Day Eight Has Arrived

Finally.

Many days wrestling RL responsibilities into submission have passed and now I can get back to spending hours at the desk. All that was actually taken care of Friday, but I gave myself a “free” day to celebrate. I explored Downtown yesterday and succeeded in coloring in a mental map vital to this story.

It’s gorgeous Downtown, even beneath murky skies and naked trees.

Afterwards I dosed up my sore knee, ate a metric ton of Chinese food, and reclined in front of the TV to watch Serenity. Saturday was made of awesome.

And now I am ready to start over.

Yeah, you read that right. First person present is being tossed. It’s just too limited, and has the tendency to stiffen up. I felt for a long time after recognizing all the problems with first person that I couldn’t deviate from it, that somehow a different POV would bury the emotional impact of the protagonist. In the end though, I had to make the change. This story cannot be allowed to stiffen up.

So, now I have a title, a storyboard, 800 fresh words, and a lot of leftover Chinese food. Sunday is made of awesome, too.

What are y’all writing?

Day Five

According to that tidy little schedule for The Second Project, I am now three thousand words behind and lacking at least one day of necessary research. Not bad.

Yesterday was all about the dialogue. This project has a LOT of dialogue, which wouldn’t be a problem if not for Holly’s propensity for cliché. I have to keep a close eye, and ear, on her. So far, so good. I think.

Well against the advice of many writing bloggers, I have jumped into this project without a clear plan for what is to be done with it, exactly, when it’s finished. Initially I planned to research publishers of speculative short fiction collections and practice query letters in my free time — I have since realized such places might not exist. The only similar collections I have read were penned by well-knowns who already had publishers firmly in hand before they ventured into speculative short fiction.

I am not well-known.

Sorry. That was a bit Captain Obvious.

Also, there has been the toying with the idea of e-publishing. I have the title of the collection in place, an inkling of what the cover art should look like. However,the last time I researched e-publication formatting issues alone were enough to make me run away screaming. Maybe options have improved in the last three years?

I can’t think about that right now. The dialogue is calling.

Today’s portion of the project includes a lot more dialogue, some intense gun and ammo info, and a few exploding cars.

Tense and Tension

That first five hours of magic and stunning word count production is a thing of the distant past. The Second Project was rudely interrupted by LIFE, and now I am having a difficult time getting back into it. I sat down late Saturday evening, once supper had put the rest of the household into a nice quiet coma, and tried to ease back into the z-fic rewrite. It was then that I was brought face to face with one of the problematic issues of this story that nagged at me way back when: First person, present tense.

This is one of three stories that “came to me”, in the main character’s voice. I am not pretending to be clairvoyant, nor am I attempting to convince anyone of mumbling creative guru nonsense when I say such things. I am speaking with plain honesty, regardless of how ridiculous it might sound to experienced writers out there—I literally heard, “My name is Holly, and I have a bizarre story to tell”.

Okay. Enough of defending that. It is what it is.

Holly is not real big on descriptive details. I like descriptive details. I like texture, nuance. I am fond of the waxing poetic. I want to know about the guy who calls her Holly Girl. Who is that, he seems so dedicated and sweet while she treats him like a thorn in the side so I ask who what where and why, and Holly says shut up and keep moving. I want to know more about the raspy, lyrical voice of her grandmother, and Holly says listen to the words, shut up and keep moving. I want to explore the origin of her killer instinct and correct her on some the cliches she’s prone to spout and Holly says we’re all going to die, shut the fuck up already.

I’m stubborn, and after all, I’m the one writing this stuff, so I explore anyway. I discover some amazing things which I believe are vital to the tale and I begin interjecting. But Holly’s first person present tense isn’t really flexible enough to do all the things I want to do. Reading back passages of the story, I hear clanging noises.

Dammit.

So, I am awake at 4 a.m., wondering how to fix all this. Let’s ask Google. Google points me to a Writer’s Digest article entitled “The Pros and Cons of Writing in Present Tense”. I expect to find solutions to these problems in this article written by knowledgeable writing writers. What I find is the declaration that only the immature writer insists upon first person. First person is somewhat faux pas. And one of the few ‘pros’ to writing in first person is that it simplifies the handling of the twelve tenses. Twelve?

How many English courses did I take? About twenty thousand dollars worth. I do not have any memory of twelve. No one is going to give me a refund. How disappointing.

