Saturday, March 31, 2007

Proliferation of Backstory

I hate the whole term "backstory." Blah. I was talking with a fellow writer once, and he was struggling with how to keep a reader interested in his novel when there was so much necessary "backstory" to communicate up front.

My advice? If the backstory is that important, then maybe it needs to be the frontstory. If it doesn't, then maybe it's not as important to explain as you think it is.

So I have this wonderful little story going. Eleven chapters of a wonderful little story. And suddenly I have backstory coming out of the woodworks. And I find myself tempted to do flashbacks, or dream sequences, or some other type of fictional device that I've never particularly liked to read because it seemed contrived.

No, I tell myself. I am not going to resort to flashbacks and dream sequences. If this backstory is that wonderful and intriguing and important, then I need to make it my frontstory and reconsider the novel as a whole.

I may end up doing that. But for now, I'm going to focus on my frontstory. What is lacking in my frontstory? Why have I been so drawn to the backstory, and why does the frontstory seem so uninteresting in comparison? Clearly, I need to jump-start the frontstory. Inject it with a little fictional fuel. Or at least spend a little more time thinking about it, thus enabling myself to see, once again, why I found it worth writing about in the first place.

My plan? For now, keep the frontstory the frontstory. Let its natural conflict and tension come out--that conflict and tension that drew me to it in the first place. Let it be of more immediate interest than the backstory. And let the backstory serve as an engrossing narrative for the "slow" parts between the "action scenes" of the frontstory.

I hate the terms "backstory" and "frontstory." They sound so manipulative, like I'm manipulating my child to behave a certain way. But I guess that's part of what writing a novel is about. I have to let things happen, but I also need to keep the upper hand.

Back to the backstory. I mean the frontstory. I mean to sleep. More writing tomorrow.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Chapter 11: Done

When I wrote the outline for Chapter 11, I finished it with this:

"End chapter with R___ saying some sort of Intriguing Thing."


I had no clue what the Intriguing Thing would be. I just wanted to end it Intriguingly. If my story has been like a corridor through a house, I want my reader to finish that chapter suddenly thinking, "Whoa. I thought there was only this one corridor. Is this ... another door?"

I am not a reader of mysteries. At least I haven't been in my adult life. So it's rather odd that my novel is displaying elements of mystery and suspense.

I don't want to yank my dear reader around with contrived suspense. Perish the thought. No Da Vinci Code for me, thank you very much.

But at the same time ... suspense in fiction is necessarily contrived. And I don't want a novel that's so weak in conflict that no one can get past the first few chapters.

In any case, I'm glad to be finished with the Chapter 11 draft. I wasn't completely happy with the Intriguing Thing (it sounds a bit too contrived), but then again, this is only a draft.

I'll spend time tomorrow drafting the outline for Chapter 12, then get started on the actual draft early next week.

I'm almost halfway through with the draft!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another Nine Hundred Words

Welp, this morning I added 900 more words to my draft. I also added about an hour's worth of backstory to my outline, more backstory that needs to be there but will only have a minor part in the novel.

I'm about halfway through Chapter 11. It looks like the book will have 24 chapters, give or take a couple.

I just wanted to thank all of you who are reading my rather bland little updates and encouraging me as I continue to write. For all you know, I may be a decent writer but a horrible novelist, with no hope of ever getting published or read or respected.

But lucky for me, I'm optimistic enough to think that what I'm writing is going to be well worth reading. So I'll keep plugging away and updating all who care to know my progress.

Time for a break, then back to work.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Uliginous and Malodorous

I think I'm on a big-word kick today. I just re-read the 1200 words I added to Chapter 11 this morning, came across these words, and wondered if these words would make a reader think I was trying to sound presumptuous.

