“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
― Carl Sagan
What better time to be alive and to be a writer, especially a science fiction writer, than right now. The universe is opening up to us and the eyes of mankind are turning to the heavens, gazing further and seeing more clearly than we ever have in the past.
Curiosity is on Mars, the Spitzer Telescope is taking images of the universe, the Kepler Telescope is looking for stars with planets orbiting them. Advances in medical sciences like: gene therapy, DNA mapping, laser surgery, artificial prosthetics. Computer advances like: artificial intelligence, micro processors, plasma displays, holographic imagery, and robotic advancements.
The most amazing of all though has to be the availability of all this information to anyone who cares to view it, to study it, to learn it. There are no limits to what we can know or learn or even imagine. There is only our self and our passion, ambition and desire to know.
For a science fiction writer, this is like the Garden of Eden at our fingertips. Just writing this post has my mind turning with four or five new story notions- all inspired by the ideas of these real science breakthroughs. Imagining the things I will get to see within my lifetime - things that as a child I could only imagine or dream of. It’s exciting to imagine, it’s exciting to speculate. Just think of everything that could happen, and how it will affect our lives...
The universe is opening up before our eyes, more now than at any point in our history. It’s ours to know, ours to imagine. It's ours to write.
“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don't have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”
― Stephen King
When you finish a story, who is the first person you ask to read it? When you get a rejection letter, who offers consolation and the encouragement you need to stuff another envelope and send it out again? In short, how strong is your support web?
Writing is by definition a solitary task. But humans are not always suited to be solitary creatures.
While most writers have a personal support system, the people who support us in life are not always the best at supporting us in our writing. It's not always that they don't try, but more likely they just don't have a clue what we really need.
In truth, we are not alone. There are plenty of other writers out there who are likely experiencing something similar in their writing lives as well. It's sometimes difficult to connect with them, but well worth the effort.
Writing circles, critiquing groups, conferences, or a one-on-one writing buddy are all great ways to connect with other writers who can provide support or just talk shop. While our writing is a solitary occupation, our writing lives don't have to be.
Spin a web and reach out to other writers. Build your support system strong and find greater support in reaching your goals.
Telling yourself you don't have time to write today is easy. Telling a writing buddy with a schedule more hectic than yours that you don't have time to write is not as simple. Avoiding that conversation can be great writing motivation.
"Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world."
Seven Circles is complete and I am pausing for a brief moment to bask in the warmth of my accomplishment. It feels so good.
Okay, enough of that non-sense. Time to get moving on the next one. I am already hammering out the skeleton and picking out the clothing it will eventually donn. (The outline is written and the details of the plot line are being defined.)
Completing Seven Circles was a huge endeavor, and I'm pleased with the final MS. It took another pass to get there, but it was worth the agony. Now I must usher it out on it's own and move on to the next one. I am a writer, that's what I do.
'Editors also know that the people who are really readers want to read. They hunger to read. They will forgive a vast number of clumsinesses and scamped work of every sort if the author will delight them just enough to keep them able to continue.'
We all labor over our manuscripts with great care and diligence. We become captivated by our charactors and creatures; the tale we have conceived and given birth to; the story we have nurtured and developed and poured countless hours of our lives into. When it's finally done, and we have shed our tears of joy and sadness, we prepare to send it out into the world. But before we reach for that envelope - or in todays world, the submit button - we should all take a moment to stop and be sure we have done all we can to give our work the best possible chance of success when it must ultimately stand on its own.
I think we all fear that moment when our work leaves our hands, venturing out to find out if it can stand alone or not. In completing the manuscript, we complete a chapter of our writing lives.
Seven Circles is complete - almost. While it is for all practical purposes done, I can't help but feel it's just not finished. I can't put my finger on just what it is about the manuscript that is bothering me, I also can't get over the feeling that something about it is not quite right.
I wonder if it's just pre-submittal butterflies, or something real and substantial. While I dread doing yet another editing pass, I'm not comfortable submitting something that is sub-par in quality. It's the perfectionist curse I carry around within me. Or maybe it's just the writer in me fearing the possible rejection letter. Either way I'm in a vicious avoidance circle with my inner writer. It's frustrating as hell and I have got to break it soon.
So will I break down and send it out, or will I give in and open it back up?
Your guess is as good as mine at this point. I'll keep you updated.
If you could get up the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed.
· David Viscott
When I finished my first fantasy novel, I was on top of the world. It didn't matter to me if it ever got published or not, all that mattered was that I had completed it. In a way, I still feel that way. In another way, I really want to see it published. It represents a large chunk of my life.
After the first one was done, I didn't want to look at it again for a long time. I sent it out and pretty much paid it no more attention. It came back. I sent it out. It came back. I didn't want to think about re-working any part of it. But now, over a year later, with my second story nearly complete, I wonder if it might be worth digging back into that first one again and seeing if there is anything I can do to improve it. I've learned a great deal in the last year or so. Some of those things have been eye opening.