I guess I’ll go do what Holly tells me.

Blurry Vision

Yesterday was my self-imposed deadline for submitting my collection. I spent the entirety of Monday scrambling to fix mistakes, not the least embarrassing of which was an Acknowledgments page faux pas. I had actually tried to research writing the Acknowledgments page, but came up with squat after two weeks.

Until, as it happens, moments after a friend pointed out how other published poets utilized their Acknowledgments pages.All of a sudden, Google was positively full of instructions for such things.

Eventually, I will be able to digest and delineate all that I’ve learned throughout this whirlwind writing process. Eventually. But I have a feeling the submission process is going to teach me a few more hard lessons. We’ll see. As I was saying, I missed that self-imposed deadline. There are four days remaining before the actual submission deadline. I’ll make it early.

Meanwhile, I’m more than a bit punch drunk and truly exhausted. My vision is too blurry to do much of anything today. I think I’ll rest.

Those Boring Writing Assignments …

Last night got a little weird. I had work left to do on the manuscript, had neat little lists all written out, and was very excited about getting so close to being done. Then, shortly after surviving a trip to the grocery store I just… blanked. I suppose it could be described as a “stupor” from which I woke at 11 p.m.

I was eye level with the computer screen, sitting in my office chair. Netflix was playing an episode of Jericho. To my left was a stack of print outs from the z-fic I’m not scheduled to work on until Tuesday (wait, what). And to my right was a saucer of chocolate cake scraps.

I brushed my teeth and went to bed.

Dim and early this morning it was necessary to take care of a writing assignment I’ve been putting off for weeks—revising my resume. As of 7 a.m., I officially joined the job hunt.

Now that’s out of the way, I think it’s time to get back to my carefully plotted weekend schedule. The Table of Contents must be completed today, a final read-through of the manuscript, then a little happy dance toward the laundry basket that’s piling up and the kitchen floor that needs mopping.

As for the Netflix and the cake scraps, well, that will all have to remain a mystery. Apparently I left no witnesses to what transpired between 6 and 11 p.m.

Start counting …

THE PROJECT is almost done and gone. I will be reading through a final time tomorrow, and submitting bright and early Monday morning.

What’s next? I actually have a schedule mapped out for THE SECOND PROJECT. I’m looking at about three months of work, six days per week… and that might be a low estimate. My plan is to revive three stories originally written in episodic spurts for Brigit’s Flame contests between 2009-2011. The shortest word count of the three comes in at 8k, and it’s the only one that has a real title, a real ending, was submitted for a short story contest in 2012, and soundly rejected.

The other two don’t have titles or endings. I recall only a few half-hearted attempts at cleaning them up. All three are speculative fiction—we’ve got potential alien invasion (the rejected story), zombies pissing off the wrong girl (untitled), and a strange legend that may or may not include demigods running amok (untitled). Speculative? Definitely.

And the fun begins Tuesday 2/24 with zombies. Untitled. Yurgh.

I stopped writing this story when local stores began to sell zombie apocalypse survival gear. Admittedly I got a little irked by speculative becoming mainstream pop. I guess I’m over that now.

Those who know more than the vagueness I’m leaving here in the blog are curious as to how I intend to switch gears from writing autobiographic angst-ridden poetry to z-fic. I can only shrug and say, not a clue, let’s see what happens.

The Final Finalities

Today I am working on a Table of Contents and Acknowledgements page. I still don’t have notes and final editing on some of the work to be included, but a long weekend of more ice and icy temperatures are ahead… so.

Writing Acknowledgements just might be the most intimidating thing I have ever done. Even more intimidating than finally writing that cornerstone piece the collection needed.

I just read those last two sentences back and oh boy! That all sounds so pretentious.

Maybe I’ve finally gotten sick of writing about my writing. Yeah.

I am quite sick of talking about it, too. Imagine if I was writing a novel! After months and months of research and drafts, and work shopping. What a wimp I am.

Psst… this is where y’all jump in and tell me all about your projects. Tell me the worst and the best of the process. Tell me what it feels like to finally be finished.

It’s All About Perspective

I am very fortunate to have friends willing to read my first and final drafts. There’s not a day that goes by that I doubt that good fortune. Reading someone’s writing, particularly if they are a good and trusted friend, can be difficult. It can be downright tricky trudging through the guts and temporary glory bled all over a page, especially if the writer’s public voice doesn’t really match up with that raspy, mournful (sometimes murderous) drawl put to use in autobiographical poems and essays.

