Snow Days, Deadlines, and Editing Madness

Last week, it snowed.  A lot.  Winter finally decided to really make an appearance.  Which is awesome.  I love the snow and we certainly need the water.  But, all that snow isn’t great for getting any editing and writing done.

Schools were closed for four days, and the smallish bi-pedal beings (and the one that is now taller than me!) were stuck at home.  And I can’t seem to get much work done when I don’t have the space to myself.

We survived being home bound and school went back to normal this week.  In order to get my head back in the game, I committed to another deadline.  It’s still got some holes, but I’ll be sending The Compass Code, draft three, to a couple of beta readers this weekend.   Which is exciting, but extremely nerve-wracking too.

In order to get the draft ready to share, I’ve been editing like mad.  I’ve also given a lot of time to learning different techniques for self-editing and improving my craft.  Much to my surprise, this has been a lot of fun.  Maybe after all these years with this project, I’ve just gone mad.

If so, it’s worth it.  I think.

Anyway, in my quest to polish my writing, I stumbled across a couple really helpful podcasts I want to share.  They are The Book Editor Show and The Writership Podcast.  If you’re looking for some great tips on editing your own work, check them out.

And so, back to the editing madness I go.

In With The New

As most of my readers know, I’ve been writing a novel for like, FOREVER, and had hoped to have it published by now.  That obviously hasn’t happened, but I’m 45,000 words into a third draft, and I’m feeling confident it will be ready for publishing early in the new year.  I promise to post some excerpts soon.  It’s been difficult to choose things I can post that don’t present too much of a spoiler problem, but I’ll find something.

I want to thank all of you readers for sticking with my little blogs.  My posting has been pretty sporadic this year, especially on Seeking Redress, but views have remained steady, so thanks to you all for stopping by.  I intend to be more active here in 2019 and I hope you’ll continue to join me.

Here’s to a good New Year, one that brings peace to our world.

Happy Hal-idays!

It looks like I’ll have a white Christmas tomorrow as snow fell hard today, covering the dirt piles, rebar, and concrete blankets in our construction-zone yard.  It hasn’t felt like Christmas here yet as we haven’t had a tree up until today and very few decorations out.  This December has been even busier than usual, but the snow brought with it a peace and calm, and finally, finally, I feel ready for tomorrow.  But, once again, I didn’t plan ahead to prepare any sort of holiday post full of cheer and goodwill.  Of course, I don’t usually write much cheer and goodwill, that doesn’t quite fit the genre.

War, torture, assassinations, arms trafficking, organized crime, child abuse:  these are the dark, difficult subjects I usually write about.  I write about them because it gives voice to the anger they fuel in me.  But spending so much time steeped in research and writing about such things requires that I also nurture a healthy sense of humor for the sake of my sanity.

My favorite writing buddies, my sisters, help me out with that a lot.  Awhile back, we got started laughing over a name.  I asked them to help me name a character in my novel who is an actor playing a detective in a hot new prime time cop show, and one of the first suggestions was Hal.  Which really made me laugh.  It also resulted in a series of back-and-forth messages between me and my sisters, heckling each other and cracking puns using the name Hal.  In the end, the challenge was made to name a character Hal in each of our works in progress.  (Yes, there is now a Hal in The Compass Code, but I doubt every reader will find him.)

This challenge resulted in me writing a silly scene that has no place in my novel, but does involve some of my characters.  I call it The Hal Scene.  I don’t generally find it useful to utilize writing exercises or prompts to write scenes that will never be part of my novel or it’s immense back story.  I’ve always found that to be a frustrating endeavor.  It feels like wasted time to me.  I want to write what I’m going to use.  But, once in a while, I’ll get an inspiration, and I just have to “waste” the time it takes to put the words down on the page.  The Hal scene is one such moment.

Since it’s Christmas, and because I’m well into a third draft of The Compass Code (with chapters!), and because I’ve never shared any of my fictional work outside of a small group of people and I have to get over the fear, I’ve decided to share The Hal Scene with my readers.  Just for fun.

I have to warn though, this scene does not reflect the tone of The Compass Code at all.  I didn’t write this scene with any intention of ever plugging it into the novel.  I wrote it to make myself and my sisters laugh.  So, dear readers of this post, please don’t expect so much humor from my novel, because the novel really is about war, assassinations, torture, etc.

It’s said that laughter is the best medicine, and I believe it.  So, I hope this silly scene brings some smiles and laughs to my readers this holiday season.  May the Christmas holiday and the New Year bring you much laughter, joy and peace.

So, without further ado…

(Except, please note, this post contains adult language.)

The Hal Scene

              Seth Miller burst into the barracks whooping and yelling, startling everyone awake.  It was so early it was still dark outside and several of the men threw pillows at him as he danced a jig between the bunks.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, man?  You wasted?”  Turner growled.

