Add It or Slash It?

When I edited A Lovely Wreckage, we (my editor Mark and I) made changes, of course. Not a whole lot, because they were individual poems that could stand alone without the collection.  However, Mark made some suggestions, and looking back I’m pretty sure I took all if not most of them, because they line4d up with the idea I had in mind.

Tuesday Afternoon ain’t like that.

When Zachary (new editor) suggested format changes, I was all for it, and here is why:  I wrote the piece for performance (more on that later.)  This was rewriting the piece for reading purposes.  It’s a different ballgame, and I am all for his format suggestions.  Also, there were some other aspects he suggested changes on…some I like, some I don’t.  Anyway, I made the fatal mistake of sending it to Sahar, who reads everything I write including various correspondence and many long text messages.  As my best friend, you would think she would have glowing things to say, but no, she hated it.  My mistake was not telling her in advance about the performance vs. reading thing.  Of course, she hated it.  She heard me read it…she heard me perform it.  So did Mark.  He’s going to hate it, too.

But as Kevin said to me during one of our deep conversations that we fit in between inside jokes and YouTube videos, you’re not writing for your friends and family, you’re writing for your fans.  Your friends and family are going to love whatever you do in the end.  They’re not the real audience.

So, my cousin Erin read it.  Yes, family, but Erin has the talent of being extremely blunt when asked to be, no holds barred.  And she enjoyed it.  Likely, because she never read the original.  But really…what is an original?

When I worked in theater, every single play I ever did went though massive edits during rehearsals, from straight-up script rewrites to blocking reworks.  Everything was moved around and crossed out and added on until you got the final product, and that is what is going on with this mini-chap.  That is what has always been going on for it.

It started with a line from a poem by another woman, for chrissake.  It was a challenge…take a line from her poem, and start a new one of your own with that line.  I picked a line; I wrote a poem.  I won a prize.  I polished the poem and deleted the other poet’s line.  I added to the poem…a lot.  I edited the poem.  I sent it off to be picked, and it was.  And so…I continue to edit the poem, changing things to make it better than it was, albeit different.  Enhanced, I prefer to think of it.

Kevin also said that the only person whose opinion really matters is my own, which is definitely true.  What comes out will be what I wanted it to be, no matter what is printed on the page.  Some of the edits are big leaps for me, but some that I am willing to take to put out the best possible finished product, just like I would do if I were working a show.  Kill your darlings, and all that jazz.

Sigh.  I suppose I am off to reread.  I will sit with it a bit, then make some more edits, then send it back to Zachary who will likely throw it back to me and so on and so forth until it’s ready to roll.  All I need is patience and a clear eye.

Previusly Pubished.

You read that right.

See, sometimes I will be reading a book and find a typo, and I will think to myself: how did they let that happen?  They, being the author and editor and whomever else reads the manuscript with a well-focused eye.  How can they let that one slip by?

This week I learned the answer to my question: very easily.

I must’ve read my manuscript on the computer at least 50 times…if we count the poems on their own, 100…I have some pieces memorized.  I have had FIVE people besides myself read the document.  Yet, not one of us noticed the typos. 

I, myself, carry the most shame, not having noticed that some commas seemed to have packed up and moved on out somewhere between my original chicken-scratched poem and my proof copy. Maybe they were never there, existing only mentally, but I really think they were.  Anyway, after the fifth readthrough and struggling with Google Docs all day so that Sahar could help me edit, I just read it though once more, took notes on every mistake I found, wrote up the email, and sent it to the publisher. 

And I know.  I know I will get that first copy of my book in my hand.  I know I will read it, and I know what I will find.  A typo.  A lost comma.  A capitalization mistake.  Something, anything…some blunder.  Some error I will take to my grave because that’s the way my brain works.

Anyway, that’s how I spent my weekend.  Now, I have a desire to clean my ransacked house, as I do every Monday after the kiddos leave, so this blog is quite short and not all that interesting.  Unless of course you, like I, have ever wondered how someone could miss an obvious typo. 

It is very, very easy.

And So It Begins.

At the end of August, I finished the assembly of my chapbook.  I thought, as I always think with these things, that is was crap, so I sent it off to be read by my few trusted readers and the reviews came back raving.  So, the bravery that lives deep inside me came out to play, and it sent my little book off to a few prospective publishers.

In my search, I came across one company that I particularly liked.  They’re local, which delights me, and have published a couple books by a poet I like.  I did a little research on them and found that they were accredited though the Better Business Bureau, and a member of the Association of American Publishers.  The reviews I found were all 5 stars.  The interviews I read with the editor were good.  The articles I found about upcoming releases were great.  So, in October, I sent an inquiry to them as to whether or not they published chapbooks.

In January, I received a response, telling me that my book sounded interesting and to forward my manuscript for review.  The review process, they said, would take about three weeks.

Months passed.

