Hurts So Good: Back On the Horse Again

This last week, I got my first rejection in too many months, and I gotta say–despite the initial twinge of “awww…”–it’s a great feeling. I’d forgotten how awesome it feels to submit short fiction to the elusive and exclusive fiction magazine markets. Even rejection, to some degree, feel fantastic, if only because it’s sure and quantifiable proof that I’m out there and trying again. 

My submission last week was a bit of a long-shot, but I’ve gotten some nice rejections from them in the past, so there was still a teeny little part of me that was hoping for a pleasant surprise. Waking up to a rejection ain’t much fun. Thankfully, the pinprick of disappointment passed quickly (though that said, there’s still some small part of me that cringes at the under 24 hour turn-around time). Ah, the miracles of e-submission. It’s a cruelly efficient beast. 

But one good thing (pseudo good, I suppose), is that the swiftness of the response highlighted for the writer-side of me something the editor-side had been quietly nudging about for the past few weeks. The first paragraph needs to be snappier. I love this story so much, and I really, truly believe in it, but it’s never going to sell if that opening paragraph doesn’t hook the casual reader enough to *get* to the good stuff later. I know this from my own time slushing: it’s gotta grab, and it’s gotta grab fast. 

The current opening is solid. It’s well-crafted, I’ve minded my p’s and q’s, it effectively introduces the central character and the narrator, plus hints at the coming conflict. But, like Ferrett Stienmetz says in his interview with Apex, if I’m being honest, I know that opening is only “good enough.” It’s functional. It’s maybe even a bit graceful. But it’s not as powerful as it could be, and my editor-side has known this for a good few weeks. My writer-side, on the other hand, has been griping about having to re-examine a piece that–for almost all intents and purposes–is (in the words of Katherine Hepburn) already yar. To mess with it any more seems sacrilegious, especially when there are other editing projects to move onto and clamoring for attention. 

“But…” says my inner-editor. “But…”

And the thing is, my inner-writer knows the editor is right.

“!@#^@#%$!%&…” says my inner-writer. 

So tomorrow, I’ll put my head back to the grind-stone and hopefully, *hopefully* this fix won’t be too tough. It’s gotta be done, though, and there’s no time like, well, tomorrow. ^_^ 

Onward and upward!


Learning to Trust the Process

I had something of a revelation today. In the course of wasting time (AKA avoiding writing), I found a link on my Facebook feed to a blog post by speculative author Jamie Todd Rubin. He’s spent the past year documenting his writing stats via a very smart Google analytics tool, which allowed him to write a post detailing the idea-to-publication path of one of his short stories. You can read the entire post here

I’ve always been interested in the various ways authors approach creating fiction, and particularly how they edit a draft to the point of being ready to submit it to markets. Mr. Rubin’s post details his entire process, from first concept to final sale (though even he admits the sale part was something of a fluke in its expediency, but still!). 

The thing that really caught me and has stuck with me all day, however, is that his process is almost identical to mine in the following ways: 1) Ideas tend to take a while to develop into something I can tackle on paper, 2) In the rewriting process, I also like to retype entire manuscripts from scratch in new documents to preserve “continuity,” and 3) I also save almost every scrap of text I cut out of a document (particularly when it comes to longer works, but sometimes for short works too). 

I think this made a particular impression on me because here is a living, breathing example of someone whose process is very similar to the one I’ve scraped together over the years, and who has found some good success with it. This is not to say that my ideas are as good as his, or even that I’m anywhere near the craft-level that he is, but I’m delighted that the process itself isn’t unique to me. I often think too much about how I go about composing fiction and whether or not I’m “doing it wrong” (whatever that means) or wasting needless time. Because I’m still such a newbie at it, it’s hard to separate whether or not it’s my idea or the process that hangs me up when a story isn’t working/isn’t getting finished. Should I draft faster? Should I spend the time to retype the whole draft while I edit, or is that just spinning my procrastination wheels? And so forth, and so on. 

I’ve tried numerous other processes throughout my writing apprenticeship, but none have felt as native to me as taking my time to let ideas percolate and then redrafting by retyping every sentence for a new draft. The anxiety that comes from trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t for me as a writer can just as easily hang me up as a bad plot point. I’m hell-bent on efficiency and productivity (probably too much), and because of that, I don’t think I’ve trusted my gut enough to “Trust the Process” as I’ve read in so many books on writing. Which process? Is there a better one? How can I tell? 

