Thoughts on Editing

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I’m reading Susan Bell’s book The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself and unearthing gems that speak to me.

First, this bit reassures me: “A writer generates anxiety as a lamp does heat.” (8)

Recently, I’ve found myself frustrated and anxious over my writing process. I write in fragments and bits, with many stops and interruptions–and that isn’t likely to change, given my other obligations. I fear the choppiness seeps into my writing and prevents me from finding the natural flow and direction of the work. Short pieces seem to fare better under these circumstances and I’ve shaped several short stories that bring me joy. But I worry how the fragmentation affects my novel-length projects.

I strive to release the anxiety. I remind myself that macro-editing can smooth and finesse the wrinkles in the worst of pieces. I will trust my editing process.

Second, I am constantly on guard against forcing my narrative in Rising Wolf, instead of allowing it to grow. I’m challenged by this novel, perhaps because I have too many set goals for it. Susan Bell discusses the necessity of releasing preconceptions. She urges us to recognize the difference between the piece we intend and the piece we must write; the distance between what we think we “should” do and what we must do.

I’ve already restarted this project once and scrapped about 30k words in the process. One tidbit from Bell: F. Scott Fitzgerald scrapped 18k words in a rewrite of The Great Gatsby–Bell uses Gatsby to source specific examples throughout her book and I’m fascinated by Fitzgerald’s writing process, not to mention his relationship with his editor. In The Artful Edit, several writers discuss the necessity of restarting works in a looping writing process where subsequent drafts retain only resonances to prior starts.

I will ask myself: Is this working? Is this working on its own terms, not according to some static “should” expectation?

Third, I think a lot about tension in my writing, but I want to re-envision tension as structure. While the two are interrelated, structure brings connotations of concrete physicality. If I drew my work, what is its shape? I’m a highly visual person. Shapes, patterns, drawings–these are things I need to incorporate into my editing process.

I’m not yet finished with The Artful Edit, but I’d recommend it to my fellow authors.

In the comments, I’d love to hear what books on editing (or writing?) you’ve found helpful.

Happy writing–and happy editing!

 

 

image accessed from http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/302657-droste-effect

 

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Rejection

If you’re a writer, you’d better learn to make peace with rejection. You know what it’s 635895246024855434655902584_rejection1like when you’re dating and trying to find someone you can actually get along with? That’s what it’s like for your poor writing, venturing out in the world looking for a match.

So…what do you do when it’s YOUR writing being rejected? I suggest the following steps:

  1. Commiserate with other writers and loved ones. Feel sad. Feel frustrated.
  2. Dust yourself off. Research a new market.
  3. Send the piece out again.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

And while you’re waiting? Write something new.

After a handful of rejections on the same piece, though, I think it’s time to pull your work back and give it a read. Ask yourself: Is this as good as it can be? Is this getting rejected NOT because I haven’t found the right home, but because there’s something wrong with the piece?

To get back to that dating metaphor, sometimes when you go on a date, the other person’s a perfectly fine human being, but you just don’t feel it. If that’s what’s going on with your story, okay. Keep at it. But sometimes when you go on a date, you see significant deal-breaking red flags in the other person. Is your story a date full of red flags? Ack! Revise!

If you’ve received any personal rejections–as opposed to form rejections–THAT STUFF IS GOLD. Gold. Pay attention to what they say! Revise! There is NOTHING more helpful than a personal rejection that gives you something to work on! I recently received a personal rejection that pointed out a problem with the opening of a story–something I’d never noticed (ACK) and none of my readers ever noticed (DOUBLE ACK). I am incredibly thankful for that editor’s comments and used them to revise the story.

I thought I’d collect some of the best writerly quotes about rejection, so I can read them and feel better when needed. Perhaps you’ll enjoy them, too.

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”  – Neil Gaiman

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” – C. S. Lewis

“To ward off
a feeling of failure,
she joked that
she could wallpaper
her bathroom with
rejection slips,
which she chose not
to see as messages
to stop,
but rather as tickets
to the game.”
– Anita Shreve from “The Last Time They Met”

Don’t lose faith in yourself! Persistence is everything.

