inasmuch as it concerns Spit and Polish:
Contortions performed upon that endless search for perfection.
Annnnnd That's a Draft
- 53,489 wds. long
It's not so much a revised novel as it is a brand new first draft written from a revised outline. It's got a lot of plot holes, its characters need more development, and there are places when I couldn't figure out how to get from A to B so I just jumped over to B and started writing anyway. But as a novel draft it wanders less than the first one. And, unlike the first one, which kind of dribbled off into December, it's got an honest to goodness ending. It's not the right ending, but it's an ending. It's got a denouement and everything.
Two small excerpts are up on my NaNoWriMo.org profile. For posterity, yo.
About the freelance gig we will talk later. Tonight I do not want to spoil my happy with thoughts of the miles to go before Friday the 7th is allowed to get here. Tonight I'm just happy that, this November - or, for that matter, at all - I wrote an entire novel draft from beginning to end.
On Self-Critiques and Louisiana-Style Fried Chicken
- 2,481 wds. long
Today started rather too early. John had to catch a 10:15 AM flight to Indianapolis (Gen Con!), so we left the house at 7:15 AM. Sometimes the thing I miss most poignantly about Metairie is the 15-minute drive from just about anywhere in town to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. From Boulder to DIA? On a weekday morning in I-270 commuter traffic? Allow an hour and a half, and hope.
But we made it on time -- early, even, despite bumper-to-bumper on the 270 -- and in proof of this you can see happy tweets from my husband in Indy. Which left me with two goals for the morning:
- A writing session involving, at least in part, revising the phone story, and
- An 8-piece box of Popeye's spicy fried chicken.
See, just at I-70 and I-270 and Quebec, there's a TravelCenters of America truck stop with an all-purpose diner, no free internet, and a Popeye's. This is the closest I get to a Popeye's on my way anywhere unless I'm actually in the New Orleans area. And there is nothing like grazing on cold Popeye's chicken out the fridge for days after Mom brings home far too much of it for a weekend lunch.
(Sometimes, I get so angry and exasperated at the whole "They be stealin Dan Cathy's freedom of speech, don't look at the millions of dollars going to Exodus Int'l and groups supporting death penalties for gay people in Uganda, you will know us by our Sparkly Moral Outrage!" that the most intelligent response I can come up with is "Boy I'm glad I'm a born-and-raised Popeye's fan. I yam what I yam, yo.")
What I discovered this morning was, the Popeye's at that TA outlet opens at 9 AM. Like, for breakfast.
Still, I delayed gratification and betook myself to the diner counter for coffee, oatmeal, toast, and a thorough self-critique of "It's For You." And when I say "thorough," I mean it. My MS Word copy of that manuscript is filled with inserted comments from tip to toe. Only once done with this, and a couple of other righteous tasks besides, did I venture to exchange money for hot greasy crispy juicy chicken bits.
But like I said: Thorough. Like, every single sentence of that draft evoked second thoughts and despair. Clunky here! Tighten this there! No wonder this reader was confused here and that reader told me not be so coy there! Erase this! Expand on that! Rearrange this paragraph because it is not in a logical, causal order! Arrrrgh.
Somewhere under the bewildered deer-in-headlights wibble of OMG there is so much that needs fixing here where do I START?! I am sure there is a kernel of subconscious working on the answers to that question. Which leaves my conscious brain free today to work on other worthwhile things, like (say) Examiner blog posts about Puzzle Pirates. (OK, that was sarcasm, but I do need to write that post.) Or like all things roller derby. (ALL THE THINGS.) Then maybe I can dredge out some of the answers tomorrow and make improvements happen.
Meanwhile, I'm wondering why an 8-piece box of Popeye's spicy fried chicken didn't last me past nightfall on the day of purchase.
Hangs head in shame. Woe. Contemplates the drive to the airport Sunday night.
I Show Up on Other Blogs. Also, Roller Derby.