Reading Mr. Rubin’s blog post has, oddly enough, relieved me of some of that burden and left me feeling a bit more confident. The process that I naturally gravitate towards does work, at least for some successful writers. I don’t have to worry that I’m accidentally stifling myself by producing fiction in this way, or that I’m “not good enough” because when I get an idea, I have to let it percolate for a while before doing something with it. The process is functional, which means I can let go of that stressor and focus on what really matters: the writing and the ideas and the craft. It’s strangely liberating. 

Now whether my noveling process is functional or not is another question entirely, but not a concern for today! :) 


Day 26 & 27 — Let the Week Begin!

Day 26 — Got the Day’s List done early, and started reading WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson, which I am absolutely loving so far. It’s like Roald Dahl meets Edith Wharton with a pinch of Nathaniel Hawthorne. It’s great so far. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read her longer works. Finished the retyping of the current editing project. Managed to drop exactly 800 words (weird that it’s so even), so it’s a better length, but still needs to be tighter.

Day 27 — Today was…not so great. Had a tough time sleeping last night, which in addition to some EEK OMG DEADLINE! extra-curricular commitments and a hormonal tendency today to be !@#%!#$RAWR, made for a trying day. Still managed to claw my way through my Day’s List, which is probably the only thing that kept me from being *really* grumpy, but it took a lot longer than usual, and the motivation was just. not. there. Editing-wise, I’ve determined that the Scene/Sequel method for this particular short story may not really work. It still fits the Three Act structure, so *that’s* hopeful. Even so, the editing on this one has been somewhat brutal and disheartening. I can feel something not quite working, but can’t quite put my finger on it. Tomorrow, I’m going to try reworking some of the middle portion and see if I can’t wriggle it into something more engaging, but meh. We’ll see…


Day 24-25 — A Three Day Streak & Embracing the Art of Non-Striving

Day 24 — Yesterday was another good day for the List! I got everything done that needed to be addressed by about 3pm, and had a guilt-free relaxing evening. Made some progress on the rewrite, plugged away for another bunch of pages as I retype the draft into the computer. I’ve found that retyping can really help me in the revision process–it’s something I’ve done for “Hope City” and for “Shepherd”–in that it makes me re-evaluate every sentence once by one, and in addition helps me to incorporate changes smoothly without really butchering the flow (which seems to happen when I just insert something that was previously missing).

Also made good reading progress on THE CHILD THIEF by Brom, which has been a delight to read so far. I love his reinterpretation of the character of “The Captain” as an honorable man caught in a very bad situation, spawned by misunderstanding on both sides. His revulsion for what his own men are becoming–while likewise despising the magical world that has trapped them–is just another layer that makes him a riveting character to read about. Love it!

Day 25 — Today has been a training day in the art of non-striving. Last week I had this sharp pain in my left hip which frankly kind of freaked me out (it was really, just, yowch bad). I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was quick and it went away pretty fast, with no real lingering pain save some tight muscles in my back and side. Week proceeds, and it doesn’t come back and there seem to be no other complications. In fact, I’ve been feeling pretty good. This morning? Tried to roll over and YOWCH again. This time, at least, it didn’t surprise me as much so I think I managed to handle the sudden spike of pain better, but still…not so pleasant. I had just read in one of my pregnancy books about stretching ligaments, so decided that since it’s happened twice now, I’d call my doc and see if it was worth going in to have it checked out.

Turns out, these nasty twinges are actually quite normal during the second trimester of pregnancy. It’s called Round Ligament Pain, and it *will* stop happening eventually, once the ligaments around the uterus stretch enough to accommodate the additional weight and strain being put on them. I must have been twisting in just the wrong way this morning and that time last week, and the ligaments just weren’t having it. Closest I can describe it (besides the rubber-band snapping, mentioned in the WebMD link, except imagine that being a really BIG rubber-band and also electrified), it’s like when you’re walking and the tendon on the bottom of your foot suddenly clenches down. It’s not like a Charlie Horse so much as real nasty twang. Quite unpleasant. Thankfully, the nurse assured me that this will pass eventually and is perfectly normal, which does help. At least now if it happens again, I’ll know what the flip it is and not worry that I’ve ruptured something or whatever my occasionally hypochondriac brain can come up with (OH EM GEE, IS IT CANCER?!).

