Cleaning Up My Mess

Cleaning up my mess

Cleaning up my mess

NO PROBLEM, I GOT THIS
If I had a dollar for every time I rewrote or edited one of my novels before it went to press, I’d be sitting here like Scrooge McDuck counting my stacks of Gold Doubloons. I’m all about tidy perfectionism, particularly when it comes to stuff I put my name on. If three times is a charm, then three dozen assures spotless brilliance–right?

UM, WRONG
There’s a really good reason why even editors don’t edit their own work. Because when it comes to sentences we’ve raked over a bazillion times this side of Sunday, the brain has a quirky way of turning off the main switch when it comes to assessing the things it’s brought to life.

AVERTING A TRAGEDY
Although it’s been years now, I still recall certain early reviews heralding the release of my debut novel, The Secret of Lies–gorgeous and poetic–they arrived as if carried on the wings or angels. Golden morsels suddenly slamming to a jarring halt and leaning toward hostile when these same readers found themselves stumbling over typos and grammar homicide perpetrated by said author. Ouch. That stuff hurts, even more so since I myself was the boob providing the bullets for critics to load into their guns.

AND SO THE QUEST FOR THE HOLY GRAIL
Or, in writerly terms, the hunt for the editor you surely NEED to find because this essential pied piper of prettified prose isn’t you. Seriously. It isn’t.

EENY MEENY MINY MO
…is absolutely not the right way to go about finding the perfect word-mate to comb through your brilliant creation. Make no mistake, you’re not only making an investment in your career, you’re pursuing a relationship, in which case it seems something of a romantic approach is in order. Get out there and mingle. Saunter through cyberspace and stop in at a few online writer hangouts. Pull up a keyboard and join in the chit-chat. Note those voices which most resonate. Collect recommendations from starry-eyed writers madly in love with their editors. Make more notes–mentally or on paper–just make them.

ONE SIZE FITS ALL? NOT QUITE, CINDERELLA
If what you’re looking for is a set of eyes to align your p’s & q’s, and sort your “then and than’s,” your task might prove less complicated. But me, I’m a romantic with a hankering for truelove. In writer speak, it means pining for an editor with knowledge, chutzpah, confidence, wisdom, and of supreme importance–someone who connects with my scribbling. A courtship? Yep, pretty much.

SNAGGING A WORD SHARK
I now fast forward to introduce the winner of my own carefully versed Dating Game–tah dah *shoots confetti–reloads–double shot*–Karen Sanderson, The Word Shark.

BEWARE OF CHEAP IMITATIONS
Seriously, that’s it. Beware of cheap imitations.

ENTER THE WORD SHARK
Certainly there are oodles of noodles and mighty word slayers, so how to choose wisely, Indiana Jones? For me it was a definite series of clicks heard round the world–or at least loud and clear within the vicinity of my head.

Sample edit: concise, professional–CLICK. Initial and subsequent correspondence: honest, wise, generous, prompt, and oftentimes hilarious (bonus points considering my general buffoon tendencies)–CLICK.  Timely edit-in-progress updates to soothe my anxious soul–CLICK. Essential nit-picky comments leading me to prune and  fine-tune the clumsy, clanky, scratchy bits from my pile of pages–CLICK. Suggestions, immediate reactions and impressions of plot twists and character motivation, aka exposing junk masquerading as literature–double CLICK. And the grand finale, an editorial letter wrapping it all together–strengthens, weakness, applause–multiple CLICKS.

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED
Finished. My mess is now tidy and polished, and Painted From Memories is mere days away from release. The construction dust has settled and yet still here, lending support, cheerleading,  blowing-up balloons, ready to uncork the champagne, is my wildly cool new editor and aforementioned Word Shark. A gifted word whisperer who continues to step above and beyond–and then–beyond beyond.  Long term keeper–CLICK.

 

And you, what cha thinking? Have you found your dream editor? On the hunt for the perfect fit? Still wondering if you really even need one?

 

 

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So, As I Was Saying…

  …Okay, So…To Continue

as i was saying

Alright, alright, fine. Yeah okay, so I’m bluffing. As if you could be so easily tricked. But I just thought maybe if I tip-toed in here quietly, brushed of the dust and slid up to my keyboard, no one would be the wiser. But that’s one of the things I love and  most missed about you–your Solomon-like wisdom–and the no-way, fat-chance, of you being so easily fooled by a long-time absent buffoon.