So, remember when I said something about author Diane Dooley soliciting authors to interview on her blog? (This was in the context of Bram Stoker Award Recommended Reading List WHAT?! Oh, and, by the way, the Stoker nominations are out, and Blood and Other Cravings is a nominee in the anthology category; Kaaron Warren's "All You Can Do Is Breathe," which kicks off the anthology, is nominated for a short fiction Stoker. This is very very cool.)
O HAI THERE RUNAWAY PARENTHESEES! U R IN MY SENTENCE STEALIN MY TRAIN-O-THOUGHT.
In any case, I volunteered to be interviewed, and so Diane Dooley interviewed me. You can read it here. It appears as part of her series of posts celebrating Women in Horror Recognition Month, which you should read, every bit of it, because it is awesome. Pro-tip: Follow ALL the links!
So there's that. Also, today, I wrote sort of a love letter to my roller skates. It will show up real soon now in the blog section of the Boulder County Bombers' new and improved website, when said website goes from being just a glimmer in the Website Committee's collective eye and becomes reality. In the meantime, if you're interested, you can visit the Boulder County Bombers on Facebook. And here's a direct link to the photo that esteemed ref "Shutter Up" took of us during endurance practice on Saturday the 25th. I'm in the middle row, towards the left, black T-shirt with white printing, red belt, and a black helmet that looks weirdly gold/copper in the camera flash.
Speaking of roller derby: I'm skating with the Boulder County Bombers. I'm officially a member and everything. I'd been skating Sundays with the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, and they are exceedingly awesome! I was going to join them and everything! But they practice in Commerce City. This requires a route from Boulder involving Highway 36, I-270, Highway 2, and I-70. On a Sunday afternoon, that's about 30 to 45 minutes. I hate to think what it would be like for Tuesday and Thursday evening practices. And the bus ride is two hours. Each way. Once I became aware of the existence of a league that practiced in the same county I live in, it was a no-brainer. Weeknight practices still involve rush hour traffic, but rush hour traffic to Longmont is oodles less soul-crushing. And the bus ride is under an hour, if you don't mind a 10 to 15-minute bike ride to/from the bus stop. Which I don't, at least not when the wind isn't 80 freakin' miles an hour (this is me glaring meaningfully at last week), especially since that bike ride takes me past a burger joint, two coffee shops with wi-fi, and several sit-down restaurants which I can enjoy if I take an early bus.
But then I don't often have to bus, because A) John now works in Boulder, so he can leave me the car most days, and B) three or four other BCB skaters live within a half-mile of me and like to carpool. Life is good.
It's no secret -- in fact, it's probably the sport's best-known feature -- that roller derby is bad-ass. Skaters take pride in their injuries, 'cause we get 'em being PHEARLESS!!!! Here's my running injury report thus far. See if you can spot the common thread.
Tue. Feb. 14 @ BCB Phase 1 practice: Fell on my face during tomahawk-stop/toe-stop running drill. Injury: Split lip. Symptom: a fantastic bruise like an off-center soul patch for about a week.
(Interestingly, if someone does a horrified double-take and gasps, "What happened to you?!" saying "Roller derby! It was awesome!" puts them immediately at their ease. I've gotten very good at saying that. Possibly too good. Not everyone wants to hear the entire Tale Of The Faceplant in second-by-second detail, despite what an entertaining story it does make. But better to risk TMI than being all self-consciously mumbly and accidentally communicating the wrong thing thereby. It is all too easy for well-meaning acquaintances to mistake "Meh, fell down, no big deal, let's talk about something more interesting" for a situation requiring immediate attention and possibly phone numbers of Places That Can Help.)
Sun. Feb. 19 @ RMRG tryouts: Fell on my butt while practicing turnarounds (step one in a tomahawk stop) before try-outs began. Pretty much sat down hard on a wheel. Injury: Bruised tailbone. Symptom: I'm still occasionally yelping if I sit down on the ground and then shift wrong. Sit-ups suck.
