Monday, July 25, 2011

Another finish(ed) line

Sitting in front of me is the second draft of a story I wrote on Saturday. Within me there is a somewhat comfortable certainty in regards to the stack of white paper, printed on one side, with one inch margins and standard font, but such was not the case this past weekend.

This weekend I found myself looking around, pondering the great volume of free time I found myself gifted with as a result of having completed the drafts of the novels. There was no duress, or even a lukewarm need. I didn't have to do anything, at least anything that resulted from a rigorous regimen. I was free, finally free, to do whatever I pleased. It was more than a little terrifying. I knew that I wanted to start on the story, and had even driven somewhere and scribbled down presaging notes in a spiral notebook in preparation. I also decided that I would work on making the third book of the Where Shadows Lie series presentable enough for submission and send that off. But it was all so much like it was back in January with me sitting around waiting for it to all just magically happen. I was reminded of the sad truth that nothing would happen if I didn't do it myself.

So I did.

And it was a strange affair, writing the story that was so much shorter than the novels I had been pounding my way through. I imagined it was a bit like running a marathon and then sprinting. Marathons, or novels, occur in pieces for me. How the race is to be run, how fast in what stages, is decided upon ahead of time, planned out carefully and cautiously, and each part benefits from the experience of running. After that, it's just a matter of putting one leg in front of the other, not giving up, sticking to the plan with the confidence that when it's all done, it will be a good time. Short stories are more like sprints: there's much less track to work with, and it's all done in the same mode, the same voice, which for me requires it to be drafted in the same sitting. Changing gears in that way was a little disorienting. Halfway through I found myself a little put off and disgusted at how the story was dragging, continuing for much longer than one of my chapters. I had to write my way into a different rhythm.

But, and this seems to be normal, when I woke up this morning and read through it, the first draft wasn't nearly as bad as I thought while writing it.

And now the difficult part begins. Really, I suppose the best thing is always to print the work out, run over it with a pen, but I think it becomes more important the shorter the writing is. So this is me spending those hours, going over it line by line, page by page, step by lunging step. Race by race.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hi Mom

Late. With only a moment's notice, attending the first meeting of a local writer's guild, that was the best word I could think of as my response to "What's your favorite word?" It was on my mind, that topic, because I was over half an hour tardy. I had so much time to dwell on my slinking into the meeting well after it had started and even developed its own rhythm, I thought about all the platitudes about lateness that I had ever heard. Like the one from my alma mater: to be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unacceptable. But I guess it just goes to show what nice people were there at the meeting. I was welcomed despite not having a name tag, nothing to write with or on, and with my Rambling Sickness enjoying a delightful flare up.

Despite Monday's rocky start to the week, however, this past weekend had a wonderful end to seven consecutive months of writing. At many points during the process, I chided myself for attempting something so ill-advised as writing three books at once. Yet it was rewarding, because even though it was a bad idea, I have the satisfaction now of seeing it through. Turning that weighty page has taken some doing, but now I can finally let the ideas of all those other stories wash over me. And at least until I start on something else, I can live in a dream world where I could commit the energy required to finish all of them. The screen play, the stage play, the poems, submitting to agents, getting other manuscripts ready for publishers, the fantasy novel, the sci-fi novel, the fantasy-sci-fi novel. Doing nothing does afford one the luxury of the fantasy that one could do anything, everything.

And on the topic of good feelings, on the topic of doing things in a tardy fashion, I would like to give a shout out to someone. I wouldn't have known that she read this blog had she not cornered me in regards to the specific date and time of my book signing in September. I was stunned for a moment, and my brain did the math on how she could have possibly known the information that only a precious few did. Then I cheated and peeked over her shoulder and saw that she, of all people, was reading my blog. But then, if not her, then who?

For some perspective, let me just say that my first story had more pages than I had years, and it was about a giant jellyfish. Don't know why, nor do I have any idea what level or brand of radiation caused such an abomination of the sea. "I'm so proud of you," is what she said. It would be an oft-repeated phrase, even after she stopped understanding what I was writing about, or even why I was writing. And I've thanked her for a lot over the years (let me tell it) but to my recollection not once did I ever just vocalize my thanks over her being supportive of my pursuing something that is, well, vastly exhaustive, time-consuming, and not accompanied by the guarantee of commensurate earnings. It is perhaps the best definition of a fool's errand that I'm aware of. Yet she always tried to smile, which is a might more commendable than actually being able to, in my book(s).

So, given the possibility that this works out, let me not be the guy who only smiles graciously, waves excitedly, and cheers boisterously after the confetti rains down and the trumpets blare. Let me simply own up to the fact that it's badly timed, and hope that its belatedness makes it no less genuine.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Gree things

They say you never get a second chance at a first impression, but that's something I knew already. That premeditating how I will introduce myself isn't overly helpful is something I was not aware of. Good news is that I will likely get the chance to even screw it up, I guess. Locally, there's a yearly book fair with a "local prose stage," which I applied to be involved with, months back. I had to pen a crisp synopsis of 175 words, which proved difficult. I appreciated the challenge, though, and just the other day was accepted. At this point I have no idea what I'll be doing, and for how long, but a yes crowded in with all the no's feels pretty good.