Uliginous means swampy or muddy or oozing. If a plant is uliginous, it means it grows in muddy, swampy, oozy places. I think it might be an archaic word, or maybe it's just a scientific one. I love it because it just sounds so muddy, so swampy, so oozy. Say it aloud: uliginous. You can almost feel the muck of the Louisiana swamps dripping off your tongue. I think I learned this word from either Dr. Johnson's dictionary or a botany class I took in college. I couldn't find it in the American Heritage online. So I wonder, is it okay if I use it?

Another word I learned in botany was sclerenchyma. What a great word. I'm going to find a use for it in my fiction someday.

I know we're not supposed to use big words that scare people. But sometimes a big word is nice. Like when Jane Austen refers to Mr. Woodhouse as a valetudinarian. What a great word.

Malodorous is a bit more commonly used. It means stinky. It's also a great word for humor because it sounds kind of stuffy. Also, the word malodorous makes me think of a stale, old stinkiness as opposed to a fresh, just-born stinkiness. Kind of like a litterbox that hasn't been cleaned in a while, or the inside of a car three weeks after your little sister stuffed her McDonald's sausage biscuit under the seat.

No, of course I wouldn't know of such malodorous smells from experience. Of course not. Any similarity between the situations I discuss here and real life are purely coincidental.

Yeah, right.

Starting Chapter 11

I crashed after Chapter 10. Big time. Friday night, I went to bed at 7:00. Saturday I had to work, then went to a social event Saturday night. It was fun, but my poor introverted soul has not had nearly enough alone-time lately, and I was still processing Chapter 10. So I crashed yesterday. Didn't go to church, cancelled lunch with my friend, cancelled tennis with my other friend, didn't even go hiking, even though it was a beautiful day and a perfect day for being outdoors. Didn't even do my long run.

I slept. I nursed a splitting headache. (No, I wasn't hungover.) I played a little bit of piano, but I barely even had the energy for that. I caught up on some e-mails throughout the day. I petted the cats. I didn't have the energy for much more.

So now it's Monday morning, and I'm rested and ready to start Chapter 11. I have a million other things to do today, but it's not a bookstore day and the novel is first priority this morning. So ... onward to Chapter 11!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chapter 10

Chapter 10 took it out of me. I'm exhausted. As I wrote to my draft-reader, the Ink-Clad Diva, it is physically painful for me to put these characters in a state of fear, or anger, or grief. I've become close to the characters. They're a part of me, even though they exist in a completely different dimension--an imaginary world, for heaven's sake. But I just ripped the rose-colored glasses off of my main character, and it was like ripping a scab. I threw the Thorns of Life in her path, and she fell into them and bled, so what did I do? I picked up those thorns and rubbed them in some more.

I just feel sick about it.

But I do feel good about one thing: Part 1 of my draft, ten chapters long, is written.

Time to move on to Part 2, Chapter 11. Hope I don't go bankrupt now! :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More Poetry Rattling in the Old Noggin

So I wrote something along the lines of, "... and she said so with a grin."

Then my mind broke into a recitation of

"And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin."
All these little phrases are like "PLAY" buttons, little neural switches in my brain, and the "with a grin" switch immediately fires up "Sam McGee." (Yes, there's a pun in there. If you don't recognize it, read the poem. It's de-light-ful.)

Little Authorial Victories

I did a lot of writing and thinking last night and this morning. I don't think the grief scene will be hard to write, but it's kind of like an island--I needed to build a good foundation for it in my mind before working through just what will rise above the surface and make it into the scene.

As I work through these things, I keep finding metaphors. (My friend Robert will tell you that I am quite the little metaphorist, or something like that. But it's true. My brain is always looking for metaphors or analogies that will explain things with greater brevity and clarity, and I take great delight in finding that perfect metaphor for complex things. I've always been this way, was this way even before I became an English major.)

