Let That Thing Fester

The title of this post is so awesome that I feel like the post itself isn’t going to live up to it.  I actually thought of saving it for another post on the subject but I’m going to go with it anyway.  I’m having issues finding time for this currently, and I ‘m not proud of it.  I know I’ve been absent lately but I have been doing the job of three people at my day job (literally) and cramming for my Air War College Exam.  The good news is we have enough people back at work that I can get back to just doing my own job and I got the results back from my exam, which I passed with an excellent!  I’m only one test away from finishing now, so I’m buckling down to get through it and then I can refocus on finishing the edits for Clear Ether and get it out to some beta readers.

I actually had a little down time in there while I was waiting for the exam to be graded.  I was initially expecting four weeks of waiting but it only took four days.  At any rate, I had time to do some revision on the first few chapters after feedback from my alpha readers and I actually feel like I have enough distance now to see it like someone else wrote it.  I was able to make big cuts and move some stuff around and really focus the POV.  Getting that distance is key.  I got some great advice and some great feedback from my alphas, thank you!

When people tell you to put your manuscript in the drawer for a month or two and let it ferment, they aren’t kidding.  I did some preliminary editing after only a few days, but I was really having trouble seeing the errors.  Stacy can tell you I went off the reservation with the word “just”.  It was laughable how many times I used that word in one chapter alone.

As the creator you can often have a hard time detaching yourself from your own POV.  You already know everything that happened and all the background details and motivations, so when you go in to start your revisions you can’t divorce yourself from yourself (Austin Powers anyone?) without giving yourself enough time after the manuscript is finished.  Completing the manuscript is a huge thing.  A lot of writers never get there, so I’ve heard.  And I know I was excited, not because I finished the manuscript, but because I was one step closer to being published, and I wanted to get on with the revisions.  I’m here to tell you that you have to wait a bit before you take that next step.

The manuscript is near and dear to your heart.  You’ve invested a lot of energy and time getting to “The End”.  Carving up your baby is simply not feasible at that point.  Any believe me, it needs to be carved up and have great chunks removed and tossed in the waste bin. (Boneyard)  It’s like a grotesque turkey that has too many legs and wings and parts sticking out and it needs to be prepped and oiled and baked to perfection still.  But before you can do any of that you need to stick it somewhere dark, where you will leave it alone, and let it fester for a few months.  When you put it away it looked like a bright shiny baby, when it comes out it will look like Chucky, and you can stab it and carve it up.  I must be hungry.  Enough of the carving analogies.  You get the idea.

When you get it back out you will be able to see it as a work of literary fiction instead of “your precious”.  You can see the POV errors and the extra background that really isn’t germane to the story.  You can see the bad dialogue tags and the dreaded adverbs and poor word choices.  You can see the poorly written sentences, and maybe there are chapters that really don’t even need to be there.  At the very least they need to be massively trimmed and combined with another part somewhere else.  It is eye opening … really.  Put that sucker away!  Don’t touch it!  Ah..I see you going back to look at it, I said leave it alone.

Anyway, as an aside, I’m also in the process of applying for a Master’s program in writing, so I had to put some finishing touches on some writing and then write a Letter of Intent.  It was kinda fun actually. I’m shooting for the Seton Hill University Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction degree.  It is a distance learning program that will only require me to spend 5 days each semester on campus.  That works great for my busy lifestyle.   The cool thing is it is designed for you to have a publishable novel length book at the end of the program.  I’m very excited about it and have my fingers crossed to get in.  It’s a small Catholic university near Pittsburg, so it’s also driving distance, at least until I move.

I hope you are all having great fortune in your writing and reading!

Clear Ether!


Feeding the Idea Machine

When someone meets a writer it is a common theme that it goes something like this:
“Oh, you’re a writer?  I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I just can’t seem to come up with any original ideas.”
I think most of us can relate to that before we actually took the plunge.  Not all, a few of you Stephen King types out there that were born to write probably never questioned the process, but a lot of us have felt that anxiety of coming up with something interesting enough to invest the time in for a novel length book.  The funny thing is writers don’t struggle with this at all once they become writers.  Most people I have ever talked to or read something they wrote about the subject all have the same theme:  coming up with ideas is the easy part. 
So how can that be?  You’ve lived for forty years and never had a book worthy idea in your life and suddenly you can’t turn them off.  It’s like having a curtain in your mind lifted to something that was already in there.  The more you write the more ideas you get.  The mind is like a muscle in that the more you use certain parts they better they seem to work.  The human brain is amazingly adaptable and continually adjusts and rewires itself, and the more you exercise it the more neurons develop and the special “Idea Neurons” start firing regularly.
I’m in an interesting position to see very clearly how this works.  For the second time in a year I’ve taken a hiatus from writing and I’ve become acutely aware of the changes in my imagination and my well-being.  When I’m writing regularly I can count on having a new story idea pop into my head almost daily.  They’re not all novel worthy, some are more suited for short stories or maybe not even worth pursuing when analyzed with more scrutiny, but they flow like a mighty river.  I keep a journal for all these ideas, because heaven knows, they are like a succubus trying to entice you away from your current work-in-progress.  But I log them and take them out on occasion and examine their worth,  and sometimes something magical happens — they morph, or you get the notion to combine two of your ideas into one wonderful kernel of imaginative audacity, like a little generator that will power a story.
When I’m not writing the ideas dry up like a puddle of water in desert wasteland.  The vivid adventure dreams that I have regularly come ever more infrequently.  The fireflies of my imagination disappear like it’s winter in my mind.  I also find that I get grumpy and struggle with finding joy in daily activities.  When writers tell you that it isn’t a matter of wanting to write but needing to write this is one aspect of what they are talking about.  It’s just plain good for our mental health and happiness (and probably for those that share our space, we really can be a cranky lot when we aren’t writing).
One of the things I see a lot of established authors tell newcomers when asked for advice is write, write a lot, and then write some more.  It does more than just hone our skills, it feeds our Imagination Machine.  So keep writing and exercising your mind muscle — great things are going to happen.  I’d love to hear your take on this.
Clear Ether!