(But I did pass try-outs! Evaluation only, since I had decided by then to join BCB, but still, very cool.)
Tue. Feb. 23 @ BCB Phase 1 assessments: Fell sort of backwards and sideways while trying to hold the toe-stop stance after completing a tomahawk stop. The evaluators wanted to see us hold for 3 seconds. On that particular try, I failed miserably. Injury: Jammed three fingers on my left hand. Symptom: Stiff, sore, swollen fingers. The segments of the middle and ring finger especially look like the first stages of making a balloon animal. On the middle finger there's some really artful blue blushing, too. Last night I could barely tie on my tennis shoes, had to use my teeth to get my mouthguard case open, and I almost needed to ask a fellow skater to help me button my jeans. I wimped out entirely on making the bed. I just couldn't grip anything. Today I'm doing much better, but I still can't lift a tea-cup with the left hand. Interestingly, my ability to play Spiral Knights, or indeed type, has not been affected.
(I passed assessment and will begin attending Phase 2 practices starting tomorrow. My evaluator told me I'll need to work on smoother turnarounds. I was not surprised.)
So that's the news, and I'm off to bed. Tomorrow: March 1! Day one of NaNoEdMo! Will I be logging hours? I don't know! Will I be editing a novel? Damn straight!
Qualified Candidates Please Submit List of Characters and Themes
OK, so, novel. I'm officially stating it here: The novel currently known as Like a Bad Penny is the one to which I'll be devoting All The Revision Energies this spring. Hopefully the results of this will be -- unlike the last time I decide to do this -- a submittable manuscript. Then I can angst about query letters and synopses. I've never gotten to angst about query letters before. Not for novels, anyway.
I should apologize to my husband that I did not choose to work on Melissa's Ghost. John's always asking me, "When are you going to finish my novel?" All I can say is, I have to go with the one that's been hammering on the walls inside my brain.
On the other hand, once I finally get a novel revised and into the query cycle for the first time, it's likely I'll want to do it again. Because by then I'll know I can do it, see? Magic!
So the same goes for my 2011 NaNoWriMo draft, Caveat Emptor. Some weeks ago I was telling a good friend about starting without a clue and having finally, fifty thousand words later, come to some sort of a decision about a premise, and I was describing that premise to her, and she was all, "I want to read it," and I'm all, "Eventually, you will! Eventually." Eventually just got more eventuallyer.
On the other hand, this decision means that the "eventually" associated with Like a Bad Penny, also known as "the one in which I swear I'm not ripping off X-men or Jumper or Heroes either," just got shorter. Shorter than it would be, anyway.
What I did with it yesterday: Dedicated a new blank spiral notebook to it. Gathered notebook, pens, a bottle of beer, and a print-out of the first part of Holly Lisle's "One-Pass Manuscript Revision" strategy. Ran a hot bath. Sat in hot bath drinking beer and noodling on theme, sub-theme, character arcs, etc. Also made a list of the first few scenes in the book, the ones I know will actually be in it.
The "hot bath and a beer" element is part of my "stop procrastinating and do the dang thing" kit. Sometimes it's "hot bath and a shot of single malt scotch." Needs vary.
Anyway, the novel draft is not ready for a One-Pass Manuscript Revision. The novel draft currently consists of a muddled beginning and a possible muddled ending connected to each other by means of a muddled muddle. This is to be expected after NaNoWriMo. I am a firm believer in babble drafts, or, as Laini Taylor puts it, "exploratory drafts." Sometimes I call them "zero-th drafts." It's what I write when I think I know what I'm writing but because I haven't written it yet I can't be sure. I had an epiphany about this early in 2010's NaNoWriMo: I don't know what I'm writing until I read what I've written. So the first (or zero-th) draft is mainly me babbling to myself about the story I want to write. I mean, the narrative voice isn't "And then this happens and then that happens," it's more novel-like than that, but it's pretty darn babbly.