“It’s a boy!” Seth yelled.  “I knew it.  It’s a boy!”

With that, none of them could resist his unbridled joy and he ran around the room giving high fives and fist bumps while they all congratulated him.  Bulldog jumped from his bunk and grabbed Seth into a bear hug.

“That’s great, man,” he said as he released Seth.  “You guys are so blessed.”

Jack offered his fist, and Seth cracked his own against it.  Turner rolled out of his bunk grudgingly, and put an arm around Seth’s shoulders while clapping him on the back.

“Way to go, Daddy-o.”

Since they would have to be up shortly anyway, they got dressed and ready for their morning run.  When the men found Lt Davies and Sgt Rodriguez, Seth shared his news again.  His excitement energized the team as they took off running.

“You guys name him yet?” Bulldog asked.

“We haven’t talked about names yet.”

“What?  Man, you gotta think about this now.  This is a huge responsibility, dude.  This kid’s gotta live his entire life with whatever you pick!”

“Shit, man, this is too much responsibility for Lite-beer here,” Turner said.  “We better come up with something to help him out.”

“Name him Tyler,” Lt Davies called out.  “It’s a good, strong name.”

“No way.  If you’re gonna name him after the L-tee, name him Davy,” Rodriguez suggested.  “Now that’s a good strong name, like Davy Crockett.”

“Nah, name him Phil,” Turner said.

“Dude, are you kidding me?”  Rodriguez shot back.  “Juan.  Now that’s a name.”

“Call him Jaime,” Jack said.  “Jaime will love it.”

The suggestions kept coming as they finished their run in the growing morning light.  When they hit the range, they didn’t stop, each trying to out-do the others as they took turns pulling the trigger.

“How ’bout Clint?” Turner asked as he squeezed his trigger.

“Edward.”

“Robert.”

“Lance.”

Down the line it went until it was Bulldog’s turn to take aim.  Everyone waited with anticipation as he had yet to suggest a single name.  He savored the moment, taking a couple deep breaths before easing the trigger back.  The bullet pinged against the target and Bulldog turned to the group with a triumphant smile.

“Hal,” he said.

“What?” they all cried.

“What the Hal kind of name is that, man?”

“Oh, Hal no!”

“What?  It’s a great name,” Bulldog protested in a serious tone.  “It’s short for Harold, man.  Means power, a leader, a ruler.  Dude, come on!”

They were all silent for a moment, staring at Bulldog with surprise at his earnest expression, before bursting with peals of laughter.

“You need Hal-p, man.”

“It was my Grandpa’s name.  He was one tough dude.”

“No doubt.  With a name like that, he’d have to be.”

“Yeah, y’all are real funny,” Bulldog grumbled.

“Hal-arious,” Jack said, a sly grin on his face, before pulling the trigger.

*******

Happy Hal-idays!

Wait…What Chapters?

I’ve read many, many books.  All sorts of books.  Nonfiction, text books, novels from a huge variety of genres…and almost all of those books had one thing in common.  Chapters.  As I am finally approaching The End for The Compass Code, the idea of chapters is weighing heavily on my mind, because my novel doesn’t currently have any.

[chap-ter]

noun

  1. a main division of a book, treatise, or the like, usually bearing a number or a title.

Another November has come and gone.  I avoided NanoWrimo again this year, but I didn’t avoid writing.  My kids and I made a wager that if I didn’t finish a second draft of The Compass Code, they would get to choose the dinner menu for a week.  Think ice cream and bad pizza for seven days straight.  Gross.  So, I was motivated.

I made a list of over 30 missing scenes.  I wrote the last missing scene from the list on November 30th.  It took just over 36 minutes to print the 540 pages of a PDF of my second draft.  It took six years and the threat of a week of ice cream and bad pizza for dinner for me to finally figure out how to finish a novel.  Now, I have to figure out how to make it look like a novel—with chapters.

I like making lists.  I like making timelines for my characters.  I like writing down ideas and connecting them to each other with lines.  It’s fun to play around with my writing in visual ways.  But outlining?  Oh, heck no!  That’s work, not fun.  That’s organizing, not playing around with ideas.

Breaking this novel into chapters feels like outlining.  It feels like an impossible task.  It’s work, and it’s hard.  Bleh.  I know I’m not going to get it right the first time.  (Yay for beta readers!)  But somehow, I’ve got to find those chapters.

I have a lot of short scenes following multiple narratives in the beginning of the book and I’m struggling to decide how to organize them so they don’t get confusing.  Add to that, I’ve never even thought about the average length of chapters, or how many there should be, or how many scenes should be in a chapter… just how does one take all of the little pieces and construct a novel?