A little over a week ago I decided to write an inquiry letter, which was stressful as I have never done such a thing.  Usually I log my submissions and let them sit there until I hear back, but I was on pins and needles over this particular publishing company.  I figured out how to sound polite and professional and sent a little note asking if they received my book and were still reviewing it, and wishing them all good health.

On April 20th, I received a reply: “It would be my pleasure to help you publish your poetry.”

After more research and discussion, it came to my attention that this was a hybrid press.  Meaning, it’s sort of a cross between traditional publishing and self-publishing.  I do have to pay certain fees, which bummed me out at first.  But then I made a pros and cons list.  Yes, it would cost a little money, but it’s a good way to get your first book out there, and establish your portfolio.  Plus, I have complete control over the design and layout.  And on top of that, I look at it as a learning experience-I’d pay for school, wouldn’t I?  And in the end, I will have my book, and be able to sell it, and make that money back.  I went to Mark with my concerns, afraid to ask him to finance me when we have so many other things that need our financial attention.  His reply?  “I’d pay anything to hold your book in my hands.”

So, here is my official announcement that I am in the process of publishing my chapbook with the press I wanted most.  I am already working on it and learning about the development.  I am excited.

I asked my goddaughter if I could use a photo she took for the cover, and she obliged.  When the publisher sent me the mock-up of the cover and interior document, that was probably the moment that the shock finally wore off.

See, I didn’t really believe it for a bit.  I didn’t believe that someone wanted to publish my stuff.  I was trying to talk myself out of it (“well, it’s a hybrid press so do they really like it, or do they just want my money?”) while Mark was trying to talk me into it (“people do not publish books they cannot sell and make money off-they think it’s good enough to sell.”)  Sahar helped, too, pointing out that I was getting more for my money, given the services offered and the effort and cost of self-publishing.  And it should be noted that submission periods for chapbooks are few and far between, so theoretically I could be querying this for years.  No.  That’s too much.  And yet, even after the decision was made, I didn’t believe it.

I didn’t believe it until I saw the cover.  Until I saw the page layout.  Then it became real.

Still, there exists that unbelieving part of me that just knows something will go wrong.  The money will fall though.  The finished product won’t be what I see in my head.  No one will buy it.

I talk myself into these worst-case scenarios, and I know it’s because of my anxiety.  I know it’s false, because mental illness is a liar, and everything will get worked out in the end.  So, despite my fears I will make this happen, and actualize one of my dreams.  The whole book is about fighting depression and anxiety-maybe I should take a note from my own page, and fight against all these voices in my head that tell me it isn’t good enough.  There is another voice, quiet yet persistent, that insists I am doing the right thing.  She is joyous and excited, and I hardly ever let her out to see the sun, but I hear her nonetheless.  It’s that voice I have to listen to, not those loud and demanding ones that say I’ll never do anything I set out to accomplish.  Those voices are wrong.  It is the small voice, always pushing me, always celebrating my accomplishments, that I need to pass the microphone to.

Anyway, in closing, I’m publishing my first book.  I’m scared, I’m excited…I’m hoping you buy it.

Impostor Syndrome

When I’m stuck writing, I like to read.  Of course, my go to is Stephen King.  I have expounded on my adoration of him before, and likely will again.  Stephen is my literary love, and at my poetry meeting this month I won the door prize, which was a copy of Bag of Bones.  I was excited, as I have never read it.  So, when I was feeling overwhelmed by editing the other day, I cracked that bad boy open.

One chapter is all it took to feel like a talentless hack.

Now I understand that I am comparing my lowly works to one of the greats, and not only that, but my personal hero.  I could never write as well as him and I would never want to, but reading his words has caused me to become very self-conscious of my own.

For instance, as it stands, my little novel is 51k.  Bag of bones is 210k.  I tried to reassure myself by looking up how long Carrie was, but still, that’s 61k, so I felt no better.  Little inside voice that is always rational says that following drafts might have more words: perhaps there are things I will want to add.  Also, it reminds me that King is historically verbose, with the exception of Carrie.  His next book, Salem’s Lot, was 122k.  His only other “short” novel (I’m not counting novellas here,) was The Gunslinger, coming in at 56k.  So really, I’m comparing myself to someone who is generally wordy, whereas my writing style is more succinct, so there’s no comparison to be made, actually. 

But then there’s the descriptions.  He uses entire pages to describe events that I usually fit into a couple of paragraphs.  As I edit, I am looking for opportunities to expand on simple ideas, to bulk out both my manuscript and my thoughts.  Rational voice reasons that reading King is good for editing as it can give me ideas as to where I want to end up.  Irrational brain insists everything I’ve ever written is garbage and that Stephen King himself would use it to line a hamster cage. 

Carrie is not my favorite King book, but it is special to me.  I even mention it in my novel, giving a little nod to my love of the master.  It’s important because it was his first work, and originally, he thought it was garbage, too.  So much so that his wife fished it out of the trash, read it, and then told him she wanted to know how it ended.  This little story reminds me that every author, no matter their ability, thinks their writing is crap. 