Needless to say, however, my back and left side have been tensed up like crazy since I got up this morning. After a gingerly eating breakfast and taking the dog out, I got my reading done and finished THE CHILD THIEF, and even got a bit of rewriting in there–though not too much. Otherwise, I’ve forgone worrying about not accomplishing things today, and just tried to relax and let the body calm down a bit. It’s been interesting, because it does make me realize how desperately I cling to productivity to measure the worth of my day. If I’m not actively moving towards the completion of some goal I’ve set, I get very antsy and irritable, but most of all, I end up feeling very self-judgmental. All those reedy little Critic thoughts pop into my head and start asking (even politely, helpfully) if maybe I’m just not cut out for this whole writing thing, because obviously, if a bit of a sore back and hip pain can take me out for a whole day, am I really as dedicated as I’d need to be to have any shot of a career doing this? I mean, there are people out there who write 8 hours a day, or a minimum of 4 at least, so really, if even an hour is too much for me some days, should I really be tormenting myself by even trying?

Obviously, I’ll ignore the Critic, because–as I like to remind myself–I’ve heard it all before. But the conflict between cutting myself some slack now and then and that insidious inner Critic is sometimes quite a challenge to navigate. Today, I rested, because I needed it, and because I know that at the start of next week, I’ll get right back up and start working on The List again, because it *works* and I’ve loved using it so far. It’s helped me get so much more done in three days than I feel like I’ve gotten done in months, and I can tell I’m on the right track. But for today, I can put my feet up and take it easy, listen to my body, and not push it. Because pushing it too hard right now could very well make it worse, and I really *don’t* need to strain a ligament just to slow down a bit.


Day 23 — A Two-Day Streak

And…another tentatively successful day! Managed to get my Day’s List finished by around 3pm today, and even spent extra time writing and reading. And I finally put my laundry away that’s been languishing for a week and a half! YAY! Clean living room! It’s a bit astonishing how big the room seems when there’s less junk in it. Hmm…interesting… :)

Super snowy today. I think as of nightfall, we’ve probably accumulated close to ten inches. So glad I didn’t have to go out today other than to walk the dog a bit. Most of that time was just spent trying to keep him from stuffing his face with snow (“Manna from Heaven!” he thinks, and snaps up another bite-ful which will only make him cold and have to pee later. But does he learn? NEVVAR!)

Also, it’s weird seeing my belly push outward of its own volition while the little guy kicks. It’s a liiiiiiittle like the chestburster scene in Alien, only not painful…yet… XD


EDITING PROJECT: Ghosts and legends and Bluebeard, oh my! The cold Maine coastline! Haunted grounds! Ribbons and bitter, ghostly wives! Dueling secrets! True love? Perhaps!

Current Editing Project: Nobody Here But Us Monsters (Revision Edit–2nd Pass)
Accomplished in Edits: Finally got through the first word-cutting pass, which feels great. There’s still so much work to do on this, but at least getting some of the fluff out of the way makes it feel a little like I’m making progress on seeing the issues more clearly. Even started retyping the edited draft (as I often do) into a new document, so will probably continue on that tomorrow, and then hopefully jump into the Scenes and Sequels check to see how the story’s shaped. A few tweaks might make a big difference, but we’ll see! Onwards and upwards!


Day 22 — Tentative Success

I’m *sure* this plan will work!

So today has been…strangely encouraging. When I got up this morning, I made a promise to myself that I would write out a list of all the things that I needed to do each day to feel like the day was successful, and that I would complete said list before doing anything else “fun” (as I oft do). That means no arts and crafts, no TV, no reading tons of unrelated books, no Facebook, (not even any email), or video games until the Day’s List has been done. I tried to keep it relatively small and something I felt I could accomplish by around 2:30pm or 3pm, after which, with everybody home and around, things get much less predictable, and I *like* the flexibility of being able to say “Yes!” to friends who want to hang out or to watching a movie or whatever without feeling guilty. (Guilt-management is the name of the game this year.)

