Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book to Finish--Vine Snakes, Rabid Bears, and Socially-Awkward Piranhas

Today has been one of those dreary days, played through a filter of sepia like an old-style photograph. Somehow autumn and summer seem to have become confused and mixed themselves with winter, and it’s the best sort of writing weather—all cozy and close. With the fire burning high and the sun burning low, my inner editor grows tired and sluggish, which means I can enjoy some peace and quiet. Lately, you’d think I’ve been preparing for a Broadway musical, the way that taskmaster screams at me to get everything just perfect:  “Not a syllable, not a vowel must be out of place!”

I gaze out the giant picture window overlooking the gas station across the road from my house. My own fishbowl view. Rain speckles the horizon and drizzles down the glass. I dreamed of floods last night. It must have been the rain whispering to me in my sleep. Now the whole world seems turbulent and wet. Just through the bare-boned, emaciated trees, I see the churning river heaving choppy white-caps up at the shale-colored sky. It’s a scene right out of a book. Poe could have captured it.

I’m getting antsy again—it’s cabin fever time, I suppose. Somehow all I want to do is get out and travel to a million different places at once. In fact, I don’t much care where. This is because I am editing, and I turn procrastination into an Olympic sport. It takes me a while to get into the swing of things. Like an old, run-down train, I’m practically at my destination by the time I start picking up speed.

But I find that list-making helps (or maybe that’s just what I tell myself). So let me give you an idea of what my life has been like over the past few months, starting with October.


·         I’m eagerly awaiting NaNoWriMo, pacing the floors and counting down the days on my fingers and toes until that fateful moment when it shall rain sunshine and roses and bolts of inspiration. With ducklings dancing round and muse-faeries raining sparkles on my prose, this will surely be a month of wonders.


·         November arrives with all its sarcastic glory and plunks me down at my seat with my fingers poised aching over laptop keys. I am beginning to realize, rather dimly at first, that the sunshine and roses have been canceled due to lack of funding. The baby ducks have all grown up into jaded adult ducks who don’t believe in miracles. And the muse-faeries were hired out by all the French novelists who got there first. Funny how I don’t remember this happening last year.


·         I ride the rollercoaster of 30,000 word days and 6,000 word days, greater days and lesser days, brilliant days and mediocre days. Sometimes I hold it in; other times I puke and scream like a baby. (Okay, not really. I just didn’t want to let the rollercoaster metaphor die before its time.) Somehow I survive, though how I manage that is up for debate.


·         Christmas season follows hot on the heels of November, and I buy presents and pretend I’m with it enough to know what day of the week it is. Soon my obituary begins showing up in the newspapers because my friends have not heard from me in approximately 7.2 eternities, at which point they have begun to assume the worst.


·         After Christmas comes the dreaded moment when I pick up my rough draft and begin the read through. To give you an idea of what this feels like, let me offer a practical example. Upon returning from a long and tumultuous vacation, you step into your room, remembering that you left it somewhat messy but expecting the damage to be both reasonable and manageable. In fact, it is neither. What you find, instead of a rumpled bed and a littered floor, is a giant sinkhole with rubble raining down from what was once the ceiling. Poison-green vines stretch across the walls, and some of them are acting like snakes. You also suspect there might be a bear living in your closet, but you hope it isn’t hungry enough to eat you…yet. Oh yeah, and you only have an hour to clean this place before guests arrive—namely, the queen of England and her entourage. Good luck.


·         In order to survive edits, I coerce my mother into buying two giant boxes of Earl Grey tea. My lovely sister, home from university for the month, proceeds to drink the entirety of said tea. (We send her back promptly.) This is not a very promising start. Plus, the grizzly in my closet is getting a tad restless. It also appears to be rabid.


·         After this preliminary read through, which feels like a form of torture probably outlawed by the Geneva Convention, I sit down to actually begin edits. Unfortunately, that is when the delicate structure of my brain chooses to collapse into a pile of marshmallow goop. Marshmallow goop is not known for its high IQ.


·         Summoning all my courage, I edit the first paragraph. I drink coffee. I move onto the next paragraph and drink more coffee. Already, I think you can see the pattern developing, and it’s only downhill from here. (After the start of the second page, I don’t really remember much of what happened. Either Louis Tomlinson proposed to me or I started hallucinating. The jury’s still out on that.)


·         I spend my time playing Temple Run and checking Facebook because they “help me think”. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I vow to rise at my typical 4:30 AM—even though it’s vacation—in order to get a proper head start on my editing. Instead, I decide to spend some quality time with my feather pillow, since the two of us haven’t seen much of each other lately. This might rule me out as a potential military candidate. But the rain is lovely and my dreams are pleasant, so I can’t complain.


As you can see, my novel is coming along swimmingly. Despite the discouragement that comes with facing the bugaboo of my rough draft, I know that I have done this before. I have braved the swamps of my consciousness in order to clean my room, and I have wrestled the rabid grizzly bear that is my inner editor. It stands to reason I should be able to do all that again. Of course, I may lose my sanity—as well as a few limbs—along the way. Still I think, in the end, it will be worth it. When this is all said and done, I will have over-listened to several dozen songs. I will have grown fat on the spoils of the land—namely coffee and brownie mounds. And I will have written a book that no one will appreciate as well as I will. (Which, come to think of it, is not helping my argument any.)

Still, it’s too late to turn back now. And if you’re in the same boat, welcome aboard and keep your fingers and toes inside. The piranhas are not as sociable as I am.  


  1. Sister, have you got it right! XD Editing is hard, and it's impressive that you've worked so hard already—but I bet it will be even more satisfying when you're done! :) Keep working!

    1. Thanks! Fortunately, despite my incessant whining, I really do enjoy this part of the process (well, most of it).

    2. That's good! By the way, I've tagged you for this meme, if you're interested:

    3. Absolutely! Barring any unfortunate circumstances, such as zombie attacks, tsunamis, or snowmen revolutions, I will post mine next Wednesday. :)