Tag Archives: Future Me

Whaturday


The edit continues.  Hard to give a status update; it seems like I’m moving more quickly through the book but not actually getting all that much accomplished with it.  I try to deal with the notes I left to myself in the draft, but I feel like I end up only leaving more notes for further future mes to deal with.

That said, occasionally the notes I left to myself back then brighten my day here in the present.  I came across one yesterday that made absolutely not one stonking bit of sense.  “Nope, but good try.”  Stuck in amidst a not particularly compelling bit of dialogue, not referencing anything in particular, certainly not communicating any sort of useful message, it lurks there in the margin, taunting me, daring me to puzzle out what it means and what it’s doing there, like a cat turd on the kitchen countertop.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about the edit how time especially is an issue that vexed me in the draft, and continues to vex me in the edit.  Time is so crucial to the plot of this thing and it is so often referenced that nailing down the times that things start and end, and the times during which things are happening in the background, has become one of my primary giants to slay.  My Past Me’s notes to my Present Self grew more and more frantic from about one-third of the way into the book right up until the end, but today something different happened.  Rather, I found something different which happened several months ago.  The note was actually in the text itself.

Characters are arguing.  Things are happening.  And there, jammed into the story like one discolored brick in a mosaic, is a note to myself lurking with the story itself.

“His agent met him out front with a haggard look on his face: it was, after all, nearly midnight on a Whaturday.”

Not italicized, not asterisk’d or otherwise cordoned off like any self-respecting note; just there, hands on its hips, tongue sticking out, thumbing its nose at me.  With its third hand.  (I don’t know, it’s a word, it doesn’t even have hands.)  At least I remembered to capitalize it.  I can picture my Past Self typing furiously away, realizing I was about to have to remember what day it was supposed to be in this tangle of time and deadlines, then saying, “Fargo it, it’s a Whaturday.”

It cracked me up when I stumbled upon it because I can recall the frustration I was feeling and the complete lack of fargos I gave about trying to sort out the problem at the time.  But I wonder if I didn’t accidentally name a thing that needs naming.  These last few days, with my wife and kids out of town, with the regular punctuation of the day scattered to the winds, one day feels very much like another.  Is it Tuesday?  Thursday?  Monday?  Does it matter?  What day is it?  Whaturday.

This goes doubly for the summer, when as a teacher, I don’t even have a regular work schedule to anchor my time.  The summer becomes one long unbroken string of Whaturdays.

Then I take that last step too far, start really breaking down the word itself, and realize that it’s got the word “turd” right there, unavoidable and undeniable, as turds always are.  And turds are always funny.  Well, the word is.  Turd.  Word.  Wordturd.

God, editing a book is hard.  Please let this Whaturday be over soon.


Editing, Day Whatever


The edit rolls on.

I feel like I’m in an episode of the Twilight Zone, editing this novel.  You know, one of those really creepy ones where there’s nothing overtly terrifying going on, but there’s a subtle horror creeping in at the edges of your vision, lurking behind you in the dark, an intrinsic strangeness to every piece of furniture, every passing stranger, every blade of grass.  I recognize this text.  I’ve walked its halls — hell, I created its halls — and I have a reasonably good memory of doing so.  I remember building this character to do this thing, and developing this relationship so that x can help y do things later in the story.  Nothing wrong there.

But as I read, there are oddities presenting themselves.  Little misplaced things.  Glitches in the matrix.  Loose ends of code.  I see a misspelled word here, a character referring to an event that never happened there, a magically-appeared whatchamacallit over there.  Who left these things strewn about, like so many of my toddler’s toys in the abandoned toy chest which is this monolithic block of text in my word processor?  They’re familiar, yet they’re not.  Strange.

Then, there are the bits of prose which I do not recognize, and those are even creepier.  They fit the tale, they advance the action, they’re even often funny and clever, but they, too, are wrong somehow.  Like an alternate me wrote them.  A me that wasn’t nearly so concerned with plot or character development or narrative unity, but rather focused on witticisms and playful digression and intermittent drizzling dazzlings of poesy.

Like so many other things in the novel, these interludes fit, but they don’t match.  They’re definitely part of the same story and spun by the same hands, but maybe not crafted by the same mind, or at least not the same mind thinking on the same frequency as it was when it wrote the bulk of the story.  So here, the usual quandary: is the rest of the novel — the bulk of the novel — written properly, while these flashes of poetics and digressive humor are out of place and merely distracting?  Or are these misty patches the real essence of my story peeking through, and the rest of the novel is obscuring the heart of the tale with its drudgelike march through the necessary rigidity of the plot?

Thus the ever-growing EPOS (Editing Pile of Sharknado) grows ever larger.  I knew that the first editing pass was going to be harsh times, but that pile is growing exponentially every time I process a few pages.  I know it has to be done — I’ve got to process the whole thing and then I can break out the tools and start putting the monster back together right-side up — but the whole thing feels like one tremendous exercise in procrastination.  I’m working, sure, but I’m not actually repairing the damage.  Semantics, perhaps, but it’s just one more way I’m working against myself on this project.