The Day’s List consists of a few things I felt would make me feel productive, and would address some areas I feel have been somewhat missing in my day-to-day planning. What’s different from previous attempts to govern my time is that this list can be done in any order, and each task (save those with time requirements) can take as little or as long as they need, allowing a lot more flexibility, which I found was a weakness of the formal “this hour to this hour” scheduling I’d tried before. However, to have a guilt-free successful day, I must complete all of these. They are, in no particular order:

[   ] Get up/get the dog his breakfast and take him out/have my breakfast (This is normal day-to-day anyway, but it’s on the list since it takes up A.M. time).

[   ] 1 Hour of Writing (this is the requisite minimum for any day, timed because editing is difficult to quantify for me)

[   ] Cello Practice (which includes running through all of my exercises)

[   ] 1 Lesson of Mandarin I (trying to get back up to speed on this, as it’s a major goal of mine that seems to keep getting slipped by the wayside)

[   ] 1 Chore (vacuum, laundry, dishes, pick up, etc.–trying to get back on the tidy horse)

[   ] Water Plants (I’m notoriously bad at remembering to water plants–it’s a running joke between me and my husband–so this is on the list, but it doesn’t usually take long ^_^)

[   ] 1 Hour of Reading (this from specifically the book I’m trying to finish for the week, with a little flexibility for articles/short stories)

After those seven things are done, I’m free for the rest of the day. I can read more, I can write more, I can play video games, I can junk out on Project Runway or Big Bang Theory or Biggest Loser, and not feel remotely guilty about not getting more done. I’m going to try this for a week and see how it goes. *fingers crossed!*


EDITING PROJECT: Ghosts and legends and Bluebeard, oh my! The cold Maine coastline! Haunted grounds! Ribbons and bitter, ghostly wives! Dueling secrets! True love? Perhaps!

Current Editing Project: Nobody Here But Us Monsters (Revision Edit–2nd Pass)
Accomplished in Edits: Got through another chunk of pages this morning. Mostly focusing on cutting down words so I can see the story a bit better as a whole. Finding *lots* to cut out, so that’s a good thing, but still quite a few pages to go on that. Then, I think, I’ll tackle the Butcher “POV/Goal/Conflict/Setback” check, and see how each scene plays out in that regard. I’m cautiously optomistic, but still rather in the “poke it with a stick” frame of mind for this chunk of fiction. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. We might get snow, so it’ll hopefully be a quiet day with lots of editing time. :)


In response to this blogpost by Jodie Llewellyn, I’m just copying over my summary of writing goals for February, which are as follows:

This February, I’m going to focus on getting in a regular day-to-day habit of organizing my time so I don’t have days where I look back at 6pm and wonder where all the time went. I’m going to focus on editing for now, because that seems to be the zone I’m in, and I’m especially going to work on not feeling *bad* about that! It’s a new phase in the cycle, and that’s perfectly all right. If I could get my current work in progress completely edited and submittable by the end of the month, and maybe fix up another one to submission-status, too, I’d feel pretty darn good about that. :)


Day 21 – Think, Think, Think

Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to watch something of a pattern in my creative life unfold: I appear to cycle through times of editing/submitting and times of drafting new work. 

I believe it all started in college when I attempted what my mother (also an aspiring writer) and I both called a “Chekhov Year” in which we tried to write one new short story a week. These weren’t polished stories, as Chekhov would have written in his suggestion to his brother to write a minimum of a short story a week. My no! These were ratty, crazy, usually whipped-off on Friday afternoon in a panic kind of stories. Overall, I managed to write 46 short stories (or mangled corpses of short stories) in that single year, and I have to credit that attempt with teaching me a huge amount of what it means to both conceive-of and then execute a short story. Of those stories I wrote, one was “Mimicry” which eventually saw publication in Leading Edge Magazine (the second story I wrote that year). There are others still kicking around in my tub o’ fiction that contain ideas worth revisiting, even if the writing wasn’t up to snuff that week. The biggest lesson I learned, however, was that I could come up with ideas at the drop of a hat. They weren’t always good ideas, but clearing out the crappy ideas also opened up whole new realms of awesome ideas that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten around to thinking about. It was something like a creative mental purge–get all those crusty, dusty story ideas that have been clogging up the creative pipes out on paper, and see what’s lurking behind them. It was liberating, and exciting. Over that year I developed a much better grip on how to think about a story before I wrote it so that I could make sure it didn’t automatically devolve into a novellette or novella (as previously they had been prone to do). I learned how to pare down a story at it’s seedling-level before I even put a word on paper so that I knew I was writing a short story and not biting off too much for one week.

