Finished or am I?

Last week, I finally finished my manuscript. I believe I started it January of last year, so I went through writing the first draft, letting it sit in a drawer the prerequisite time, followed by several rounds of edits until now, fifteen months later, I have a completed novel ready for submission.

Now comes the fun part (said no writer ever): writing a synopsis and the query letter, and doing research to find the right agent to fall in love with it.

I’ve already started a list of Literary Agents using Query Track and Agent Tracker and the Manuscript Wish List, hoping to find the right one that will fall in love with my novel.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, I need to finish the synopsis. I’m hip deep into the process of writing a detailed synopsis. A long one that delves into the characters’ motivations and feelings.

To do that, I have to have my manuscript open to page through it to keep the chronology correct. Despite having written and edited it, I don’t remember everything that goes on in the story, or when.

As I scroll through the document however, I’ve run into a problem.

No, I’m not finding errors or plot holes or any other issues I should have found in the edits.

My problem is, I CAN’T STOP WRITING!

I scroll to a new scene, add it to my synopsis, and then I start to read it and reading it leads to ADDING THINGS.

The story is finished. Done. Completed.

Yet I can’t stop that part of my mind that comes up with new ideas. The part that says, “Hey! I just thought of this and it’ll fit perfectly here!”

I’ll reply, “But we’re finished.”

The idea creating synapse just ignores me like I’m not even here and says, “Look. See?” *type type type* “Now it’s better.”

And I go, “Fine. Can I scroll to the next scene?”

Then I move forward, peruse the next scene, add it to the synopsis, and Idea Synapse reads it.

“Hey! I just thought of this and it’ll fit perfectly here!”

And I reply again, “But we’re finished.”

And Idea Synapse replies in a chilling, raspy whisper, “I’m never finished.”

*face palm*

Help me.

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A belated Writing Wednesday

Yes, I know it’s actually Thursday, but calling this Tachygraphy Thursday or even Teleautography Thursday don’t have the same ring as Writing Wednesday.

Anyway, I just wanted to share something that will demonstrate what a dope I can be while writing.

I’m closing in on the final edits. I’m down to the last 50 pages. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m finally nearing the finish line.

And then this happens:

If you recall, this is my urban fantasy fairy tale novel, so it has magic, gods, demons, faeries …

Oh! Speaking of faeries, the characters in the know — the ones familiar with the supernatural and cryotozoology — always call them faeries, spelled with the E. On the other hand, when mere mortals talk about them, with a smirk because they know they don’t exist, they say, fairies, with an I.

Will changing the spelling back and forth like that confuse the reader? Should I go with one common spelling?

OK, tangent over. The novel is filled with mythological beings and references to ancient historical sorcerers and philosophers, blah blah blah.

I’m at a point where my MC is being attacked by an Egyptian mythological creature and he has to remember a passage from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to save himself. As I’m editing, it suddenly occurs to me that the scene could use a humorous reference to why the MC would remember said passage in the first place. Therefore, I’m creating a short anecdote about how and why a certain ancient Egyptian magician/philosopher taught it to him.

But I don’t know the names of any ancient Egyptian magicians!

Now, instead of completing my edits so I can send it out to beta readers, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of research.

(A gasp can be heard in the audience.)

Yes. Research!

And it looks like finishing edits today isn’t going to happen.

Tomorrow doesn’t look so promising either.

Anyone have any names of ancient Egyptian philosophers/sorcerers/priests they could throw my way?

Otherwise, I’ll be making a run to the library on my lunch hour.

Thanks.

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Writing Wednesday

I think I’m just procrastinating now.

I heard someone say, “What? You, procrastinate?”

I know, right? It may come as a shock to you, but if you look up “procrastinator” in the Dictionary, they have my picture. It’s a recent addition. Merriam-Webster sent me a concent form asking permission decades ago, but I kept putting off signing it.

Where was I?

Oh, regarding my current WIP, I think I’m at the procrastination stage.

