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Sender’s Remorse and Other Complications

So, last month, I was one part of one scene away from finishing up my revisions on Full Circle and sending the manuscript to the betas. I thought for sure I would find a way to either not finish that scene and/or find new, exciting ways to procrastinate on sending out the manuscript, but I didn’t. I finished the scene and sent out the manuscript a few days later.

Usually, when I send a manuscript out to the betas, I have a moment where I feel all

because I did this thing. I completed a manuscript. I completed the revisions, and I feel I may have even made the story better. I have this moment (however small) where I feel a sense of accomplishment.

It soon dissolves into to a Great Lake of anxiety because I am, after all, still me, and I am nothing more than a overabundance of anxiety concealed in a trench coat pretending to be a semi-functional human being.

This time, however, I went straight into Lake Anxiety. There was no moment of triumph. No moment of accomplishment. There was no feeling that maybe I had made the story better. It was nothing but

(NOTE: That last gif is not the one I wanted to use. I wanted to use the gif of Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer saying “UNDO IT! UNDO IT!” from the season four episode Pangs, but apparently, no one’s made a gif of that moment, and I sure as hell don’t know how to make one. So if you know that moment from that episode, that’s what you should imagine here.)

My betas have had the story for a little over a month now, and it’ll be a while before I hear back. It’s not surprising—I write big books, and they apparently have lives outside of sitting around and waiting for me to finish writing a book (Dunno, though…sounds kind of fake…) so I am trying not to hit the panic button anymore than I already have (which is, granted, a lot) and refraining from sending them one apology after another for sending them such a shit manuscript to read. I mean, come on. It’s a big book and a big time commitment, and I feel horrible (more so than usual) that I didn’t do my best to send them a better story.

(And yes. This is what me not hitting the panic button (too much) looks like…)

Normally, I fill this time by working on another project. Gotta love distractions, right? My beloved goddaughter, for example, when she heard that Full Circle had finally gone out to betas was all, “Good. Now you can finish the Terrible Romance Sequel.”

Which would have been my plan, but it turns out that I still have no idea how, or even if, I can finish that book. All I’ve managed to do so far on that project is make this face:

Then I thought, “Hey! I’ll work on Adventures In Babysitting!”

This WIP, if you don’t already know, is meant to be a companion novella in the Coileáin Chronicles. It takes places during the events of Full Circle but is basically a few non-POV characters on a side quest, so I didn’t put it directly in Full Circle. I thought working on it would be a good idea, just in case anything shifted and necessitated changes be made in Full Circle because, you know, despite my best efforts and storyboarding tendencies, that happens.

A lot.

Which is totally fine.

Totally.

Doesn’t bother me at all.

Really.

Except…it happened in this WIP. Pretty early on, too. And it went a little something like this:

My villain: Cool storyboard, dude, but what if I did *this* instead?

Me: Hmmm. That does seem like something you would do. Or, you know, exactly what you would do.

Villain: I know, right?

Me: But…

Villain: But what?

Me: But in doing so, you’ve completely killed the ‘adventure’ part of ‘Adventures in Babysitting’.

Villain: Yeah. That sounds like a ‘you’ problem. Byeeee!

So now, here I am, with two possibly dead-in-the-water WIPs and the absolute belief that my betas are hunkered down in secret, closed-door meetings, trying to decide which one of them has to tell me how terrible Full Circle is.

Must be Wednesday.

On that note, I’m outta here. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I sincerely hope your writing endeavors (or whatever you may have going on) are progressing well.

Happy Autumn, all.

Editing Update: 44 Pages

Note: This post is part of an on-going (and possibly never-ending…) series. To read the earlier installments, click on the following links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

All right, so I feel like I should start off by explaining a little about my editing/revision “process” (yes, I felt the need to put that in quotation marks. Draw your own conclusions.). This is what comes after me finishing the first draft and sticking it in a drawer for at least three months. There are a couple of other steps which follow this list, but they’re way far away, so I’ll leave them out for now.

Step One: The Read-through. I print out a hard copy of the manuscript and read it, making many, many corrections and notes about problem areas with character, plot, and everything in between. Some of these notes even make sense. In theory.

Step Two: So It Begins. I sit down at the computer and start making changes to the manuscript, based on the issues found during the read-through. Step Two focuses on the easier fixes—typos and the like. Basically things which don’t require a ton of thought and/or effort to correct. Things that end up requiring more thought and/or effort are moved to a list of Things To Be Dealt With Later.

