So...it's the middle of the editing. Not even the middle of the middle, but the beginning of the middle. The first two chapters look pretty good, but, (and perhaps this is universal) this is the phase where I find all the plot holes. Or some of them, anyway. I hope it's all. So I go from the written copy and its red ink notes, to the laptop and the revising. Solving one problem changes something somewhere else. It takes a while. I didn't have any expectations about time, but there is something about the middle of this that feels like drowning. I might put in two hours, stretch, fetch a snack, and sit back down, and discover I'm still where I started.
But it also has to be done. The more I read from more experienced writers, the more I am certain that I am not alone in this, and that the middles always feel sloggy, like feet dragging in the muck. I am making progress, and all of the major points are in place. It's hard not to get bogged down in the details. But maybe that's what this phase of revision is about -- cleaning up the patchwork of day to day writing to form a coherent whole.
It feels like stagnation, but it isn't. The only way out is through.
Confession: I'm not sure either. I know how I do it, so I'll share that, but I'm not sure it's the most efficient way. It's just the way I use. If you've got another method that really works for you, I'd use that.
Once the draft is complete, I print a hard copy. I write a long outline by hand before I draft, so I get that notebook, and my printed copy, and put them in one of those three ring binders we all used in school. This allows me to make small corrections on each page, and notes on wider reaching changes in the notebook. Corrections are always in red. Because it's tradition, I suppose. It separates my original outline notes from these corrections.
My first drafts need heavy editing, unless they're very short. I tend to lose track of details, misspell or even change names as I'm fitting my fiction writing time into the spaces in my life around other work and aspects of life. This is where I (hopefully) discover all the small mistakes I've made, and root out inconsistencies.
Then I spread out the laptop, the paper notebook, and the bound copy, and dig in. It's a painstaking thing. I have often wondered if everyone finds editing to be so challenging. Perhaps great literature springs forth from other minds whole and nearly perfect. But the more I read from other writers, the less I think this is true. The more I think we all struggle with a project like this that stretches over months, or even a year. So maybe that's ok.
So my novella, 'Maestro', is in the editing phase. When I have a clearer idea on how long it will be to completion, I'll post here, but for now, I enter the dark forest of editing without a flashlight, chased by nameless monsters.
Available in paperback and on kindle,'Fireside Tales' is here. It's available for free on Kindle, and the stories are quick reads you can enjoy on your phone. I hope you'll take a look, and send me some feedback, or drop a review on the site.
I'm also in the The Molotov Cocktail: Prize Winners Anthology Vol. 4, along with a gathering of other very talented writers. I highly recommend you take a look at this one. Enjoy!
The paperback version of my short story collection is nearly ready, and there are a few edits and a new cover for the electronic version. I'm really pleased with the cover art, and I will provide a link when it is available. Looking forward to it. Let me know what you think.
I know why I write. I write because I want to take you out of your world, and into the one I've created, and let you see what I see. If you are familiar with my work, there may be some question as to why you would want to go there, but I leave that to your discretion.
In order to take you into the cell with the crazed and lustful monk, I need to choose my words carefully. There is a limit to how many you will read, even if they are very good words, like 'sizzle', and 'moist', and 'eggplant'. But I need several to make you smell the spoilage and feel the cold dampness when you are cuddled in the warmth by the fire. So in the final draft, I struggle, sometimes with a phrase, sometimes a word, sometimes a single mark of punctuation. I call people I know, and I say, "Does this need a comma?"
They say, "It's two in the morning," and then offer helpful suggestions about where I might put commas in general, often in ways that are physically impossible, and I let them get back to bed.
Does it matter? I don't know, in truth. I'm not sure which moment of carelessness will be the one that pulls the reader from the story and destroys the illusion for them. I only know I want to avoid reaching that point. But if I wrestle with every word on the page, the story will never get told at all, and you will never dance with your lover in the cemetery beneath a full moon.
So how to decide? I've heard of the 80/20 rule, wherein only 20% of your effort produces 80% of your work. I hear you, Vilfredo Pareto, but I'm not ready to buy in just yet. That's barely a B, and I think I can do better. In writing, at least, for me, that 80% is a framework, a test run to see if the story in my head can make it to the page. After that, it needs more time, more careful structuring, a tweak in dialogue. Still, I'm never quite pleased. Not everyone is sitting on that porch, waiting for that school bus, knowing that childhood is really over.