Remember, rainbow cat believes in you!

O9M8L

Grinding away on Submissions

Those of you who aren’t writers probably have no interest in this blog post, while those of you who ARE writers probably know all about the wonderful service that is The Grinder…yet I’m writing this post anyway.

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The Grinder is a FREE site that operates as a market database and submissions tracker for all works of fiction. You can search for a place to submit a particular story by specifying genre, length, and desired pay. You can read about the different markets and follow links to their website.

You can see handy statistics like this:

Grinder 1

How cool is that? Before you submit to this particular magazine, you already know they accept 6.25% of submissions and how long it generally takes to hear back from them. The long times (like 478 max days waiting) probably means that someone didn’t update what happened with a submission and NOT that the market actually takes that long. The data does get skewed that way, so when YOU log YOUR submissions, please make sure to update what happens to maintain accuracy for us all.

Now…here’s the part with the obsessive refreshing…

When you list a piece with The Grinder, you log your submission of that piece. Then you click on the market and see a graph like this:

Grinder 2

This is where it gets SUPER COOL. See that black dot? That’s my submission (or your submission, when you do this). We can see I submitted to this market November 20th. All the pending pieces are in purple, so we know that one other person (who logged on The Grinder) also submitted that day and has a pending piece. We can see two pieces submitted that day have been rejected, in addition to several pieces submitted after that day.

Judging from this graph, I know I may hear something about this piece soon. When I look at the graphs for some of my other submissions, I can see I won’t hear anything for weeks and weeks–so I’m not waiting on pins and needles or anything.

HOW COOL IS THIS?

If you’re a writer and you don’t already use The Grinder, you should go there right now, set up a profile, enter info about your current pieces, and update info about submissions as you can. Your participation helps ALL of us have accurate data about the markets! 🙂

It’s the Patriarchy, Stupid!!

Please read this great discussion of #MeToo and patriarchy reblogged from “One Wild and Precious Life.”

One Wild and Precious Life

Patriarchy (n.)

Patriarchy literally means “the rule of the father”[3][4] and comes from the Greek πατριάρχης (patriarkhēs), “father of a race” or “chief of a race, patriarch“,[5][6] which is a compound of πατριά (patria), “lineage, descent”[7] (from πατήρ patēr, “father”) and ἄρχω (arkhō), “I rule”.[8]

Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.[9][10][11] One example definition of patriarchy by Sylvia Walby is “a system of interrelated social structures which allow men to exploit women.”[12]According to April A. Gordon,[12] Walby’s definition allows for the variability and changes in women’s roles and in the order of their priority under different patriarchal systems. It also recognizes that it is the institutionalized…

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Art Matters

a creative human

My life is better in all ways when I create art every day.

For me, most days that means I write. I have two published novels, Dark Moon Wolf and Waxing Moon. I’m working on the third book in that trilogy, as well as a new novel-length project and a handful of short stories.

DarkMoonWolf_w11014_300Writing every day isn’t easy for me. I work full-time. I have three kids, ages 14, 13, and 11. My husband has Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease, a major disability which requires quite a bit of managing (and means he can’t help much around the house). His disability and prognosis cause me a great deal of stress and anxiety, though I tell myself to stay in the moment, think about today, think about this hour. We have another major stressor in our family that I’m not discussing publicly–but it’s been brutally worrisome and consuming since last…

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Urban Fantasy and Social Justice

Did you all know there’s a website specifically dedicated to urban fantasy and social justice issues?

(Take a moment to revel in the glories of this thing we call the internet, where all interests have a voice.)

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Fangs for the Fantasy recently posted a 4.5 Fang review of Waxing Moon–you should follow the link and check it out! While you’re there, click around on their website and read a bit. They have some REALLY great perspectives on books, movies, TV shows, etc. I love their attention to diversity, representation, and equity–these are issues I hold central in my mind while I write. I have joked that Waxing Moon is actually a social justice book. With Werewolves.

