So today pretty much sucked. Before the hours struck double digit numbers, I managed to get in a spat, argue with/get an ass-kicking from a writing buddy (after some comments that, in retrospect, I realize were pretty melodramatic), and have a meltdown prompted by a crisis of self-confidence. Then later, after a day of dealing with lots of unjustified complaints and the ludicrous extremes of human behavior, weathered a sudden cloud burst of lover’s jealousy.
It was an exhausting day.
Now that I’ve had a chance to get a little perspective and resolved many of the things that went wrong, I have decided that it’s time to establish some new goals. Doing this publicly has worked for me in the past by keeping me accountable. It is what got my first story out into the world, so it’s fitting that it should help be the impetus to kicking the second one out there.
The only story that’s close enough to move quickly and before I can send it out to anyone, I have to run through it again. I have already gone through it twice and scrapped the “edited” version because it felt “broken.” However, I’ve scrapped the “edits” and have printed a new copy. This weekend, I will go though this and get it ready to send out for feedback.
1.) Read through the story in one sitting with no writing implement available
2.) Complete an edit by Monday morning
3.) Send the story out for feedback on Tuesday
4.) Send the story to market by November 16
Do-able. I hope. It better be.
Why why why why why why why why why why so many heroes in horror fiction a member of some military branch, ex-military, “special ops,” “black ops,” cops or some other member of society that has special insight into the world at large?!
I was perusing one of my local big box bookstore recently to see what they had on the shelves. I had written over 2k during the course of the day, so I thought a hot chocolate and a stroll through the stacks would be a good treat. I slipped into my favorite niche (horror) and started snagging titles that looked good. (That is a bias that could use later discussion, but not now.) I picked up six or seven books to read the blurb and four in a row started with an introduction of the character that went something like this…
Goodlookin Hunkoman, recently discharged from his ultra-super-top-secret special ops team, returns to his sleepy little hometown in search of peace and healing after his ugly divorce. When the phone rings in the middle of the night, the scream on the other end sounds so familiar, he find himself drawn to his ex-wife’s home. The home they shared for the blissful early years of their marriage looks the same as it ever did….except for the blood on the front steps, the broken hinges of the front door and her bloody shoe on the front walkway. Goodlookin realizes the stories the yokels tell must be true and he sets off into the night with nothing but his good looks, a sociopathic ex-colleague, big guns and C-4 he obtained through his connections to track down The Beast Haunting These Hills.
I don’t claim to know it all nor do I always have the best taste, however, I can speak competently about fiction and most days, I can even write it competently. I understand the paradigm of the hero. I studied Campbell and have read myths from cultures all over the world. Though it may be somewhat conceited, I’ll even venture to say I’m well read. Maybe I’m even a bit of a book snob, but regardless of my literary pedigree, I cringed every time the (obvious) hero of the book was some flesh-born Adonis ready to tackle even the most imposing beast with relative ease and emerge sweaty, shirtless, unmarred and dripping with swooning women. Not only did I cringe, I usually stopped reading the blurb and put the book back on the shelf.
I don’t seem to be the only one frustrated or dismayed by this trend. Most of my friends have at least a little geek in them, and many of them read as voraciously (or more voraciously) than I do. We chat about books both casually and, especially when we disagree, seriously. The super-human hero is a cop out for a lazy writer.
There. I said it.
Don’t misunderstand me…occasionally stories about the military or ex-mil are enthralling. I’ve been suckered into more than one, but only when well written and not so bogged down in jargon I need to read it with either my computer or smartphone at hand. I’m not a military fanatic, but I don’t object to stories where that’s a major component of the story. I object to so many writers using it as a crutch to explain why Goodlookin Hunkoman is so successful at beating the Big Bad instead of creating an innovative, engaging character with intelligence and resourcefulness that doesn’t depend on his security clearance.
I don’t need a super-human for my hero.
I don’t WANT a super-human for my hero.
I want someone REAL to be my hero.