Step Three: It’s Later. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s time to start digging into and dealing with the list of Things To Be Dealt With Later. This list seems to get a new name for each book. Last book, it was called “Editing Shit Deemed To Difficult To Deal With The First Time Around”. This book, it’s called “Labor-Intensive Editing Shit List”. Because I’m clever like that. Also, because I enjoy profanity perhaps more than I should.

Step Four: Send It To The Betas. Worry and wait. Wait and worry. And hope like hell I sent them something actually worth reading. But remain convinced that I definitely did not.

Last week, I finished Step Two and moved on to Step Three and the Labor-Intensive Editing Shit List.

(For anyone keeping score at home, Step Two saw me delete an additional 10,000 words from this manuscript. The current word count going into Step Three is just over 225,000.)

The Labor-Intensive Editing Shit List, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, is 44 pages long. Which is a lot, but it’s not the longest editing list I’ve ever had (That was around 300 pages. True story.). Which, of course, makes me worried that I missed a lot of things. I’m sure I missed stuff—I always do—but what if I missed too many things? Or the most important things? Or even the really stupid obvious things I really should have caught a long, long time ago?

(Have I mentioned that anxiety is my co-pilot?)

But whatever. It’s a long list. The length of the list isn’t really the point of this post. Not that I’m sure what the point of this post really is. This post may not even really have a point at all. (Makes you want to keep reading, though, doesn’t it?)

A lot of the items on this list are issues with either weak or nonexistent transitions. When writing a first draft, I occasionally (fine, maybe often) use Dick-And-Jane type sentences to get me from one section to the next. They’re basic and terribly lazy writing, but they’re meant to be a placeholder so I can get the story itself down on paper. This is the editing round where I have to improve those transitions. Somehow.

I also seem to have a lot of notes about the need to inject description of various things as well as emotion and/or movement into particular scenes. There’s a little bit of fact-checking to be done that I was apparently feeling too lazy to do during Step Two. I’ll probably do those first during this round because, again, they shouldn’t be too difficult or time-consuming. (Keyword being ‘shouldn’t’, I suppose…)

I have one stupid, stubborn character who continues to be a pain in my ass. This is the same character, by the way, who was supposed to die in this book and then…didn’t (so, so happy!). But his motivations early on in the story are…uneven at best. A casualty of an evolving storyline. So I need to go back and iron some things out. Time-consuming, sure, but not impossible.

And then there are the two woefully underdeveloped storylines. These two fixes will be extremely difficult and time-consuming. Which means these two things will very likely be the very last things I tackle. One is the villain arc. Which is not surprising. I never get the villain arc right the first time around, and it usually isn’t finalized until some time after the beta reader round. (It just takes me a long time to work out all the details, I guess.)

The other storyline is a subplot that joined the first draft party pretty late and, as a result, is in desperate need of development because I’m pretty sure ninety percent of the notes I wrote during those scenes were some variation of “Yeah, but…why?” Sadly, deleting the subplot altogether is not an option. I considered it (Of course I did. Deleting the damn thing would have been waaaaaaaaay easier than figuring out how to make it work.) but for the moment, at least, it remains necessary.

My hope is that addressing (maybe even fixing? Dare to dream…) these two problematic plot lines (along with everything else, of course…) will help me get over those feelings of “Something’s wrong with this book, but I don’t know what” that have been plaguing me for a while now. And if not…well, we’ll cross that bridge when (if) we come to it.

So that’s what I’ll be working on for the foreseeable future. I have no idea how long Step Three will take. Way longer than I would like, that’s for sure, but beyond that…who knows.

Certainly not me.

Editing Update: Home From Camp

Note: this post is part of an on-going (and possibly never-ending…) series. To read the earlier installments, click on the following links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that last month, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and set myself a goal of editing 50,000 words. I had never set an editing goal before, so I wasn’t sure how it would all work out.

If you follow me on various forms of social media, you may have already seen this:

and this:

So, I mean, yes, there was some success to be had. However, I feel like the 70,030 words edited there looks and sounds waaaaaaaay more impressive than it actually is. Some of that feeling can probably be attributed to the fact that I am a gigantic hot mess—so much so that I’m pretty sure I can be seen from space. Like, there are astronauts at the ISS right now, looking down and going, “OMG! What the hell is that—Oh. It’s just MJ. Never mind.”—who would feel that way regardless of the actual results.

