Just a Quote

‘You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.’ – Arthur Polotnik

I like this quote. But personally I don’t write to communicate anything to others. I write because there’s a story inside that I want to read. When I’m writing I’m not thinking about the hearts and minds of others, or to be honest, readers at all. I’m immersed in the story as if I’m watching a movie. I’m engrossed with the characters as if they are friends who either entertain, frustrate, or confound me. I want to know what they’re up to and why.

That part about editing though; I do like that. The concept is more commonly explained as separating wheat from chaff.

You know, I don’t think about readers when I’m editing, either (sorry readers!). During the editing process all I’m doing is reading the editor’s comments and thinking ‘I should have known that’ or ‘why didn’t I see that?’ or ‘man, she’s just made a lot of work for me’ or ‘this story sucks!’. I’m in the process in other words.

So when do I, in my personal writing process, start thinking about the hearts and minds of readers? I guess when the draft goes out to the first beta readers. And then I get nervous. Worried about whether they’ll like the story or the characters. Fearful that the story won’t work the same magic in the reader as it did for me when I was dreaming it.

I guess I’m not one of those brilliant writers who have core themes and messages that they strive to communicate to the wider world in order to change the world or impart some greater societal knowledge. I’m content just telling a story.



To Rewrite

I’m struggling with rewriting a story.

Editing I can do. Revising I can do (after all, revising is a lot like editing, right?)

But rewriting is a whole different game.

I’ve spent a couple months with some health issues which meant I didn’t get any work done on the new story. I know it’s going to be easy to pick that thread up again but right now the energy I have for writing isn’t streaming toward creating. So I pulled out an old story I wrote almost twenty years ago.

I love that story but there are serious structural issues with it. Not enough characters, so that the antagonist is glaringly obvious. Not enough conflict. And not enough subplots. Well, let’s be honest. There’s basically one subplot and that’s it. Which, as any writer of fiction knows, won’t support a novel-length story.

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Symbolic of structural issues, wouldn’t you agree?

So I decided to use this time of healing to rewrite that story. And I’ve discovered it’s actually hard. I’ve been trying to come up with something to compare the process to. And the closest I can get is baking.

Have you ever baked a cake, finished the batter, poured it into the pan, and then realized that you forgot something vital, like the eggs? So you dump it back into the mixing bowl and try to add what you forgot, but it just doesn’t mix up quite the same. And doesn’t bake quite right.

Rewriting is like trying to add those darn eggs after the cake is baked.

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Guess this is the only photo I have of a cake. Obviously not one I baked!

So much energy is invested in creating and editing and polishing. And then there’s the process of letting go so the story can go out into the world. Rewriting is also like trying to pick up that energy after it’s long dissipated. Trying to find the mood that story was written in.

It’s challenging to find spots to slip in new characters or new dialog. That seems much harder than adding in bits of internalizations. Then there’s trying to figure out conflicts and subplots for secondary characters that I’ve now realized I never knew.

There’s too much in the story that’s good to just toss and start all over. I’m not even sure I could start over and end up with the same spirit that’s in this version. I definitely don’t want to lose this version.

So I’m plugging along – literally – plugging in bits and pieces as I go. I still like this old story. But my writing has changed since back then.

The process of rewriting is more challenging than I expected. Luckily I like a challenge when it comes to writing.

We’ll see what happens.

Anticipating the End

I love the tingly sense that the end of a story is near. You can see it out there on the horizon, so close, but not ready to be touched just yet. You know it’s creeping in, but you can’t look at it directly or it will dissipate like fog, gone forever.

And since it’s Christmas Eve I’ll use that analogy – it’s like being a little kid again, sitting near the tree with its lights and decorations, grasping that nutcracker and thinking, tonight the magic will happen and he will turn into a prince.

Hands hovering, fingers near the keyboard, or lightly holding the pen, breath almost held, knowing the words are almost here, almost free.

Of course the downside of that anticipation is the fact that soon, the gifts will all be open. The end of the story will be written and all that’s left to anticipate is the long slog of revising and the business end of getting the book out there.

But for right now, the story is still just mine, still magical, still unknown.

And oh so close.

Potential piece of cover for book #3, Ghost Roads

Potential piece of cover for book #3, Ghost Roads