Lost In Translation, Wandering the Sahara, Trapped in a Cave

You can bet any of those overwrought  glitches strike me as a whole lot easier to surmount than attempts to pick-up the threads of my misplaced blogging mojo. Make no mistake, I’ve been writing some truly genius and unforgettable posts in my head (where all things scream of perfection until they come out and land on paper or blank screen) but, yeah, that doesn’t count for much unless you happen to be the Long Island Medium and you’re sitting next to me on the couch.

Channeling Stella…

and wondering just how she got her groove back.

But, But, But

We live in a world of excuses. Everyone has them, some legit, many most just a pile of baloney. For this reason I’ll spare you mine. They’re not all that intriguing or unusual after all. Just my own stuff. (Cuing Hubby’s voice and one of his favorite hugely annoying when repeated one time to many quotes, “We don’t want excuses, we want results.” Yeah, that.

Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead

So minus the excuses and getting straight to the results; the treatment went very well (not mine), the operation was a success and the recovery fairly smooth (again, not mine), college selection nearly confirmed (child #4), grand opening scheduled for March (child #2), the diagnosis allows for a certain amount of confident optimism (you know who you are), and book number is heading into the home stretch (mine) (Spit-shine and polish coming up, thank you and amen for an awesomely answered prayer that goes by the name of, Word Shark, Karen Sanderson!)

Full Plate, Yes–Multi-Tasking Skills, Nada

I know who you are, I see you juggling a half-dozen dramas with one hand, arm tied behind your back, neck in a brace, and one leg in quicksand. I aspire to be you, but when it comes to emotional, personal, real life stuff, I’m still a klutz with the baton. I need seven hands to juggle two pins, and even then there’s a good chance something’s getting dropped.

And All This Time You Were Thinking I Just Ran Out of Stuff To Say

How amusing that you’d ever assume such a thing (or maybe just hoping), but no, my blog motor, though idling for a while, is still running. One of my New Year resolutions was to sweep the cobwebs from my blog and get back on track. January 1– February 19. Not too bad. Considering.

Meanwhile On Your Side of the Fence

So that’s me, but what, pray tell, have you been up to? Would love you to share your milestones, achievements, aspirations, and tidbits. Come on then, toot your horn, we’re all listening.man with balloons

MY MIND ON A SHELF

“These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but MINDS alive on the shelves”

Gilbert Highet 1906-1978
Teacher & Scholar

I am not familiar with Gilbert Highet, but his words are immortalized on a bronze plaque outside the public library in Baltimore Maryland.  I’ve read and reread this single line  inasmuch as it speaks volumes to my writers heart, particularly when I am struggling to compose that perfect sentence or Frankenstein design the endearing or imperfect character persistently struggling to stear me into their story. Despite all there years of writing, the actual process is something I find impossible to explain let alone understand. Somehow, to say that it “just happens” comes across as something of an insincere cop-out, and yet that’s pretty much the truth as it applies to my own experience with words.

Which isn’t to say that it’s easy.

It sometimes never happens that a perfect chorus of words will tango across the page with the poise and grace of a winning contestant on Dancing with the Stars.  Yet just as often, it’s a matter of strapping on a headlamp and heading in to excavate  the treasure that’s right over there behind that mammoth pile of boulders.  And you keep at it with heart and diligence, until all at once–total darkness–the vivid path of illumination unceremoniously extinguished when the bulb burns out.

FORK IN THE ROAD PIE

Even then you can’t allow yourself to cave to temporary obstacles or turn-tail from the illusion of a bottomless crevasse. Okay, so take a moment to hoist the white flag and head to the kitchen for a medicinal slice of conciliatory pie (although you’ve been writing  not baking, so it’s likely there is no pie.), but only a moment.   You’ve learned the essential importance of holding on by now. Your creative mind hasn’t taken a powder, left the building, or fallen into something scary and bottomless.  You know that if you stay in your chair, even if only to doodle in the margins, the tiniest speck of an idea will spark and then somehow–whether consciously fueled or not–will quaver and persistently swell to rekindle the fire. And I am never anything less than awed and amazed when the dust of creativity finally settles and a finished manuscript rests in my hands.  Not that I understand how it works.  I just know it does, not easily, but it does.