For me, that’s the stage that comes after the editing stage has been more than satisfied. It’s where everything I look for on my editing list to correct has been fixed and I’m reading and rereading the story and just changing words to change words.

For example, take the sentence, “We appeared in the middle of the street to the sounds of horns honking and drivers swearing.”

In one pass I’ll change street to road. In the next pass I’ll change road to boulevard. And on and on, ad infinitum.

It means I’m done but I’m putting off the next step, which is either sending it to some beta readers or writing the cover letter and synopsis and sending it all to literary agents.

Wait. Maybe avenue works better.

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Writing Wednesday

I’m nearing the finish line for my current work-in-progress.

I’ve gone through most of my list of things to watch out for and words that need to be replaced, like too many buts, passive voice, overused adverbs, and things like that.

Now I’m reading and rereading each scene for voice, flow, and continuity errors.

I’m also adding little bits here and there to add foreshadowing or give more depth to the characters’ personalities.

When I’m done, which might take another few weeks, I can spell check it one last time, then start in on the fun stuff.

By fun stuff, I mean the query letter and synopsis.

And by fun stuff, I mean excruciatingly painful torture.

Then, when those two pieces are presentable, and if they haven’t driven me mad, then comes the truly fun part: sending out the agent queries!

Whoohoo! The good times just keep on rollin’.

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Writing Wednesday with Chekhov’s gun

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” — Anton Chekhov, from an 1889 letter to playwright Aleksandr Semenovich

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” — from Gurlyand’s Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov

“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on a wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” — Anton Chekhov, quoted by S. Shchukin, Memoirs

Anton Chekhov’s oft-quoted piece of writing advice, often referred to simply as “Chekhov’s gun,” is a literary concept that means every element introduced in a story must be necessary to the plot or it is superfluous and should be removed.

In other words, you should remove all false guns from your writing. This applies not just to physical objects and characters, but irrelevant scenes that don’t advance the story, as well.

gw077-chekhovs_gun

I bring up Chekhov’s gun because as I was reading through my own manuscript, I found one. I missed it my first read-through, however, it must have made an impression upon my subconscious because while I was sitting enjoying a cup of coffee (Sumatra from CoffeeIcon. Yum!)j Saturday morning while watching an episode of Star Trek on BBC America, it popped into my head.

“The knife!”

I immediately wrote knife on a notepad and placed it on my computer to remind me.

“Well? What about the knife?” I hear you ask.

I’m getting to that. Patience, young grasshopper.

I have a scene in my manuscript where my MC, an expert in things occult, and his friend, who happens to be a captain with homicide of the local police department, are together investigating a recent gruesome murder scene when one of the investigating officers discovers an ancient obsidian knife.

The knife turns out to be evidence from an earlier murder that the MC believes was a human sacrifice in a ritual to summon a demon.

The MC takes a picture of the knife and sends it to an expert in early Mesoamerican civilizations, who is aiding the MC in the hunt for the demon, in the hopes that he can identify the artifact.

When I had introduced the knife, I had fully intended to have it serve as a significant clue and later my MC and his Mesoamerican expert would get together to discuss where the knife had originally come from.

One thought I had was the knife was an actual museum piece stolen from an Aztec museum somewhere Central or South America and it would help the police to finally identify the killer.

The thing is I never mentioned the knife again!

That’s right. I placed the knife there for the reader to see and then I completely forgot about it.

Now, however, all sorts of new scenarios are presenting themselves on how to make use of the knife, including, but not limited to, adding needed information to not only identify where the killer came from, but also to help develop the relationship between the MC and his police captain friend.

I did a quick Google search just now and found a cool Aztec ceremonial knife that would work, but unfortunately, that knife is held in the British Museum nor is it ancient enough, which means it won’t work in my story. Shame.

aztec ceremonial knife

I’ve got more research to do. Down the rabbit hole I go!

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Writing Wednesday

I finished the first draft go-through of my urban fantasy fairy tale I’ve been writing since February.