Anyway, I was seeing a metaphor for my character's situation ... and that "metaphor" had actually happened in a previous chapter. Then I saw another metaphor for a different aspect of the situation ... and it had occurred several times already in the story. I don't want to talk to much about it, but here's a very cheesy example, not from this book:

Say the character is a successful businessman who "thinks he's so great" and, with his smug confidence and superior talent, unknowingly crushes the aspirations of less accomplished--but no less talented--younger, greener folks in the business world. And in the book, he also never quite looks where he's going and tends to step on the spring wildflowers that are peeking up through the cracks in the sidewalk outside his condo. The metaphor is of unknowingly crushing people in the early blooms of their careers, but he actually does unknowingly crush the early blooms every time he walks out his door. It's an unspoken metaphor and a symbol and an actual event, all at once.

So. I'll use the example above to explain what happened with my novel--or with my consciousness--this morning. I'd made the guy step on the flowers in Chapter 2, and again in Chapters 4 and 7. I didn't really have a reason for it; it just seemed like the thing to do, the thing to write. It felt right. Besides, the flowers inevitably grow right outside his front door, so he would have to really make an effort not to step on them, which he, of course, doesn't. Then, later, his character developed and he turned out to be a guy who, not maliciously but ignorantly, crushes the new and colorful talents that have the potential to enrich his concrete, black-and-white world. And I sit back and think, "Whoa! A pattern! And I didn't even realize I was making one!"

It's happening here. Some part of me was working on the pattern all along, and my conscious mind just realized it. And it fits together so perfectly, and then I keep seeing more patterns, more layers, that were there all along and are only now surfacing into my consciousness.

The patterns emerge, and everything seems to "fit" in a kind of fugal intricacy. My job is just to keep writing, to keep realizing and building on the pattern--not by thinking about the pattern, but by writing what seems "right," and having faith that, as long as I'm true to the story, the pattern will continue to work itself out.

Monday, March 19, 2007

700 More Words

I added 700 more words to my novel today: the first page and a half of Chapter 10.

I don't really like thinking of my novel progress in terms of "words written." My drafts tend to be long and rambling; with revision, a 1,000-word piece of my writing can shrink by half. I've estimated that my rough draft will be 100,000 words (this is a number I pretty much pulled out of the air), and that my final document will be more in the neighborhood of 80,000 words. So it doesn't really mean much to me that I've written 38,628 words as of today. It does mean something that I've begun Chapter 10, and that I have a clear idea of the structure of the novel as a whole, and of Chapter 10's specific role in it.

This is hard, though not unexpectedly so. Writing a novel takes a lot of focused effort, and I need to be focused for the long haul. That will have its challenges. The characters seemed so real and vivid at first, and now they've become a part of my psyche. This is good in that I feel like I know them really well and have grown quite fond of most of them; but it's not so good, in that they're not vivid the way they were when I first "met" them. I'm not too worried; I guess the novelty had to start wearing off at some point. (There's a pun in there somewhere.)

I knew this would be a lot of work, and it is. My draft contains 38,628 words, but I've probably written as many or more in my notes, outlines, summaries, character studies, and development of "backstory" that, though it will not show up much in the novel, is still necessary for my understanding of the novel's structure. Also, sometimes I need to do what I call "explorative writing" in a spiral notebook before I work on the actual chapter.

For example, in Chapter 10, the main character is going to deal with grief. The scene will be short, perhaps a page and a half, and more understated than not. But before I write it, I will probably produce several handwritten pages on grief--grief that I've suffered, grief as I've seen others suffer it, and how I imagine I might feel, were I in the main character's situation. I'll think about what I can remember from reading Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and read a few of the "grief scenes" from some of my favorite literary works. I think it really helps to see how Better Writers Than I have done it. Tolstoy, Shakespeare, etc., are the best teachers.

So, I'm off to visit George the Piano for the second time today (we'll be having mini-dates all week), then I'll get back to work on the novel, or at least on my grief notes. My hours are about to increase significantly at the bookstore, and I may be starting a new tech-writing job before long, so these leisurely days for writing will soon be a thing of the past. I need to get as much done on the novel, and with piano, as I can.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Update on Everything, I: Family & Friends

[I actually got two e-mails saying that this post was too much to comment on. So I'm breaking it up. If you want to comment, by all means do so! I haven't been very good about responding in the comment boxes lately, but I do read and appreciate all comments!]