I found some helpful resources online, like this one.  I read through the entire draft and tried to visualize chapter breaks.  I set up a new draft project in Scrivener, and created the first three chapters, hoping to provoke some optimistic inspiration.   I’m still feeling intimidated.  But, this story has come too far to give up now.  So, it’s on to draft three—and the very epic struggle to create chapters.

I guess I need to figure out what sort of wager with the kids will help me get through another round of editing by the end of December!

Why Do You Write Your Stupid Story?

Slogging Through the Summer Slump

“Why do you have to write your stupid story, Mom?”

My child asked me this question in the car yesterday as we left the grocery store parking lot.  I didn’t take the stupid bit personally.  After all, my children aren’t allowed to read my story so I don’t think they’re qualified to judge its quality.

I think the sentiment behind the comment has more to do with a frustration that Mom spends so much time on the computer these days.  A sentiment we all share.  And that’s something that keeps a constant hum of guilt in my mind all the time.  Summer break amplifies that hum to a roar.

As I wrangle with the excruciating task of editing, the kids want adventure.  More adventure than can be found in our own back yard.  And food, constant food.  I struggle to keep my head in my story while they argue over one of thousands of Legos.  I find my patience waning and my temper shortening till my responses to their constant needs get snappy.   The guilt grows unbearable and I finally give up and push the story aside for several days in a row (or a week).

I have no idea how parents of young children have ever finished a book in the history of mankind.

When I return to the story after however many days I have spent appeasing my guilt and giving in to all the distraction, I feel as though I lose an entire working session figuring out where I was headed when I pushed the story aside.  Knowing this, it often becomes easier to just go another day without writing, and then another, and so on…and this project remains neglected.  Cue more guilt.

I’m sure none of this is conducive to creativity.  It certainly hasn’t been for mine.  My new draft languishes at nearly 50,000 words as summer heats up and pool maintenance joins the ranks of attention demanding distractions.  (Confession:  I actually really enjoy pool maintenance.  It’s a sanity-saving endeavor for me, like gardening, or meditating.)

Just like the pool, balance is key.  I know this, of course.  But, a month into summer break and I still haven’t found that balance.  Maybe I won’t all summer and maybe the answer is finding peace with that.  Because this story will get finished.  I’m not giving up yet.

When the question spilled out of my child in the car, I considered letting it go unanswered.  I could just turn the volume up on the stereo and silently sulk in my guilt.  It seemed much easier than explaining why I write to anyone, let alone my kids.  But, in the end, I settled on a simple and honest response.

“Maybe it is stupid, but when you have a dream, you have to do it.”

 

Deadline Time

I’ve spent so much time wrapped up in my imaginary world lately and it’s really hard to switch back and deal with reality.  I just want to stay in my imagination 24/7 till I get this book done.  It would be nice if I could just hole up in an isolated cabin somewhere for a couple of weeks of uninterrupted writing.  Sadly, that’s not an option.

All this straining of my brain to make stuff up has left my blog world a bit neglected and quiet lately.  So, I figured a short update was warranted.  I’m still writing.  After the big snip, my draft has recovered back up to a little over 72K words.  My characters are wreaking havoc and plotting evil deeds.  Exciting times.

And so…

It’s also deadline time.  I’ve been kicking myself every time I see the news lately for not having finished this novel a year ago.  Since all that self-kicking is exhausting, I have finally decided to force a deadline upon myself.  I’m not sure I’ll make it, and if I do, the result will be beyond rough.  It’ll still need a lot of work.  But, I’m gonna try to find my way to The End for The Compass Code by March 31st.

Hold me to it.

The Daily Struggle

Struggling.  Really struggling here.  Writing scenes that involve a reporter and law enforcement sources and all this enormous conspiracy is not easy.  Nope.  Not one bit.

But, I have set the goal to write every day.  And to finish this novel.  So, I keep vomiting ridiculously terrible strings of uninterrupted dialogue and other pathetic-ness onto the page.  All the while asking myself, is this just a huge waste of time?  Oh, and whyyyyy?!

First, I whine to the dog, or the cat, or both of them.  The usual response…

DSC_1887DSC_2340

Full of helpful tips, they are.

Sometimes, I go for a walk, or a bike ride, or something, in hopes of getting the blood flowing to my under-performing brain.  Unfortunately, no little house troll ever comes along to finish my scene while I’m gone.  In fact, I think one comes along to make the already terrible trash I’ve written even worse because I don’t remember it being that bad!

So, I move on to complain of my inability to write anything but complete garbage to my more helpful writing buddies, my sisters.  As usual, they have an answer for me.  And, as usual, it isn’t what I want to hear.  (Just kidding, for dramatic effect.)

Anyhow, my big Sis, being very wise, said the other day, “just keep writing.”  Just keep writing.  So simple.  And yet, sometimes, it’s agony.  Incredibly stupid, terrible, vomit-spewing, one-sentence-a-day, garbage agony.  But, just keep writing.  Somewhere in that dump is a gem, an idea, a thread that can be worked with to weave an epic scene.

