Thursday, December 30, 2010

That season

A little over a week since the last update, which is strange because I knew that, and yet did not find myself here until now, New Year's Eve eve. I think every year I introspectively rediscover some dingy spot on the china white finish of the holiday season; I never stare at it for long, but it does show up in my dreams. Fortunately, that led me to turn to my writing for distraction, and consequently, my goal of reaching chapter 20 before I returned to work is very much on pace. Today I will draft chapter 19, and I still have a few more days off next week (sometimes, working at a school is marvelous).

Though, a few of my friends haven't been so lucky (in regards to productivity). One friend actually revealed to me that cabin fever is real, or rather, is not the fear of being stuck in the woods cut off from all internet access (like being stuck in a log cabin, witness protection-style). Apparently, cabin fever more pertains to being stuck inside for an extended period of time. In his case stuck in his apartment, waiting, stuck in his car, driving, then stuck in a house, having dinner, for three days straight. I could actually hear him going crazy over the phone. I examined the walls of my own room, and recounted how long I hadn't stepped outside, and chalked it up to people just being different.

Another friend was having troubles of a writerly kind. And again, I both could not empathize with him and thought that if such a condition afflicted me, given my lifestyle, I'd be in a very bad way. My mentor back in college, during our writing workshop, would often times address questions about writer's block. No one bothered to explain what it was, because everyone assumed that each of us had been struck with it at some point. So, my professor moved on to how to alleviate it. At least I'm pretty sure he did. I never remembered any of those discussions because the information wasn't all that useful to me. But that's what my friend had, and it was a little sad to be unable to help him, except to hurl empty platitudes in his direction. He expressed a desire to get lost somewhere, and just write for days, weeks on end. I supposed that while people are different, they can also be very similar in certain ways.

My latest published story on fictionaut has been up for a couple weeks. Going back to it after some years, I was happy with it, and even happier with the comment a kind person left, complimentary of both the story and my skill. I also did another story for the sports site, and even had it in mind to write another but a familiar malaise struck me then, similar to Monday when I was going to update this blog again. It was going to be about the spirit of the fan and the spectator sport that is attending football games, but it just seemed a bit out of place, and boring. Perhaps that's what writer's block feels like.

In any event, I've been busy at points this week, driving about and doing favors for people or getting up late because of poor decisions made the previous evening, and a chapter has been drafted and edited each day regardless. As always, in this one, specific, socioeconomically unproductive way, I feel a tad unstoppable. I plan on going to bed early tomorrow night, so I suppose I'll count my blessings now, and say goodbye to the year. I loved it, and hated it, because there was so much room for improvement.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The passage of time like stones on the roadside

Yesterday I passed into the final stage of edits for my novel to be released in March (if I'm not going to be confident about it, who will?). The copy editor congratulated me because the only problems the publishing editor had were "accidental double spaces between words" and "repositioned commas." The copy editor called the stage "errata" and gave me a list of instructions. It seems to be a little different on their end but more or less the same on mind: read my novel all the way through, line by line, and tell them what I'd like changed. The only difference, really, is that "this is not the time for rewrites, but rather to catch any last minute mistakes or oversights." I'm amazed once again about how little I know about this whole process; I guess I missed the chance to rewrite anything...

I hear stories about how writers dislike their first novel, and many of them habitually pour over the produced volume with a marker or highlighter, agonizing over things they can't change (until the re-release, that is). I even got a decent explanation from a co-worker that espoused that for the rest of their lives, the trajectory of their writing career would be associated with their initial effort. It would be something they could never get back, or alter. It takes years to get out of a contract in order to re-release the book somewhere else, and in that time who you are as a writer could be cemented in the minds of whatever readership you may be enjoying. I remember back then my desperation overshadowed everything; it seemed like such a small thing to be labeled a hack because at least I'd be published.

And I'm not saying much has changed. But I know more, I think. And I know that this time, I did not leap head first into reading the book again, to find and fix the corrections. I actually stared at the email for a few hours and thought about things. I hemmed and hawed about the momentum I had on the current novel I'm working on, and hovered my cursor over the file in question. Ultimately, I went to bed without doing very much. Yesterday morning I had composed a chapter, edited it, and even did a story for that sports site (this morning I got my first disagreeable comment: milestone!). Last time I can remember a keen desire to get right into things, and this time I have even less time (10 days to return my corrections rather than 14).

One line in the email stuck with me: "it's very important to read your manuscript and correct errors and omissions that we missed and take responsibility for your work." I guess it might sound like they want me to do their jobs for them, but that isn't how I took it. As always, I've thought that the success or failure of my efforts was solely on my shoulders, as much as it isn't. And this is a good opportunity to prove that. The overall tone of the final notes struck me that a writer could simply wait a few days and send the copy to the editor with a message of "no changes, good work!" and go about their day. A friend of mine told me once, after I had noticed how dense my writing can be sometimes, that such close attention to detail would do me a service, and bare itself out in the end to my advantage.

