Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pesky Priorities (Or: Why Graduate School is an Exercise in Futility)

First, the editing continues! Slowly, but it steadily, and with much swearing and head-slapping on my part. My cat has taken up helping me with this process by chewing furiously on the corners of chapters she finds particularly offensive.
Unfortunately, my editing may have to go on hiatus until the winter. My workload at school and work has been increasing steadily as the quarter wears on, and I'm finding it harder and harder to make time for editing and other story-related work. Add to that the fact that I am trying to percolate ideas for Nanowrimo 2011 (oh yes. You didn't think I was done trying to kill my brain, did you? Of course not.) and my brain barely has enough space left over to remind me to do other important things. Like eat dinner. And sleep.
This morning I got up to go to work for my 8am shift, only to get to work and realize I had written my schedule down incorrectly and was actually not on the clock until 11am. Normally, I would have used this time to read, buy a coffee, maybe scribble some story notes.
Instead, I am using it to bang out a paper due next week, and also try to get the last of the interviews I need for an article due this evening. I feel guilty even taking the time to post this blog entry, because holy crap I've no time for this need to woorrrrrrk!
This, I would like to point out, is the only thought I have every second of the day that is NOT spent working feverishly on schoolwork. And that doesn't make for very thorough editing.
So, it would seem I have to re-prioritize, as much as it pains me. Editing will have to go on hold for a few weeks, and then I'll start anew from the beginning (and hey, maybe find more things I missed!). In the meantime, I need to get this school work finished so that when November 1 rolls around, I have a lighter workload and can actually focus on the NEXT project! Heee!
Until then, keep at it everybody!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Putting on my Editor's Hat (Or: Why in the name of all that's good did I write this crap again?!)

I don't remember who said it, but one of my favorite quotes about writing is actually about editing:
"There are no great writers, only great re-writers."

It's funny I consider that a favorite quote, given how much I DETEST EDITING.

Actually, that's not entirely accurate. I like editing. I like editing...maybe a bit too much. I have been known to get overly zealous with papers, articles, hell even greeting card messages. And not just my own, ohhhhh no. My siblings received grammatical and structural advice on many a paper, whether they wanted it or not. I correct my friends' spelling mistakes on TWITTER, for crying out loud.

But there is no one whose work I like to tear apart  more than my own. And that can be a problem sometimes.

This is what draft 1 looked like this morning, hot off the printer in all its sparkly glory:

I've no idea why it's sideways, and blogger won't let me adjust it. Bad blogger!

 I sat down intending to edit at least a few chapters today. I only managed to edit chapter 1, because after more than an hour, the sight of all my pen marks was starting to depress me.
Terrible! Fix! Why did you write this, fool?! GAH!
At one point, I apparently got so fed up with some of my word choices that I left a comment at the very beginning of the chapter:
"Better adjectives, please"
I freely admit to having a slightly out-of-control Inner Editor, and I would bet money that I'm not the only writer out there who is perhaps a little excessively critical of her/his own work. 

Okay, maybe more than a little excessively critical.

The simple fact of the matter is that no story pops out of our heads completely formed and perfect. There are plot holes, inconsistencies with characters (prime example: my main character's eye color changed thrice--THRICE!--in the first seven pages. Someone did not take good enough character notes! Someone also mentions eye color TOO OFTEN in the first seven pages!) and a host of spelling and grammatical errors that we just ignore in the first run-through because ohmygodjustneedtogetthiswrittendooooowwwwn!

Yeah. The beauty and grace and polished prose that we all dream of when we first set out on the writing journey? Definitely not going to completely show its face until the draft's undergone an edit or two or two thousand. It's not glamorous, and sometimes its downright depressing, but if you love that story--if you love those characters and that world you created and you want other people to see them as you see them (read: awesome)--you will grit your teeth, put on the editor's hat, and you will edit the bloody thing because it deserves it. And because no matter how good we are as writers, at the end of the day it's the rewriting that makes the story great.

Now, if you will excuse me, there is a pan of stress-relief chocolate cupcakes cooling on my oven, and they need to be iced (and, let's face it, CONSUMED NOM NOM NOM) before I attempt chapter 2.

Keep at it, everyone!


(p.s. In the interest of accuracy and proper citation, I looked up the above quote for a source, and am no less flummoxed. Half of the internet is certain Ernest Hemingway said it, the other half thinks it was Nabokov and a handful insist it was Stephen King and/or their own English professor. Help me out, fellow writers: is it one of the above? Someone else entirely?)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Finished (draft 1, anyway)

After several months, countless cups of tea, and more than a few despairing wails and head-desk scenarios, I have completed the first draft of my WIP. Yes.

Draft 1 was finished literally a half hour before I had to leave for my first class.
Final word count: 72940
Let the editing begin.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

Fact: I love autumn.
I love the crisp mornings, the sky a fresh-scrubbed blue, bright but not HOT. I love watching the leaves burst into flaming colors, performing the most exquisite and happy dance of death as they spin to the ground in a brilliant mosaic of yellows, reds, oranges and golds. I love how sensory a season it is: kicking and crunching through those leaves, picking smooth, cool apples, carving pumpkins--so sturdy and waxy on the outside, yet fluid and slimy on the inside--and the smells. THE SMELLS, PEOPLE. Wood smoke, apple cider, cinnamon and cloves, hearty vegetable chowder, the sharp and sweet "autumn" smell in the air that gives just the barest, tiniest promise of "snow" "eventually" (although 'eventually' could be next week, given the Midwest's infamous penchant for schizophrenic season changes).
I love autumn. And this week has been very good to me with autumnal weather--cool breezy days, chill nights perfect for snuggling under the afghan my best friend made as a wedding present, drinking hot chocolate and reading. I've been enjoying it thoroughly.
In fact, there is only one tiny damper on this entire fall-related joy and rapture: school.
I start my quarter next Monday. (Read: THREE DAYS FROM NOW)
I have all my textbooks. I have almost all of my materials. I don't feel particularly panicked about the quarter the way I do sometimes. I just feel resigned, and a little annoyed. Because I know once the quarter starts, I will be writing all. the. time.
It just won't be the type of writing I WANT to do.
I put out two articles in the span of 2 days earlier this week for our annual "back to school" issue of the paper. It happens to coincide with the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 so my editor asked me to do a piece on a commemorative exhibit the Field Museum has created. I really enjoyed writing my articles. I think they are good. I am proud of them. I hope people enjoy reading them.
But it's really not what I want to spend my hours doing for the next ten weeks.
I am literally within spitting distance of the end of my WIP. It is sitting perkily at 65,000 words, and I can see it easily being finished in another 5-10k or so.
I want to be finished with this draft before Monday. I want it the way an Olympic contender wants that medal. I almost want it more than I want my next breath.
I have 3.5 hours before I have to leave for work this evening. And I have tomorrow off.
Think I'll make it?
 I hope I do. And then I shall go celebrate with a pumpkin latte.
Wish me luck!