I must say, I still don’t hate it. (Although I do need to work on a great punch line ending.)

I still find it a very fun story. The characters all click for me. The love story, although it happens quickly over a period of only three or four days, doesn’t seem too rushed to me. But, what do I know? I have trouble with time relationships as part of my ADHD.

Sometimes I’ll think something happened a long, long time ago and someone will say, “That was just last week,” while other times I’ll run into someone and think I just saw them recently, but they’ll let me know its been months (often rather angrily if I had said I’d get back to them about something and I never did). “You sure it was 6 months ago?”

Sorry, went off on another tangent.

This first go-around I just read it for content to see if anything glaring jumped out at me. First thing I found was an entire section that said, “[fill in with more detail].” (I often use brackets to highlight things i need to go back and do.) So I did. One character’s eye color changed. I also found in the beginning I used the word faerie for both the creatures and as a term for a clan of faeries. And sometimes Faerie the clan was capitalized and other times not. Then, in the last quarter of the book, I started using the word fae, capitalized and uncapitalized, as the word for a faerie clan. I also spell the word faerie when characters who know about the supernatural refer to them and fairy when regular people talk about them. I wonder if that will confuse the reader?

Other than that, there weren’t any glaring continuity errors that I saw.

Now comes the fun edits. OK, I lied. These are the boring edits. Where I search for, then try to replace a series of words that need to be removed or rewritten.

For example, I’ve always had a big but problem. It seems to be part of my writing style, to write sentences in such a way that I have a but conjunction in far too many of them.

To me, but appears excessively, like at least once every paragraph. Maybe they don’t really, but it sure seems that way.

(Ok, I did a search. I have 465 buts in a 99,000 word novel contained within 3,649 paragraphs. Is that a but to paragraph ratio of 12%? How would I know? I’m a writer, not a mathemetician.)

Another thing I’ll search for are words ending in ly. Not that I am anti-adverb, like a lot of writing advice seems to be, mind you, after all, an adverb is just another spice in the writer’s spice rack. You can use it sparingly for effect or use it too often and it becomes overpowering. For myself, in some cases, a sentence can be rewritten better without the adverb. In other instances however, an adverb can work perfectly.

Next, I’ll look for observation or sense words (not sure what the actual writing term is, intransitive verbs?) like think, feel, see, seems, appears, and so on. These words point out an activity, instead of describing the sensation itself. The story is in first person and it isn’t necessary to say, “I feel …” something. I do need to describe what the MC is feeling. In other words, I need to show, and not tell.

In a related search, I’ll look for all the to be verbs. Was, have, can, could, would, etc. do have their place, but often these sentences can be rewritten to give the meaning more punch or immediacy. Many times these words indicate a sentence that is in passive voice instead of active voice.

And finally, I’ll search for crutch gestures, such as, “He shrugged,” “She raised an eyebrow,” “They laughed,” or “He smiled.” Filler phrases that are cliched cues about a character’s behavior and can become tedious with repetition if everyone’s heads are nodding and their eyes are winking. This is more show, don’t tell.

Here is a short tally of excessive words appearing in my novel:

  • But appears 465 times
  • Ly words appear 1,025 times
  • Was appears 1,708 times
  • See appears 347 times of which 47 are Seen
  • Look appears 297x
  • Have appears 452x
  • Can 314x, Could 352x, Tries 48x, Think 222x, Would 259x.

Do you think I’m obsessing over nothing?

After I’ve gone through my lists of Find and Replace words, then I’ll give it a very thorough read-through again.

Now I’ll take a few questions from the audience.

“When do you run the grammar checker?” I don’t. I will probably run the spell check when I’m nearly done to see if I introduced any errors during my edits, but I simply don’t trust most grammar checkers.

“What grammar books do you refer to most?” Usually Strunk and White’s Elements of Style before they added a third name to the title. Also English 2600: A Programmed Course in Grammar and Usage (I also have English 3200). I’ll reread S&W and English 2600 as a refresher before I do my final read-through.