Imagined distance and imagined complexity, the worst secrets and shames… my reading friends are now aware of it all. I could have continued with fiction, I could have denied the craving for raw honesty in print. That’s the choice I wrestled with for a long time, at least. Truth is, I couldn’t. Truth is, in a few days it will all be out there and I don’t know what will become of it—all my truth-telling. Maybe nothing more than a few accidental readers—outside my small circle of friends—will ever wonder why I thought it so important to try to be a writer. Maybe they’ll dedicate some time to wondering why I thought anyone would care.

Here’s what I knew: I spent half my life feeling responsible for a disappointing, insecure childhood, and equally disappointing and insecure young adult years. Someone should have stood up and took the blame, but I gave up on the possibility of anyone being brave enough or honest enough to do more than watch me fumble around.

Here’s what I know: Having someone to blame doesn’t solve anything, and leaving all that raw honesty stored up in a cool dark place couldn’t solve anything.

In hopes of solving things I broadened my perspective, I looked beyond this narrow little corner of the world then circled back to take a long look at my middle-aged face. Nothing was there on the surface, so, I flayed myself open to get to answers that might make my future better. I poked around in the past, dissected the present, never gaining a clear picture of the future. But I think I figured out the best way to handle all that confusing mess of truth, of questions without answers.

I only have one answer: I am a writer.

Mining For Gems

As I may have mentioned, this is not my first attempt to put together a collection in hopes of submitting for publication. In 2012 I came close to finishing. Frustration over a particular—and necessary—poem that wouldn’t come, then one of those ugly aspects of real life got in the way and I gave up.

I was blogging back then, too, and wrote this after reading a book of Frost, just a few weeks before calling it quits and running away to hide in a cave.

Robert Frost’s poems often include tools. I suppose he was a man who believed men were defined by their work and took pride in his as well as of his father’s, and so on. I’ll admit to not being a student of Frost’s, just a casual reader, but the tools are obvious. He wields them with a certain loveliness that can be appreciated.

Poets can be depended upon to have a central theme to their larger body of work. Whether or not the theme is premeditated or simply emerges probably depends upon the individual writer.

Regional landscapes, religion, sex, love, mythology, environmental rape, social discord, war, motherhood, traffic jams, cats… nothing is off limits. Poetry can translate the most mundane day-by-day schlock, or even the ugliest horrors, into tremendous, emotionally evocative lines.

Of course every writer and reader of poetry knows this. Being a greedy reader, I knew this, and it was usually a fun process to read through a particular book a second time once the theme had become clear and relatable.

However! Now that I’m earnestly working on completing a collection of poetry that will bear my name, my theme is emerging—with the grace of a 2×4 hurdling from the guts of an F-5 tornado toward unsuspecting victims.

No, I didn’t expect the first dozen or so poems completed for this collection to hold up to scrutiny like that endured by Mr. Frost’s poems, or any other incredible household-name-sort of writer. I just wanted them, in some small way, to reflect me. Truth be told, this work is reflecting an aspect of my personality that is bluntly misanthropic.

I didn’t realize my tendency toward misanthropy until recently. I certainly didn’t intend for it to burst out of my poetry in such an obvious way. After reading through these first dozen or so poems, I said “UGH!” and went about trying to force in some sunshine and brotherly love. That did not go well. Then I read through poems that I’ve posted here, and completed for class assignments. Wow. It was there all along.

I do not hate all humankind, not every day at least. Promise. But on the days I do, I’m not very good at making it seem otherwise.

I remember being genuinely concerned about this. Melancholy and people-hating can make for interesting poems, true, but fifty pages of it? Notsomuch. Thankfully the following years my writing glimmered with hints of optimism and sweet nostalgia. I’ve mined some of those older works, dusted them off and deleted a lot of semicolons. The diversity is satisfying.

Authenticity is a must for all poetry, and a definite must for all this work that bears my name. So, it’s necessary that more than just a singular theme, a singular mood emerges. I am prone to moodiness, not decades of inky black voids.

While I still carry that disappointment over not completing a book of poetry in 2012, I have to admit that the work is much better today. Guess that cave dwelling paid off.