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Monday, October 22, 2012


Hey! This is hard. Has anyone else noticed? Instead of another blog about how hard this is, I thought I’d spew out something useful. Like my mantra.

The following is what I’ll read whenever I feel like Elspeth from Her Fearful Symmetry, concentrating all my psychic energy on one thing in the hopes of creating a small shift in the physical world—all from a strictly spiritual vantage point. Like Elspeth, all writers face the possibility that their efforts won’t be noticed. Yet we take this gamble, the gamble of ghosts.

My work in progress is about a young girl who thinks the universe is sending her signs to guide her through adolescence. She interprets these signs in extremely self-serving ways, almost ensuring they become self-fulfilled prophesies. This whimsical, strong and charming MC of mine would be all over the notion of a writer’s mantra geared toward spiritual revitalization. Like Sweeney Todd on a five o’clock shadow, in fact. So Melia Carter, this one’s for you.
First, Jessica's:

Now mine:
(It’s a combination of The Irish Blessing, Murphy’s Law, the Apostle’s Creed and the Bipolar Disorder Association’s mission statement.)

Today my word count will match my genre. The keyboard will rise to meet my fingerpads. The wind at my back will be shorter than the day is long. Spellcheck and autosave will not fail me, but grant me the serenity to type in a rhythm that’ll fuel daydreams about the day I pay someone to ghostwrite the myriad ideas churning through my head.

I’ll always have faith in myself and my writing. I will never again cringe at boasting membership in SBCWI when I mean SCBWI (and shouldn’t it be SCBWAI?), for the only reason I make dumb mistakes like that is because I’m busy composing the next scene in my book, which is far more important to get right. It’s a book, after all—not just five letters. I won’t sweat the small stuff. I won’t obsess about the inevitable typo (or two) that’ll show up in my book when it’s published. I won’t pine for Borders. I’ll take amazon.

I will get an agent—and it won’t be the day before they become obsolete. Oh God! I am not obsolete I am not obsolete I am not obsolete. Computers can’t write stories; I can. And just because my stuff is in the slush pile doesn’t mean I write slush. I don’t write slush I don’t write slush I don’t write slush I don’t write slush. And if I do, at least it’s better than sludge.

Talent will find a home, talent will find a home talent will find a home talent will find a home talent will find a home, and that home will NOT be underlined in red on predators and editors. Because then it’s back to Square One. I will not have to go back to Square One. Square 5,689, maybe. But not Square One. Never Square One, for I have learned so much—and it only takes one yes.

That’s my mantra. Feel free to borrow. Meanwhile, may the odds be ever in your favor. True talent will find a home. Keep hoping. Keep dreaming. Keep writing. It only takes one yes (or two).

Now let’s rock the revisions.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hack! Hack! Hack!

     Hear that? It’s the sound of me hacking the heck out of my manuscript. It’s so hard to let those words go. Even harder now than when I worked in advertising. Copy was shorter back then. There didn’t seem to be as much at stake. An account person said, “Change this. Shorten that.” I was okay with it, aware from the first that my baby wasn’t really mine. As I’ve said before, many, many people are involved in cranking ads out. We have a term we use enthusiastically when the “collaboration” seems to have gone seriously awry. It’s called a clusterXXck. (C’mon, fill in the blank; this is a family blog.)

     In contrast, this baby is mine, all mine—and here I am slaughtering it! I’ve cut 9000 words so far. More edits are to come before my deadline of October 31. Hopefully I’ll have the perseverance to keep it up.

     Here’s a little secret. After the first one thousand, cutting words became almost fun. It’s like taking a sledgehammer to a wall. So cathartic. I realize now that my first pages were bogged down with boring backstory. On the bright side, writing it out wasn’t a waste of time because I needed to know all those things in order to cement my characters, and their history, firmly in my mind. But my readers didn’t, especially not in such detail.

     Think of it as a CIA operation. In novels, everything is on a strictly need-to-know basis. Ironically, some of what I removed from the info-laden beginning is materializing further on in the story—usually in dialogue. I’m noticing that the things that reappear are points vital to the story. Everything else has the sense to stay where it belongs, in the outline that’s for my eyes only.
     Aside from initiating the carnage, I don’t feel like I have too much input. Everything is kind of falling into place. It has been a liberating exercise and one that I recommend. So, save a backup of your original, and then hack away. You can always revert to the prior draft, but I bet you won’t.

     Before I go back to my demolition project, I leave you with Florence, and urge you, dear writers, to hack with wild abandon. Like machines. Take that manuscript and shake it out.