Thus with Bad Penny. In the next few weeks I hope to go from babble draft to an actual first draft. I'll start with the scenes that I know have to be in there, and I expect I'll find out how to unmuddle the middle (and the end) while I'm writing them.
Meanwhile, in Non-November News
- 959 wds. long
While I've been nattering on about NaNoWriMo, I've failed to blog another development: Another short story of mine will soon see print.
This isn't a pro-sale, or in fact a sale at all. But I'm pleased with it. Anything that hauls a piece of fiction out of the rewrite queue and delivers it into the slush is a slice of the positive, in my opinion. And it was a happy thing to dive into this particular slush pile.
I graduated from the University of Washington back in... well. My final quarter was Fall 1996, but I officially took the walk in Spring 1997. I did my time in a somewhat unorthodox fashion, starting with an impressive handful of AP credits and attending classes straight through the summers. So I graduated "Class of I Haven't Got A Clue, Random Mid-90s, How's That?" with a BA in English, concentration in Creative Writing, with honors. This required that I present an Honors Thesis to my Advisor (the most awesome Shawn Wong, who had just published American Knees at the time). My Honors Thesis consisted of pretty much every piece of fiction or poetry I'd created during my time at the University of Washington, presented for critique, revised and rewritten and polished until sparkly.
As you might guess, it was full of weird stuff. "And on the Seventh Day," a story inspired by misreading "an angel waking up a man" as "an angel waking up as a man." "Out from Under," a bit of wanna-be magic realism inspired 90% by resentment at my ex-boyfriend and 10% by grudging acknowledgment that I wasn't exactly perfect myself. "The Goddess Factor," a bit of science fiction inspired by the then-new idea of DNA computing. And so forth. The whole compendium I called Songs About Fallen Angels.
I have been reliably informed, by a recent UW graduate whom I met at Sirens 2011, that I would never have been able to graduate on that today. The UW English Department, I'm told, will not even consider an application whose writing sample has a whiff of the spec-fic.
This floors me. In my time, I encountered absolutely no genre-unfriendliness, neither from classmates nor from teaching assistants nor from professors. The closest I experienced to genre-unfriendliness was a TA critiquing the narrative style of "The Children of Ghosts," which was admittedly written from fresh fannish squee for Meredith Ann Pierce's Darkangel trilogy. He didn't mind that I was using an anacronistic high fantasy style; he minded that I was doing it badly.
But today, I'm told, times have changed. The UW English Department no longer stands as an exception to the dearth of welcome SF/F/H finds in academia. And a recent handful of English graduates -- my Sirens informer included -- decided to do something about it. They started a new literary journal, one dedicated to speculative fiction in all its glory. It's called AU, and its next issue will include my Viable Paradise "Hats of War!" story, "The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out."
Or so I'm told. In any case, I just emailed my revised draft to the editors this morning. Hopefully this new rewrite didn't change it from something they liked into something they liked less. We shall see.
In any case, I'm ecstatic to hear that something like AU exists, and I want it to go on existing for a long, long time. I submitted a story to it because 1) the theme was "Invasion," a perfect match for "Worms," and 2) because, hearing about AU at Sirens, I immediately wanted to support it, and submitting a story seemed a logical way to do that. I only wish something like AU had been around when I was still an undergrad.
Hooray for acedemic support for speculative fiction! More like that, please!
Some NaNoEdMo Procrastination, or Why I Won't Be Buying Swain's Book
- 4,237 wds. long
- 3.00 hrs. revised
It's March. That means, if I've got my ass in gear, that it's National Novel Editing Month and I'm doing it. I got two hours in today on the revision of Deaths in a Dream (working title, may change) which was what I wrote back in November; that's the good news. The bad news is, I've only got three hours in total and the goal is fifty. Hee hee?
(The low word count refers to the rewrite. I'm taking the rough draft side-by-side with a new outline and notes on each scene, and I'm rewriting the novel into a new yWriter project.)