So, if you're one of my ten remaining readers, then you're probably wondering what exciting activities I've been up to (other than the wedding) in the last few weeks. Here's a quick run-down.

1. Family: I've been big into the sibling-visiting thing. Last weekend was of course Jonathan's wedding, and I got to see him and Rebecca both. Then I spent yesterday with Brother Nent and went on a walk with Sister Mu.

5. Friends: I've come into contact with several "prickly people" lately: people who are particularly passive-aggressive, or angry, and always seem to get rubbed the wrong way, no matter what anyone says. I mentioned something about the northeast having a particularly cold winter and found myself somehow on the verge of a rather tense debate on global warming (something I know very little about certainly not enough to engage in a debate). The point is, I was trying to make polite conversation about the weather, and the prickly young woman to whom I was talking interpreted my polite conversation as a chip-on-the-shoulder political statement. And that's just one example of the prickly people I've encountered lately.

Maybe it is the weather. Anyway, all of this prickliness has made me prickly. It's made me have bad dreams. So I spent most of today all alone, writing and praying and meditating. It helped. And I'm going to try to be more sympathetic to the prickly people.

9. Hubster: Sexiest. Man. Alive.

10. George the Piano: Most. Neglected. Man. In. This. House. Poor old George.

Update on Everything, II: Writing & Work

2. Writing: I'm working on Chapter 10 of my novel. I sent Chapter-9-which-is-really-Chapter-8 to my reader, the Ink-Clad Diva, and worked on Chapter 10 for much of the day today. I had social events to go to tonight, but I was so "in the moment" in my writing that I didn't want to break the spell. Now I didn't actually get any part of Chapter 10 written; but I wrote the outline. And reworked the outline (again) of the whole novel.

This book is getting harder and harder to write. I'm getting tired of it, and I'm starting to get bored by the story. That's why I need to revisit the whole-book outline regularly: to remind myself where I'm going. But even then, I find myself thinking, "Oh, how trivial. Do I really want to include that? Do I really need to narrate every little second between when she gets out of the car and walks to the front step?" Sometimes I do, but not always.

Then I have a parallel plot that reared its pretty head in Chapter-9-which-was-originally-Chapter-8. And I wonder: How much of a role should the parallel plot play this early in the novel? It's going to become more important later on, but I don't want my reader to pay that much attention to it until it does become important.

And then I find myself writing phrases that sound wonderfully poetic to me. I immediately think, "Wow, Waterfall! That was good!" Then I realize I'm using some version of a line from some poem: "She had known them all, known the demi-tasses with their tiny handles," or ""Her grief had grown deep like the river." Duh. I guess it's a good thing to have the poetry of T.S. Eliot and Langston Hughes rattling around in my head, but I sure hope my editor, whoever he/she is, is able to tell me which words are mine and which are inadvertently picked up from Great Writers.

4. Work: Life at the bookstore is going quite well. I still love it. We've had to cancel the "Creative Writing for Teens" class because not enough people signed up. Yes, I was disappointed, but I also realized today that I now have my next six Sunday afternoons off. Woo hoo! This summer, I think I'm going to facilitate an "Artist's Way" workshop for adults.

Update on Everything, III: Health

3. Running: Running has been going very well. For a couple of weeks I was puzzled by a lack of energy. I just felt heavy and sluggish whenever I tried to run. Then I realized something: in giving up sweets for Lent, I had cut out a huge source of carbohydrates in my diet. (I know, that's really pathetic.) I was eating fruits and veggies by the platefuls, but I wasn't getting many carbs, and thanks to Hubster being gone on business trips, I was reverting to a vegetarian diet and getting very little protein as well.

So I changed my dietary habits and started eating more spaghetti. And Power Bars before runs. It's helped (I think). I walked/ran about 24 miles this week and am running a 10-mile long run tomorrow.

