Category Archives: commitment 2014

Achievement Unlocked: First Edit Complete!


There’s a great moment in Hook, that early 90’s Peter Pan reboot, where Tinkerbell suddenly grows to human size and her house explodes around her as she embraces her true feelings for Peter Pan, confessing her undying and eternal pixie love for him.

Actually, that moment was a little bit weird. Creepy, even, somehow. But that’s off the topic. She unleashes a blast of magic she didn’t know she had, and with a demure little gasp of surprise, she yelps, “I did it!” Just as much in shock as Peter.

Well, that’s me right now.

Because I did it.

I bound up the sprained ankle I mentioned in my last post — you know, the one where I stepped in a literary pothole — and heaved myself bodily across the finish line. And that’s it. It’s over.

Well, not over over. But the first edit is over. Like really, legitimately, no-more-bullsharknado over. The only thing left now is one final pass for formatting, and then I can put the last nail in the coffin and decide who I’m going to burden with the first reading of this coalesced glob of proto-babble I’m tentatively calling a book. And for that step, I’m allowing myself no more than a week. One week — seven days — and then it’s time to figure out who I trust enough to tear my crazily crafted tapestry to shreds.

But here’s a dirty secret. I didn’t want to be finished. No, that’s not right. I was dying to be finished. No…

Truth be told, I was 50-50 split on whether I wanted to be finished with the whole thing or whether I was going to undertake another massive rewrite. It would have been easy to take the rewrite and stretch the process out for another month or more. So easy. I could still do it, in fact.

The fact is, I just slapped a band-aid on the problem of the disappearing character. She had disappeared without a trace, and I just wrote a magical exit from the narrative for her. (There’s magic in my story; I can totally do that.) Solving the problem she presented for me consisted of writing a single paragraph and changing a few sentences in the chapter at hand. That’s all.

But while I was writing the easy fix, a bigger fix crept into my head. A divergent fork in the road. The road overgrown with weeds and bramble and teeming with dark critters and glowing eyes floating in the mist. And this time… this time… I decided to let the harder road be.

You can bet dollars to doughnuts, though, that I wrote down the idea for the rewrite in case I need it later.

So, that’s that. The first edit is concluded. Or so nearly concluded as makes no difference. Concluded in every practical sense. Pat it on the head, send it on its way.

So what does that mean? It means it’s time to stop thinking of this novel as a pet project and get serious about the business of turning it into an actual book that you, reading this, can actually hold in your actual hands. Or, you know, into a collection of ones and zeroes that your handheld computer can belch up at you without the need for all that clumsy processed tree getting in the way. Either way.

And then…

And then, I guess, it’ll be time to don the greasy garb of the pit fighter to begin once again the dirty work of drafting something new. Because momentum matters, and just because the first edit is done is no reason to consider the work finished.

I was reading some notes by Stephen King about how he prepares to work on a story, and he wrote rather anti-eloquently that he gets the idea in mind and then just goes about his life until the muse — and I’m paraphrasing here, but the operative words are definitely his — shits on his head. Maybe I should start carrying a roll of toilet paper around in my man-satchel.

You know, just in case.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

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Broken Ankle at the Finish


I know, okay? I get it.

It’s become too much of a motif around here, this procrastination, this failure to complete, this inability to batten the last hatches. If writing my novel has been a marathon, I’ve snapped an ankle in the last mile. Or maybe sprained it. Or maybe I just tripped and fell and I’m only really really tired, and every scratch feels like a gash, and every shallow breath is a gasp. But that’s no excuse for not slogging myself across the line.

There isn’t much left to do. There really isn’t. I can only belabor the point so much. I can only pretend for so long that I’m stuck on an issue — this character isn’t working out so well, or that plot turn doesn’t feel quite right — before the truth bubbles to the surface like an eyeball in your soup: that I’m not stuck on an issue within the novel, I’m stuck on finishing the novel.

Because that’s all there is. This first edit has drawn on like an endless summer, and I’m bogged down just a mile from the finish line. The car’s blown a tire and there’s no phone service, and even stepping foot out into the sun has me sweat-soaked and exhausted. The prospect of knuckling up and walking it out to the finish has me dreaming of shade trees and ice-cold lemonade.

The last issue is this one character. I don’t know what to do with her, and I could conceivably go back and write her into a few more scenes or write her out of the novel completely… it honestly makes no difference to me at this point. I’m almost ready to hand the manuscript off to some beta readers (a term that never made sense to me… I mean, I guess I’d be the alpha reader, but does that really make sense? Anyway…) and just let them tell me what to do with her, but then I know it’s probably not a professional move to hand off a work with glaring, unresolved issues and expect other people to fix them for me.