I have a strong feeling I can make that first book better, but I'm torn between whether or not I should. It's a good story. It deals with a complicated plot line and some interesting character issues. It's exactly the type of book I love reading. But there are other stories in me as well and they are pounding on the walls to get out. They want and deserve their turn in the spotlight.
It's a tough decision to make.
Right now I am completing my final edit on the Seven Circles story. I've promised myself not to decide my next project until the current one is finished, but I'm still wondering about it.
There is another story in my mind right now. Parts of it have been dancing in the corners of my imagination for several weeks now. I'm looking forward to writing it when this one is done, but I know it's going to be a big undertaking. Likely at least a full year from start to completion, but it promises to be a good story. A little darker maybe; a bit more complicated; slightly sinister in nature; strong morality undertones in the tightly woven plot lines. It's exciting to think about it. I know it's going to be great fun to write.
Yet I still wonder about that first manuscript.
“Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage. ”
― Ray Bradbury
It’s been a while since I posted anything and I had a bit of time tonight, so here I am. Posting.
Insanity. I think many writers face it from time to time. I know I do. Life in general drives a person to it. It my case family contributes, along with my personal muse: Chaos.
I’ve been away for awhile doing edits on “Seven Circles”. My Beta Readers or Designated Readers, have all chimed in and I’ve collected all of their comments. A HUGE thank you! To those who have helped – you know who you are. I couldn’t have done it without you! I’ve been doing some re-writes -clarifying plot points, character motives and setting details. It’s been time consuming and attention consuming. Staying focused has been important. I’m just about done now and the results are a story I’m extremely proud of.
So with the near completion of edits, I’ve begun the search for an agent, and started working on my query letter. After all the time I’ve put into writing the novel and polishing it, I’m not taking any chances with this aspect of the process. I’ve been doing my research and a good bit of reading to be sure the agents I select are appropriate and that I tailor my queries to the
What else am I up to? Well, I have plans to attend a writing conference in August, and I’m looking into some online workshops. Anything that will help me improve my craft. I’ve been holed up writing for almost two months now and I’m looking forward to the next step. Insanity is an adventure. This one promises to be an exciting one.
Books aren't written, they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it...
- Michael Crichton
I have gotten the first set of notes from my first designated reader. Not nearly as bad as I thought it would be; not nearly as bad as it probably should have been either. This reader is a family member. I asked for brutal honesty and I got a very mild version. I didn't really expect too much though, and the comments were in fact very helpful. He caught some grammatical errors and a few typos that I'd missed on my numerous previous passes.
I've begun the work of incorporating some of the comments I received into the manuscript. I thought about waiting until I received a few more critiques, but decided that I should really get though what I have now. The more I fix now the less I will encounter once the group digs into it. The difficult part is facing another rewrite. I know it's not going to be on the scale of previous ones, but the work ahead is daunting.
I want to be done because I have another story that I'm eager to write.
It's like having a stack of gifts in the middle of my desk, all with my name on them, and not being allowed to open any of them until all of my chores are done. I want to finish my chores, but that pile of presents is just sitting there, waiting. They keep calling out to me to come open them; to discover what all the pretty wrapping is concealing.
For me, a new story is one of the most exciting journeys to embark upon. Everything is new and the adventure can go anywhere; kind of like riding a rollercoaster in the dark. There are new places to visit and people to meet. I’m giddy with anticipation of the great unknown that awaits me.
I just have to be a good little writer and finish my chores.
Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head and as you get older, you become more skillful casting them.
- Gore Vidal
Inside my head there currently reside around 15 boxes; Compartmentalized storage containers of unique design. Each one contains a unique story. It’s helpful for me to think of them this way. It’s an organizational thing.
Inside each box I lock up all of the characters, settings, plot lines, monsters, and ideas pertaining to individual stories that I’m either working on or preparing to work on soon. It’s a system that I have painstakingly worked out over many years. For the most part it works fairly well. My mind acts as a stage and each box holds a unique play and everything collected thus far for its production.
For some time now my story “Seven Circles” has occupied that stage. I’ve been holding daily rehearsals, preparing the story for opening night when it will be released for the public, known darkly as agents and publishers.
Each day I open the box, place the settings on the stage, queue the characters, rehearse the plot lines, and advance the story line. When the days rehearsal is complete, I pack it all back in its appropriate box, clearing the stage for normal life to resume. I don’t always close the box though. Sometimes I might have a spare moment or two that I didn’t expect when I can call out a character or two and work out a line of dialogue or a scene detail. It’s helpful to keep it all handy for just such an occasion.
The closed boxes generally just sit quietly and wait. Occasionally a pent up character will shout obscenities through the walls if my imagination wanders close by, or when I pass them over for rehearsal time on stage.
On rare occasions, and today was one of them, a story will escape from a box I have not opened and go running around my stage, wreaking havoc and demanding to be written. Things like the current story, outlines and schedules, deadlines and so on, mean nothing to a protagonist who has been locked in a mind-box for a sufficient amount of time. When a story is that ready to be written, I find myself with basically two choices:
I can pause my can pause my current manuscript, give in to the escapee’s demands, and write the intruding story.