Of course all this makes it sound like I’m slogging through swamps of sadness and misery working on this thing.  Not the case.  Re-reading my creations, being surprised by the little things I’d forgotten about, rediscovering the little quirks and eccentricities that burrowed their way in, is noting short of delightful, no matter how tedious and daunting the task at hand may be.  I’m a little over a third of the way in.  Keep the head down and keep pushing.


Further Future Mes are Fargoed


It’s happened.  I knew it was only a matter of time — and if I’m honest with myself, it was never that much time to begin with — before I blew a tire.

No, I know, just this weekend I posted about how swimmingly the edit is going, how happy and fun everything is, how much it surprises me that things aren’t as bad as I thought.  But they are.  Things are undoubtedly as bad as I thought and even worse than I feared.

It’s like this time about a year ago.  I was driving with my wife to pick up my dad and my brother at the airport.  We took our Camry, which is a tank of an old car, but its tires were nearing the end.  They were so near the end, in fact, that the car would wobble when it got up above 45 miles per hour.  I knew a blowout was likely if not imminent, but I wanted to pretend that things were fine and that the tires were good for a little bit longer.  But sure enough, as we’re tooling down I-75, there’s an unmistakable BOOM flapflapflapflapflap and the car is pulling hard to the right like a hamstrung horse.

This — editing this novel — is a little different, in that I can’t really get proactive and go put new tires on the thing before I set out for the airport.  The edit itself is about fixing the tires, and replacing the motors in the power windows, and that burned out blinker, and the sandpaper windshield wipers, and that crack in the rearview, and getting that shudder in the transmission checked on.  In short, the whole damn car needs work if I hope to sell it, and make no mistake, the ultimate goal is to sell it (the novel, not the car).

Still, I knew the blowout was coming, and today I hit the first.  Probably the first of many.

There’s this moment in the first act.  It’s awfully hokey.  Like, for all intents and purposes, my protagonist and his sidekick basically accept as a given the weird sharknado that’s going down, break out the fringed vests and start singing Bob Dylan like everything’s gonna be cool.  And, to be fair, it helped Past Me to get past that troublesome moment and move on with more conflicts and more plot development.  And the stuff that comes after is good.  Problem is, when Present Me (then Future Me) goes to fix the Koombaya moment by removing the hokeyness from it, the entirety of the pages immediately following begin leaning like a house of cards built on sand in a windstorm.  AND I KNEW IT WAS COMING.  This is the part of the draft where Past Me started leaving a whole lot of messages to Future Me (now Present Me) which are sometimes as helpful as “go back and write a little bit of exposition for this particular thing” but more often as useless as “THIS SUCKS, HAVE FUN FIXING IT LOSER”.  I’d be laughing if that weren’t an actual note I actually came across in my parsing today.

It’s pretty clear that Past Me was just having his jollies on the promise of Future Me coming round to clean up the sticky bits on the carpet, and again, I knew at the time that I was doing just that.  In fact, I remember pretty clearly while I was drafting having a good laugh at what a jerk I was acting like toward this hypothetical Future Me that was going to have to deal with the angry neighbors and the ruined wallpaper.  It makes me want to hit that guy.  Because now I’m looking at a draft — about 20,000 words into it — and it’s as holey as a hand grenade of Antioch.  As porous as the freaking Falcons’ defense.  As flimsy as the Braves’ chances of making the postseason.  (GOD, it was an awful weekend for sports in Atlanta.)

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that the hardest part — the writing, the creating, the sheer calling from nothingness into being of this thing — is behind me.  But the task ahead ain’t all sunshine and lemondrops.  I can’t even say it’s peanut butter sandwiches and leftover pizza.  It’s looking more like a torrential downpour of excrement and a slog through alligator-infested swamps.  And my tires have blown out, so I have to go the whole thing on foot.  Not that my Camry was going to make much progress in a damn swamp… okay, too many mixed metaphors.  The point is, the proverbial sharknado is hitting the proverbial fan and the work is about to get real.

But tomorrow is another day, and it all gets simplified down to manageable bites on my to-do list for another Further Future Me.  Man, I feel sorry for that guy.


Tone it Down (Pun intended, but I regret it now)


I’m struggling a lot with tone today.  No, not my shower- or car-singing (always pitch-perfect, thanks very much).  That is, the way I’m saying the things I’m trying to say.  Or maybe it’s a struggle with voice.  The two are interrelated but not interchangeable, which is irritating in practice and maddening to try to teach.  Point is, the howler monkey of doubt is all up in my business about the words I used today and I can’t shut him up.