But that has to be ok. I am learning, still, to come around to the idea that I can never be finished. It will never be everything I want it to be, and it can't. But it can be good, even good enough.
I'm keeping an eye on the news today. It doesn't matter to me where you stand on political issues, but we will likely agree that history will recall this period of time as a time of enormous upheaval. We are in a state of relative chaos. Donald Trump has engaged in a very public argument with some Congressional Leaders, while Robert Mueller investigates his lawyers, whilst Ms. Theresa May has been locked in her own vehicle while her Brexit deal begins to crumble. Whatever comes of these events, next year does not promise any of us the return of peaceful good order. But maybe that's ok.
It is the way of human minds to seek certainty. If a stimulus is ambiguous, our brains tend to make something meaningful of it, so we don't have to wonder, and can react. I like to think this allows us to make good decisions with minimal information, but sometimes it just causes us to see a threat in the movements of the shadow of a tree branch, or a face in the gleam of light on a window.
The false threats put us on alert, though, and with complacency rampant, that could prove to be a good thing. Regardless of the outcome for Mr. Trump, he has brought some of the flaws in our system to light, things that need our attention. Whether you believe him to be a criminal or a saint, or somewhere between, he has pressed the lines between what is a 'norm' and what is 'required', and we would do well to make sure that we, the American People, know where we want those lines drawn, and draw them firmly, so that they cannot be tested again.
In the UK, the Brexit deal, or the lack of it, has raised questions of what it means to be a sovereign nation in a world that is deeply connected financially while remaining divided on social issues. We all rely on international trade to keep our costs down and raise the standard of living for everyone involved. But breaking ties with the EU is complex, and has far reaching consequences, many of which we will not know until the deal is finished, in whatever way it is finished.
All we can do is step into the abyss, and hope the face that has been looking back at us is fairly friendly.
I love flash fiction. I love reading it, and I love writing it. The shortest piece I have ever written for publication was 16 words long, entitled 'Bernice". Most of my bits and bobs of flash fiction hover under or around 1000 words, and first drafts take an afternoon to write. But what I love best about them is the crafting that comes after the first draft. I love the minute importance of each word. Nothing can be wasted, and everything has to do more than one job in a sentence to carve the word count down. Constructing plot, character arc, and an entire fictional world is a spectacular challenge. And there are some amazing tales available in online publications. I thought I'd mention a few of them here, to open my readers to a world of writers who share a sense of the uncanny.
'The Molotov Cocktail' is one of my favorites. I won't ignore that part of the reason for that is that they published my favorite of my own stories, 'Moist', available here and here. But there is so much here that isn't mine that I really love. Phillip Webb Gregg's 'This Thing Of Darkness, I' is brilliantly disturbing. 'The Arms', by Jennifer Lynn Krohn has some of the best imagery I've had the good fortune to read in a while. Because I am oddly obsessed with fungus in general, 'Rainbow, Fungus, Rainbow', by Liam Johnson is a delight, in a darkly psychedelic way. And though it isn't technically flash fiction, Erin Kirsch's 'Ten Years Later' is brief, and heartbreaking, and beautiful.
Flash Fiction Online is another great source. They don't have a specific genre, so if creeping horror is not for you, this is a good one to explore. You can sort through them by genre, so if you're in the mood for something in particular, you can find it there. I read, and loved 'Five Times I Have Slept At Your Bedside', by Jared Oliver Adams, a lovely tale of the heartbreak of parenting. Rebecca Birch's 'Eyes of Wood, Heart of Stone', is also short and sweet and rich in fantasy imagery. And 'Excerpt From The Diagnostic and Necromantic Manual, 5th Edition Regarding the Departed', by Stewart C Baker, is funny in the way I find funny. Just read it. No, seriously. Read it.
Finally, I'll add Ad Hoc Fiction. It's not set up to link individual pieces, but to a week's collection of 300 word shorts that you can read and vote on. Winners gain a free entry to their Bath Flash Fiction Awards. These tales are all like tiny fruit tarts at a cocktail party. You intend to have just one, but they're so delicious, you just keep eating. The winners of the Bath Flash Fiction awards are exquisite little perfections. The brevity makes them even lovelier.
