With the tail end of August suddenly stuck up in the air and wiggling itself at me, I suppose it’s time to throw together the monthly list of what-nots and what-is-its.
Enjoy or simply muddle through, whichever keeps your tail wagging.
1.) Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 of The Hushing Days are safely ensconced in Final Edits. Chapter 6 is currently on the first editing block. Then I’ll only 15 more chapters to go… Thinking positive at this point is hard, my friends.
2.) Jake Arrieta of my Cubs threw a no-hitter in L.A. last night! After 33 years of following the Cubbies, it is the first no-hitter I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Zambrano’s effort years ago (2008, maybe?) was cruelly pitched while I was out of town and without cable… Maybe by the time they throw the next no-hitter, The Hushing Days will be done? Again, thinking positive at this point is hard.
3.) I’d like to play the role of Despina in Mozart’s opera Cosi fan tutte. Talk about a fun ride! Of course, this would mean I’d have to suddenly develop operatic singing and acting skill…. Need I repeat? Thinking positive at this point is hard.
4.) As this list has degraded into something rather sad, discouraging and definitely not tail-wagging-worthy. I will end this debacle here… This, my friends, is a positive thing.
Command decisions must be made on the literary battlefield.
And while the resulting blood and gore, angst and mayhem are limited to screen or paper, their impact is no less agonizing for the story’s author.
Case in point: Thackary.
The skewed homage to my off-kilter life in my novel The Hushing Days has become an albatross around my editing neck. He’s not only weighing the story down in needless tangents, he’s sucking up all my creative time.
If I’m ever going to get this novel to my agent, I have got to keep pushing the chapters from first to final edits in a somewhat orderly fashion.
So, my command decision is this…
Dawdling is out.
Thackary, of course, will remain.
He’s too entrenched in a number of storylines to extricate from the plot tangle at this point. However, his motivations and his inner struggles will remain a backstory to which the readers only see glimpses.
From here on out, Thackary will be a tantalizing mystery whose oddities the audience is never quite able to figure out.
Publishing wisdom states: “always leave your readers begging for more.”
Time to put that axiom to the test.
Post Note: Visiting family will preclude me from gracing your lives with a post tomorrow. Chin up! Your blogger will be back Monday.
“Economy of brain” is a concept I’m trying very hard to embrace. Unfortunately, the efforts have been prickly, at best.
Let me explain.
I am a perfectionist. I don’t want to be. I rather abhor it. But there it is.
Hence, every scene I edit in The Hushing Days I give my all to getting, well, perfect.
Yet the problem is, you see, there is no such thing as perfection. It doesn’t exist, at least not where we mere mortals can reach.
Realizing this, I have to restrain my efforts in the editing process. I could literally dither over a sentence forever. (Yes, when I die at the ripe old age of 92, please be sure to put The Hushing Days manuscript in the coffin with me. The second scene in Chapter Two still needs some tweaking. Seriously. That’s my thought.)
So, I must economize the use of my brain. Spending decades on a throwaway thought is not viable. (There lies the path to madness and all that rot.)
It’s been a struggle, but I’m drawing the concept ever nearer…
Of course I haven’t got my arms quite around the bugger yet, so excuse me while I go dither around with Chapter Two, Scene Two again.
Avoid directing yourself.
Unless you’re tangling with an autobiography (in which all your actions should be past actions and therefore inarguable… Revisionist history? Ha! Never.), don’t cast yourself in your novel.
It’s not a matter of you not being interesting or colorful enough to thrive in your fictional wherever-land. No, it’s a matter of distance, or lack thereof, to be exact.
An author must have some distance from his/her characters. Objectivity is key in keeping a storyline moving and grooving. Plopping yourself in the middle of the dance floor and boogying down with the whole gang leads not only to stark embarrassment but writerly headaches. Big ones.
Thackary in The Hushing Days is more me than any character I’ve ever written. And while he’s only a supporting actor, keeping him in line with the rest of the cast has been, um, difficult. (Apparently, I’m a very head strong personality. No wonder I’m not married.)
In short: putting yourself in your story is not worth the time nor the aggravation.
It was a frustrating day in the old literary workshop yesterday.