The trick with writing so many short story drafts is that they’re still–at the end of the year–drafts. They’re not ready to be submitted, they’re barely ready to be read by beta readers. They’re scruffy messes, and they need dedicated time and care to fix.

Lately, I’ve been in an editing kick. The last two years, I’ve done very well writing new words every day and pounding out a lot of drafts of short stories and longer works. Problem is? I haven’t spent almost any of that time editing. I’m not as confident approaching edits. I’m not as experienced in fixing problems I see in my work. But lately, I’ve been feeling the submission itch. Wanting to submit has driven a number of rough drafts to my attention that with some work might be worth polishing up. I spoke about this earlier when I decided to drop the one-new, one-edit per week plan late last month, but it does seem that at least at this point in time, I can either edit short fiction or I can write it, but I can’t do both simultaneously on different projects.

It’s made me think about my mother’s comment a few years ago that I seem to go in cycles: writing lots of new work, and then spending a lot of time going back to those previously written works to fix them up and get them submitted. Who knows if this’ll be my process for the long-run, but I’m trying to let the writing take its own course on this, and see what happens. 


ImageEDITING PROJECT: Ghosts and legends and Bluebeard, oh my! The cold Maine coastline! Haunted grounds! Ribbons and bitter, ghostly wives! Dueling secrets! True love? Perhaps!

Current Editing Project: Nobody Here But Us Monsters (Revision Edit–2nd Pass)
Accomplished in Edits: “Think, think, think.” So I finished the full rewrite on this a couple of weeks ago, so it’s time now to revisit and try to whip it into submittable shape. The verdict as of today: Oof. There’s going to be a lot of work to do. Spent most of my writing time today re-reading what I rewrote before and trying to wrap my head around even the most basic tasks at hand for this one. This is what I’ve come up with so far:

1) I’d like to pare it down to around 5,600 (currently at 7,400), which is about a quarter shorter. It’s pretty verbose, though, so I’m not anticipating too much challenge on that part. 

2) I’d like to go through with Jim Butcher’s Scenes and Sequels checklist and see if this story adheres to that, at least on a rudimentary level. I feel like this might be a useful exercise anyway, and it might reveal some of the problem spots I can feel lurking there, but just can’t quite visualize. 

3) DONE!I wanted to go through and check the word-count per scene, and take a look at the 25/50/25 split between what would be considered Act One, Act Two, and Act Three.–At the moment, the tail end is a bit heavy, and the middle isn’t maybe as weighted as it could be. Ideally, it’ll split closer (though likely not exactly) 1400/2800/1400, and I’m not too far off from being able to achieve that, especially once I pare the whole thing down a little. 

So some good thinking progress, but it’s always a bit daunting at this early stage when it seems like *everything* is a little bit wrong, and so few things seem even a little bit right. Joy, joy, joy. :)


Day 20 – You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I’m posting this a bit earlier because it’s Friday, and usually I get distracted by Friday night, and therefore forget to post. At any rate, I’ve already gotten my writing done for the day, so might as well! 

Before I get into that, though, I’d like to recommend everyone who’s an aspiring author (or heck, even a semi-pro or established author) to check out Peter M. Ball’s post linking to two of Jim Butcher’s blogs about Scenes and Sequels. I just finished reading these two posts, and honestly, they just blow my mind. I feel like the information Butcher presents is–to some degree–something I’m familiar with, but only in that fuzzy, nebulous “it just felt right” kind of way. Having read this, I feel like I’ve got some logical tools at hand to really amp-up future fiction projects. And I’d like to add, that while Butcher’s examples of Scenes are somewhat pulpy (which I actually enjoy, most of the time), the thing that struck me particularly was how accurate his breakdown was even for The Silver Spoon by John Galsworthy, which I finished a month or so ago, and that‘s a social society-strife novel with very little physical action (and yet still keeps you on the edge of your seat–for precisely the reasons Butcher mentions!)