Also, it seems like the book signing is a real possibility. I 'followed up' with the gentleman, which is an adult life skill I'm still trying to master, and it worked out. It was days after he said he would contact me, and he had already booked some of the dates in the month in question. I have the feeling that had I waited there would've been no room for me. He asked me about times in the evening versus afternoon, and gave me the available dates left on the calendar. I picked an evening toward the end of the week, so perhaps that's that. Between that and the book fair event, I just might have the opportunity to publicly embarrass myself and ruin good will. Or shine.

A friend from high school is a photographer, a not too shabby one at that. One of the things the book fair required I submit was a picture of myself. I went with something interesting in lieu of trying to send something that actually looked good (I chanced into a photo of myself grinding a rod iron fixture, goggles on, sparks flying). But it did remind me that I lack a head shot. You know the one, back of the book, or perhaps in the jacket, a black and white photograph of a woman or man looking thoughtful or dignified, composed or hilarious. I've never felt very photogenic, but I've learned that a major component of looking confident (and attractive) is acting confident. Still, at the mention of wardrobe changes and venue selections, I found myself quickly closing the window.

In other news, on more confident matters, the weekend's writing went well, as did the editing. I wasn't completely happy with the drafts, but I realized also that I rarely am. I am also looking forward to finally being done this weekend. It was a thorough undertaking, and I can't really say that I'm glad it's over, but it will be good to be under less stress. The idea I had on a new story has been bombarding my thoughts, and only this morning did I realize how much research and outlining it's going to take just to start it. It was a bit of a horrifying revelation at how these things grow inside of my mind, and how much energy they consume. I also signed up to judge the e-book competition for the organization I joined a few months ago, and got the first group of books I'm supposed to inspect. Naturally, I'm not allowed to talk about them, but all of that is to say I'll be keeping busy, a different kind of busy, after all these months of writing is finally done. I should also have the mental space to gird myself for more rejection as I try again to find and secure an agent.

Stand up straight; don't slouch. Shake hands firmly; speak with a full voice. Smile; don't show them your teeth.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A knowing nose

I guess it would be difficult to say that I'm back on track with a late blog. But in my country, yesterday was a holiday? Yeah... that seems like a weak excuse to me, too, especially since I didn't really do anything yesterday afternoon. Although, I did edit the three chapters written during the weekend and felt really good about them. Saturday and Sunday had the same kind of rhythm as yesterday and I deliberately took my time because I had it to take. I think strong finishes to novels are just as important as strong starts (not for getting published, but for the sake of the story being thoroughly good). So, while I can look forward to just two more weeks of writing, I'm going to press myself to take it slow, and make these first drafts read like seconds, or even thirds.

I had other reasons to feel good, too. A friend from years back whom I studied at a writing conference with got in touch with me (she was actually the only person whose contact information I went away with; if anything I've said makes me seem bad at networking now, you ought to have seen me several years ago). She had asked about including me in a journal she was doing a year or two ago, and that was the topic of conversation again. I can't remember what happened to the previous efforts, but sometimes life can knock us flat on our back, and for some of us that is a galvanizing experience. I responded to her staunch motivation with my own and sent her some things for consideration. We talked about the intervening years and where we were. I thanked her for thinking of me and she said "no, it was my pleasure. I knew you had things to say when we met, I just wasn't ready to hear all of them," which was really touching on account of her being a genius (you know the kind of person you delight in the respect of, and you try your hardest not to say anything stupid around them for fear of losing it). So that was that. It felt good to tell her about my work up on Fictionaut and how much I had gotten done since we'd last talked. I even forgot to mention the stuff I did for Bleacher Report.

Another comment I received was something to the effect of "you're always creating. It's like a faucet you can't turn off," which came after I told a friend about the latest story idea. This was the second person I'd told about the blended science fiction fantasy concept I had going (whoever is reading this would be the third). It brings to mind a conversation about convention I had with another friend. He had studied film, and mentioned to me that certain types of movies have things they're supposed to do. I, of course, had little to no idea of what he was talking about (I just figured a movie's only jobs were to be compelling and captivating), but it did make me wonder if I'm violating convention the way I write about the things I write about, and whether or not that's a productive habit. I got a similar comment from yet another friend about what I've decided to do with my twitter account, which is to say poetry. This friend seemed to imply that I had chosen my forum poorly. It seemed to me that that's what made it appropriate. The through line of all these comments seems to be that I'm some kind of crazy. Of course, my own comments about my friends might also imply that I have a lot of them. Sometimes, what one says isn't nearly as important as how one says it.

So that was this weekend. I'm happy with it, and appreciative for the extra day off. I'm looking forward to Fall vacation, which is to say the span of time between these books I'm writing and the next I will write. I actually want to take a break, and not just because I know the next project would suffer if I started it immediately. I wonder about the components of creative execution. One needs a faucet, a font of energy to be sure, but wouldn't one also need some agency to direct that flow, too, and a willing one at that? Not unlike the trunk of an elephant: motivated, it could spray all sorts of things in a variety of patterns, but fettered, it would just drip wastefully about the wise feet.