But here’s the thing…it doesn’t feel like I’m making much meaningful progress. I’m going through the pages, correcting errors, and culling dialogue (just…so much dialogue) and adjusting the narrative to tighten and strengthen it or whatever, but I think the book still has the same fundamental issues it had when I began.

I just have no idea what those issues are.

I cannot shake the feeling that I am writing (now editing) this book wrong. That I’m rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or something. And I can’t even explain it to anyone without saying something like, “I think there’s something wrong with this book, but I don’t know what, and I’m worried I’m not smart enough to fix it.”

Because how can I be smart enough to fix a problem I can’t even diagnose?

So, I’m starting off May not quite sure what to do or where to go from here. I’m trying not to force things, to give my brain the space it apparently needs to get its shit together or whatever, and to trust that I will eventually figure things out because even though I don’t remember it, I most likely felt the same damn way while editing the three books that came before this one.

But I’ve never done well with inactivity.

And…during my family and friends visits last month, I was reminded (more than once) that there are three people waiting to read this book, who have already been waiting years to read this book, and who will have to keep waiting probably more years to read the book because I am taking so damn long to finish it. Which makes me feel bad because I am extremely blessed to have any people interested in reading anything I write, and who continue to be interested in reading anything I write even though it takes me so damn long to actually write anything, and it sucks that I can’t do a better job for them.

Which adds to the pressure and compounds with the inactivity and my already terrible levels of anxiety or something science-y sounding, which all means that this gigantic hot mess is just getting bigger and messier.

Which is why, despite the fact that I left Camp with a winner’s badge (and a really cute mug. I ordered a mug that, if my significant other asks, I desperately needed…) and an impressive-looking word count, I’m not feeling particularly impressed.

But at least I have a mug.

Stay safe and well, all.

Decisions, Decisions

I don’t think this could possibly be a secret, but I love to participate in NaNoWriMo. I just really like the challenge of setting myself a big, bold goal and seeing if I can achieve it.

There are three sessions each year (April, July, and November). Normally, I only do one, maybe two, as life allows. Back in January, however, I set a goal to participate in all three sessions and even developed a game plan for each.

April’s session was supposed to be devoted to finishing the first draft of Full Circle. July was supposed to be dedicated to finishing the first draft of the Terrible Romance Sequel. November was supposed to be an opportunity to experiment with a shiny new idea.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you may already know how April’s session turned out. I set my goal for 25,000 words because I thought that would be enough to get me to the end of Full Circle.

It was not.

In fact, I wrote 27,000 words, and it still wasn’t enough.

Which has thrown a wrench into my careful planning.

(Something for which I really should have planned, but whatever. It’s all good. I’m not irritated at all. Really. And if you believe that, I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you…)

Now the July session of NaNoWriMo is right around the corner, and I am trying to decide (see…the title did have a point!) what I should do. As I see it, I have three options:

  1. Make yet ANOTHER attempt to finish Full Circle

2. Stick to the original plan and attempt to finish Terrible Romance Sequel

3. Run away to join the circus

What’s a writer to do? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each, shall we?

—Make yet ANOTHER attempt to finish Full Circle

Again, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you may already know that I’ve been trying and failing to do this for…well, for a while now. At least a year. Probably more. I thought 2021 might be the year I break through because I thought I was tantalizingly close to reaching the end.

Which I may be. I don’t know. I could be sitting right on top of the damn ending and be just too obtuse or whatever to see it. I don’t know. I can’t stress enough how much I don’t know.

But I desperately want to finish this story. There are three people in my life who want to read this book, and I feel worse and worse every day I can’t make that happen. So, though normally, I would stick this WIP in a drawer and leave it there for a while to give my brain a break, I just can’t bring myself to do that this time.

I want to type THE END on that first draft, if for no other reason than when the manuscript ends up being ignored in a metaphorical drawer, there’s a reason for it besides my failure (If you didn’t know, I let manuscripts rest for at least a month in between drafts).

So once again making Full Circle my project of choice is tempting. It is an undeniable truth that my desire to win NaNoWriMo often helps me power through a story and reach that word count goal. Maybe this session will be the session that allows me to drag myself across the finish line.

But…it is also an undeniable truth that I still don’t seem to know how this damn book is supposed to end. Or how I get the characters from where they are now to whatever that ending ends up being. How would I even decide on my word count goal? This book could need 15,000 more words. or 25,000. Or 50,000. Or more. I don’t know. What if the book is, in fact, unfinishable? (At least in my hands…) What do I do then?

Bottom line: If I make Full Circle my project, am I dooming myself to spend 31 days just staring at a blinking cursor?