I finished editing my WIP the other day and sent it off to Sahar’s capable hands.  I am very much at a loss as to what to do with my time.  On Monday I updated my blog, sent withdrawals out because I got a poetry acceptance, and then sat on Twitter for half an hour because I didn’t know what to do with myself without my WIP.  Tuesday, I tried writing an elevator pitch.  It’s…not good.  It’s really hard to condense 50,000 words into 50. 

On Wednesday I tried writing a longer pitch, something you might find on a back cover.  It is also not good:

Awaking alone in a dream world, Frankie must try to find someone to bring her the answers she seeks.  Her mother, Lila, interrupts her own hunt for understanding when she learns her daughter is in trouble.  Will they overcome their dysfunctional relationship, or will the chasm between them only deepen?  A look at loss, grief, and grave mistakes, this story tells the tale of two women on a quest to find themselves and each other.

I mean…this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg.  But it’s things like back cover material that get people to purchase a book, so you have to be very succinct and try to tell the story in as few words as possible, but also draw the reader in.  Whenever I read that back, I hear it in Mr. Moviefone’s voice.  It’s drivel.  I hate it.

But, it’s a work in progress, like everything is, and I am just teaching myself how to do this as I go.  I will certainly come up with something better as I learn how to write pitches.  I’ve been reading articles on how to sell your book to agents and such.  That’s still a way off but learning the process now can’t hurt.

See how I did that?  I started out writing about how I feel like a total hack when I read King and then brought it around to things I am working on in the meantime despite feeling that way.  Because it’s all just hamster cage liner in our minds, until someone picks it out of the trash and says, “hey, I want to read that.”

NaNoWriMo, Week 4

After getting over my initial fears of finishing the book, I wrote the last scene for the last chapter on Thursday morning.  Then I started thinking about the epilogue.

This is tricky, because there seems to be, in my experience, two main types of epilogue.  The one where everything gets wrapped up neatly with a bow, and the kind where interpretation is left up to the reader.  I want to walk a fine line between the two.  I want to wrap up certain things, but I don’t want everything perfect.  I want it messy, but with hope.  So, I went to Sahar, who suggested I read the manuscript as a whole and see what needs to be tied up and what can be left to the readers imagination.  Then, I walked away from the computer to think.  With ten days to go before I had to finish, I afforded myself a little time to contemplate.

Or at least that’s what I thought I was doing, but of course the voice in my head demanded I do it immediately.  And so, that afternoon, I wrote the words “The End,” and I won NaNoWriMo 2019.  I was exhilarated, momentarily.  I don’t know what I thought I would feel once the first draft was finished, but the sense of sadness that came over me was definitely not expected.  “What will I do tomorrow?” became the question.

“Edit,” the voice in my head responded.

Here are some things I have edited:  poems, plays, essays, short stories.  I have never in my life edited a novel, and I didn’t even know where to start.  So, off I weren’t to Google University to figure it out, and of course asked Twitter for advice.  Then, on Friday, I edited my first two chapters.  I also started working on a Thanksgiving themed blog, but had to be careful not to disclose my winning because I was waiting to do so here.

On Saturday, for the first time in 23 days, I did not sit down at my computer.  On Sunday, I only sat for a short time.  I couldn’t concentrate.  So, I went to read my new Stephen king book, which was a horrible idea because I found myself in awe of the man yet again and thus believing myself to be a talentless hack. 

Monday, I sat down in earnest, thought I was not really in the mood.  I got myself my coffee and my favorite sweatshirt.  My office was trashed because the kids were camped out playing Burnout Paradise on my computer all weekend, so I tidied up a little.  Then I edited two chapters, discovered one of them is way too short, and tried to come up with a thousand words to describe a Wal-Mart, to no avail.  I pushed on to finish editing most of part 1, then retired for the day because editing makes me frustrated. 

What I hate most is that it’s not easily completed.  Every time I finish a chapter I want to immediately move on to the next while it’s still fresh in my mind.  However, sitting at the desk for five hours is not ideal, so I must force myself to take breaks. 

On Tuesday I edited two more chapters and then got stuck in a spot where I described a scene happening differently than it is portrayed elsewhere in the book.  So, I deleted all of that and tried to replace the words.  Eventually I got frustrated and went to make a pot of coffee and watch 911.

Wednesday morning, I edited part 2.  First round done, I opened a new word file to start round two.   Tomorrow is a reading and notes day, light considering that it’s Thanksgiving.  I write this today because I know I won’t have time tomorrow, what with the Macy’s parade and the pie baking and the dinner at mother’s house.

I plan to send my manuscript to my beta on December 1st, as a sort of early Xmas gift.  I have worked my butt off this November and I hope my fellow NaNoWriMo participants are proud of what they’ve accomplished, whether they won or not.  Even if you only wrote 1000 words, it’s still 1000 words you didn’t have a month ago.  Every little bit counts.  In the end, I am very happy I decided to do NaNo.  It pushed me to complete something that I have wanted to do for a long time, and for that I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.