Doing a bit of procrastination today, I went back to an old standby, Randy Ingermanson's "Snowflake Method" for writing a novel. His method involves starting with a single sentence, then fleshing it out to a paragraph, then writing out a page of summary for each character, and so forth until you've expanded your single ice crystal of an idea into a snowflake of a novel full of all the detailed pointy bits you'd expect. It's a sort of fill-in-the-blank that gets you to write the shape of the blanks out first. It's a neat idea, but I don't think I've ever really found an occasion to use it. I go into a rough draft with a rough outline, but nowhere near the level of planning Ingermanson suggests, mainly because I write the rough draft to find out what the hell it is I'm writing. And now that I've got a rough draft and a much better idea of what the final should look like, I'm not sure his method goes the way my brain goes. Maybe I'll try bits of it here and there. The character page summaries seem useful; I seem to have less of a grip today on the character of Lia than I did back in November.
I've also discovered I... don't really like Ingermanson's writing style. I'm sorry! But I don't. He keeps inserting jolly comedic bombast that, as a joke, gets old quick. In my opinion. It's not so bad in Snowflake, where he mostly gets it out of the way in the first couple paragraphs and then gets down to business. But I clicked over to his other free article, "Writing the Perfect Scene," and the bombast was something like 40% of the content.
This may seem obvious, but by the end of this article, I hope to convince you that it's terribly profound. If you then want to fling large quantities of cash at me in gratitude, please don't. I'd really rather have a check. With plenty of zeroes.Yes, this is an example from the beginning of the article. No, he doesn't stop doing it there. I couldn't finish reading the section on "Small-Scale Structure of a Scene" because he would just not stop MY FUNNY LET ME SHOW YOU IT about "writing MRUs correctly." (What's an MRU? Coming to that. Momentito, amiguitos.)
He's also got a little problem with sexist language:
Your reader is reading your fiction because you provide him or her with a powerful emotional experience. If you're writing a romance, you must create in your reader the illusion that she is falling in love herself. If you're writing a thriller, you must create in your reader the illusion that he is in mortal danger and has only the tiniest chance of saving his life (and all of humanity). If you're writing a fantasy, you must create in your reader the illusion that she is actually in another world where all is different and wonderful and magical. And so on for all the other genres.OK, so, he's got the idea down of alternating "he" and "she" in order to avoid unconsciously treating Male as Default Human. Except... see what he does with the pronouns? Female pronouns for romance and fantasy; male pronouns for thriller. Bets on which pronoun he would have used had he gone on to describe the emotions of science fiction? Bets?
It's a small thing, but it does bug me. Put it together with a tendency to overload every new section with a fresh shmear of LOOKIT ME IN UR ARTICLE BEIN FUNNY before getting around to making actual informative points, and I fall right off the page.
OK so well but anyway he recommends this book, says he's stealing all his scene-building ideas from it. Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. This is where he gets MRUs, or "motivation-reaction units" ("such an absurdly ridiculous term that I'm going to keep it, just to prove that Mr. Swain was not perfect") from. "If you don't have this book," Ingermanson says, "you are robbing yourself blind." All right, already. I go look at the Amazon page.
Would you like to know why I will not be buying this book, robbing myself blind though I might be? Would you like to know? My problem with Swain, let me show you it. Let me rip it straight from Amazon's "Look Inside The Book" feature and show you it:
And each authority is dangerous to the very degree that he's correct, because that's also the degree to which he distorts the actual picture. Put four such specialists to work as a group, designing a woman, and she might well turn out like the nightmare of a surrealistic fetishist, all hair and derrière and breasts and high French heels.So. "Man" equals "person" equals "writer." Are women writers? No! They are what Men Writers create. Also, they're nightmares.
So . . . no magic key. No universal formula. No mystic secret. No Supersonic Plot Computer.
It's enough to plunge a man to the depths of despair.
