Monday, February 28, 2011

Revision is a Harsh Mistress

I've been revising my novel.  No news there.

But I've been revising it for six weeks and what I've discovered is revision -- really good revision -- is really hard.  I don't know why it took umpteen drafts to get to this point but I've hit bone I think.  I've finally got the words where I  want them.

So I'm hoping it sells. If not, back to self-publishing.

But I've discovered a few other things too.  Revision is a lonely process and I've been fighting feelings of isolation.  The fact that it is winter in New England (where I live) does not help.

I really need a break but I've have only half the book revised and I want to complete it this quarter so I can move onto to Books 2 and 3.  Worse still, I heard the siren sound of other things calling me.  If I answer that call, I will not return to this work I'm sure.

So I will stay the course.  In the meantime, I am planning Book 3.  It is partially written and needs much attention.  The good news there is that it will give me something new to work on, which helps during my bouts of revising Book 1.

Support from others would probably be good too but I don't belong to a writer's group (I can't seem to find one I like) and I've all but dropped out of my social media sites for now.

I'll be back, but not for some weeks yet.  Still it's all good.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Does this happen to you:

You are working on a story or chapter or an ideal of some kind and life intrudes.  I'm not talking about a quick trip to the market for milk.  I'm talking something big, for example,  he basement floods, the roof leaks because of an ice dam, your spouse is rushed to the hospital.

It seems to me this sort of thing always happens.  The longer a work on my stories more I notice interruptions.  I think this is mainly because I don't want to be interrupted.  

The question is what to do?  Answer: you keep going.  You deal with the emergency and you find time to keep writing.  That's not as easy as it sounds.  I find that sometimes I need to stop writing for a few days so my stress is under control again.  Generally speaking, I can't write well if I'm stressed.

The same goes for revision and editing.  I've adopted a process of editing and revising one chapter a day simply to make sure I don't miss anything and to keep all the parts of my life in balance.

This means editing my novel takes months and not weeks. Sad, but true.  I really need to simplify my life but that's not really possible now.  I'm lucky I can find any time for the little writing I do.

If I didn't know any better I'd say the Universe is trying to tell me something.  Guess, I'm not listening.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to return to revising my novel.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Time Flies When You Are Aging

I'm sure anyone reading this blog post has had the experience of time collapsing on them.  You know what I mean, right?  When you realize that only the other day you were starting a new job, or buying a new car, or sending your child off to school for the first time, only to realize that these events happened a year ago, or five years ago, or maybe ten and suddenly more years have passed you by than you realized.

I'm having this feeling a lot really.  I started with the anniversary of the Challenger disaster about a month ago.  I remember exactly where I was when I heard that news because I've always been a fan of the space program and believe humanity's future lies in space, if not now, eventually.  Worse still, I don't believe people should be dying for this effort.  We need to ensure the space crafts we build are safe and don't explode.  So when the shuttle blew up I was very sad mourned the loss of the seven astronauts who died needlessly.

But while I can relive those moments as clearly as eating yesterday's lunch, the disaster was 25 years ago and that gave me pause.  I had to stop and think where did those years ago?  The answer was easy:  I was living my life.  In those years I was buying my house, dating and marrying my wife.  And, of course, inventing the plot that would eventually become the fantasy series I'm writing now.

A lot has happened to me in those years.  My father and my two remaining grandparents passed away and so did some very dear friends.  I spent my years ignoring my writing only to rediscover it with a passion.  I went from being in debt with student loans to being completely out of debt (aside from my mortgage).  And I traveled to different parts of the country, partly for my education, and partly in the search of employment.

But what bothers me about this is not that time has collapsed on me, but that 25 years is a good slice of time and it is gone.  More and more, as I write and tell my stories, I feeling like I've finally put together all the elements I need to write well and successfully.  But this feeling only serves to remind me that the sand is falling through the hourglass at an accelerated rate. I heard the cries of the valkyries circling over head like vultures and look for the harbinger of some unfortunate events approaching, fearing that I will not finish my work in the time allotted to me.

I panic.  I cry.  I shake my fists in anger that life itself is so unfair.  No sooner do I figure out what I want to do and how to do it then I run out of time to do it. It is very frustrating.

Sorry.  I'm just ranting here.  I know that all I need do is focus on my work and it will be complete to the best of my ability.  All my false starts serve to help me not make those mistakes in the future.

Sometimes, however, I wish there was a Dummies book on writing and life to help show us the way.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Self-Published Payment

I recently got paid from some of the sales on my self-published novel.  For those curious how Smashwords does this, let me explain.