Accidentally Inspired is a whimsical kind of story about a whimsical kind of guy in a whimsical kind of situation. (See, that sentence right there is the kind of thing I’m talking about.) The story itself is playful and fun, so it needs to be told (correction, it BEGS to be told) in a playful, at times ridiculous kind of way.  BUT (There is always a butt, and there is also always a but).  The rules of proper writing, and good writing, and especially of intelligent and, probably, consumable writing, dictate that playful, whimsical, overworded writing gets treated with an axe rather than a razor.  When I go through and edit, I’ll be cutting off limbs, not whiskers.

But I love my playful, too-verbose tone, the Id-Writer protests, it works for the story and it works for me and I LIKE It GOLDFINGER IT DON’T MAKE ME CHANGE IT.  And I’m at war with myself, because on a lot of levels, I agree with him.  However, the Id-Writer and the ego-writer will eventually have to sit down and share a conversation, and I’m afraid that when they do, I’ll need to hire a cleaning crew to get the blood off the walls.  The ego-writer wants the book to be read, and to be accessible to everybody, and for people to love the story and the way that I tell it, but the Id-Writer only wants to tell the best fargoing story in the best fargoing way I know how to tell it.  The Id-Writer swears a lot more, and is (probably) more likely to bludgeon the Ego-Writer with a keyboard or a hammer or in fact anything else that may be handy, including my own precious pseudoganglia.  Are there pseudoganglia in the brain?  I don’t know, I don’t do Science (see below).

The more I think about it, the more it dawns on me that this is probably a problem (a probable problem, whee) best left for Future Me to deal with, not that Past Me and Present Me aren’t adding to the steaming pile that is (will be) is inbox on the daily.  Nonetheless, it’s bothering me now, and if it’s bothering me now, it’s gonna end up on the blarg, and here it is.

So how do I deal with voice and tone in the here and now?  I have no fargoing idea.  I hate to cop out, least of all on myself, but I really am at a loss as to how to fix this problem.  The tone of a story isn’t just window dressing.  It’s an integral part, a functioning limb in the Rube-Goldberg machine that is story.  The story-bone’s connected to the tone-bone.  (ahuh, huh.  I said tone-bone.)  Change the tone and you change the story.  The Tell-Tale Heart, if told in a humorous fashion, could very well be a humorous story.  Take the rhyme and meter out of Doctor Seuss and you’re left with a sharknado-ey yarn about a couple of bored kids and an asgard-hole of a cat and his two asgard-hole pets.

I guess that for lack of a better idea I’m just going to have to do with this problem what I do with 98 percent of other problems that have cropped up while writing this thing, which is make a note of it (see this blog entry), chuck it in Future Me’s landfill of an inbox, and allow my Id-Writer to toss back another creative beverage, press on writing, then run screaming madly into the night, leaving a trail of ink-blood and rent pages in his wake.

Say what you will, but that guy knows how to party.

If you’re reading this, help (Future) Me out.  Any thoughts on how to clean up my tone and get all my overstatements under control without totally changing the feel of my piece?

(Sidenote).  On the topic of I don’t do Science:

This weekend, while sharing dinner with my family, my engineer sister related a question from a very difficult engineer’s exam that she has just taken (results pending, but considering her average level of achievement, I imagine they’ll not only pass her but ask her to write the next version of the test).  I’ll do my best.  Say you have to replace 100 light bulbs in an apartment building.  Each bulb has a 1 percent chance to be faulty before it’s plugged in.  Say you take a random sample of five bulbs.  What is the likelihood that the bulb you chose will be faulty?  (I fully own that I may be remembering the question wrongly in order to make my answer seem righter.  Sorry, sis.)

Easy, right?  1 percent means one in one hundred.  Five bulbs means five one-in-one-hundred shots, which is to say five-in-one-hundred, which is to say one in twenty, which is to say, FIVE PERCENT.  This math I did in my head quickly before announcing my findings to the table.

My dad, a math teacher, just shook his head.  My sister, the engineer, did the same, and then said, “That’s cute,” before sharing a laugh with my dear, loving wife.  (NOT THAT SHE KNOWS MATH EITHER.)  Hear me now, and believe me later.  You don’t tell a thirty-year-old man that he’s cute.  That’s a good way to get a dirty look and a sternly-worded blarg post written about you.  If said thirty-year-old man does or says something that is so oversimplified and ridiculous that it doesn’t make sense to explain to him how he’s wrong (I’m not saying this is ME, okay, I’m just SAYING), the way to handle it is by nodding politely at him and telling him yes, not only is that correct, but you’ve brought a new level of simplicity to what I wrongly assumed was a very complicated problem.

Take that, sis.  You may be smarter at every turn (including the turns I haven’t thought of yet, because you took Calculus in college while I took creative writing) but you’ve now been lambasted in the immortal turns of the internet.  LAMBASTED I SAY.


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