Grinding Away At Revisions

The current work-in-progress, The Bone Road, is at the third or fourth revision. By this time, it’s difficult for me to stand back and see anything either right or wrong with the story. I’m too close. One way to get around this is to sit in the most comfortable chair I can find and read the manuscript aloud. Slowly. Hitting every comma, paying attention to every voice. An amazing number of errors show up: typos, dreadful punctuation, clunky sentences, homonyms never to be caught by a spellchecker, etc.

Previous embarrassing experiences have taught me I cannot proof the manuscript on the screen at this level. My eyes glide over mistakes. It must be paper. So I read and read, scribbling notes to myself, until I’m too hoarse to carry on. I listen to audiobooks a great deal and reading my own manuscript gives me a new take on the narrators. This is difficult work and I hope those narrators are well-paid.

Fixing all the minor typos, etc., is easy. Every so often I trip over a sentence I cannot make sound sensible. If I cannot read it aloud I’m assuming any reader will stumble also. Those I mark with ‘AWK’ for awkward and wrestle with later. And sometimes there’s that dreaded voice in the back of my head: boring, clumsy, something is missing here, something is wrong. I think all writers learn to listen to this one, primarily because if you don’t it tends to return at 3 am until you do.

Unfortunately, listening to the voice telling you what’s wrong doesn’t automatically tell you how to fix it. Especially when fixing it means unbalancing the remainder of the book and drastically revising the plot. I’m working on a problem now in the second half of BR which I hope can be solved by inserting a new scene and expanding on the motivations of one of my villains. With luck.

It’s amazing how reluctant I am to work on this. I can always tell when I am avoiding writing-as-work because my brain starts churning out completely new plots for the next novel or short story. That qualifies as writing-as-fun.

Another good way to avoid writing-as-work is to do a blog post.

Very first acceptance!

My flash story ‘Three Sisters’ has been accepted by Golden Visions Magazine for the Spring 2011 issue. I’m very pleased. Oh hell, I’m overjoyed. (I don’t do blase very well.)

Strange are the ways of publications. I tripped over the magazine on a mailing list posting and realized the story was sitting, already formatted and fresh from a rejection, on my desktop. So I sent it out, noting their posted response time was 4-6 weeks.

Six HOURS later, I get an email. I assumed it was an auto-reply acknowledgement. It was a nice note from the editor, accepting the story. I read it four times before it sunk in. I must have just hit it right.

When I get the published url, I’ll add it to this page.

Dear Author, Unfortunately …

As of this date, I haven’t sold a story. I’m mentioning this once and I’m not planning on mentioning it again. This is a page about what I write and the fascination of the process, not how well it sells – or doesn’t sell. There are, as many agents and other writers point out, many many blogs by unpublished authors. I’m doing this page for several reasons, but inflicting my rejection letters on the universe isn’t one of them.

You the reader can assume I’m submitting pieces to various markets and agents. All that’s churning away in the background and it has as much fascination for other people as watching the dishwasher cycle.

If I get a piece accepted, I do plan to jump up and down. Here. Once. Okay, maybe twice. Then it’s back to the dishwasher and ongoing projects.

As for why I’m doing the web page, one reason is to remind people of overlooked books by other writers that deserve to be read. I have quite a collection of best-loved stories by very good authors and I think they should be best sellers. If one person reads a note here and goes on to read one of these books and enjoys it, the page is worth my time.

I’ll mention some other reasons for the web page as I get around to them.

Teeny Tiny Genres

If you call yourself a writer, the first  question everyone asks is What Do You Write? I started answering this by saying ‘Genre Fiction’, meaning I was writing science fiction or fantasy or mysteries, not books about gardening or how I found love in a villa in Italy.

It’s a pity this answer isn’t acceptable. People want to know which genre, because most only read in one or perhaps two categories. (“Oh, I only read mysteries.” Why? Are you afraid you might find a non-mystery you like?)

Genre fiction is now divided into small categories, which are subdivided again and again, so it is possible to send an agent a story defined as ‘mid-range urban fantasy romance’ or ‘steampunk space opera with zombies’ and not have the recipient blink. These divisions persist all the way to the bookstore’s display tables and to amazon’s website, so I wonder how many readers there are who ONLY read steampunk and absolutely nothing else. Surely, they sneak in a cozy or two when no one is looking?

I read (and purchase in hardback, ha!) science fiction from space opera to sociological, fantasy of all sorts, mystery stories both hard-boiled to cozy, thrillers, autobiographies, gardening, critical essays, poetry, and a book on how to play competitive Scrabble. That’s a selection from the closest bookshelf and only what I can see without craning my neck.

So it seems a shame to categorize what I write, because that’s the last thing that happens. I have an idea, I see a character dealing with a problem, I build a world around the idea and the character, and then I write the story. The only criteria for me is I must be interested enough in the story to stick around to tell it. With a novel, that’s a minimum of a year, and a maximum of who knows? So when I’m finally done, that’s when I say, oh, this one is a fantasy. And that’s what I try to sell it as. But to me, it’s a story, not a genre.