Show me some chick like myself, or someone I can recognize and let me discover their flaws. Give me an underdog and let their humanity endear them to me. Show me how they overcome insurmountable obstacles, even if they stumble and fall on their face as they work through the mess. Let their will, their determination, and their creativity make them superhuman. Let their adventures change them for both the positive and the negative. Show me how they grow, and let me see them earn the scars they’ll bear for the rest of their lives. That’s what I want. Give me someone real, not Condensed Canned SuperHuman; I won’t believe them anyway.
…and until someone listens, I’m digging through what’s out there, looking for an anti-hero or at least a reluctant one.
Distraction is easy. Distraction raises its head and interrupts the momentum of a project just when you get to the point where it becomes difficult. Distraction brings excitement and renewed energy and enthusiasm. The change of pace is invigorating and the new challenge is intoxicating.
Distraction is the enemy.
I have always struggled with focus. Being able to push through the challenge of the doldrums and complete the project when it becomes difficult is not a strength of mine. To that, I am sitting here staring at Day Job work that I know I MUST complete before tomorrow morning, but the prospect of actually doing it is overwhelming. It’s not difficult work, per se, but it’s not something I want to do at the moment. When the will to do it is not there, no matter the importance, it becomes impossible to complete. This is true for so many things in my life and not just the Day Job drudgery. I struggle with writing when it gets too hard to figure out where a directionless story is going and right now, I’m also struggling with the prospect of editing.
I don’t hate editing, but at the moment it’s…frustrating. I write and get a little high on creating something out of nothing. I am proud of what I’ve written, the idea that it is better than all the things that have come before it even if I know it’s going to require polish. I put it to bed with a smile, anticipating the first re-read. I imagine how easy it will be to breeze through with my red pen making minor edits, fussing with word choice and fixing those little grammatical errors that always crop up in the frenzied rush of writing. I fantasize that it will definitely be snapped up by the first market I deem worth of receiving it. How could they possibly reject something so brilliant?! (I’m sure that most writers feel that way the first time they lay back a story to give it time to age and ferment. That’s part of the impetus to get us started on another piece as quickly as possible…that “I’m fuckin’ Shakespeare” feeling. -a great many thanks to Stephen King for so eloquently uttering that phrase in On Writing.-) The thing is, when re-reading the piece after a few weeks, it’s not nearly as good as I thought. In fact, it’s somewhat of a travesty. This isn’t a problem, however; that’s what editing is all about. Editing is the process of taking the shapeless, lump of dirty rock and chipping away at it until you find that you are revealing a diamond. The problem is, after the editing, I’ve found that it’s not a diamond. In fact, it feels worse than the original draft. That is disheartening. That is the point where I want to walk away from the computer, throw my hands up in the air and give up.
But I don’t want to give up. I’ve done it before and it did me no good. I gave up and still came back to writing. If I give up now, I’ll only do it all over again with yet another chunk of time, a piece of my life wasted instead of pushing through and getting what I want.
The moment where the frustration seems insurmountable is where the distraction becomes tempting and utterly irresistible. That’s the moment when the insidious little habits of finding something else to occupy my time leaks in whether it’s writing, cooking, crocheting, the mani/pedi I discover I’m in desperate need of, or even cleaning the bathroom. Anything, and I mean anything is preferable to sitting there and staring at the computer or the manuscript. I must figure out a way to conquer distraction. I must find a way of bringing closure to the thousands of projects around the house that call my name at these moments, or minimizing my endless to-do lists that nag like fabled fishwives, of bringing order and tranquility to my life so I can focus on the real job at hand without having the easy excuse of “but I really had to do…”
So…how the hell do I do that?
I’ve come to realize that even though I feel an intense pressure to write, to edit and to get published RIGHT NOW, when I fail to meet the standards I’ve set for myself, it’s not (always) a tragic waste. It does not (always) portend imminent disaster. Each day is a new day. Each day is a chance to get better at fixing what I fucked up, and of honing the skills I know I must be gaining.