It seems so obvious, now! :) Definitely check it out if you’re interested. Fascinating stuff!


WRITING/EDITING PROJECT: Far-future lifeforms! Pulsars! Sentient robotic trees! Seedling space-travel! Massive radiation poisoning! It’s all here, and being converted to flash fiction from 3,600 words.

Working Title: ”The Miracle of Jane”
Added Words: N/A
Total Words (to date): ~2000

Happening Today in the World of Fiction!: Death by solar flare! Despondent wards and moral questions! Vaporized minds! 

Notes: Rawr. Just…rawr… Today, I woke up with a massive fix to this story, one that pretty much solves all the weakness from the first draft and really amps it up to something that says something. Unfortunately, that meant rewriting one previously trimmed-down scene. Besides that, I also wrote the opening scene and the finale, and lo and behold: it’s 2k. To say I’m frustrated is a slight understatement. I can imagine chopping out an additional 150-200 words, but 500? That’s not happening. The story’s already down to bare-bones, and cutting 500 will effectively render it soulless. 

I’m a big proponent–usually–of letting a story be the length it wants to be (within reason). This one, it turns out, is just not a flash fiction story. I won’t force it. I’ve brought it down from 3.6k to 2k-even, and that’s a huge, huge improvement. The plot is better, the characters are more developed, the setting is richer, and the emotional conflict far more interesting, but I just…cannot…cut…out…more. Not without gutting the climax. Not without chopping down some of the few things that give this story heart. It’s just not a 1,500 word story. 

I will eventually get over the frustration of not being able to fit this one into the submission guidelines for a market I particularly wanted to try for, but at the moment, I’m feeling a bit defeated. This particular story isn’t one I haven’t sent out before. In fact, it’s been rejected quite a few times, occasionally from markets I’d really, really, really like to break into with very kind, encouraging rejections. One specified that it was very close, but didn’t *quite* do everything they thought it could have. Another said it made the final cut, but just didn’t beat out the other stories being considered. The problem is, I’ve already sent this story to my top/favorite markets, so even revised to 2k (and it’ll probably be a bit less than that once I’ve smoothed it out and polished it again) there just aren’t a whole lot of places I feel I can send it. There are some–don’t get me wrong, there are–but all those favored markets are already done with it, and I know won’t want to see it again, even rewritten. So it’s on to new markets, but where? Where?! Ugh, and then wasting a whole week on a revision for a project that can’t even go to those favored markets~! 

I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself, if you can’t tell, and I know this feeling will eventually pass. It was good that I got around to fixing this one, because I do think I solved a lot of the issues my favored markets had with it. It’s good that I edited this one, because I need the editing practice, and this experience has taught me how tight I can write when I want do. 

I can intellectually see the many pro’s of failing the initial goal on this one, but for right now, I think I’m going to wallow in it a bit and go watch a Project Runway or something. :0\ 


Day 19 – The Delights of an Empty Theater

There are very few experiences in life more enjoyable than going to a movie with a pal and finding the theater completely empty save for the two of you. Even better is when the film is rather terrible, so you can heckle it in real-time and laugh as loud as you want! It was just what I needed today; that, plus a pistachio ice cream Fribble was just–perfect.

On top of that, I actually got some writing work done before I headed out, so it wasn’t a completely wasted day! Didn’t get much reading done, but well, one can’t have *everything*. :)


WRITING/EDITING PROJECT: Far-future lifeforms! Pulsars! Sentient robotic trees! Seedling space-travel! Massive radiation poisoning! It’s all here, and being converted to flash fiction from 3,600 words.

Working Title: ”The Miracle of Jane”
Added Words: N/A
Total Words (to date): ~800

Happening Today in the World of Fiction!: Mother-daughter conflict! The color green! Data pools, videos of Earth, and surges of power!