This is, perhaps, not entirely unusual given the book was published in 1965. Except no, wait, here are a bunch of other books published in 1965. Some of them are on my shelf. Many of them have caused me less pain, cover to cover, than these few paragraphs did. Swain! More sexist than many of his contemporaries, and possibly proud of it!
According to reviewer T. Velasquez from Beaverton, Oregon, this is no simple unfortunate exception. He goes on like this throughout the book. Says Velasquez,
On the downside, the very dated presentation in the book can made for hard reading to the modern PC crowd. Swain writes very clearly from the POV that his readers are male. He never says that women can't write books but he mentions only one female author and she is used in a negative example. Swain uses the terms 'man/men' interchangeably for people. Of course, Swain was a product of his times but his style of writing borders on the unintentionally insulting.That single female writer he brings up as a bad example? Let's grab another quote from the first chapter of Swain's book. Meet "Mabel Hope Hartley (that's not her real name)...."
He refers to a black woman as a 'negress' at one point and his examples portray all wives (and women since this is the only thing he can allow women to be in his examples) as cheating on their husbands the moment that their husband's backs are turned: The understanding being that women are weak and mindless submissive creatures that are easily influenced by other men and must be constantly supervised.
...queen of the love pulps thirty years ago.... Old and tired now, she turns out just enough confessions to support herself.Ah, yes. Ye olde "old and tired," code phrase for "Woman who is no longer sexually interesting to me, and should therefore get out of my face, preferably by hiding herself away in a retirement home or maybe dying so I don't have to look at her." Old and tired. Which has what, exactly, to do with the profession of writer? In any case, old and tired Mabel Hope Hartley's role is to give the hypothetical (male) newbie (his name is Fred) bad advice so that manly Dwight V. Swain (Swain! I swoon) can rescue him and other newbie writers like him (alike to him right down to the male pronoun) from her old and tired badness.
"Modern PC crowd," nothing; Swain's book is painful for me to read as a woman. As one of those female writers that don't exist in Swain's world. As one of those terrible bad-advice-giving female writers who is probably cheating on her husband if he isn't nailing her fins to the floor. And is causing surrealist fetishists nightmares or something, I dunno. Clearly, if Swain were still with us today, I would be causing him nightmares just by existing. And writing. And publishing.
I should note that out of all the reviews on Amazon, most of which are 5 star and say "The writing Bible!" and "Should be required reading for all writers!" (because, Gods know, if women find Swain's writing painful they should just suck it up in the name of Becoming A Writer), Velasquez's review is the only one that mentions Swain's problem with slightly more than half the human species.
Anyway, valuable lesson learned. If a writer with an unfortunate tendency to fall into unconscious sexist language from time to time recommends a book about writing, and recommends it very very strongly as the book he got all his best ideas from, it is not unlikely that the recommended book will be full of a lot more sexist language that's a lot less unconscious. If your mentor is mouthing nasty bigoted stuff about women, or about people of color for that matter, and you learn a lot about writing from that mentor, well, it's hard to come away without having unconsciously internalized some of the nasty stuff.
Choose your mentors carefully to the extent you have a choice, right?
That said: If someone has taken Swain's good ideas, such as still apply today (Velasquez says he has a lot of ideas that don't pertain to today's publishing industry either), and has repackaged them within a writing style that, I dunno, acknowledges women as human beings who might have something worthwhile to say, maybe? then I'm all ears. I have a list, it is currently one author long, that author is Ingermanson. I should like the list to be longer. Suggestions?
11th Hour Musings
- 2,898 wds. long
So Friday I produced a new finished draft, mostly at the Moonlight Diner again. Friday night I emailed it to a good friend who's also working on a story for submission to the same anthology. Got some great comments back from him over the weekend, which I mostly fed to the composting brain to work on while I took the weekend off. The biggest thing is that Scene X isn't quite yet there. I figured. It's close, but it's (in my opinion) too much with the clue-by-four to the head between the characters' role-reversal and the backstory exposition, and (in my friend's wise opinion) structurally awkward because of all the "you"s you get when you combine 2nd person narration with dialogue. So I've been idly thinking about that, this weekend.
