Sunday, May 26, 2013

Editing question marks

The internal editor. Almost whenever I hear someone talk about writing, this person comes up in some form or other. Now that the early drafts are done, my editor brain is taking over. In my two rewrites, I've really gotten to know my story. Now that I understand it, my editor's trying to tell me what does and does not work.

When you add "infernal" in front of "internal," you're usually talking about when the editor comes up   -- unwanted -- during the early stages of writing. At this point, the editor tends to offer unconstructive comments and hinders writing more than helps it. But once it's got a good amount of material to work with, the editor ceases to be infernal. Actually, I think mine becomes a little insecure.

My editor brain likes to ask a lot of questions it expects my writer brain to answer later. Literally. Reading though my manuscript, I write down several comments for page. Most of them end with a question mark. Examples:

  • Hint at this character being old before this?
  • Do these people get named later?
  • Neaten up this sentence?
  • Are these two sentences connected enough?
  • More imagery -- show what background characters are doing?
  • Cut this part?
  • Plus dozens of question marks next to words I may or may not want to change.
Some of them are legitimate questions, but you'd think my editor would know when I need to neaten up a sentence. 

It's weird, because I do feel like I'm making progress. It's just funny to realize I'm taking note of a lot of problems and not necessarily fixing them. Maybe my editor's so used to being shoved back so I can get some writing done it's afraid to really come out.

I don't want to pull my punches, especially on myself, but this is the farthest I've ever gotten in editing such a large project. I can pick short stories to pieces, but my novel is being more difficult. It's hard to see how one change is going to fit twenty chapters down the line.

Maybe my editor needs to be just a touch more infernal. I need to loan it a machete and give it license to kill. I need to let it not just ask questions, but answer them.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


I've always been kind of a freak when it comes to summer. I like humidity, but loathe heat. I get bored and listless when I'm not in a learning environment. And I'll probably read more in the summer than I do during the school year.

One trick I figured out a few years ago was to assign myself goals -- or, shall I say, deadlines? -- to complete before the end of summer.  A lot of the ideas spring out of things I want to accomplish, but don't have the time or means to do when I'm at school. In the past I've successfully sewn a dress, completed a summer version of NaNoWriMo, and even sufficiently motivated myself to clean and organize a closet full of craft supplies. I'm interested in seeing what this summer will turn up.

On my reading list:
  • Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett (I saw it at Barnes and Noble and it's been in the back of my mind ever since)
  • 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea and a bunch of other stuff by Jules Verne. Have been meaning to get to it for a while.
  • The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
  • Shades of Milk and Honey and the rest of the series by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Forgotten God by Francis Chan. Required reading, but I'm looking forward to it.
  • A reread of good old Pride and Prejudice.
  • Relatedly, a Jane Austen biography.
  • A partial reread of the complete and unabridged Les Misérables -- got it for my birthday and haven't had time to finish it, though I've read a mostly-unabridged version.
  • Lots more I've probably forgotten
On my to-do list:
  • Practice my taekwando to the point of being better than where I left off at school. I'm just barely a yellow belt and I probably won't start lessons again until I get back.
  • Finish crocheting a pair of opera sleeves
  • Tame the barn kittens!
  • Help family with house projects -- new drywall, refinishing floors, etc.
  • Listen to a backlogged year of Writing Excuses, a favorite podcast
  • And, most importantly, finish the novel.
 These things will be combating the all-important GET A JOB that is currently screaming at me, but right now, my summer is undetermined. Totipotent, if you will. (Plant bio still has not banished itself from my mind.)

My home state of Iowa has welcomed me back with thunderstorms and tornado watches. I'm embracing the humidity and current lack of heat. God willing, I will make this into a beautiful summer full of learning and new experiences.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Saying No

I remember hearing about a writer who kept a sign over his desk. It was a reminder for him to keep his responsibilities in check and not overextend himself. It only had one word on it -- a big, fat, NO.

I can certainly see the use of it. If I better kept in mind all the things I have to do, I might find it easier to say no to extras so that I have ample time to get the essentials done. I always do, but my typical modus operandi is "busy and stressed." Maybe things would be easier, maybe I would have more energy if I gave myself some breathing room. I've realized this is a problem for me, but at its root lies another one: I don't want to say no.

I guess that's obvious. Otherwise, why wouldn't I? But it's more than just a fear of disappointing others. I really want to be able to do all that is available to me. I feel like there's so much I could accomplish, if I could really apply myself. (Either that or I'm easily deluded.)

Occasionally, I've done work for others largely because they guilted me into it, even though it wasn't my responsibility. And often, I do things because I feel I ought to be doing them, rather than because I want to. But I'd rather increase my capacity to do than cut those things out of my life.

Why? I don't know. Maybe it's because I feel like it's a way to serve others. Most of the time, I'm not so good at that. Maybe it has to do with having bigger dreams, bigger ideas of what I think I can accomplish. It's like a form of optimism. I'd rather bite off more than I can chew than go away hungry.

Now, it's the end of the semester and most of my responsibilities have come to a close. I've been feeling listless, purposeless. It's hard to work on my own projects when I still feel like I should be doing things for someone else. My novel has been suffering because of it. So far, that's been my biggest regret in this semester of few "no"s.

Perhaps I need to strike a better balance. This time of year, I'm guessing most people wouldn't say no to that.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spring Cleaning

Today was strike for the last show of the year. Strike is where we tear down the set, put everything away, and clean up the theater so we can make another mess on a clean slate next production. We had some major clearing out to do up in the props loft, and it'll be an ongoing process.

Yesterday I talked to my boyfriend on the phone for two hours. We don't get to talk very much. He is the one I bounce ideas off of, the person I turn to when I need to understand what I'm feeling and thinking. After that conversation, I felt like I had more space in my head, as if all the abstractions had formed words and had been written down, put into place. I felt rooted and ready for more things to come.

Earlier today, as I was hauling rolls of carpet around and watching our technical director pull old things to throw away, I pictured how I would use the extra space. There's still so much to do. We have props from productions going back 20 years and more, things I can't imagine how they were used. Still, they are there. Some of them with potential. Some of them just taking up space. We have to decide which is which so we can continue to become a more efficient theater -- we're far from perfect.

I'm not an organizer. I'm a worker. I don't outline my papers, and when I make plans to work on something, I often end up working on something else instead. I just start. I hold all my ideas in my head, and sometimes that is helpful and other times, distracting. I have to figure out which is which so that I can do all that I expect myself to do -- and there's so much more I could do. 

I am at a stage where I need to clear things out to be ready for what comes next. I have to get ready to leave for the summer. I have to finish projects. I have to work, I have to rest, I have to pray. And, because I'm obstinate and say I'm not an organizer, I will just let all these things stew in my mind. They will get done one at a time, much as I wish I could just finish it all at once. I want everything to be put in order. First step, pouring out the ideas, done. Next, time to decide what to do with them.