My favorite part of their review of Waxing Moon is this discussion of Eliza:

“Loyal, supportive, passionate, determined, a good woman AND WRONG. Because you can be a good person and still be part of a deeply flawed, prejudiced system; you can be a good person and perpetuate inexcusable things within that system and being a good person doesn’t make it ok. That’s a nuance that is far superior to the simplistic narratives we see elsewhere.”

I know not all readers will like my work and not all readers will even think much about the social justice messages wrapped up in my Werewolf stories, but how lovely that SOME READERS GET IT! ❤

When we write fantasy, we write our ideal worlds. How important it is for such worlds to contain as much diversity and representation as our real world! If not more. And it may be easier to think about discrimination, stereotypes, and power structures when we dress them in the guise of humans, Werewolves, ‘Manders, and Witches. Less threatening to our sense of self and society? (Unless we happen to be Weres…)

Interested in fantasy written with social justice in mind? Here’s some authors you might want to check out:O9M8L

  • Octavia Butler
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Ursula LeGuin
  • Margaret Atwood
  • China Miéville
  • Jim Hines – lots of writing about disabilities; he’s new to me!

This anthology is on my reading list right now: Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. 


Updates from the writing trenches:

  1. I plan to have a decent draft of book three (working title Rising Wolf) done by the end of November.
  2. Right now, I have four stories out on submission at various places. Swim strongly, my little babies, and impress the editors!
  3. I also took a side step and wrote a creative non-fiction essay about being a care partner. That’s also on submission to an academic journal in the field of disability studies. We’ll see–this essay came pouring out of me, for better or worse.

This blog doesn’t have enough pictures. Um. Here, have some cats.

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Adorable kitten poking her head through a cardboard box

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And one more time, my favorite gif of all time!

O9M8L

Ents and Why I Adore Them

When I’m besieged by stress or sorrow, when I’m overwhelmed by life and all its suffering, I turn to The Lord of the Rings. J. R. R. Tolkien is my respite, my comfort, my solace. His characters are my old and dear friends.

I’ve read the series countless times, mostly in autumn. Perhaps it has become a bit of a fall ritual for me or perhaps autumn–my favorite season–is also the one most often full of troubles. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read the books. At least twenty, perhaps closer to thirty.

Every section of the book brings me its own joys, but this read-through, the Ents are a larger-than-life, realer-than-real anchor for me. I love Tolkien’s use of language when describing both the Ents and Fangorn forest. I love the ways the Ents themselves use language–their rolling, poetic Hoom, hom, ha, baroom, ta-rundas. I love that Ents’ names tell their stories, I love how they are slow to rouse, then terribly fierce when angry. Would that more of us followed that pattern, instead of flying off the cuff in quick-tempered ire over the slightest of offenses. I love their expressive eyes, their limbs, their feet that step toe-first in great strides. I love their love for the trees. Has anyone ever loved anything as much as the Ents love their trees? I wish I could meet the Ents and spend time in their forest. I wish I could bring into our world their fierce dedication to preserving and defending their trees. I wish we each had a tenth of their poetry in our language.

Listen. We all need to listen.

Treebeard: “For Ents are more like Elves: less interested in themselves than Men are, and better at getting inside other things. And yet again Ents are more like Men, more changeable than Elves are, and quicker at taking the color of the outside, you might say. Or better than both: for they are steadier and keep their minds on things longer.”

Treebeard: “He [Saruman] has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.”

Merry, on Ents: “Somehow I don’t think they are quite as safe and, well, funny as they seem. They seem slow, queer, and patient, almost sad; and yet I believe they could be roused. If that happened, I would rather not be on the other side.”

“Quickbeam often laughed. He laughed if the sun came out from behind a cloud, he laughed if they came upon a stream or spring: then he stopped and splashed his feat and head with water; he laughed sometimes at some sound or whisper in the trees.”

Quickbeam: “And these trees grew and grew, till the shadow of each was like a green hall, and their red berries in the autumn were a burden, and a beauty and a wonder.”

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