Why are beginnings so damn hard?

once-upon-a-time-719174_1280

Everyone who knows me, and some who don’t, are more than fully aware that I’m working on editing the Dark Queen of Darkness. I just finished up the first round of developmental edits, which are back with the editor (Jette Harris). However, I’m not even remotely close to done yet. My process thus far has been to run through her suggestions, pick off low-hanging fruit and then go once through for each of the larger issues to ensure consistency. This usually starts with starting at the beginning. Every time I start at the beginning, I inevitably fidget with the first few paragraphs. It’s killing me.

I wrote the first paragraph to the dark queen almost 3 years ago and it was fucking great. So, naturally, I’ve hated it ever since. The current incarnation is:

There was no mistaking the dark tower. It was the tallest, blackest, and most evil looking tower in the whole of the dark kingdom. Hexe, the dark queen, had built it specifically to say dark queen and sorceress right down to the foundations. She’d even gone so far as to have the words property of the dark queen etched on every stone. The tower was an imposing and unlovely sight, much like Hexe herself, tall, narrow, and nothing but sharp, plain angles.

I think it’s repetitive, not very grabby, and absolutely perfect at the same time. This is not a good place to be when you’re supposed to be editing. At this point, all I have from Jette (the editor) on this is that it’s fine, but maybe not got quite enough hook. As with all of the advice and feedback offered by Jette, thus far, I feel in my gut that she’s quite right. The problem here is that I’m so incredibly close to the work, especially this paragraph, that I’m unable to tackle it with a properly dispassionate approach.

My favorite book openings are those offered by Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and JK Rowling. They tend to be chatty and easy. They give the narrator a minute to bring the reader up to speed before launching into the main thrust of the work. And as I write this, I wonder if examining pieces by those authors might not be instructive – A wise writer once suggested I open a few of the books I like and highlight passages that work. Maybe that’s the answer here. Don’t just look at the words on the page, look at why another author’s intro works.

I don’t know what else to say about this, except that for every book I’ve written, the same problem exists. I hate the intro and also love it just the way it is.

Advertisements

Trying to pull it together in 2019

In looking back at my writing progress in 2018, the best thing I can say is that I didn’t totally give up. I got super close, but not quite. Every attempt to get back on track was half-hearted and generally cock-blocked by something to do with work. In general, I’m not keeping up at work like I need to, and it’s stressing me out, which is making it harder to focus and even less seems to get done. Then, all tired and pissed off at myself for doing far less than I should be, I get home and don’t write. Not writing is also stressing me out and then I get mad at myself, so I avoid the whole thing. On top of that, I’ve got serious parent guilt about not being there enough for the kiddos’ activities or spending enough time on them. Really, by the end of the day I’m at the point where I’m ready to just check-out. Hence, the new gaming computer (Bonus picture below) I built this spring, which I’ve upgraded at least 5 times since June.

In any case, I can’t keep being this way. I seriously need to focus on getting back to a level of getting shit done that will make me feel less like a hopeless slacker and maybe provide some encouragement and motivation. To that end, I’ve got a strategy, but first – some mostly accurate background.

Last month I got a bullet journal for work. (That’s not what happened. My wife got it decided she’d never use it so stole it.) I thought if I had something that would help me identify, organize, and track shit I need to do, that I could do a better job of managing my worktime. In theory, the same thing could be achieved using MS outlook or other productivity tools. While productivity tools may sound compelling, they’re just plain overwhelming. Really, just about the only sane response is to just ignore all of it.

When I was at my last job, we had a trouble-ticket system. Ostensibly, they’re are designed to fill the same kind of niche as something like a Bullet Journal, by tracking and organizing tasks. Really, I find systems like that are so full of dates, numbers, and oh-so ‘helpful’ reminders of how many outstanding tasks you have, it’s more stressful than helpful. I don’t need smug-ass software telling me that I’m not getting shit done. I do, however, need a tracking system because I’m getting old and fat, my brain has become somewhat leaky and I’m also not getting shit done.

