Trapped In The Fog

I'm in here somewhere....

There’s a ship in here somewhere….

Odd how sometimes the weather matches my mood. I know, it’s more typical that the weather influences how you’re feeling, but every once in a while it goes the other way. Like today; a very, very foggy morning. Perfectly suited to my apparently foggy brain today.

Nothing convinces me more of the wisdom of writing every day than being between books. Which I am. The hard work on the last book (the 3rd Cutter’s Code, for those keeping track) is done. I’m in the deciding part of “What’s next?” Which for me, if it’s not already a given, often consists of starting three (sometimes more if I’m really undecided) stories to see which one takes off. The others may still be used, but it’s not their time yet.

But right now, as I said, I’m in a bit of a fog. I sat down this morning, amid the sound of foghorns, and tried to pick where to go next. It’s not that there’s any shortage of ideas for my furry friend’s next adventure. No, I started with a list of a dozen possible stories, and I’ve added more since. And bits and pieces are flying at me, a scene here, bits of dialogue there, character images over there. Problem is, they’re all for different stories. (When people ask “Where do you get your ideas?” I always laugh. I don’t need ideas, I need a way to fight them off. Or at least discipline them so they only come at me one at a time!) It’s as if all the ideas I’ve scribbled down held a meeting and came out of it with an agenda to tag team me.

Usually when I’m at this point, I always have a side project to work on. Something just for me, or something in a new genre, or just something whimsical that makes me smile. But it seems those went to the same meeting, and are flying around my head until I can’t see any one of them clearly. Hence the fog analogy today.

There was a time when I could indulge all this. When I could just let things fly around until one of them got tired enough to land. Or go away and do something else and come back later. But part of being a professional writer is…well, being professional. Which means showing up. Every day. Writing. Every day. Even if it’s garbage and your first move the next day is to hit the delete key. Because writing is like muscle; use it or lose it. Sad that that’s a lesson I have to relearn every now and then. Take too much time off, and it’s hell getting started again. Of course, a real writer is never not working. To the annoyance of family and friends, everything truly is material. But that’s the fun part. Those “Wow, that would make a great story!” moments.  The hard part is deciding which of those wows actually would make a great story. Will it hold up? What will it take to make it work? Can that little scrap of an idea really carry a 400 page manuscript?

And that’s where I am now. Amid a fog of ideas, trying to see which ones will work, and of those, which one wants to be told the most. E. L. Doctorow said “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I think the same applies to fog. Except sailing along in the fog might be a tad more dangerous! But I know by now the only way to deal with this situation is to simply launch my ship and sail into that fog, never mind that I can’t see either shore right now. They’re there. I need to relax and remember the fun is in the journey.

foggy sailboat

Into the mist!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why is the end never really the end?

Dead End

When a writer types “The End” doesn’t it seem like it should be…well, the end? (assuming, of course, that you do type that, which I don’t. I figure if the reader can’t tell it’s the end, or doesn’t think it’s the end, then I’ve done something wrong or left something unfinished) But if you do, it’s not. Now, there have always been more things to do after you finish a book, but these days, there are more than ever. Some have been around since the first cave man erased part of that drawing on the cave wall to make it better. In my world, that’s called revising.

Eraser

           

 I have never thought of myself as a good writer. But I’m one of the world’s great rewriters.   –James A. Michener

“No, that paragraph shouldn’t be there, it should be back there.” Or, “Uh-oh, I just realized that entire concept for what happens in this scene is made impossible by what happened in that scene. One of them has to go.” Or my favorite, when a character pops up and informs me “Um…hello? I wouldn’t do that. Ever.” Well, you would have when I started this, clownhat.

Pirate musket/Andy Castro via Creative Commons

Pirate musket/Andy Castro via Creative Commons

   

 One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.     –Anton Chekhov

 

 

Then there’s continuity editing. Yes, your editor will be doing this also, but I prefer to avoid humiliation and do my own first, and hope that I don’t miss anything. There’s nothing like getting a note from said editor asking “So, where did that gun end up, anyway?”

grammar-police-tapeA copyeditor is the type of person who will point out to a police officer that the charge for speeding in a school zone is actually $75, not $50…while they are getting a ticket.           

–Nathan Bransford ( http://blog.nathanbransford.com )

Copy editing. And copy editors. A good one is worth his or her weight in gold, which these days is saying something. A bad one can make your life crazy, and make you stomp about declaring it’s nice that the criminally nit-picky can find work.

crossed eyes

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.      –Oscar Wilde

Then there’s proofreading. This is the final check of punctuation, dotted i’s and crossed t’s. The reading until it’s your eyes that are crossed. Your last chance to fix grammar. Spelling. All that stuff that made you crazy as a kid when all you wanted to do was tell your story. (You weren’t writing stories when you were five? Slow starter, huh?)

But actually, none of this is my point. (Can you say wordy writer?) What started this off was the realization of what, in today’s writing world, is still left to do after all this is done. Website. Blog. Facebook. Twitter. In other words, I finished a book. Finished the edits, all of them. This morning I finally sent off the final proofreading results. And still, I’m nowhere near done. Am I whining? No, not really. Lots of people would love to have this problem. Do I wish I could just write and have done with it? Sure do. I’m happiest when I’m writing, not doing all the rest.

But I’m also a professional. I’ve survived in this business for a couple of decades now, and I long ago gave up the fantasy that at some point, it would get easier. It doesn’t. So you do what you have to do, accept that at different times your priorities must shift, and sometimes you just put your head down and plow on. Because if you are a writer, it’s what you do.

And remember that the end you get may not always be the end you want, so quit wishing for it. It’ll get here soon enough.

So for now, another case of deadline dementia behind me, I can breathe. At least until tomorrow. When I start the next book.once upon a time

eyes photo credit: JcMaco via photopin cc