Waiting for the universe to cough & the #ROW80 report

Earlier this evening, I had an idea for a post. I knew the first line. I was confident I could write the middle without too much suffering. I didn’t know how it would end–I never know the ending when I start out–but I believed what I’d already written would lead to an appropriate close.

I opened WordPress to the Add New Post screen and put my fingers on the keyboard. And wrote–nothing.

Brain 1
Brain 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d forgotten everything: topic, first line, the whole shebang. I think the topic had to do with a comment on a post novelist Terry Shames put on Facebook, but I’ve forgotten which comment. Re-reading her post didn’t help.

I stared at the blank screen for a few seconds, then moved on. Obsessing over memory lapses guarantees the thought won’t return. It’s more effective to go on with life and wait for the universe to cough it up.

As to the #ROW80 report, only one day late: I ate refined sugar (but not too much, not every day), didn’t write, didn’t visit and comment on Writing Wranglers and Warriors and #ROW80 blogs every day, or visit Malvern Books.

I added a few words to the WIP (work in progress) but then realized the ending I’d planned will not do. So far I haven’t worked out an alternative ending, but that’s all right. The universe will cough one up when it’s ready. If the universe doesn’t, Austin Mystery Writers will. That’s what I keep them around for.

I did

  1. finish reading Mark Pryor’s mystery novel The Paris Librarian.
  2. have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.

The Paris Librarian is on my list of 20 Books of Summer. It’s a pretty good book. That’s pretty good as in I-sat-up-until-two-o’clock-this-morning-reading-because-I-had-to-know-who-done-it. So there’s one I can check off my reading list.

In addition to The Paris Librarian, since June 1, I’ve read Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue ThreadSarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells, and Isabelle Allende’s The Japanese Lover. I began Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing but set it aside in favor of Librarian.

At MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s store-within-a-store, for a signing last week, Mark told two stories behind the writing of the mystery. They’re well worth reading. Find them on his blog, D. A. Confidential.

Silver Falchion Award
Silver Falchion Award

Concerning #2 above, I had a blast visiting with Kaye George at the BookPeople coffee shop last Thursday. Conversation meandered through a number of topics, but we kept coming back to (more Blatant Self-Promotion) Austin Mystery Writers’ Murder on Wheels and the Silver Falchion award it won for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology at the Killer Nashville conference. To those who’ve read about the Silver Falchion before, I apologize for bringing it up again. The excitement hasn’t worn off yet.

Kaye is the author of four popular mystery series. She writes the Immy Duckworthy mysteries, the Cressa Carraway Musical mysteries, and the People of the Wind mysteries under her own name. She writes the Fat Cat series under the pen name Janet Cantrell. For more about our visit with her, see Gale Albright’s post on the Austin Mystery Writers blog.

To sum up my progress on the earlier #ROW80 buffet, I’ll say this: I did what I wanted and not much else.

August 29 #ROW80 Buffet 

  1. Read James Ziskin’s Heart of Stone
    Another book that cut in line before Homegoing
  2. Finish reading Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing

If I read both books, I’ll have finished seven of the twenty I set out to read by September 5. Of course, I didn’t really set out to read twenty. I got a late start and set out to read what I could. Seven, or six, will be what I could. I fear I’ll not have Mark Twain’s Autobiography and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex read before Monday, but Tuesday is another day. I read The Second Sex in graduate school. It’s worth reading again, but not this week.

And so ends this post. As a writer who forgot what she intended to say, I think I’ve done well.

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Read more #ROW80 posts here.

Objection & the #ROW80 Report

We begin with a question:

Before airing tonight’s Inspector Lewis mystery, PBS issued the usual disclaimer, something like, This program contains material that some viewers might consider objectionable. Viewer discretion is advised.

Now. Every program contains something potentially objectionable. Objection is a matter of choice. (Why doesn’t the same disclaimer run before afternoon soap operas and tacky prime time reality shows? I choose to object to their content.)

It’s reasonable to warn parents about content they might not want their children to see, I suppose. Some PBS programming does fall into the PG range. Some people might not want their children to see as many murder victims as Robbie Lewis does. At times, I wish a firm hand had turned off the television before I saw the bisected woman in the first episode of The Tunnel.

Portrait of Jane Austen
Portrait of Jane Austen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the same disclaimer ran when Masterpiece Theatre presented a series of adaptations of Jane Austen novels. What could be considered objectionable about Jane Austen novels? 