Notes: This section was a bit more difficult to trim down, because I’m getting into the plot-driving scenes. I’m still not 100% sure about it–it feels more truncated than the other sequences do, and thought it does touch on the main points, I’m not sure it does so gracefully. I’ve got a few spare words I can use at the end of this to smooth it out, but I’m not going to lie–I’m a little bit worried about this one. We’ll see how the first and last segments go. I may need to tweak something about the structure… Fmralkdfkjfsal…


Day 18 – Moving Ahead

Finally! At last! Woo-hoo! I finally got going on this rewrite that’s been plaguing me this week. I feel like I’ve loosened up the scar tissue in a bum shoulder and am actually getting some rotation again. *Phew!* What a relief. Anyway, I’ll go into that more later.

I’ve recognized one powerful way to know if a book is good (at least for me): possession. I’m not even talking about that “gotta read it” feeling, because I find these days that kind of intensity comes in fits and bursts, and can’t be counted on any more than “inspiration” to get my butt in the chair to write. I’m talking about real, honest-to-goodness possession: the ability of a book’s characters or dialogue or action to physically change the real me in the real world. 

There’s a reason I don’t tend to read in public. I make faces. Weird faces. I scowl. I grimace. I glare. I break into huge goofy smiles. I giggle. I get teary-eyed. It’s odd, I’ve heard, from those who’ve studied me reading without my knowledge. But that’s how I know I’m in a good book: the characters have so deeply connected with my imagination that I’m not me anymore. I’m one of them. I’m feeling their pain, I’m enraged by the injustices done to them, I’m enraptured by their love interest, and I’m despondent when they’re defeated. This spans genres: I can get this way about a classic novel by Edith Wharton or John Galsworthy as equally as I can go head-over-heels for a novel like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or Nova or anything with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. I find myself mouthing or even whispering the pieces of dialogue, because reading them on the page alone isn’t enough involvement. If I could, I would crawl into the pages and be RIGHT THERE, short sword or evening paper in hand. 

It’s a ferocity, this possession, a wild, maniacal connection with a world far beyond my own. It’s not something I feel all that often, if I’m being honest. It’s a rare, precious feeling, one I get just often enough to get that spark, that reminder, that I remember having so often in my childhood when all books were new adventures, and I wasn’t as concerned by writing style and plot problems. It’s the kind of book that reminds me that books are portals to wonderful worlds. It’s the kind of thing that makes me buy my own copy of a book, just because I want to keep that world within reach, even if I have no intention in the near future of re-reading it (though I do re-read from time to time). It’s the kind of book I want to pass on to my future kids. The kind of book I want to share with all my friends. The kind of book I’ll defend to the end of the world to other writers and editors, because it’s just. that. damn. good. 

Most recently, it’s been The Silver Spoon by John Galsworthy (recently finished), and currently The Child Thief by Brom. Are either of these books perfect? No–definitely not. From time to time, I hitch up on technical mechanics that bother me, or scenes that don’t quite do all they could. But the overall feeling is that amazing heart-swelling adoration that just sucks me in and sweeps me away. I love it. And maybe I love it all the more because it’s a bit rare. 


WRITING/EDITING PROJECT: Far-future lifeforms! Pulsars! Sentient robotic trees! Seedling space-travel! Massive radiation poisoning! It’s all here, and being converted to flash fiction from 3,600 words.

Working Title: ”The Miracle of Jane”
Added Words: N/A
Total Words (to date): ~600

Happening Today in the World of Fiction!: A raging pulsar! Poisonous radiation! Tidally locked satellites! A mother’s love and loss! The vast expanse of the universe, and the hope of a thousand happy clones!

Notes: Made good progress today, after a long, long bit of quite painful struggle to get my shoulders back into the story. Got two whole sections tweaked today, which is a nice pick-up, and leaves only three left to go. I’m relieved that a lot of this reworking is turning out to be not *quite* rewriting, but more syphoning off the absolute best details to keep and leaving all the (useful but technically discardable) chaff behind. There’s a bit of rewriting involved, just in transitioning from one thought to the next, but overall, it’s more or less compressing the best of the best sequences into self-contained 200-word segments. It takes a while, and isn’t particularly easy, but I’m finding that I already have a gut-feel for what I desperately want to keep, and that’s helping me zone in on the sentences and images to compile and compress. Tough going, but worth it so far, though tomorrow I’ll be starting to dip into the scenes I really *don’t* want to have to put together. Ugh. Not particularly looking forward to that!