Progress report

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The summer is moving by so quickly, I think I might have missed it. Temperatures have been hanging out in the low 60s and cracking into the mid-40s at night giving a very distinct late summer vibe. I mean, except for the 21 hours of daylight.

I’ve been doing a bit of work on my current project, and last week I even tore through a rewrite of a few chapters that I’d been putting off. These chapters are a distinct sub-plot with a different lead character (in cliché fantasy tradition). They make up something like 1/4th of the book.

As I was going through these particular chapters, I noticed two major things. The first is that they needed (probably still need) quite a bit of editorial massaging. The second is that these particular chapters are, even with final polishing necessary, arguably the best chapters of the book. On one hand this is cool. I’ve got a few chapters that generally work. Unless a beta reader notes a major problem, these are good to go until editing! On the other hand, this is ¼ of the book. That means the other 3/4s still need a tremendous amount of work to be up to scratch. I think I’m making major progress on that score, but it’s hard to tell until I sit down and attempt another full re-write.

One theory of why this sub-plot is working better is that I don’t really care about the characters as much, and so as things start going to hell for them, I really don’t mind and just sort of let it happen. My main characters (the heroes, if you will), however, I care too much about. As a writer I’m not effectively putting their backs against the wall (more clearly stated: The MC should have a simple goal ‘right now’, simple goal right now is being blocked by a clear and present antagonist). I can’t say that this is THE problem I’m working through, but it’s definitely a contributing factor. The characters aren’t being driven from place to place so much as they are going from place to place. It seems to me that this isn’t doing any favors on the overall conflict and rising action.

So then what am I going to do about that?

I’ve already started tackling some of the problem bits. The first four or five chapters actually weren’t awful as far as this is concerned. The eleventh chapter, however, is a different story. The night before last, I completely rewrote it. It took the immediate conflict in a different direction that still managed to land the main character in almost the right situation to start chapter 12. The change also did good things for the conflict in chapter 12, which becomes something of a pivotal chapter (it always has been, but it just doesn’t have that feel or flavor yet). In any case, chapter 11 feels vastly improved from what it was, but I won’t know how much better this strategy is until I get to the end and look at the story as a whole.

So, anyhow, that’s where I am. The wife is out on the town tonight, so I’ll probably get a full chapter re-write in and if I’m lucky, tomorrow will be mostly a writing day and I’ll see if I can hammer out a few more chapter rewrites.


Photo credit: Me (don’t judge)

 

Writer’s ego: success

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I’m really not falling off of the blog-wagon, just too busy to mash together any ideas longer than 140 characters. Anyhow, I did have a thought the other day that I want to share, although it’s a rather incomplete thought. What came across my mind is the product of a challenging month, both positive and negative. It’s about success. Success comes in two parts:

1: convincing yourself and others you can do something,
2: proving it.

Before I go much further, I want to point out that I don’t consider myself a particularly successful person. No doubt I’ll be called out on this one, because I’ve done alright, but I’m really not where I want to be, and I fail badly at #1.

It’s one thing to sit in an interview and wax poetic about your skills and abilities, and perhaps even be convincing enough to satisfy the hiring manager(s) that you are, in fact, all that and more. This is well and good, but it’s only part of the story. Once you walk into that new job or contract, the clock starts ticking to prove yourself. I’ve hired a lot of people. Some try too hard to prove themselves and miss the mark, after all they were hired for a particular task. I’ve hired others who come in, identify the needs and push to excel in meeting those, and I have absolutely hired people that have come in and upon being hired feel there isn’t any need to prove themselves, or only give it a token effort.

I think it’s the same with writing, well any craft really. An amazing sales pitch might sell lots of books, but what’s that worth if the story stinks? Conversely, I could write an amazing story with fabulous commercial potential, but if I can’t make the sales pitch, nobody will ever know. Both of these things need to happen. As much as I’d like to be a professional, full-time writer, I recognize I’m chasing a dream. I’m fine with that, but I would like people to read and enjoy my story.

I could sit here and blog all day long about how well I write, maybe convince a few folks that I can tell one hell of a story. However, without a damn good story to stand behind, what does it even mean? What does it mean if I’ve written an excellent story and haven’t been able to convince anyone they should take a look at it?

I have no idea.

I don’t really know where I was going with that. Perhaps I just want to make the point that this is something I struggle* with.


 

* Beat myself up.

Time out!

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SONY DSC

Today I got a break – from pretty much everything. I didn’t work, I didn’t try to build an aluminum shed, write, or mow anyone’s lawn. I should have been doing all of these things in some measure. Instead, I buzzed between home, the hospital, and downtown Wasilla in an effort to take care of home and family.

My eldest son had to have his appendix removed today. It was stressful. He was terrified, and quite contrary to his usual nature, handled without drama. At the moment he’s in the hospital recovering and seems to have come out fine. I brought my laptop and spent a few minutes poking around on my first full rewrite, but really there were other things to worry about. Once he was out of the O.R. I sent my wife home to get a shower, see her animals, and gather essentials for the overnight.* While we watched cartoon network and waited for mom’s return, I looked at my computer bag and didn’t pick it up. The situation reminded me that I work entirely too much.

Working too much is something of a problem in my family. There was a time I was working two jobs and building our house – and that was with a new baby in the house. At the moment, it’s not quite so bad, I’ve only got the one job and I write a lot, then there’s all of those other hobbies, and commitments. I don’t often take a time out for family, at least not often enough.

That said. This weekend it’s my daughter’s dance recital**. I usually take a bit of writing time out for that, but I think I’m going to go a little farther this year. It’ll be game time with the boys too. For the rest of the summer – I’ll get my fishing license and take them fishing, perhaps a night of camping, and maybe even a baseball game. The book will wait, but the kids won’t be kids forever.

Good advice for any full-time working parent & writer: don’t forget to make time for your family.


* In case you’re wondering about what sort of sexist pig I might be at this point. I just want to defend myself with a little vignette: My wife took him to the urgent care this morning, because I was working and she wasn’t yet, and she expected to get some antibiotics or a very stern lecture about fluids and rest. Before the operation we asked our son who he wanted to stay with him overnight. He told us to play rock-paper-scissors to determine – he wasn’t about to take favorites. I told him it would be in everyone’s best interest if mom stayed because she wouldn’t sleep unless was certain he was okay. The only way to ensure that would be to have her there, which is true. For my part, I took the other two, made sure everyone was fed and any farming chores were taken care of.
** This is a BIG deal. It’s held at the Anchorage center for the performing arts and amounts to professional dance experience. It’s such a big deal that even with Influenza B, she insisted on getting all dolled up to go in for her pictures.

photo credit: Time via photopin (license)