There are more. There are so many, and there are new ones popping up. Whatever your tastes in tiny fiction artifacts, there is a field that you can excavate to find something that suits you. Just a quick online search for flash fiction will lead you to all manner of stories to suit your taste and mood. I hope you'll have a look at my recommendations, and find your own.
I try not to be that guy. But I probably am. You know, the one who corrects some miniscule point of grammar while you're having a satisfying rant on Twitter. You care about the plight of Australian Water Buffalo, not that some jerk noticed that your much needed semicolon was in absentia. But I care. I care a lot. I love the intricacies of the English language; the way words play together like siblings: sometimes a united front for clarity, sometimes at war, with sounds that rumble and clash against each other. I love words that imply other words. Subtle double entendre makes my day. When I named this blog "Subjunctive Mood", I knew I might leave a few of you out of the joke, so let me now invite you in.
The subjunctive mood is something we have in English, but tend to avoid, with awkward structure, until we are required to learn it through the study of foreign languages. I recognize that English is a foreign language to most of the world. I also realize that if it is foreign to you, you may be alone among your friends in using the subjunctive mood properly. The short explanation is that it is used in case of expressing things that may not be the case. For example: "If I were you, I would reconsider playing chess with that lion. He looks sketchy." In the indicative mood, "I" and "were" don't go together. Most people will never say, "I were eating Australian Water Buffalo testicles when the meteor hit." So there's your grammar lesson for the day.
But the real reason I used it is that I like the sound of it rattling against what it is. "Subjunctive" sounds like "subversive", "subluxation", and "submit". These are words for something below or outside where it seems they should be. A disturbance in the usual order of things. When it comes to words, I like disturbance. The job of all art is to reach past the parts of our brains that understand subjunctive mood into the gooey subversive center and scoop out a chunk we didn't see before -- and make us look at it. And mood? We tend to scoff at moodiness as a weakness, and so it sometimes is. But we are social creatures, altered by the capricious responses of other, equally moody creatures, so that they'll share their mammoth if you happen to run out. So embrace your subversive, submarine, subjunctive mood if you like. And I'll try not to correct your grammar on Twitter. Probably.
In defense of marketing...what do I know? I've never been comfortable with salesmanship. I was once a miserable failure at selling pre-need funeral services, (exactly what it sounds like, for those out of the loop) but even at simple retail or restaurant jobs, I found it difficult to upsell the extra drink or accessory. If you were ever the victim of my early attempts at fashion accessory upselling, I apologize -- you probably don't match. I'm sorry. I'm still not great at it. My difficulty comes from a good place. I think that adults generally know what they want, what they can afford, and how much alcohol they should drink, and I'm not much inclined to interfere with their decisions.
But now, with my writing in place, I find I need to advertise, or people just won't know about my work. It may be for you, maybe not, but most people haven't seen enough of it to make a decision either way. Titles and keywords aside, fairy tales are everywhere, and a random search is unlikely to lead you, Dear Reader, to me, unless it's me you're looking for. But I think it's worth reading, and so I find myself learning about SEO search keywords and watching YouTube videos about people who have written wholly different books about entirely different things, and how they have sold them.
I have discovered, though, that a lot of these popular books with great sales numbers are books about writing, not books of writing. Which is fine; I've read a lot of these books and learned things from them, and appreciated what they have to offer. But it isn't what I love. I don't want to tell you how to write your own book, I want to show you mine, so I can take you out of your life for a few moments, and let you travel to the monastery with a restless monk, or the cemetery with a heartbroken zombie lover. Now that I read that, it is a little clearer why it might be an odd choice. But you know who you are, fellow lovers of the slimy things crawling through the moss, just beneath your feet, and the flowers that bloom only beneath a full moon.
It is in this spirit that I ask you to have a look at my work. I hope you love it. If you do, share it with other people who are like us. I've made it available for free, because I want to share it more than I want to be a bazillionaire. Please leave reviews. You can email me on this site, let me know what you love and hate. I'm open to criticism. I look forward to hearing from you.