I've had a weird symptom, though. I've begun doing speed intervals called "fartleks" (tee hee), where you run slow, then run in a burst of speed for a short distance, then slow down, then repeat several times. Whenever I finish that burst of speed, I get all giddy and a little dizzy. Not enough to fall down or anything (or else I would stop!), but ... I just get this heady feeling. It lasts about three seconds at most, but it always happens just after I slow down from a speed burst.

6. Going Mental: Brother Nent told me yesterday that I have body-image dysmorphia. I knew that already. I really think it's a hallucination kind of thing. For example, I was in Belk a couple of weeks ago, looking for a dress to wear to Jonathan's wedding. I found several dresses to try on and went to the dressing room. Stripped down to my underwear, looked in the full-length mirror, and saw an obese woman. Really. Saw huge thighs and a sagging stomach and rolls of fat ... well, you get the picture. I felt a little depressed. I do, after all, run miles and miles every week and (mostly) eat right and lift weights regularly.

Then I tried on the size 6 dress and it was too big. So I tried on the Size 4 and it was a little loose, but a 2 would probably have been a little tight. I looked at myself in the dress and thought, "Oh. this doesn't look bad. I almost look skinny." Then when I took the dress off, I saw the wide-as-she-is-tall-woman-with-my-face again. It made no sense whatsoever that I could comfortably fit a Size 4 dress onto what I perceived as a Size 24 body.

That, friends, is body-image dysmorphia. Don't worry--I don't go into an anorexic frenzy of cursing myself for "letting myself go" this way. I just think to myself, "Ah, well. That's my body-image dysmorphia. It's not what I really look like." Kind of like Russell Crowe just had to accept on faith that his hallucinations weren't actual things in "A Beautiful Mind."

But still, it's a little creepy, to think that I can see one thing clear as day and know in my heart of hearts that I'm not seeing what actually is. That's why I wonder if it's a kind of hallucination.

7. Denial of Drug Use: It's true. I am not on drugs of any kind, except for the prescribed ones.

8. Aging: I've begun to sprout silvery white hairs in my temples and from the top of my scalp. They've really proliferated in the last couple of weeks. I am thrilled. I no longer look like I'm twelve years old. I love the idea of having silvery white hair. Bring. It. On.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More Pics from Last Weekend

Jonathan (the groom) dancing with Sherry (the mother of the groom).



Me with Danielle.



Danielle is quite the ham. Here she is with Sherry.



Rachel, Taylor, Veronica, me, and Jennifer.



Donna and Victor.



Jonathan and me.



Hubster and Danielle, being silly. I think I married a great big KID.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Today is Special

Today is the Hubster's birthday. Happy birthday, Hubster!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Awesome Weekend

What a weekend. I can't stop smiling. I hated that it had to end and we had to come home.

My brother Jonathan married his true love, Jessie.



What a joyful, happy, fun weekend. Jonathan and Jessie, I hope y'all have a lifetime of happiness.

The Videographer's Head

These pictures are for Jonathan. You see, since he memorialized the head of the photographer at my wedding, I felt obliged to do the same for him.


Here's the videographer's head, with Jonathan and Jessie dancing in the background.



In this picture of the videographer's head, Jonathan is dancing with Sherry (his mom and my birthmom).




I'm simply calling this one "Still Life: Back of Videographer with Wedding Gown Growing from Right Hip."

A Few More Pictures

Unfortunately, Hub and I didn't manage to get a lot of good pictures from the weekend. We completely forgot to bring the camera to the Purple Cow Cafe, which means we got no pictures of Danielle trying to milk the purple cow. Alas, we did get a few nice pictures from the reception.

Here are Jonathan and Jessie cutting the cake. (It was mm, mm good. So was the groom's cake. I had a big honkin' piece of each. So did Cousin Jennifer.)




Jessie, you HAD to know these pictures would end up on the internet. :)




Another picture of the happy couple. Note the smeared icing on the front of Jonathan's tux.