THE END (NOT!)

It takes me at least a year forever  to finish the first draft of a novel– not a 700 page Stephen King size tome, but compositions half their size,  between 350-375 pages. Then comes the editing–another year of rewriting, rewriting, disgust, agony, despair…and only then does it begin to look like something connected to the vision that first caught my attentions. I marvel over writers who produce a masterpiece in the space of a few months–or incredibly, weeks. How that works I can’t imagine.  I can only assume it”s because my mind is set at 33 where others are steady at 78.

Still, I’ve come to accept bemoan my slower pace as necessary for me. I am after all an obsessive compulsive editing machine. I hack, slash, and burn until I can see the words coming to life and feel my characters breathing on the page, and for me that takes some time.  The reward for my efforts, a cross-my-fingers-confidence that my work is pruned, polished and ready to stand right up there in the shadow of the big boys.

Except when it’s not.  And editing resumes.  Because it is my mind after all–quiet, hopeful, earnest–there on the shelf.  My story. My characters. My truth. Me.

I’ve always had something of a problem with the adage that so often accompanies rejection or bad reviews.  I assume it’s intended to soften the blow: “It’s not you that being rejected or disliked torn asunder by the roots, just your writing.”  Agree? Can/do you separate your personal self from your words?

The Octopus Knows- Round Robin #8

The Octopus Knows – Part 8

And so here it is my turn to write an installment of the progressive story, The Octopus Knows, originally conceived and created by the always inventive, Laird Sapir. I admit it’s a wee bit intimidating to contemplate this increasingly sticky predicament that Ninja and Simon now find themselves in, and I can only hope my writing brain kicks in to nudge our conflicted heroes in the right direction.  After seven very creative installments to-date, the most recent by Ellen Gregory (links to all installments can be found on Laird’s round robin page) we find the heinously kidnapped Ninja being held hostage in a whirlpool tub, and Simon foolishly fishing in his unflushed toilet with his toothbrush in order to recover the card containing the address of  Braden–aka Ninja’s unscrupulous kidnapper.

As we left off:

A minute later, staring at the soggy card covered with illegible watery blue ink, Simon reflected this wasn’t his finest hour. The address couldn’t be read, his wand was in the toilet, Braden had Ninja and Mr Jones was on his way to claim him.

For the first time in over a year, Simon’s immediate inclination isn’t to eat something; although it’s possible that his reluctance to self medicate with a fistful of Oreos has less to do with any sense of renewed discipline, as it relates to the distasteful condition of the card he now held in his hand.

He dropped the paper to the floor and gently laid the wand in the sink before turning the handle on the faucet to the far left–watching as the water gushed warm, then hot, over the wand.

Okay,so maybe this was it.  This was what it felt like to hit the wall at full force. He’d spent the entire past year overeating in an attempt to forget, and yet an expanding waistline had done little to dim the pain. Nothing had changed, and now Jones was back in town, towing  Marguerite like a shipwreck that gravity should’ve sunk long ago.  No question, that dame was resilient. She had no qualms about baring her fangs when cornered, and yet, in a strange way, Simon thought he might even admire her tenacity.  He wished he could say the same about himself.  But instead he’d gone soft. Traded his soul for a Twinkie.

The truth was that whatever Braden had written on the card didn’t matter. Simon knew where to find Ninja–the very place he’d long promised himself to never return. What’s more, whether he liked it or not–and he sure as hell didn’t–he somehow had to stuff himself back into those damned pants or otherwise risk losing Ninga.

And the bag–he needed to grab the bag from where he’d stashed it at the back of the refrigerator behind the gracefully molding cheese, praying hard and fast that the meticulously wrapped package inside hadn’t expired.

Steam now billowed up from the sink and with a hard twist on the faucet handle, Simon shut off the water and grabbed the wand from the sink.  He didn’t have much time and every instant was crucial. His fingers quivered like jello on bone as he attempted to handle the wand with essential care–turning the still hot tip in his fingers as he unscrewed it from the shaft.  Separating the two sections, he slid the slender glass vile encased inside into his palm. And he didn’t stop to consider risk or consequence as he popped off the lid and upended the contents onto his tongue.

