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A Reindeer for my Lawn

I’m getting down to the last couple of chapters here in Round Two of major revisions. All the plot wrinkles that I’ve ironed out through the rest of the manuscript have bunched up here at the end, and are proving more irksome than I’d naïvely anticipated. On the one hand, it’s frustrating to see how much I still need to do, but on the other, it’s actually encouraging to know I have learned enough since I first wrote this chapter to improve it so markedly.

The biggest stumbling block in the chapter to this point has been the spot where—I finally realized—I broke the pact with my reader and completely glossed over an important moment that should have contained serious plot and character development. One moment it’s all “what if we tried this?” and the next it’s “and now we’re at the denouement!” No sense of struggle, of the protagonist having to work for the end result—nothing.

Today I finally muscled past it. It’s not pretty, or smooth, but I’ve drafted a patch. Score one for me! I was all set to do another micro-draft dance when I read on to the next half-page.

~headdesk~

Another half a chapter lies ahead, and within those pages, another non-negligible obstacle awaits. Now one of my supporting characters (or maybe two or three) has to change his reaction to events in order to be consistent with changes earlier in the story. The entire shape of the resolution needs to be different, and I’m not entirely sure how to mold it. (For some inexplicable reason, I’m now put in mind of a mold for some sort of garden statuary—and my brain has chosen to insert the form of a reindeer. My denouement has become a lawn ornament…)

So I’ve got quite a bit more work to do on this chapter, and I have only the vaguest idea what the reindeer should look like. Guess I’ll start by shoving four plot-legs on it, and hope it comes out looking vaguely quadrupedal; I can save the antlers for a later version.

Time to roll up my sleeves—I need to start massaging that word clay!

Achievement Unlocked?

Beginning Writer Achievement Unlocked: first rejection letter!

I hadn’t really expected to reach this milestone so soon; in my head, I’d always assumed I wouldn’t be sending things out to get rejected until my novel manuscript was ready. A glorious fit of optimism overcame me, though, when Women Destroy Fantasy! was announced, and I set aside the novel long enough to write a short story I could submit. I was actually fairly pleased with the results, even after beating my head against the desk during the revision process.

In the end, about 4900 words stared at me and politely suggested I send them on to their intended destination. I fidgeted and fussed over the cover letter and finally gave in, sending my little darling off into the æther. I told myself it had a newt’s chance in a supernova of being accepted, and tried to maintain a healthy balance between cautious optimism and callous realism.

It still hurt when the rejection came.

I suppose now I can consider myself a bona fide writer; I’ve not only put words on paper (well… electrons), but I’ve sent them out to an actual publisher and had them summarily dismissed. It’s a rite of passage for every writer, right? I know there’s more to come, and I need to get used to it. It’ll only get worse before it gets better—and the only way for it to get better is to keep at it.

So now I have a short story that needs a home. I’ll need to collect a list of other possible venues for it, and start sending out more submissions. I’ve heard that the only reason anyone doesn’t get published is that they give up. Maybe this story will never see the light of day, but it will serve a purpose nonetheless. I’ve got to build up the emotional calluses necessary to keep putting my work out there time and again, right?

Well, the first abrasions against my tender psyche have initiated the process. Only about a million more to go.

Needz Moar Cowbell

Having finished my short story as much as possible before getting feedback, I’ve moved back to the revisions on the last couple of chapters of the novel. On the up side, I can tell I’ve grown as a writer since I first wrote these chapters. On the down side… Damn.

Because of the revisions to earlier sections of the plot, by the time I got back to the ending, several things obviously had to be adjusted. The chapter I finished reworking yesterday had to be ripped apart, and stitched back together Frankenstein-style. Certain chunks remained, though often in quite different sequence from before, and many others had to be added in from whole cloth.

That proved a grueling exercise, though I got something mostly useable by the end. Once I moved onto today’s chapter (Ch X), though, it was a different story.

Ch X is, by and large, still viable as written in terms of plot. However, there’s little or no tension in the text. As I read through it to re-familiarize myself with it and determine what needs revision, I realized the climax—the bit that the entire rest of the book leads to—had been utterly glossed over in a couple of sentences. There’s no sense of effort, of the protagonist’s struggle to accomplish this huge deed. Just “Voop! There ya go!” and it’s all over but the exposition.

Obviously, that needs to change. Who wants to read “voop!” at the end of all that other stuff? There needs to be a payoff for whatever emotional investment the reader has made. I count myself lucky that I figured that out before handing it off to my CPs; as I said above, it’s proof of my growth.

So, note to self: needz moar cowbell. Get on that.

Creature of Habit

No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth; it just feels like it.

I have learned that I am absolutely a creature of habit when it comes to my writing. I need large blocks of time during which to focus, even if I don’t spend the whole span directly working on whatever’s on my plate that day. So when “circumstances beyond my control” (CBMCs) interfere, I can kiss my productivity goodbye.

Recently, for example, I took some time off to go to a convention. It was great fun, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. However, the fact that I’m an introvert meant that spending five days away from home among crowds of people, adding near-daily posts to my other blog expended all my energies (creative and otherwise) without the opportunity to recharge.

Then I came home to a sick kid. Before she even got back to school, we had (very welcome) company. By the time things got back to a more normal schedule this week, then, I was a bit of a mess.

But then I could return to my habits. I recharged. I relaxed. And I made progress.

At the end of last year, I made a plan about where I wanted my revisions to be by the end of this month. I’m nowhere near that mark, thanks a multitude of CBMCs these last two months. But I’m moving ahead again—the end of this Round of Revisions is in sight.

My new, interstitial chapter was remarkably well received by my CPs, given this is the first time the chapter’s been workshopped, and the following chapter is even closer to ready. I finally feel like I’m getting traction again for the first time this year. So keep your fingers crossed for me; a single month of normalcy could get me nearly there.

~draft dance~

Woo hoo! I just finished Draft Zero of Chapter Interstitial! It’s ugly and clunky and barely makes sense, but it’s a draft! Halle-effin-lujah!

~does happy dance~