I also reciprocated with the story critique, which required me to finally learn how to use Google Docs. Google Docs is spooky. It'll tell you if someone you've shared a document is viewing it at the same time you are. It'll let you watch them edit it. This little pink cursor shows up right where the other person has it, so you can tell exactly which of your line-by-line comments they're looking at. And that's where I get all self-conscious and close the browser window. (My friend points out that this means we could have real-time chat in the margins of a manuscript. I admit this sounds useful.)
Tonight I'm working on a final revision. It's not going to be done while tonight is still tonight. My aim is to submit this thing tomorrow morning, which just happens to be deadline day for the anthology. (My friend is on roughly the same timeline.) I know what I'm going to do for Scene X--it's going to have the same goal-role-reversal, but will hopefully be a bit more subtle and a lot shorter. It'll have a lot less exposition because, really, we don't need to know as much backstory as I have personally figured out, does it? And I caught a bunch of typos, repeating words, and other infelicities to fix.
And I realized all over again that serious work on finishable fiction is one of the few things guaranteed to leave me feeling good at the end of a day. So. More of that, yes? Yes. And maybe not just on weekdays.
Day 28: Plot Holes Ahoy!
- 48,848 wds. long
OK, so. Jet has her "there is no spoon" moment. It involves a certain amount of hyperlucid dreaming, in that she has to arrive on Earth with her awake/reality mind and memories. But it also involves a certain amount of treating Earth as part of what is real, such that she can manipulate physicality for the illusion it is.
If this all means that she can now shapeshift, pass through walls, travel in time, and bring people back to life whom she regrets having killed, why then is she powerless to stop one particular death?
...Maybe she doesn't get to bring people back to life after all. Because people aren't illusions; they're people. People are real.
That's enough Plot Putty to keep me sane until January, I guess. Unless I end up buying a different brand of Plot Putty, the following will not survive to the next draft. This excerpt is official an endangered species! Which is just as well, because it's sort of blue and red at the same time. Which is to say, purple. With Sueish overtones. Gah.
Time, of course, is an illusion. But so is death. I remember the pictures in the monitor room, that smiling boy with the missing front tooth. In an earlier dream, I killed his father. And was it really necessary after all?
In this dream, I will bring him back.
I kneel beside the body, unzip the gym bag, pull the poor man's head onto my lap. I place my right hand over his unmoving chest. Right now, in this moment, my disguise is not precisely human. A human cannot do this: lay a kiss on a corpse's brow, then pound my fist once over his heart, then hold the man tight by his shoulders as he gasps for his first breath in hours and struggles to resume his fight with the small, fierce woman who overpowered him in the doorway.
His struggles cease in a moment. "Who's there," he rasps; "who are you?"
I lean down to whisper in his ear. "It's me," I say. "I killed you, just a moment ago--no, wait, wait--but I've brought you back now. Because I was wrong. I am sorry."
Day 6: But Why Can't You Just Get It Right the First Time?
- 11,763 wds. long
My daily novel excerpts seem to be getting longer. Also, when I do take the time to revise before excerpting, it's more like rewriting. Significantly. Like, totally replacing the sentences I wrote today with new ones. It feels like cheating. But, hell, it added about 100 words, so who's to complain?
Not that there's any worry there. I wrote for a total of 25 minutes today--the combined time of the word sprints we had at today's Healing Tea write-in. (And boy is it fun introducing people to Healing Tea! Everyone was like, "Wow, this bibimbob is tasty! Also, do you want my kimchi?" I was the general kimchi depository. The gal on my left was the general miso soup depository.) And yet I got my word count to where it ought to be at the end of tomorrow. My NaNoStats page says that at this rate I should finish by November 25. Those two facts don't fit together very well; if I'm constantly a day ahead, I should finish a day early. But NaNoWrimo.org is calculating based on average words per day, and getting a different answer. NOT THAT IT MATTERS. THE POINT IS: I don't think I've ever been this consistently ahead of the game before. Word count is not my problem.