I will, of course, post more pictures from the weekend over the next few days.

Have I mentioned that it was an amazing, wonderful, incredibly happy weekend?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Coming Up For Air Again

Just to say ... I'm currently writing Chapter 8. My previous chapter is being bumped back to Chapter 9.

And Chapter 8 is going to be funny. Fun. Knee. But I just hope the front cover of my novel (which is sure to be a bestseller, ha ha) doesn't say "Laugh-Out-Loud Funny!". So many novels have "Laugh-Out-Loud Funny!" on the front or back cover, or inside the book where all the reviews are quoted, and I read these books, thinking they're going to be Laugh-Out-Loud Funny!, and then I end up being disappointed, probably because I went in with such high expectations. Maybe I'm just a big sourpuss. But I think a lot of those "Laugh-Out-Loud Funny!" claims constitute false advertising.

Meanwhile, the novel I'm writing is absolutely cracking me up.

You probably have to be there. Or here.

But that's neither here nor there. I'm going to dive back into the words now.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Writing/Editing Update

I'm coming up for air. But just for a moment. I'm eager to plunge back into the words, but wanted to post an update, both for my family members who are wondering where I've disappeared to, and for you bloggers whose blogs I visit on a regular basis but haven't visited in at least a week.

It's all because I've been writing. And editing.

Friday night: We got the draft of Jan's book out to the proofreaders and fact-checker. We've been getting some responses from the proofreaders and from the publisher, all very positive.

Saturday night: I finished Chapter 8 of my novel and sent it to the Ink-Clad Diva (my draft-reader). Again, a very positive response, which I got this morning with all the other positive responses on Jan's book. What a wonderful way to start the week!

Sunday: I'd been needing to revamp my novel's outline for some time now, and I spent most of Sunday doing just that. I felt like a real writer, hidden away in my garret sunroom, hunched over my sheafs of parchment laptop, scribbling clicking and scribbling clicking and scribbling clicking away.

Writing is getting harder as my story gets more complex. I know what's going to happen (sort of) and when (sort of) and why (sort of), but the more I write the more exacting I become, the more I expect of myself. Kind of like my inner critic/cheerleader is saying, at the end of each chapter and with the start of a new one, "Now, top THAT!"

I am so up to the challenge.

I love writing. I love it, I love it, I love it.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Feeling Gangly

I was 5'2 3/4" for the longest time. Then I took a yoga class and managed to stretch myself out to a full height of 5'3". I am petite. I have little shoulders, a little waist, tiny wrists, small feet, and a miniature face.

The main female character of the novel I'm writing is a lot more socially conscious than I am. She's not nearly as bookish, and she's more outgoing, if a little less independent of spirit. But we do have one major thing in common: we're both petite.

So she sees the world as I see it: a world of shoulders. She goes through the world as I do: trying (unsuccessfully) to wear cool clothes that only come in "One Size Fits Most," tripping over the hems.

I'm in Chapter 8. I decided to make her tall in this chapter. Just to see what it would be like to have character who towers over everyone else. And to see if her tall body fits her personality better than her short body seems to be doing.

I've been writing for about an hour, and I can't help feeling extremely gangly and awkward. My arms seem to stretch to the ground. I actually ducked when I went through a doorway just now--as if I really needed to. That weirdness was what inspired me to write this post.

I love writing. It's kind of neat to feel tall.

Two Posts in One Day!

Imagine that. Actually, I'm taking a little procrastination break, and this is going to be a post full of thises and thats. It's a gorgeous day outside and I should be hiking, or running, or something, but I'm sitting in my coffee shop (at least I have a window seat) and working.

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I'd planned to devote much of the day to Jan's book, but I'm actually at a stopping point now. So I'll return to my much-neglected-of-late novel. I'm about 2/3 of the way through Chapter 8, and I think Chapter 9 will go quickly because I've been composing it in my mind for weeks.

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I did run yesterday. 7.7 miles. I want to run three more today. I love running.