Each day is a baby step, and it’s hard to see how far I have come, but I know I’ve made progress. I know I don’t have the perspective to accurately judge my position relative to what I began. Maybe later, I’ll be able to see it. Maybe later I’ll be able to sit back and grin with pride, but right now, I’m too busy watching the words magically appear on the screen. When I do stop to look around, I’m so focused on where I want to be and figuring out how to get there to look back on where I started. There will be plenty of time for that later….when I’m sitting on my porch looking out over the waves of the Atlantic waving at me while I tap away on my iPad (Yes Pam, my iPad…get over it . 😉 ) or whatever new techy gadget is out there when I finally live at the beach.
Remembering not to harbor resentment for what I didn’t get done the previous day is difficult, but I’m working on it. Only by letting it go can I really make room for the things I want in my life. Forgetting to be afraid of wanting something so important to me is a skill I have to develop, but I’m trying.
Today is a new day. And so is tomorrow. And the day after that. And all the tomorrows after that.
There’s plenty of room to grow. I’ll get there.
November is almost here and with it, NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Thirty days of writing insanity where millions of people (my guesstimate, of course) sit themselves down with the commitment to write 1,667 words a day and end up with a complete novel of at least 50,000 words. Many will attempt it, but not all who try will succeed.
For the past two years, I have cranked out the 50,000 words and pulled together part of a novel, though never actually bringing one to completion. My previous two attempts had weak story lines and characters who need more dimension before they are actually credible and all. Even though those stories could be considered failures (since I never completed them and they have no real ending, incomplete characters and have been left to rot back into the compost laden shadows of my brain), but I’m glad I did them. My first NaNo got me back to writing after a ten year hiatus. NaNo got me through the fear hump of writing…I wrote crap and the world didn’t end. I wrote and even though it wasn’t good, it proved to me that I could do it, and it proved to me that I could get better.
I am a little wary of NaNo this year. I will participate, but right now, my focus is on short fiction. I am digging around in my writing toolbox, honing the skills I have, developing new ones and refining who I am as a writer right now. I will be putting out 50k words worth of story telling, but it will likely be in smaller chunks. The intent is to have at least one of the resulting stories on the market by the end of January.
Yup, so there it is. The first goal of 2011.
Let the good times begin!
The past week hasn’t been great on the writing front. I haven’t put the time in to significant output, and it hasn’t been a daily thing either. I have, however, invested in a new toy that I can call a productivity enhancer.
I caved in to my most recent tech toy obsession and bought an iPad. I have been eyeballing ot for months and the key determining factor in biting the bullet and making the significant purchase was the ease I have typing on it. Once I realized that I could type easily, I bought it and found a couple of free apps that allow me to create documents and then share them easily across all my gadgets. I use PlainText and Dropbox in conjunction and while I haven’t pushed myself to create, when I have written in places I don’t normally have computer access, I’ve been able to keep it digital instead of wasting time transcribing longhand.
I will be writing in a little while, and we’ll see what happens. Genius, I’m sure. 😀
This is not my first blog. This is, however, the first blog I’ve ever created using my real name.
For almost a year now, I’ve been sporadically blogging about writing, the challenges I’ve faced (primarily internal), the hopes and fears related to chasing a dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember. The anonymity of the internet allows anyone to do the same and hide from criticism and censure. There’s safety in using clever screen names and revealing nothing that could expose you in front of the whole wide world. Anonymity is fine for those who write for no other reason than their own entertainment, or for those who choose to fool themselves into believing that it won’t impede their success.
I aspire to more. I’m willing to forgo safety and anonymity to stand at the edge of the cliff, one foot over the ledge if it means establishing a writing career. I am willing to do what it takes to create the professional life I want for myself beginning with reinventing my blog.
Welcome to version 2.0 and the continuation of the adventure.
Here, I will talk about the major passion in my life – writing. If you’re interested, you’re welcome to follow the adventure as I pursue publication and establish my career as a writer. I welcome your comments and your feedback, and maybe, just maybe I’ll even share a snippet here and there of my writing, but I won’t make any promises just yet. There will be plenty of opportunity to see my work in print and you’ll be the first to know. 😉