The programmed course is interesting, starting off with a simple sentence like, “Birds fly” (What is the subject? Birds. What is the predicate? Fly.) and progressively getting more and more informative and difficult. I’ve relied on those books for almost 50 years.

“Do you read your writing out loud?” I do not. I understand why some authors do, because hearing the sentences helps them catch rhythm issues, like too many short sentences, or clunky sounding phrases that a writer may miss reading silently. But I have two reasons for not reading out loud. 1) I can’t stand the sound of my own voice. It’s also one reason I have never used a tape recorder to write with when pen and paper aren’t available. 2) I’m a horrible out loud reader. I think, for one thing, my tongue might be too big for my mouth, but beyond that, there’s a disconnect between my eyes and my mouth when I read. My eyes will be wandering a few words ahead while my mouth is still trying to comprehend the words previous, this making it sound like Yoda is reading it. I will also admit, I had to go to remedial reading classes when my elementary teachers discovered I had been faking my ability to read. I wasn’t reading phonetically, which was the thing then, I simply had a monstrous vocabulary and had all the most common words memorized.

Whatever the reason, I stumble and stammer when reading out loud, just as I always have, so there is no benefit to my reading out loud — everything sounds clunky, and in Yoda’s voice.

Somewhere around here is a blogpost of me reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” one Halloween several years back. It took me innumeral takes before I got it to where I thought it wasn’t too embarrassing to post. If it hadn’t been part of a challenge by fellow blogsters at the time, it never would have been posted, ir even recorded. My reading of it is atrocious. Find it and have a good laugh.

“Would you consider paying for a real editor?” No.

“When will you send it to beta readers?” I don’t know. The reason I packed away my trunk novel is despite several positive critiques, I received one particularly scathing critique that absolutely deflated me and I gave up writing for several years. Pretty sure I don’t want to go through that again.

“When will you start to write the synopsis and query letter?” Shut up. Never say those words to a writer unless you’re prepared for violence.

“When do you anticipate sending it to agents?” I don’t know. Looking at the calendar, I doubt I’ll make it before NaNoWriMo and I’d hate to start subbing it after, since that’s when all those NaNo-novels start filling up slush piles everywhere. So, most likely early 2018.

“Are you thinking of self-publishing?” Only as a last resort, after I’ve been rejected by every literary agent there is

And it looks like we’ve run out of time for further questions. Thank you all for your time.

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Wrap a wrap a wrap

A Friday Haiku

Another week gone

Where do they go? I don’t know

To join dryer socks?

Exercises come and go

If you’re anything like me (and if you are, I apologize), you tend to hate certain exercises and quickly get bored with others.

Running, I’m good to go, even if I sometimes take more days off between runs than I should; I still look forward to my runs and enjoy them (well, except for those first several minutes where you question your own sanity and wonder why you torture yourself so until the endorphins hit, the sun comes out, and the birds sing).

But other exercises I’ve always hated.

Stretching has always been my ultimate nemesis. I could neven touch my toes in grade school (and still can’t). So any stretching regimen I start ends quickly in pain and frustration. I don’t need such negativity in my life. I get it, I’m a failure at flexibility.

Push-ups are another. Loathe them. I don’t know what it is about them, but I really have to force myself to do them. Bench presses, on the other hand, I don’t mind and in fact, when I can feel the burn in my chest, shoulders, and triceps, I become motivated to do extra reps. But push-ups, I just collapse on the floor and give up.

Sit-ups and crunches I hate as well, and not because they sometimes hurt my back. I always need something to hook my feet under or I just sort of thrash away like a turtle on its back. In high school gym it was very embarrassing.

