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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Another Stimulating Day

It was another stimulating day of writing like crazy. The writing had taken off on startling tangents, tangents that made me laugh aloud, although quietly, because I’m in a public coffee shop and I’m not fond of attention. This session capped off several wild writing sessions where I just let it flow without thinking and then, ‘lo, the whole thing somehow connects in surprising ways.

Well, they surprised me. Hope to hell readers who didn’t write it also find them surprising.

So cool, so much fun and enjoyable. When it comes like this, I wonder if I’m writing it, remembering it from something I’ve read or written before, or just acting as a vessel. I wonder, but I don’t question it too deeply, accepting it as a mysterious but pleasurable process. Of course, then I came to the day’s stop, and suddenly all the usual angst about whether it was any good, made sense, etc., sank its fangs into me.

My coffee cup is empty and the novel in progress has been saved and closed. That reminds me that I put off doing a back-up yesterday. I need to do one. I don’t want to lose all of this because I was lazy.

Meanwhile, I’m done writing like crazy for today.

What School? (Updated)

Once again, Stephen King has managed to irritate me.

I’d been busy writing, thinking, and brainstorming yesterday, capping off the final few minutes of an enjoyable writing session. (I know, I seem like an eternal optimist, don’t I? Truth is, I don’t share many of the dark days. I don’t like dwelling on ’em.)

MS Word froze. Hell, the entire computer froze. With an exasperated, “WTF?”, I sat back, sipping the last of my cold coffee, hoping to wait it out. A few things were attempted to break the hold. Not a damn thing worked.

Hard reboot, please. I was sore about it, nay, pissed. I wanted to bring the doc up to finish those last few thoughts and paragraphs.

Twelve minutes later – was I counting? Ya think? – the docs were up with some final paragraphs missing. Grrr. The excitement had fizzled, the energy had dried up, the thrill was gone. (Cue B.B. King.) So was my coffee and the allotted time to write. I made a note to myself, just a brief, slightly cryptic thing. I figured, I’d remember…

Twenty-four hours later, I don’t remember. Well, I remember three out of four that I’d thought. Damn it, that fourth one is plaguing me.

Which brings me to the eternal question, which school do you belong to? Are you one that writes copious notes, or are you of the “I’ll remember it” school?

I used to be the copious notes school. Then I read that Stephen King said that he doesn’t keep notes. He said that if it was important, he’d remember it. How sage that sounded! I would be like Stephen King. He can do it, so I can, too…right?

First, I lied. I am a copious note maker. I have documents of notes about the novel in progress, explaining what and why, because I know that I’ll probably get lost in the tangled tales and forget. I invoked the Stephen King clause yesterday in an optimistic fit. While I don’t remember it now, I’m sure that I will as I write today…or tomorrow…or…sometime.

I hope.

Got my mind juice, a.k.a., coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

UPDATE: I remembered the fourth as I began writing, and made a note of all four. Ah, the power of coffee.

 

Temptations

It’s hard staying disciplined today. I’m going through through my monthly cycles*, and I’m on a creative high. Sounds good, but…

My imagination has too many ideas about the novel in progress, rendering the process more difficult and challenging. Through my muses or myself, I’m besieged with new what-if scenarios. Each demands to be considered and incorporated, or discarded. Once a path is chosen, my fingers dash over the keyboard in mad hammering. As scenes and chapters are finished, new ideas jump in again.

The problem isn’t having ideas about the story or characters, or a writing block. The problem is that there’s so many ways to tell the story, so many choices about what to write. It seems like an enviable situation. Don’t be fooled. Knowledge gleaned from writing other novels has informed me, too many ideas can end up with a messy, messy novel. I know that I can write it all up and edit and revise, but I think that writing along the wrong paths dissipates the novel’s essence. Besides that, my puny brain struggles to keep everything straight. Adding more complications…well, complicates that process. The challenge is to find the best path and keep focused on it despite the temptations to stray, and some of them are very, very tempting.

Got my coffee. Know what time it is? Yep, time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Note: my spectrums – the mood shifts from happy and optimistic, to dark and pessimistic and the energy levels that rise and fall – seemed monthly, perhaps driven by hormones, tides, or some other causes. My imagination runs on like cycles, as do my emotional and physical energy. Yes, some call this all hokum, others think of them as pseudo-science, but it’s something that I experience. Being aware of them helps me manage the dark times.

One Typo

I was writing several days ago, working on the novel in progress, April Showers 1921. I’d dream the novel, seeing the cover and knowing the main characters and a lot of story. Yet I was struggling to find and fulfill the potential the dream had shown the novel to have.

I plugged on, though, searching, testing, writing, and then tossing some of it away, trying to find the right path. Completing a scene, I went back over it, making minor changes. I uncovered a typo, an ess attached to a word, changing the noun from singular to plural. While laughing at the images that plural conjured, I deleted the letter, but then reconsidered what the plural could mean to the story. Within a few seconds, that extra letter and the shift from singular to plural opened up a new range of ideas. I went with it.

Results surprised me. That typo bloomed like algae, taking over that scene, but also illuminating masses of the underlying concept. The typo changed the main character’s interactions with others and shifted the entire story by several degrees. The typo opened unexpected mind streams. I surfed into new directions again and again, reacting with surprise, but also with satisfaction that this novel was becoming something different than how it’d been going. All of this is what causes fiction writing to be so engaging and entertaining for me.

Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy, 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.

A Modified Process

I live now with a catheter in my bladder, draining my urine into a bag that I drain several times a day. I have a night bag and a leg bag. The holding bags and their tubes offer their own challenges about swapping and draining them. Given the catheter’s retention location on my upper thigh, it also makes bowel movements an interesting exercise. Bending and walking are also problematic.

Getting the catheter in was an experience. Living with it is another. Having it helps me respect the medical events and treatments that people endure. I’ve had it good as such things go. Although they sound like they’re something — broken and displaced wrist, broken neck, stitches in my skull, ear lobe stitched back on, hernia, toe-tip cut off by a lawnmower, bronchitis, mono, broken ankles, broken teeth, etc. — they’re small things in the greater order of existence and endurance. Better, they’re temporary, with end dates.

Our warfare kills on large, constant scales, and the warfare results in people without limbs, scarred by burns, and shattered by trauma. Many people endure chronic or terminal diseases, relentless illnesses that erode their strength and energy, chipping away from who they were and what they could do, haunting them until they’re dead. Others are abused and betrayed, resulting in destroyed mental and emotional faculties. Others are born with handicaps and genetic deficiencies. I’m fortunate. My afflictions are short-lived and allow me to observe and learn from them.

This catheter is expected to be in me seven to ten days. It impacts my writing process because I can’t walk as I’ve done for lo these several years. Yet, I have to write. I must find a way to sit down and put words into the computer. I’ve not written in four days. The need doesn’t go away. It builds as the muses feed ideas that I explore. Scenes explode into my mindscape. Dialogue is heard.

I originally developed the write and walk process to enable my writing efforts in my military career’s final year. I expanded on it when I was working for startups, and then for Tyco and IBM, the companies that swallowed the startups, carving out time for myself and putting writing as a higher priority in my daily to-do list. I needed a process to remove me from sales, marketing, and product development, and put me in a frame of thinking to create fiction.

A new process is needed because the dream and desire to write remains. Got my hot tea. I’m in my home office. A cat is snoring nearby. Another is asleep on my feet. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

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.

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