So I guess I'm trying to psych myself up to reading all the way through it again, line by line, and with the same excitement that I did before. With a second thorough read, I'm sure I'll be many steps closer to being one of their authors that hates their first book, or believing more strongly that it will be a success. Honestly, I wouldn't mind spending every holiday season like how I'm spending this one: reading, writing, editing, and looking forward to an upcoming release. I am blessed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Links in a chain (of being)

Whoever heard of vacation hitting someone hard? Last night I was not struck with an obligatory urge to go to bed early and voila, here I am bleary eyed at lunch time. The entire weekend was also a bit unproductive. I was social; I did hang with friends. But otherwise, I brought none of my various plots to fruition.

On the other hand, there is news of a small sort. One of the editors at the sports story site got back to me, and gave me an assignment. Not long after, I completed my fourth story for the site, however I've yet to receive any feedback from the editor who gave me the story to do (and it wasn't even much of a story, just a loose frame of an idea, and a rigid title of sorts).

Likewise, I discovered, or rather re-discovered a site called Fictionaut (two people, when told this story over the phone both replied "Knot, like k-n-o-t?"). I will admit to not knowing at all how the site functions, but there seems to be hundreds if not thousands of writers there. Since discovering that I could post, I've done so. The first story published was lite-sci-fi, if that's even a term. The second was actually flash fiction, one that I'm proud to say even garnered a comment from another author. The third was among the first science fiction shorts I wrote; I like it because it has all of my initial sensibilities and vigor before I was influenced, even marginally, by "what people are reading now" and "what the magazines are looking to publish."

Despite these bits of news, I did intend to do some serious editing this weekend. I drafted up to chapter 10 of the novel, and that being a round number, decided to do something I've never done before: go back to the beginning, and read all the way through to where I'd stopped before the novel was completely drafted. I call myself taking extra steps to make sure the work is sharp. Extra sharp, even. But then a chilling fear crept up in me: that I would find glaring error after glaring error and that by the last chapter, I'd just delete all of it and hold myself.

But now, except for an award ceremony tomorrow, I really am on break. I really don't have anything to be doing. I have no excuse to not exude my fuller energies to push forward. So, what else is there to do but push forward? I must confess again to only having questions.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Contrarily confused cognition

Monday morning seems to work better for blogging. I get up hours before I need to be anywhere and I sit and stare at my computer screen, thinking about nothing. I can't say why, but I do desperately hate getting up and rushing, woken by a blaring alarm clock and pushed about by the crazy urge that if I don't rush, I'll be late. Slow suits me. And, I have time to post these erstwhile updates about this existence of mine.

I was very excited yesterday when I realized how one of my book series would end. I hate admitting that I was writing while not knowing every last single detail of the story, even more so that I was honestly writing while thinking that it would just come to me. It did, but that doesn't necessarily feel like my assumption was laudable. It also turns out that thinking of things I'm not currently working on isn't so bad so long as shortly after I jump right back into what I am working on. I've worked through my mini-outline and will be starting chapter 9 soon.

In jest, I told a friend of mine that he'd have to complete all of my works in the advent that I die suddenly and soon. I showed him notes, and he looked at them oddly. Empathizing a bit, I realized what he was actually looking at was a pile of scratch paper and napkins and flyers with something a lot like jibberish written on them, arrows pointing from certain bits to other certain other bits. It had never occurred to me to write the stuff down in code, so I guess I assumed it would be perfectly literate to anyone else.

Speaking of confusion, I dreamed a few weeks ago. Dreamed vividly, so much so that I was able to recall it almost perfectly and even tell it to other people. Everyone has since told me to write it down, so of course I refused. There were blue skies and a mirrored terrain and a steep incline I was trying to climb with poor footing. Once, briefly, I even saw myself and I was made of the same stuff as the land, smooth reflective surfaces turning the sky into my skin. There were other things, but I hesitate to write them down. Perhaps one day I will understand what it all means.

I got an email from an editor on the sports blog I've been dabbling in. I couldn't be sure if it was a blanket gesture given to all knew writers or if he actually found something unique and appreciable in me, but there was mention of a program whereupon I could work towards more exposure via becoming a featured writer. Perhaps something will come of that. I said I was interested, but have received no other word.

This week is the last week of the year at the school where I work, and I feel blessed. This semester has been harsh, and has reminded my co-workers of something they simply call "the beginning," an event that makes them shudder and rock back and forth. I'm glad to have survived it without too many break downs. Perhaps it means I've grown. I never did take that standardized test, nor did I apply for grad school. In retrospect, I feel almost like I always knew I wouldn't do those things, at least this year.

I have to squint in thought to imagine what progress I made this year. Maybe that means I've come far.