And that must be the reason for my dislike of certain exercises, there is some sort of psychological association with high school gym where all the other boys were towering over me, muscles rippling (think The Crusher from Bugs Bunny), and they could pound out dozens of push-ups, sit-ups, as well as the dreaded chin-up, and throw in an iron cross for good measure, while I’d struggle with my skinny spaghetti limbs trembling and flailing around, never accomplishing anything.

Now that I think about it, high school gym class was exactly like that for me.

Anyway, I meant to talk about how I start doing some exercises, but then quickly forget to do them, but I got off on a tangent on why I skipped gym all the time.

I was noticing a pain or weakness in my hamstrings and buttock the last few weeks when I step up onto something, like curbs or stairs.

Running was causing a strength imbalance and the stretches I attempted weren’t helping.

I realized I had gotten away from doing hamstring curls on my Weider Crossbow and doing rows on my CardioFit. I call them rows, but the machine is like the Tony Little Healthrider (see below).

These machines were all the rage back in the 80s, so I picked mine up at Sears after our stairstepper died (and Sears wouldn’t do anything so I wrote the CEO, then got a whiny letter from the store manager. “Why didn’t you contact me first?” Because I wanted you to squirm). The Healthrider seems more aerobic, with little resistance. My CardioFit has an adjustable piston to increase the resistence, making it more anerobic, although I’ve rarely dialed it past 2 (it goes up to a muscle- and joint-punishing 9).

Sorry, I did it again. The point is, after a week of this cross-training, my hamstrings feel much better.

And I apologize for taking forever to make that point.

Writing and editing and sex

I’d say I’m about 80 to 85% done with my first round of edits for my urban fantasy fairy tale.

This is the first time I’ve read it through. Strangely, I’m still very excited about it. That must mean it’s horrible.

Right now I’m editing for flow and continuity. I see where I called one character Bill, when his name is Benton. That’s what happens when you grab scenes from a trunk novel and don’t do a thorough read to catch things like that.

I’m back to a concern I mentioned several weeks or months ago about the relationship between two of the characters. They’ve known each other for less than a week and they’ve already fallen in love. Yes, I know such things happen in real life, if infrequently. And yes, I’ve read some urban fantasy romances and it seems the characters are jumping in the sack almost immediately. And therefore, I shouldn’t be that worried, but I am.

I’ve never written anything romantic before. I’ve never been concerned with the love lives of my characters. But beyond this being my first attempt at romance, its also my first attempt at writing a sex scene. To be honest, I haven’t even read very many sex scenes.

And this one has two so far. Scenes that, lacking any literary experience in the matter, I don’t know if they come off as hokie, or cliched, or downright boring.

I wonder if I should pass it to some beta readers to get outside reactions?

Weigh-In Friday

Despite only running on Monday, although I did do some weight training, and eating more than my fair share of my wife’s Dairy Queen ice cream birthday cake, my weight is down below 200 pounds at 199.7. Woot!

Designated Driver

For you couples out there, when you go somewhere together, who drives? The man or the woman?

I grew up in a time when men were the drivers and women were passengers.

Lately, I’ve been noticing more women driving with men as passengers and it still looks out of place to me.

Not for any sexist reasons; I certainly don’t believe gender innately makes someone a better or worse driver. Nor do I believe men are somehow ordained to rule over or control women.

In my case, I drive because for one thing, I get carsick as a passenger. For another, I drive my wife crazy because I don’t know what to do with myself as a passenger. I can’t read or play on my phone because of the motion sickness. So, I fidget, tap my feet, or drum my fingers, play with all the dials and switches, and constantly change the radio station. Being a passenger magnifies my ADHD.

So, very early in our relationship, my wife realized it was better for everyone all around if she let me drive.

Then she could read and play on her phone and ignore the fact that I wait until the very last second before applying the brakes.

Finally nearing the end

Since I spent most of this blog going off on attention deficit fueled tangents, I’ll spare you any political rants for the week.

TheRump is still an orange turd though. Never forget. Never normalize his hatred, bigotry, or incivility. Resist.

Enjoy your weekend. Here’s a song to send you off with:

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