Put on a hat so as to avoid pulling out hair, and just keep writing…

Goals

It’s that time again when people start talking about goals, and resolutions for the new year.  I’m not really a New Year’s resolution sort of person but I always have aspirations.  I’ve never really felt the need to write about them, I figure my goals don’t matter to anyone but me.  But this year, I’ve decided to write about them in hopes it will be an added push to achieve them.  (And because one goal is to write every day, and this was an easy thing to write about, hahaha).

Goals.  I’ve got some.  A lot, actually.  And some of them even involve my writing career.  2018 might just be the year I accomplish some of the bigger, more important ones.  That is an exciting, but also intimidating, possibility.  It isn’t going to be easy.

It’s possible that one non-writing goal will result in a lot of disruption in my routine over the course of this year as the family embarks (hopefully) on some significant home improvement projects.  However, I’m determined to keep a strong focus on writing daily no matter how chaotic it gets around here.

I’ve said it for a few years (I know, I know, who’s gonna believe me now?), but this is the year I will finish The Compass Code.  It’s nearly time to start hunting for a beta reader or two, and an editor.  Along with finishing it and getting it (and myself) ready for its debut, I’ve got a lot to learn about self-publishing.  And, I need to work on that oh-so-important blurb for the book, a task I’m dreading.  Oh yeah, and that cover design, and…and….  The entire process of self-publishing often feels so overwhelming.  I sometimes suspect I procrastinate on finishing the novel to avoid all of it!  But no more.  Watch for a few teasers and “deleted scenes” that I’ll be posting here soon.

Another goal is to get my little orange van back on the road.  Yes, this is actually a writing related goal.  She plays a starring role in my other, mostly finished novel, and I need a photo for the book cover.  I’ve got a location in mind for the photo shoot, and it’s not the back yard. That means a road trip!  So, she needs some tires, and some other, engine-ey sort of things.  Don’t get me wrong, the van runs, or she did, many years ago when she went into semi-retirement.  Marmie’s never let me down though, so I have faith.  Along with her journey onto the road again, I plan to spend some time on Volkswagen Summer this year, and hopefully get it ready for publishing as well.  (If you want to follow my little orange van’s progress, find me on Instagram.  I tag pictures of the van with #Marmie, #littleorangevan, and #VWsummer).

I have long wanted to commit to a set number of blog posts published each month on Seeking Redress and on here.  I’m still hesitant to do so though, since Compass and VW Summer are my biggest writing priorities.  I don’t know if it will happen this year, but I’m going to try.

I’m excited to dive into 2018.  There is no way to know what the world has in store for us this year, and I watch events unfold with some unease.  But, in my own small part of the world, I intend to do what I can to make it a better place.  Happy New Year everyone, and here’s to accomplishing our goals!

 

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

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What’s This All About, Anyway?

Well, I’ve been sitting on this sadly empty blog for some time now, so I thought maybe this would be a good time to finally write a post.  You know, to introduce myself, or something.  To explain just what this blog is all about.

There’s just something about November, I guess.  Normally, I would be participating in NanoWrimo this month, but I took this year off.  I’ll get to that.  It was this event, and my lovely, talented, and highly persuasive sisters, that finally convinced me to take up something I’ve always loved.  Writing.  In November 2010, I set off on my first Nano journey.  I wrote what is essentially a completed draft of a part autobiographical, part fictional adventure titled, Volkswagen Summer.  After the month ended, the draft was left to languish deep in the files, where it remains today.  I’ll get back to it eventually.

In November 2013, I started a new project.  It has gone through several titles and many, many different plots in the years since, to emerge now, nearly finished, as The Compass Code.  And that is why I am not participating in NanoWrimo this year.  That is why this blog has sat here empty for so long.  My main focus is finishing a first draft of this novel, and it’s so close.  After years of writing scene after scene of an almost entirely character driven story, I finally have a solid feel of the full plot behind it all.  So, yay!  Maybe I can start sleeping better again.  (Ha ha.)

Two years and three days ago, I started blogging at Seeking Redress, where I get into politics, news, and war.  November seemed a fitting time to publish the first non-fiction piece I had written in years, for Veterans Day.  I still post to Seeking Redress, sometimes frequently, sometimes not.  Those posts are always linked to here, in case you want to check them out.  However, on this blog, my focus is more on the art (agonizing, torturous, insanity driven process) of writing.

So, I’ll post all the ‘other’ stuff that just doesn’t fit at Seeking Redress.  Short stories, rants, lessons I’ve learned on writing and life, whatever.  Of course, I’ll be posting updates on my novel, maybe even some short clips and deleted scenes, as I get closer to publishing.  I hope you will join me once in a while.

If you’re so inclined, join me on social media too.  I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  You can read my short bio here.