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Our little fellow, Beau, has a laceration in his ear. It smells horrible. All that necrotic tissue and bacteria. We are calling him "Stinky Ear." I took him to the vet several days ago, and now he's on antibiotics. I'm also putting peroxide and neosporin on our little bobcat's bo-bo. He's not feeling well. I feel sad for him. Oh, and he's picking at the bo-bo and eating the scabs. He'll get no face-kisses from me these days!

The guilty party in this laceration case? A big, mean dog who belongs to the family next door. They haven't been locking it up or leashing it during the day, and now our little fella is terrified to go outside and instead stays inside and scratches up our carpet and walls between bo-bo scab snacks. I told the people they needed to keep their dog tied up or otherwise leashed at all times--not only does the dog terrify the little fella, but it's county law.

So they started keeping it chained (a long chain) to a post in their garage. And now I feel sorry for the vicious thing. But it could kill Beau. So if I find it loose again, I'm calling the pound to come talk to them. And if that happens, and I then find it loose again, I'm calling the pound to come pick it up. I don't want it to come to that. But I'm more scared of that dog than Beau is. It's one of those growling, snarling, teeth-bearing creatures ... .

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I'm going to be teaching a creative-writing workshop for teens at the bookstore, starting in a couple of weeks (if anyone signs up, that is). I couldn't figure out what book to require, so I didn't require one. Anyone have any ideas? I was leaning toward Gardner's The Art of Fiction and, of course, reliable old Strunk and White. But I don't want the Sunday-afternoon workshop to feel like it's just More School. I am not crazy about Lamott's Bird by Bird for teenagers, and I like Writing Down the Bones but am not sure how all the references to Buddhism would go over in this, one of the most Christian counties of the most Christian state of the most Christian region of the most Christian country in the world. (I got that from Walker Percy.) Perhaps I am super-sensitive to that stuff.

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So. Those are my thises and thats. More later.

Editing "The Ordinary Adventurer"

Welp, I sent the PDFs of the book sections out to the proofreaders/fact-checkers late last night. I re-read some of the book today. I think it's going to be good. Here's why I think that: every time I re-read different sections, I laugh, or get chills, or feel moved. I'm still responding this way after multiple readings, after digging through guidebooks and reference books and checking and re-checking place names, mileages, Chicago Manual of Style guidelines, etc. After searching-and-replacing to get rid of all instances of "the the," "and and," "Appalachian Trial," extraneous thats, and the like. After months suggesting and approving revisions and rearrangings, word choice changes, paragraph combinings, heading formats, and a bunch of other things. Sigh. It was so much fun. Really. It really was. (Does this mean I am a born editor? Because I enjoyed this?)

Normally, I can't stand to read the final versions of something I've had a hand in writing. I don't read the press releases I send to the paper. I don't read my little essays that have been published here and there. I've never sat down to read my own book, 50 Hikes in Louisiana. When I do read something I've written, my response is a mix of disappointments and inner groans. "Oh, why did I word it that way? I shouldn't have included that sentence. How could I have confused precarious and vicarious? How did the editor miss that? I am such an idiot!"

But I haven't been responding that way with "The Ordinary Adventurer." Granted, it's not my book, but I've played a role in it as editor. Enough of a role that I feel some sense of ownership, of responsibility. As editor, I am responsible for ensuring the book is a smooth read. So I was exceedingly critical this morning as I re-read bits and pieces of the PDFs that we sent out for final read-throughs.

And I just kept smiling. I am so proud of Jan for sticking with this, and I'm so happy that I could be a part of it.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Home Stretch

We're almost there. There. Once the publisher takes over and it is out of my red-pen-wielding editorial fingers, I'll blog again with some regularity. Until then, I'll be finishing up this editing job.

I can't believe how much I've enjoyed editing a book. It's just about as much fun as writing.

(No, I don't really edit with a red pen. I threw away all my red pens after I quit the teaching job.)

(No, I didn't really throw them away. I still have them. Somewhere.)