Grand plans of progress were snuffed out by a decided lack of writing skill. Whatever talent I have milked from authoring 17 novels went POOF! and was gone. I imagine a pitiful little trail of smoke followed this incineration but I was frankly too busy gnashing my teeth to notice.
Thankfully the whole 17 book bit has taught me how to get some work done despite the POOF! Admittedly, my greatest storytelling was not on display yesterday, but I managed to fake it passably well.
At least I think I did.
We’ll see when I take a wary peek at it today. If there is no accompanying wailing on my part or laughing up a lung on the part of the muse, I’m perfectly willing to call yesterday a minor success.
Work was done.
Sometimes quantity must dwarf quality…
But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Flannel slippers on an icy January morn.
A white cotton nightie on a sweltering August eve.
A sun-baked towel after a cool dip in the pool.
In other words… sweet Willoughby.
I’d truly forgotten how much I enjoy writing the character of Willoughby Fawkes. A minor major player (yes, there can be such a thing) in The Hushing Days, it has been a while since I slipped into the young woman’s skin.
I’ve missed her.
Yesterday, Chapter Two came into my editing sights, and in it I found the dear miss tapping her foot impatiently for her due attention. With all the attention my more “complicated” characters have required of me in Edits, I realized that I had been neglecting the “simple” girl who only wants someone to love.
Remember: there is never harm in crawling into simplicity.
Seek it out from time to time and smile.
In a book of 100k words, is there room enough for a single word?
Emily Dickinson (yes, her again… blame Harvard) delighted in the power, the mystery, the beauty of a solitary word. She would often go as far to isolate these single creatures within a set of her infamous dashes. In essence, cutting off the word entirely from the rest of the line, she forced the reader to go one-on-one with the lone accomplice.
Can today’s romance writer afford such luxuries of a single word? That is the question… and I’m saddened by its answer.
In a publishing world that too often emphasizes speed and bulk over quality, the romance novel is left out of this love affair with the single word.
How ironic is that?
Well, there’s no danger of anorexia here. The Hushing Days is quite full of itself and plans to keep it that way.
And while I applaud my manuscript’s cheerful acceptance of its bulk, and while I would never, ever curse it with an eating disorder that is both terrifying and oftentimes deadly, I wouldn’t mind a teensy bit of weight-management.
No, no, not a diet! Banish that dastardly word from your thoughts. I want my novel to eat as much as it wants. Digest the whole world for all I care. Go ahead: munch, crunch and brunch.
When that inevitable flab is put on, my book really needs to learn how to distribute it a little more evenly.
For example: Chapter Four is lean, mean and runway material. Chapter Five is a real bruiser requiring “Wide Load” warnings. So, as Chapter Three reaches its final stage of growth, I’m beginning to fear its following in Sibling Five’s deep footsteps. It grows, and grows and grows.
What is a poor author to do but keep a chipper thought and love the stuffing out of all of them?
Flirting with Emily Dickinson while going hot and heavy with my own The Hushing Days should be awkward. It should be weird. Hinky, even.
Instead the innocent little dalliance is turning out to be rather marvelous.
As I’ve told you before, I am taking an online course from Harvard about the elusive 19th century poet while I’m trudging my way through the edits of my first mainstream romance novel. Surprisingly this has not shorted out my brain or even strummed one string of my not-so latent School/Panic/”Get me out of this classroom or I am going to seriously die” issues. Remarkable, that.
Equally entertaining to “literary psychiatrists” (Hmm…is there such a vocation, I wonder?) worldwide is the fact that my writing is flourishing in the shadow of this affair.
Even though I’m still struggling with speed issues (current forecast states I’ll be 94 when The Hushing Days reaches print), the work I’m doing is frankly freaking good.
Freaking really good, if I may bluster.
So, bottom line: Don’t be afraid to invite a third party into your relationship with your manuscript. It could spark something grand.
Fifty years is a bloody long time.
Half a century, that.
I haven’t even had the pleasure of existing (i.e. breathing, panicking, popping Prozac, breathing again) that long yet. But there go my parents, celebrating the grand 5-0 of anniversaries today.
Yeah, well, I guess that’s what love and stubbornness, patience and faith will get two rather remarkable souls.
A hearty congrats to them both!
*the four-legged, furry muse scowls, and promises swift, messy retribution, as a bag of confetti is dropped ceremoniously on her head*
Party on, dear parents!