Far off,  on the other end of town, Ninja’s eyes blinked open as the water in the tub all at once began churning, rolling, sloshing wildly.  A high pitched girlish scream that could only be Braden, broke loose beyond the closed bathroom door.  

With all eight tentacles reaching to grasp the edge of the tub, Ninja held tight to keep from being pitched onto the tile floor.  And if he’d had a set of lips instead of a beak he would’ve smiled.  He almost couldn’t believe it.  At long last it looked like his boy Simon had grown a set.  High time to lock and load, baby …

To be continued…

And now I respectfully pass the keyboard to Carrie Dawes 😀  Stay tuned!

Lucky 7

HIGH ROLLING LUCKY  SEVEN

The always fabulous Tami Clayton has tagged me in the writing game, “The Lucky 7 Meme.”

Thanks Tami!

Lucky 7 Meme

These are the rules–because of course there are rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors, and let them know.

So this is my pg.77, line 7 — next 7 lines, from the bajillionth draft of my current work in progress, a Mainstream Literary novel with some really long sentences:

Incredible!  There it is.  Right in front of her.
Her legs peddle fast and furious, twin beaters churning the air, ancient rubber tires slapping the uneven pavement in complaint, her insides rolling and crashing like waves as she closes the distance.  Someone is shouting—then a woman’s high-pitched wail—the hysterical squall going on and on until all at once obliterated by the approaching fire engines careened across town from the station several blocks away.  The steady bleat of sirens cracking open the night and swallowing every other sound.
Willa drops the bicycle on its side, not caring where it falls; her feet dragging lead as she moves closer, eyes wide and staring in an attempt to fully absorb this terrible thing she sees.

 

And now, quick, while they’re not looking, this is me tagging the next Lucky 7:

DB Smith

Sheri De Grom

Catherine Margaret Johnson

Richard Monro

Marian Pearson Stevens

SJ Driscoll

Helen McMullin

Okay, fellow scribes, show us your 77, 7, 7 😀  (Keep in mind, if your not up to page 77 and you still want to play, you can use page 7 for your 7 lines.)

Once Upon a Time

There are any number of reasons why we choose the books that will land on our reading piles.  Personally, I love first lines.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night …

A great first line doesn’t guarantee that what follows will be a a great book, but it does make me optimistic. And although I’ve never actually bought a book because of an intriguing opening sentence, it helps.  A lot.  Because if I find myself intrigued by those very first words an author puts on the page, then I’m likely to read the first paragraph. Hum…still good?  Okay, now I’m in for at least another couple pages, at which point I’m most often ready to make the commitment as to whether said book is coming home with me, or maybe going into my online shopping cart for later.

NOT SO SIMPLE

“We can’t believe the house is on fire.”  That first line, from the novel, In Zanesville, caught my interest. (The second line is even better-It’s so embarassing first of all, and so dangerous second of all.)  It was enough to get me reading further, and then to buy the book. For an author, that’s pretty much the plan.

Yes, you’re absolutely right, a genius opening  line can go bad soon enough if the story falls apart at any point beyond that gorgeous First Line. But that’s a topic for another post. The focus here is the grand attempt to grow a beautiful garden from that first planted seed. It’s about a first line that catches attention and holds on. A line that at it’s best, intrigues, raises curiosity, sets  a mood, or is just quirky or odd enough that it’s impossible to resist.

MAKE IT MEMORABLE

 “Call me Ishmael,” sometimes we even know the first line better than the rest of the book. (Yes, yes, I know, something about a whale.)  For a reader, that’s the stuff that will help you win at Trivial Pursuit, but for a writer the goal is more about creating a story and characters that are recalled long after the last page is turned. And a stellar opening, is or course, pretty much the place to get it all started.

A PEEK INTO YOUR NOTEBOOK

This is the opening of my debut novel:   “Maybe it’s the raw brilliance of the pale white moon suspended in a hard black sky that somehow makes everything about this night feel harsher”.   The Secret of Lies

This from my current WIP: Sometimes just looking at him breaks my heart.”   Untiltled

Okay, your turn. What’da’ya got? Come on, lets see your stuff ! If not your own, than something from the tip of someone else’s pen that you just happen to love like crazy.