But even more than I’m frustrated at my block about finishing this thing, I’m even more frustrated at the prospect of not finishing it. I didn’t come this far; I didn’t write 90,000 words and then re-write about a third of them; to give up now. I can smell the blistered pork of the hot dogs, taste the swirled sticky sugar of the cotton candy. (What? It’s totally gonna be a carnival when I finish.)  No, I’m going to finish this damn novel if I have to crawl across the line dragging two dead, broken legs behind me.

And sooner rather than later. Because I’m a little bit burned on it.

Not that that’s not glaringly obvious or anything.

*Removes cobweb from eyebrow*


MudStuck


I was out for a run once, and it had been raining in the days before. The sun had been out for a day in between the rain and my run, so most of the ground was relatively dry; even the dirt patches had baked and packed down solid. There were still deep standing puddles here and there at low points in the road, but they were obvious and easy to avoid.

The day was gorgeous; clean spring air, soft breeze, shade from the verdant, rain-thickened trees. The kind of run that makes you feel alive and calm… you know, all that hippy-dippy crap that I usually try to write away from. I had gone a couple of miles, completed a neat loop through a well-marked part of the trail, and was about half a mile away from the trailhead and my car. I had expected to get muddy from stomping through the elements so soon after a rain, but surprisingly, I had stayed relatively clean. I relaxed into the last mile, putting on a little speed and feeling the wind on my face as I streamed along the shaded path.

KASPLORCK-CCCHHHHHHHHHUUUUUUUPP.

A mud pit, cleverly disguised as a perfectly ordinary patch of dirt, had engulfed my shoe and yanked it unsanctimoniously off my foot. Through some miracle of physics I retained my balance and didn’t pitch over on my face; then I had to hop on one foot to circle around and look at what had happened. I’d plunged my right foot into mud six inches deep, and once ensconced, the suction was great enough to remove my entire shoe. There it sat, inches below the surface of the mud, sunk in a perfectly fitted crater with mushroomed edges, slowly beginning to fill with muddy water from the surface. I bent to try and yank it out, but with only one leg underneath me I couldn’t manage enough leverage to dislodge it. There were only two options — sink my unshod foot into the mud to establish leverage to pull the shoe out, or try to worm my foot back into the shoe and unstick it that way. Both choices would leave me with a horrific muddy mess on my foot, not to mention that the shoe was already past done.

I was beyond frustrated, and after the fact, I would realize that there was not a single good reason for the frustration. I had set out for the run knowing that the trail was likely to be a muddy mess. Had I hit the mudhole at the beginning of the run, it would have fazed me not a tick. The problem was, I made it through the run nearly unscathed, clean enough to let my guard down and start imagining a future where I wouldn’t have to stumble in the door and leave my laundry to dry on the porch before I could even step foot inside the house. Timing, I suppose, is everything.

Okay, so, this is an allegory, right? The through-line of this blog is and always has been my writing project. There’s a healthy dose of side business in the flavor of my kids, running, stupid stuff I see on TV, and what-have-you, but really, it’s all about the writing, all about the book, and that’s never more true than now. I was — am — will be — this close to finishing the first edit of this book. I can see the finish line, taste the clean air on the other side, feel the grass growing softer underfoot.

And all of a sudden, a mudhole yawns open beneath my foot and swallows my shoe.

In short: there’s a character in this piece. A character I like a lot. A character who’s critical to the early stages of the story but not quite so critical to the end. And due to that duality, some poor notetaking, and, I’ll admit it, a pretty glaring oversight, this character has turned into the Gordian Knot of the book. The problem? In one scene she’s there, helping to drive events and throwing down obstacles of her own; the next, she’s not. She’s simply gone. Like I totally forgot to write any sort of resolution, or anything even close to resembling a resolution for her.

And I’m stuck. I don’t know what to do. I made it through the whole muddy trek of this edit — even undertaking some fairly major changes to the story — without getting particularly dirty. Nothing I couldn’t hose off with a stout drink and a hot shower. But I don’t know how to fix this, and I can’t picture a future in which it’s fixed. Back up and write her out of the narrative completely? I fear the story will collapse in on itself like a matchstick house, and I’ll have to rebuild it piece by painstaking piece. Forge ahead and cram her back into the final third? The can of sardines will burst, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get all those tiny, stinky fish back into the tin.

I don’t see a way to fix this without diving in and getting myself covered head to toe with the inkstains of major narrative surgery. And I was so close.

There’s a third option, of course, just as there was a third option with my mudbound shoe. Leave it, and hobble home in my socks. Just forget about it and hope that my readers do the same. (Not likely.) Or, pile this and all the other little nitpicky problems the story has sprouted into a neat little pyre and nuke the whole mess from orbit. Leave no survivors. Take it back to the blank space.

Okay, so there’s really not a third option.

So if the blog has been a little sparse lately (and let’s face it, it has been), this is why. I’m stuck.

That’s not an excuse. I’ll find a way around. I didn’t come this far to shamble home with my shoe left in the mud. But it’s a problem I need to solve before I can really feel comfortable in my writing again.


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