They pay once a quarter, 30 days after the quarter ends.  And sure enough early in February (should have been January) I got a mail that money was being sent to my PayPal account.  I moved it into my bank account days later.

What I find odd is that not all my sales to date are reflected in that payment.  For example, I got a sale from the Apple store through Smashwords in November, but that money has yet to reach me.

Likewise, I got a sale from Barnes and Noble in December but not payment.

Now we aren't talking large amounts of money here (maybe $6) but it is really the principle and it is really surprising because I thought payments would be a touch smoother.

Just one more wrinkle in the self-publishing game I guess.

Who knew?

Monday, February 14, 2011

You Can't Handle the Truth

When I started blogging I wasn't sure what I would blog about.  Oh sure, I knew it would be about writing and publishing and all that, but I didn't have a clear vision of individual blog entries.  I spent quite a while brainstorming ideas.  My first thoughts were to write about something of use to other writers.  So I focused on my experiences as a writer and software reviews and gave voice to ideas about writing, that sort of thing.

Never once did I question that the truth of my posts would be an issue.  I assumed that I could write factually and truthfully and all would be okay.  Wrong.  Social media and blogging have nothing to do  with the truth.  Nothing.

It is all about appearance.  And now that I've stumbled onto this minefield, I can't write truthfully any more.  Nor can I explain why that is.  Kiss the first amendment good-bye because freedom of speech has nothing to do with this.  This is about being able to live and function in my own life and with the people in it.

Apparently, in this brave new world, people aren't allowed to express negative thoughts about anything, truthful or not.  And to me this smacks of mind control, 1984, George Orwell, and all that.

It is a world of paranoia, conspiracy -- real or imagined -- and perceived persecution.  Frankly, I think this is very sad because it comprises what I can say and write about.  And that sorta makes writing a blog pointless.

So for anyone thinking of starting a blog, my advice is don't unless you have no relationships with anyone and don't want any.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Writing is Becoming a Lost Art

I saw a report on Frontline that looked at how all our computer technology is changing people.  Twenty-somethings and teens function in very different ways than the generations that preceded them.  This was not news to me.  It is well-known that the 15 to 25 set don't interact face-to-face as much as they do online.

The fact that struck me was how it has begun to affect the writing of this age young.  Apparently they can write well-structured individual paragraphs.  But they cannot hold a thought or develop an idea from one paragraph to the next to create an essay or support a thesis.  That got me thinking if they could even a story and I'm guessing the answer is no.

Kinda a shame.  What will ultimately happen to the written word if people cannot spend time to write a story or sit still to experience a three-act play?  Will poetry have a resurgence?  Or will all forms of writing suffer and die out?  Will the literature of the 21 century be all blogs and wall posts?

Worse still, these same people have no interest in reading books because they are so busy multi-tasking.  A long novel is an anathema to them; instead they prefer Cliff Notes.  How can any aspiring novelist even hope to make a dent in this age group if they aren't even willing to crack the book?

I don't have any answers here.  But it is something to think about.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Writing Advice

Every so often, people I know -- friends, family, co-workers -- give me suggestions for what I should write about.  This is usually hysterical because most of them have no idea what it takes to write -- or sell -- fiction.  These people suffer from the illusion that writing is easy.  That I snap my fingers and my stories appear well-written, edited, and formatted ready for the publisher.


The last idea I received was to write about the zany adventures of my dogs.  Now this isn't a bad idea and if I had nothing else to do I might even attempt something about them.  But the fact is I'm in the middle of writing my fantasy series.  By my estimate the entire series will be something like 2500 to 3000 pages and take years to write.  I really don't need additional work just now.

Of course, these people mean well and I know that.  I appreciate the fact that they shared their ideas with me.  But this is a case of 'thank you, but no thank you.'  I'll just keep doing what I'm doing until I'm done and then consider my next project.

That's pretty much all I can do.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Are you stressed? Take some time off.

A report in the news today notes that America is one of the most stressed countries in the world.  The reasons for this, they cite, are too much work, not enough down time, not enough travel.  Basically, all work and no play.

This resonated with me because right now I am extremely over-committed.  This happens when projects that I thought were complete turn out not to be or need revision for a second look.

And to that add all the blogging, browsing, and drifting on the web I need to do to keep up and I have very little time to read or relax.  So in an effect to review that trend I'm going to keep this entry short.

Maybe next time I'll do more.  It depends how far I get catching up or eliminating projects so I feel less stress.