Finally, with all the previous reasons, talking about what I’m writing to others siphons energy off, in my experience, so, sorry, no.

Policy exceptions exist. First, if you’re an agent or publisher, I’ll be polite and do what I can to tell you what I’m writing and why it excites me.

I can also talk about the writing process (I probably enjoy talking about it too much), especially to other writers. As part of that, I’ll share some of a WIP with other writers. Whether it’s me and my expectations, or their experiences, or our empathy, or all of these things along with other aspects, I think other writers are worthy recipients to hearing about my WIP.

Thinking about all of this, I realize that my attitude is a major hindrance to selling agents or publishers on my finished novels. I love being subtle and complex in my writing, and accomplish that, in my mind. Lot of people don’t have the patience for subtle and complex, and it’s hard to convey in the first twenty pages, along with a synopsis, pitch, and hook. I’m just not good at that shit. Admitting it means that I need to work harder on it, along with my first twenty pages.

I suspect that my writing style likely only appeals to one percent of potential readers. Not a problem, to me, because there are many readers in the world. The larger problem is that I probably need to submit to one hundred agents to get one interested, and they’ll probably need to pitch it to multiple editors and publishers. So, I feel like I’m looking at a high and steep rocky mountain to climb.

I’ve been climbing it for a while, and will keep going. Each time I reach one ridge, I think I’ve reached the top only to find there’s more climbing to do. That’d be a problem if all of this conceiving, imagining, writing, editing, and revising wasn’t so much damn fun.

It’s also addictive.

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

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