Where’s My Mimosa?

The illustration doesn’t necessarily reflect how I feel right now.

I’m approaching the end of my millionth manuscript revision. This happenstance was the result of some feedback from a query. I took said advice to a new level and basically rewrote my novel.

The challenge was at first thrilling. Then exhausting. Now I’m approaching the last three chapters and I simply feel stunned. The arc of my progress is like a trip and fall against the sharp edge of a bed frame. I’m certain I’ll find myself groping my head wondering if I’m still all there.

Needless to say, survival will call for champagne.

Beatrice is Dead–No More Effing Edits!!

I’m pretty sure Robert Burrows hated me for a few minutes…okay, maybe days. As we crawled toward the end of fix-its on the graphic novel he and I are co-creating, I kept coming back with revisions to Beatrice is Dead. I just want this book to be as good as I can possibly make it–and I didn’t want a stinging-hot, rage-filled episode brought on by the sight of a typo or an obvious misstep in the published work.

But I can finally say that the content editing phase is over. If I see a problem after publication, it’s one I wouldn’t have caught with many more reads.

It’s terrifying to let go. I’ve never said of any major writing project, “This is done.” Never. But that’s what needs to happen and the palpitating fear that makes me want to hide under my blankets is accompanied by giddy joy.

Art by Robert Burrows

Beatrice is Dead Art by Robert Burrows

The Truth about Editing

After NaNoWriMo ended, I put the first draft of my book out of sight and out of mind for a month so I could revisit it with new eyes in January. But, every now and then, it would pop into my thoughts for a moment and I’d buzz with excitement. I’d convinced myself that, this time, editing would be a breeze; it would be an enjoyable process inevitably resulting in perfection. Maybe I got this idea because a month’s distance gave the process an uncharacteristic appeal, or maybe I was suffering from “greener grass” syndrome while toiling with my short story edits. Whatever the cause, these joyous feelings began to evaporate as January approached. Suddenly, I had to finish the short story, then I needed to give myself a break from writing and focus on reading for a weekend, then I needed to organize the craft room. And then I realized that the idea of revisiting my novel terrified me.

Euphoria lifted, I was left with the truth about editing: it’s not fun, it’s not easy, and it forces you to confront your less-than-perfect writing.

This weekend, the pressure of my first-round editing deadline forced me to take out the draft. I’ve committed to editing one chapter a day for initial revisions and notes so I can devote February to major revisions and then submit my draft to a writer’s workshop by the March admission deadline.

I broke out the smelling salts, cracked open my binder, and read through the first chapter. Something amazing happened–I liked what I was reading.

I’ve been a bit bummed out ever since I submitted that short story. I was writing outside of my genre to challenge myself and I wasn’t satisfied with the way it turned out. I started to feel like a bad writer and it was fear of further disappointment that kept me away from my novel draft when January rolled around. Reading the first chapter of my novel reminded me that I can write. I may not be the next Stephen King or Clive Barker, but I can do fantasy, and I enjoy writing fantasy.

So, I’m back at it. Editing still blows, but I really do like this story and the characters, and I’m happy to be reunited with them.

Critiques, Story Submission, and Christmas Books

The short story I’ve been working on consumed my December.  It was in the editing phase and I was beating it to death when I decided to hand it off to a couple of friends.  I reached that point where I’d switch things around, then switch them right back, question the number of “the’s” in paragraphs, and inject random moments with excessive descriptive voice, turning my initially simple tale into a bloated monster. Thanks to a couple of friends who gifted me with honest critique, I was able to focus my edits and feel okay about the story again. Never again will I question the value of the critique process. I really need to get into a UCLA Extension Program Writer’s Workshop for my novel edits.

Today, I drafted my cover letter and sent the whole thing off to a respectable short story publication (after frantically re-reading the story a number of times). It was incredibly difficult to say, “This is the best I can do,” and hand it off. I’ll always feel like I can do better. If I didn’t have the deadline for my novel edits looming, I might never have given it up.

In other news, the holiday season was a blast! I’m not too jaded to enjoy Christmas carols and countdowns. Plus, I got a stack of books for Christmas. Editing is going to be hard when I have Justin Cronin’s The Passage sitting around, waiting to be finished. Can’t turn away! I’ll post a full review soon.

Eye of the Tiger

You’re exhausted.  It’s been a long day and all you want to do is check out in front of the tube. But there’s this project you’re working on; there’s progress you’re trying to make. Your eyes keep shifting to the clock and midnight approaches faster and faster still. Your heart begins to race because the final hours in your day are tumbling down like sand in the grip of gravity. You sigh deeply, making sure your significant other knows you’re about to do something important; something sacrificial. Family Guy drowns it out and he doesn’t turn to offer the quizzical, sympathetic gaze you’re so desperate for in all your pathetic martyrdom. But still, you drag your feet to another room–a quiet place of repose, meditation (fits of rage, paper crumpling, gritting of teeth and barely contained temper tantrums). You console yourself: “I’m almost at the end.  Only a few more paragraphs and I’ll be done.” You start writing, at first very slowly then faster…and faster still. Only one more paragraph.

You stop.

Something isn’t right. That weighted, ugly feeling in the pit of your stomach. It doesn’t work. The ending doesn’t work. The ending doesn’t work because there’s a major problem. There’s a massive clot in a major artery running through your story and it’s going to take a serious, involved procedure to save it. You’ll have to rend bone apart, stem the blood and make the incision before it’s too late. If you don’t do it fast enough, your faith will begin to wane. You’ll wonder if the story CAN be saved, you’ll doubt yourself and then…flatline.

You have to go all the way back to the beginning, to the origin of the problem, and work from there. It’s going to be a long, hard night. Your hands shake as you work. Your chest hurts from the abuse your heart is inflicting on your rib cage. It’s such a fragile entity. One small, misguided stroke and the whole thing could fall apart.

Somehow, you do it. Somehow, through the gunk and flesh and bone you find the rotten core, you cut away and it wakes up again. Stronger, better. Better than you thought it could be. The torment and terror–they make you revel with Bambi-eyed wonder in the realization that you could do such a thing. No, the fight isn’t over yet–you only got rid of the major problem. But the hard part is over and you and your patient are ready to take on the details. Tomorrow.

You open the door. It’s 11 p.m. You strut to the couch, “Eye of the Tiger,” playing at full volume in your head (it goes up to 11). Your significant other is by now reclined on the couch, his feet stretched out onto the one and a half cushions assigned to you.  Crossing your arms, smiling like a lunatic proudly pointing at a fresh puddle of pee on the floor, you wait for him to ask you how things went. He snores.