—Stick to the original plan and attempt to finish Terrible Romance Sequel

I started this story last November (during NaNoWriMo, of course) and finished with 51,309 words. It didn’t have a beginning or an ending and contained only the smallest amount of plot that could possibly be considered plot.

(You may now be asking yourself, “If there’s no beginning or ending or any real plot, how the hell did you end up with 51,309 words?” And I’ll tell you…I don’t know.)

It’s been sitting in a drawer ever since December 1st. I haven’t looked at it—mostly because of the aforementioned push to finish Full Circle—but also because it doesn’t have a beginning or an ending and only the smallest amount of plot that could possibly be considered plot.

But for all the things I don’t know about this book, the Terrible Romance Sequel does have one thing going for it: It’s not Full Circle. I haven’t been trying and failing to finish it for…well, for a long time now. Maybe a fresh(er) project will produce better results because it will seem far shinier and newer to my dumb brain than its ancient counterpart.

But…the truth remains that I don’t know how to finish this story, either. I honestly don’t know if I can. My dumb brain came up with this concept—which I really do like (or did like, when I looked at it last)—but I am quite fearful that it’s not only unfinishable but also unwritable. (At least in my hands…)

Bottom line: If I make Terrible Romance Sequel my project, am I dooming myself to spend 31 days just staring at a blinking cursor?

—Run away to join the circus

Pro: Doesn’t involve me coming up with endings for any story or possibly ever writing anything ever again.

Con: I don’t actually have any skills that might be useful in a circus setting. Also—and I can’t stress this enough—clowns are f&*k!ng terrifying.

So that’s where I am. I have a decision to make with a deadline of 11:59:59pm on June 30th. I really hope to have it made before then, but as a wise man once said, “What you plan and what takes place ain’t ever exactly been similar.”

We’ll see what happens this time around.

Which option do you think should I take? What do you do when you can’t decide? What do you do when you can’t seem to figure out a story’s ending? Or beginning. Or middle? And, most importantly, what do you think of clowns?

I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS (An IWSG Post)

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

(If you’re new to the IWSG, or just interested in more information and/or a complete list of participants, click on the above link.)

This month’s co-hosts are Ronel Janse van Vuuren, J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner, Sandra Cox, and Louise Fundy Blue.

This month’s (optional) question asks, “Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book, throws you out of the story and/or frustrates you the most about other people’s books?”

But I’m going to skip that question in order to ramble incoherently talk about a subject about which I know nothing but how much I don’t want to do it.

Marketing.

If you happened to have read my last post, you may remember that one of my goals this year is to attempt to make some kind of monthly attempt at marketing.

This goal came out of an exchange with my sweet babboo (I have no idea if I’m spelling that correctly. But, fortunately, neither does Auto Correct…) that happened toward the end of last year. I received a message from one of the Evil Social Media sites telling me I could use their Evil Social Media Business Service to help my business.

I snorted in derision and said aloud, “That shows what you know, Evil Social Media Site. I don’t have a business.”

To which my sweet babboo (Ha. That time, Auto Correct changed it to ‘bamboo’) responded, “Yes, you do.”

Which was followed by a moment of confusion followed by the realization that I do, in fact, have a business.

Needless to say, I do not excel at marketing.

Among other things.

So this led me to ponder whether I should maybe possibly kind of put forth maybe just a tiny bit of effort in the marketing department. But here’s the thing…I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS. Just thinking about doing it in any way, shape, or form makes me feel physically horrible. Just the idea of saying something like, “Hey, I wrote a book” to someone feels physically horrible.

I seriously cannot stress enough how goddamn horrible I feel.

For a while, I thought it might get better, easier, if I kept at it. If I kept stepping out of my comfort zone, I would grow more accustomed to it. That…didn’t happen. It only felt worse to the point where I took every event off my schedule even before the pandemic would have done it for me.

When my sweet babboo (No, Auto Correct. Not Bambi) asked why, I told him I needed to feel not horrible for a while.

And that was that.

Which is why my goal is to attempt to make an attempt at marketing. I’m going test the waters and see how it feels (I’ll go out on a limb and say…horrible?) and go from there.

I don’t know how to do it or where to start or anything except (again) how much I don’t want to do it, but it’ll be an experiment.

We’ll see how far I get.

Again, just a guess…

What are your goals for the year? How do you handle marketing? Any advice for me?

Thanks for stopping by today, folks. I’ll try to do better the next time.

Stay safe and well.