Anyhow, this is where the journal comes in. I started using it for work and within three days I realized that what I REALLY need to be using it for is writing. Well, and work too, I’m still using it for work. The idea I had was to write down all of the things I want to do with writing and set a few goals. Since there aren’t any dates, it basically stays evergreen until I start ticking off some boxes. It gives me a canvas to write down things I want to do, maybe over time add in things I think of and just sit on those until I can focus on them, then when I’m ready to deal with them, BAM I’ve got a list with check-boxes. Plus, the way I’ve got it structured, I don’t have to flip through all of my unfished stuff to get to the active project. Out of sight, out of mind.

Anyhow, that’s a long way of saying, I’m getting organized with my goal setting and here’s what’s on the docket for the year: Get The Dark Queen of Darkness through editing and published by September. The other goal I’m setting for myself is to do more blog posts (hence the 2nd blog post this year and it’s still actually January). So, that’s where I am. Trying out some optimism. I hope it fits.


img_3298

Computer: Ryzen 1700x overclocked to 4Ghz, 16GB DDR4 3400Mhz, AIO water-cooler (push-pull fan configuration), MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, Gigabyte AB350N Gaming motherboard, 1TB SSD, Thermaltake mini-ITX case, corsair 550w semi-modular PSU, and also lots of LEDs.

Something new for the new year

new years blog image

Happy new year!

Holy moly, I have absolutely sucked at blogging this year. This might be my second or third post? I don’t even know and I’m way too lazy to even bother checking. Anyhow, for the past few new years’ days, I’ve taken a few minutes to ‘burn’ a work that seemed to have died the previous year. I’m not doing that this year. In part because I haven’t actually finished anything new and in part because The Dark Queen of Darkness didn’t die this year. Last year at this time, I was pretty sure that’s what was going to happen. My wife, however, convinced me to just get off my lazy ass and just self-publish the damn thing.

I made the decision to go forward with Self-Publishing back in August as a 40th birthday gift. While this is proving to be a little bit on the expensive side, it’s still cheaper than trading in my car for a faster model or other similarly foolish mid-life crisis activity.

The status so far is that developmental edits are back from the editor (The extraordinary Jettimus Maximus) and I’m working through them. The suggestions she’s sending along are thoughtful, helpful, and very much in-line with my vision for this story. As I write this, I’ve worked through roughly the first hundred or so pages of the book a couple of times. What I’ve got revised so far still needs a lot of work, but I’m liking the changes so far. The narrative does feel tighter.

This is my first time working with an editor for creative work. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the developmental edit. What struck me about it so far is that it isn’t anything like a critique. We’ve all done those and they definitely serve a purpose, but that’s not what this is about. It’s structural and focuses on things like themes and character development, plot and pacing. To be honest, it covers the ground that a typical critique or beta-read is going to miss. Those often recommend suggestions to tighten up your writing or will help you find issues, but won’t necessarily provide you with concrete strategies for correcting the issue or finding larger problems that aren’t obvious.

Sometime in the past, I wish I could recall when or the actual context, I read a blog post posing the question: Do I need a developmental editor? I don’t recall the conclusion, but it seems like it ran something like: It’s a nice to have, not an essential. At this point, I think that my conclusion is that this is an essential cost. No, many of us can’t afford to hire someone. It’s not free, nor should it be, but there are editors out there who will do this for a reasonable price. What’s more, if you intend to sell your book and it’s been well polished, you’re going to sell more copies, thus the cost of editing should pay for itself.

If you’re considering a developmental edit, and you should be, but don’t know who to go to, I would recommend Jette.

In any case, I’ve got a tremendous amount of work still to go on this book, maybe even more than it took to write to begin with, but I’m now convinced that it’ll be money well spent and readers will find this story a page-turner with endearing characters and at least a few laugh-out-loud moments.