No, here's the thing that gets me: If my fifteen-minute revision of this 500-or-so-word segment pretty much scorched the earth and built new words where the old were deleted, why didn't I write the new words in the first place?
It's like I have different brains on. When I write the first draft, I have nothing in front of me yet, so I'm writing down what's in my head--and discovering that, despite the advantages of thinking in complete sentences, I really don't know how to write it down. So I fumble and write some pretty unfortunate sentences. Later, even if I simply read what I had, deleted what I'd read, and wrote the scene anew, I have the advantage of having read the story. I've read it before, I know what it is, and so I can write it down more accurately, more simply, more cleanly.
Which is weird. What is this part of my brain that engages with the written word so differently than the thought-about word? A couple of class times ago, we talked about the different mental modes of listening to books being read aloud versus reading the book, and that much I get, but--it's weird that my need to have words put in front of my face in order for me to learn their content applies even to words I myself write. I have to see it written before I know what I'm trying to write. What the hell? Shouldn't it be enough that they originated in my own head?
I wonder if I could successfully engage that part of my brain by "reading" an imaginary page--by clearly visualizing words on a page as I mentally construct the next scene of the novel?
The circling memory finally stooped, like a hawk upon the mouse that has just come up from underground. "Oh. Oh shit."
Lia lifted a hand to her left ear. "I think he's after this." She indicated her lapiz lazuli earring, the one set high up in the ridge rather than the lobe. Touching it, remembering--oh, this was bad. This was worse than Jet showing up, worse than hallucinations that stuck around or real people who could change shape and then die and come back. "It belonged to Tresco's daddy. I took it when I split."
Worse enough that Lia no longer avoided looking Jet in the face. So she was watching when that strange blank crossed the woman's eyes. Already a brown so dark as to seem black, they became blacker still, the pupils lost like a shadow in a shadow. Then the moment passed. "That's it," said Jet. "My new assignment. It's to do with the Swifts. With Pa Montrose. And I was sent to your home because you're still involved with them."
"What? No! Fucking no. No, I left them years ago. I am done with them."
"They appear not to be done with you. May I--?" Jet reached tentatively toward Lia's left ear. Lia flinched, then steeled herself. Closed her eyes, like a patient getting a shot. When after a long moment she still felt nothing, she squinted through her meshed lashes to see--as best she could out of the corner of her eye--that Jet held her hand cupped near Lia's ear, rock-steady, rock-patient.
"Do you want me to take it out for a moment?"
Jet's eyes fell closed. Her hand remained motionless. Her breath moved quietly, so quietly and slow that Lia could see no motion in her chest, only the subtle shifts of shade and light in the folds of her red blouse. Did it have to be red? After last time? Lia's eyes kept returning to Jet's neck, unwounded, unscarred. A small mole down by the right collarbone was the only feature on that unblemished plain.
Her lips began to mumble things Lia could not hear.
It took several minutes. Lia wavered between nervous boredom and nervous memory of the events that had followed the car wreck. Her eyes, having nowhere else to go, flickered over the cheeks, the hair she'd caressed that day, the lips she had kissed--
Jet's arm fell to her side. Her eyes flashed open; Lia tried not to meet them. "No. It didn't belong to Pa Montrose. But for some reason he wanted everyone to think it did. What is this stone, Lia?"
- 55,010 wds. long
I'm only up to chapter 3 of the re-type? Really? Really?
That... ain't right. For serious values of "ain't" and "right." Maybe what I'm calling Chapter 2 is really, really long and ought to be divided into two or more chapters. Or maybe I'm just slow.
Well, if so, the "serial publication" aspect isn't going much faster. Got to appreciate these small blessings.