– OR –
I can ignore it and watch progress on my current story grind to a halt due to the mayhem.
Today I tried a different approach. I tried to talk it back into its box. It was tantamount to trying to herd mice: frustrating and exhausting.
“Seven Circles” is nearly complete, but the current work of prepping it for designated readers has left my creative muse painfully idle. It’s taken to kicking boxes.
To make things worse, the rogue story is very clear in my mind. Its groundwork was laid sometime ago. It stands before me; body fully clothed; matured; with nearly all of its details worked out. I need but record it.
It’s a slippery slope, working on two different stories at the same time; alternating stage time; switching between boxes; changing out settings and scenery. I’ve done it before and found characters try to influence each others’ plot lines. They sneak into settings and circumstances not their own. As I said, it’s frustrating. Especially when they are dressed similarly.
I’ll let them both play today, but tomorrow I’m going to go buy some padlocks.
The reader has certain rights. He bought your story. Think of this as an implicit contract. He's entitled to be entertained, instructed, amused; maybe all three. If he quits in the middle, or puts the book down feeling his time has been wasted, you're in violation.
I’ve completed my final draft of my second Fantasy Novel. I use the word “Final” here with complete knowledge that I am nowhere near done by any means. Final, in this instance, means it’s as far as I can take it on my own.
Now the next step is submitting it to my critique group and soliciting for Dedicated Readers. With any luck, I’ll receive two or three brutally honest critiques and I’ll finally get to the bottom of what is really left on the pages.
I know this story still has flaws. It was conceived in my mind, took shape there, and was defined there. While I’ve done what I can to identify and correct as many of these flaws as I possibly could, the ones that remain are difficult for me to see. When I look, I see the whole story. Not just the parts that appear on the pages. I see the parts that were thought but never written; I see the parts that were written but later removed; I see the alternate events that never took place, as well as all the possible variation of the ones that ultimately did end up on paper.
It’s difficult to step away and see only what’s left.
While a small part of me dreads this step in the process, a larger part is looking forward to it. I know I can’t complete this story until I gain this outside perspective. Maybe there are writers who do it all totally by themselves; writer who can see their shortcomings without outside eyes. But as of right now I know that I’m not one of them. I don’t kid myself.
While these Dedicated Readers will be volunteering to help me (I hope), I still feel I have a responsibility to them. They are paying me to read my story. Not with money, but with their time and efforts. When they are done, I do not want them to feel like either have been wasted.
With that in mind, I’ve put a great deal of effort into cleaning the manuscript up for its first presentation: I’ve triple checked the spelling; read through twice for grammar; followed a timeline to be sure event lines are accurate; read dialogue out loud to be sure it works well; did a line by line edit to check punctuation and word usage. But most importantly, I’ve done my best to write an entertaining and exciting story.
Despite all my efforts, I know it’s likely still riddled with flaws and mistakes. It’s just over 80,000 words. The odds that I have found and fixed every mistake are just not likely. But, I’ll be sending it out knowing that I’ve done everything I could to minimize them. After all, I’m asking for story help with a novel, not help with a ninth grade English paper. My mechanics had better be the best I can make them or I have bigger issues than plot holes.
In the end, I’m ultimately looking for the truth about things like: How solid is the beginning hook; do the characters seem 3-dimensional; do the individual motives feel realistic and believable; are the events choreographed well, giving clear images to the reader; is the pace too slow or too fast in places and if so, where; etc..
As I said, I see too much when I read this story. I can’t always tell if I’ve created enough anticipation in the reader when I already know what’s going to happen and how things ultimately end.
So, I wish me luck in the weeks ahead as my beautiful masterpiece goes under the knife. Whether it turns out to be a minor procedure or a major surgery, I know it’s going to be a painful operation. I’m hopeful for the best, but I’m preparing for the worst. In the end though, I have no doubt I will make a full recovery. With any luck my manuscript will as well.
“You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can't sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.”
― Ray Bradbury
Since the first of the year I’ve been on a bit of a break. Mostly I’ve been doing a little editing, catching up on some reading, and spending some time with my family. I sort of felt like I deserved a break after finishing NaNoWiMo in November, surviving the mayhem of the holidays, and negotiating a remarkably crazy January at work. I was tired and my mind just wanted to sleep; to shift gears and simply coast for a while.
Ever wake up from a deep sleep because you hear a dog barking? Everyone else in the house sleeps right through it, but you can't. It's impossible to slip back into blissful slumber until the animal stops, but it won't. So you just lie awake and listen to it.
Everyone needs a rest now and then. It’s good for the mind, body and spirit. But here it is, the beginning of March, and I’ve been “sleeping” for well over a month and that damn dog just won’t shut up. As much as I would like to roll over and doze back off, my mind only hears the dog. I know it’s not going to shut up until I get up and let it back in the house. After all, it is my dog.