Monday, September 28, 2009

Back to the Grind

“An incurable itch for scribbling takes possession of many, and grows inveterate in their insane breasts.” Juvenal, Satires

“When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any way you can.” Samuel Lover, Handy Andy, 1842

“The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.” Jules Renard, "Diary," February 1895

When I received the phone call late last Sunday afternoon that I’d be teaching middle-school Science for five consecutive days, I was filled with relief. Although teaching a bunch of middle school students a subject that wasn’t my forte wasn’t the best way to spend a week, it was good for several reasons. One, no early calls for a whole week. Two, out of the previous nine days I was available to work, I’d only been called for two of them.

Now it’s Monday, which is a holiday, and I’m wondering what this four-day school week will bring me. If I don’t get a call today, I’ll once again set my alarm for 5:25AM, just in case. I’ve resigned myself to it, even if it’s not ideal.

Whether I’ve been working or home, I’m at least proud of the fact that I’ve been productive. In between chores and teaching periods, I’ve edited my manuscript, Indigo in the Know. It’s now with my father-in-law, who is more proficient at grammar than me. He’ll also take out all my unnecessary commas. Once he’s made some progress, I’ll send it back out to agents and editors. I have my blog on positive rejections to thank for reworking Indigo. Reading the feedback I’d received on it, plus the length of time it had been since I’d last looked at it, made it the perfect time to see the manuscript with new eyes.

Unfortunately, I’ve now gotten the itch to write something new. The idea came to me the other day, based on something my daughter had said in the summer that’s been a running family joke. The familiar whispers have begun, though I do my best to ignore them. Why should I write something new when I have several other pieces just waiting to be reedited and resubmitted? How many unpublished manuscripts should I accumulate? But if each piece of writing is better than the previous one, then perhaps I should write something new. I spend a lot of time talking myself into and out of working on each new idea until the whispers turn into words, then into lines, and finally, into plots. At that point, if I don’t write it down, I can’t fall asleep, and then I wake up in the middle of the night, and early in the morning (earlier than 5:25AM), with the story begging to be written.

When I searched for the quote that would match what I was writing about, all of the above quotes surfaced, so similar, speaking to my state that I included them all. More than anything else, those quotes remind me what I have in common with accomplished writers. The quote below illustrates what I have in common with those writers that aren’t accomplished. But maybe that’s not quite right; to write at all is itself an accomplishment. Perhaps I’ll begin a new piece after all.

“No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.” Russell Lynes


  1. Sometimes I almost (but not quite) feel guilty for hanging out (reading/commenting/replying) with blogger-writers such as yourself.
    You all share these struggles (life/work/writing), and I'm way of on another side of the planet doing something completely different. Shrug.
    It must be convenient to have someone close to you to help you with rogue commas. How did that work out?

  2. @ Alesa, what are your days like?

    My mother-in-law said I should have my father-in-law help me when I was looking for someone to edit my work. The manuscript exchange partner I had started a new job, so she was no longer writing. Now she just quit her job, so maybe we'll start up again. Aubrie has been my recent beta reader. I try to have at least two readers before submitting now.

  3. I reckon my days are unremarkable...

    Get up round 5.30 or 6am, blog/read/play, get some training in, get ready for work.

    8 hour music enhanced black hole+two hours commuting/reading or skating.

    Home again, entertain the cat, read/write/blog/play/train.

    Hang out with my lover: read outloud, chat, cook, eat, play games, make music...

    Internet stuff til 1am.
    ...Weekends are the same minus the black hole. :j

    Yes, I noticed with some curiosity that you were working with Aubrie.
    Just so that you know, she has a thing against me... shrug.
    I was curious as to what kind beta reader she was.

    How does the manuscript exchange thing go? You simply swap MSs with other authors? And leave comments on passages? Are they stylistic comments? Writing comments (pacing, development, characters, content, etc)? Grammar and syntax?

    I expect it would be quite time consuming. I do a fair amount of sub editing at work, I have a good idea of how much time it takes.

    That said, I would expect that your writing would require far fewer gross corrections... But then finer changes take more time. Hmm... Interesting.

  4. @ Alesa, it sounds like your black hole keeps you pretty busy. In fact, you sound like you have all the same time constraints as the rest of us writers.

    Aubrie has been great vanquishing my "that" and "was" problem. I never seem to find them all on my own. And if a sentence isn't working, she gives me an alternative. Her biggest help has been if a scene needs more or I need another scene. She's made The Disappearances muchier.

    It is time-consuming to edit. Each beta reader has their strengths, so it's good to have more than one person look at my work. Stephen King has 3 people read his work. At his stage, if he still does it, I know I need beta readers!

  5. Except that writers have the additional work of writing on top of working day jobs. I just have a desk job, and all the rest of my time is free. :j

    Hmm... From what I've read, Stephen King is an atypical writer on several fronts. But that is irrelevant, I suppose in discussing the need and usefulness of beta readers.

    Beta reading sounds like it could be fun... And like it could be an education as well, provided the beta has the chops both as a writer and as a subeditor.

  6. I think of your story series of posts as writing.

  7. Well, yes. So do I. But I meant, I write for fun. No serious objectives. I'm not faced with the challenge of writing on a publisher's deadlines, of struggling to break in, and going through the grueling querying process. I'm just a dilettante writer.
    But enough about that. : j

  8. Dilettante writer? You crack me up. I guess you are.