It ain’t all bad and it ain’t all good…

As I sit here procrastinating revision of a new book, I find myself looking through my favorite guilty pleasure.

You see, there is this website called Reddit, and in this website, there are a number of what are called subreddits, little mini forums where people vent, share and generally contribute to the community of heir choice in the way of their choosing. My two favorite subreddits (when I am feeling particularly self-indulgent) are /r/writing and /r/writingcirclejerk. I won’t give direct links to these, because, well, it’s like jazz–if you have to ask, you don’t get it.

/r/writing has been through a lot of changes over the years. When I began work on my first novel, I found the subreddit to be a font of useful links (I discovered Chuck Wendig’s site this way), clever insights (Oh! Show, don’t tell), and generous advice for new writers. Maybe it still is. Honestly, writing is like that. After a while you don’t need to hear “show don’t tell” or “remove your passive voice” over and over. And for some people, this is still valuable information, and I love that about the subreddit. Somewhere down the road however, there came a point where /r/writing became silly. I don’t mean this in a bad way… or maybe I do… maybe it’s the whiskey. Let me explain.

Writers love to talk about writing. I mean, we fucking LOVE it. WE. FUCKING. LOVE. IT. Don’t believe me? Ask any writing question to any writer in any venue and you’d better have a comfortable chair handy, because we will talk your fucking ears off like a rat on a corncob about whether we are pantzers or plotters, morning or evening, drunk or sober. ASK ME ABOUT MY PROCESS! DO IT! ASK ME!

I am guilty of this, as are all writers. Please, for the sake of our friendship, don’t ask me about my process, because I think there are few authors out there who love anything more than talking about writing. And it’s only interesting to us. And therein lies the problem.

/r/writing has become this: writers talking about writing. And it’s fucking addictive to writers. We’re like little bees, buzzing around our little hive, shaking our stingered asses to show everyone how WE found the nectar and how to make the best fucking honey money can buy. It is a downward spiral of self-indulgence that I think, sucks almost very writer down into its nether-realm, myself included. Why else would I be venting about this instead of revising this book?

Enter /r/writingcirclejerk, the irreverent silent goth kid in the back row, who loves nothing more than to make fun of the English majors sitting at the front of the class, trying to be Hemingway.  /r/writingcirclejerk is hilarious, and cruel, and clever all at the same time, and it has been a saving grace for me during times when the drain-spiral of self-indulgent writers has become too much to bare.

So it is with this post that I salute you, /r/writingcirclejerk, for making me remember to stop talking about writing and just fucking write this damned thing, because that’s what writers do. We fucking write.

 

 

Advertisements

I am sick of this book

 

It’s 9am on a Sunday and I’ve been up since 7am trying to revise a few more chapters before my eyes start burning and my brain turns to pureed Mac and Cheese. I am sick of this novel and I want to move on. Waaaa.

That isn’t to say I don’t love the book. I do. I love the story, love the characters. But I want it to be done.

This isn’t really a bad thing. Most people don’t realize how many hours go into a novel, especially a novel that is 125,000 words in length. A lot of people outline, set up a three-part structure and then flesh those sections out. My process is a lot messier, which leads to more revisions. I am now on revision 16…

That’s Sixteen… with a one and a six.  For me, revision is slow, with lots of iterations. I am whittling the story down enough to be clear, but not so much that essential elements are cut off. It can be delicate surgery at times; or it can feel like hacking off limbs with a chainsaw. Usually, I prefer the chainsaw to come sooner than later.

BLOOM went through almost as many revisions. In fact, the original rough draft was cut so thoroughly about the only thing left was the main character’s name. I deleted all the supporting characters, the universe, the setting, the time period, and started over fresh.  It was a good decision; the rough draft was bad. B. A. D. I don’t regret that decision at all, but that isn’t saying it wasn’t painful to do.

I’m working on a sequel to A LATENT DARK, and as the three of you who have read the book might remember, the story has a lot of characters. It tends to bounce around from different points of view, taking some odd turns here and there. It’s one part GOLDEN COMPASS, one part WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, with a healthy dose of Lovecraftian horrors.

I’ve never written a sequel before, and I’m learning that writing sequels, basically sucks. I don’t mean that the book isn’t good, just that writing sequels is a lose-lose situation a lot of times for writers. It is almost inevitable that someone is going to be bored because you included too much backstory; another reader  will be clueless because they don’t remember any of the characters and there isn’t enough backstory. Then there’s some other guy who never even read the first book and has no idea what’s going on at all! “Why does this girl have only one eye? Why does the Reverend wear only white? Wait is this character dead? WHAT’S GOING ON? OMG! ONE STAR!”

The book picks up three years later, with the characters, now in their teens, thrust into more adult situations. It’s a balancing act without a net.

The other thing that makes revision so mind-numbingly drawn out is the fact that writers grow. We improve over time. Returning to a manuscript you haven’t seen for months can result in a fairly awkward reunion. I am currently picking this book apart sentence by sentence, rewriting as I go. So far, the dialog is okay, but other parts… yeesh. I just want to rip out and rewrite from scratch, which I do.

But you see how this can be a slippery slope. It’s easy to fall into a state where the novel is never good enough, because in another year, you might cringe at some of the things you were once proud of. I know people who have been revising their first novel for ten years. Will it ever be done? Who knows? But it’s easy to see how the relationship with a novel can become an unhealthy one, even a codependent one. At some point, you simply have to let go.

So this will be the last revision before THE UMBRAL WAKE moves on to my story editor. I imagine she will give me her usual harsh critique, in which case, the novel will go through yet another revision. Then it’s off to proofreaders.

Then I will be free to move on to other projects. You can’t chase the horizon forever.

Oh, where has the time gone…

I’ve been posting a lot on my Facebook page (you’re welcome to follow me there as well) , probably because the FB page gets more traffic. Still, I thought I’d cross-post my latest progress report:

Bloom: Or, the unwritten memoir of Tennyson Middlebrook, is all but done. it needs a cover and will be getting one shortly. It also needs on last proof for those typos here and there. I’m hoping it will be out before I turn 41

A lot of people asking about the ALD sequel and when it’s coming out. I thought I’d give you some insight into my editing process. I usually write a first draft in about 2-3 months. Following that is a good six months to a year of edits.

I don’t actually print anything out until maybe 8 or 9 drafts in. That’s usually when I pull out my red pen on the train and start marking stuff up. The pages usually end up looking like this.

Sample of redline editing. ALD book 2

Sample of redline editing. ALD book 2

As you can see, it still has a ways to go, but at least it’s made it off the screen and onto paper.