Well, anyway, that’s one of the questions bouncing around my brain, taking up space that would be better occupied by more pressing concerns. Anyone who has an answer is welcome to leave a comment.

But first take note: They’re boring is not an answer. It’s not even accurate. Jane Austen is not boring. Attempts to change my mind are futile.

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Now for #ROW80. The past couple of weeks haven’t been conducive to doing anything, productive or not. I didn’t dust, organize, or shred. But the most important item is behind me.

The July 27 Buffet

  1. ♫♫♫ Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) last major critique
    I reversed the tampering, re-edited the story. When Kaye George sent her critique, excellent as usual, she added, “OK, stop fiddling with it, OK?” OK. After the other critiques are in. Next stop, the independent editor. 
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
    Brahman Baby.
    “Brahman Baby” by Lea Maimone is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    I wrote several hundred words in a doctor’s waiting room, then two days later realized that I’ve left no place for the incident that gave me the idea for the story in the first place. I can insert it–I hope. But if I can’t make it work, I’ll have to leave it out, which comes under the heading of Kill Your Darlings. I would prefer not to.
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
    I finished Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover and began Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing
  5. ‼Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
    I’ve already dropped Sundays. This is the Wednesday report, late. The upside: If I’d reported on Wednesday, I’d have had nothing to say about #2.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  7. ?Take three naps a week
    I napped. Don’t know when or how often, but I napped. The question: Is it acceptable to count naps I took because I couldn’t stay awake?
  8. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m. /  9. Cook at least one decent meal for David / 10. Dust the piano. / 11. Get rid of ten things a day / 12. Collect and organize books / 13. Shred

 

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Carrying on:

August 7 Buffet

  1. Eat no refined sugar. Eat a minimum of carbohydrates, including starchy vegetables and fruit. (I ate an ungodly amount of sugar over the weekend; had a reason but let things get out of hand; in other words, went crazy). A PET scan is scheduled for Wednesday, and, for the most accurate results, I need to be as sugar-free as possible. Bottom line, I hope I didn’t run up my blood sugar. Shouldn’t have but you never know. Cancer cells like sugar.
  2. Finish critiques of remaining AMW stories and return to writers
  3. Write post for August 15 AMW blog
  4. Write post for August 16 Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog
  5.  Continue drafting the second half of the story “Texas Boss.” Revise enough to submit to AMW for critique
  6. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  7. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears below.)
  8. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  9. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  10. Take three naps a week
  11. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m. /  12. Cook at least one decent meal for David / 13. Dust the piano. / 14. Get rid of ten things a day / 15. Collect and organize books / 16. Shred

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20 Books of Summer Buffet

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
My thoughts on Anne Tyler appear here.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Saw it, liked the cover, bought it. Serendipity.

√The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
Loved it. Allende tells more than shows and makes it work.

Homegoing - Gyasi - Amazon 51s13capmsL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Homegoing by Yaa Gyassi

Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning by Sol Steinmetz

White Heat: The Friendship Between Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

Dr. Wortle’s School by Anthony Trollope

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen

The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80) is the writing challenge that knows you have a life.

To see what other #ROW80 participants are up to, click here. Or begin with the list below.

A.E. Browne

writing what i can when i

Weaver of Words

Lila Leigh Hunter

Harpwriter’s Blog

A Book a Day

shanjeniah’s Lovely Chaos

ReGi McClain

The Writerly Reader

Sammy PJ Writes

Denise D. Young

 

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Related articles

Tampering with perfection & #ROW80 Report

Tired
Tired

I am so tired I ever could.

Because last night I waltzed up to the watermelon buffet and chose

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique

If I’d been taking naps, #1 would be only a memory. But there’s more to do.

Weeks ago, I edited out a couple of sentences but later realized I’d removed a bit of necessary information and created a contradiction. The error would be so difficult to resolve, and the lapse in logic was so subtle and so trivial, and the remaining text flowed so smoothly that I thought about saying, with Walt Whitman,

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;”

and leave it alone and hope no one would notice.

But someone always notices. Sometime, somewhere, some reader would say, But the character says this is going to happen, and this doesn’t happen, or maybe it does, but whatever happened, she never says another word about it, so it sounds like maybe both things happened, and she should have told us… 

So I tried a number of fixes, none of which pleased me, settled on one, and moved on. In a few days, I’ll go back and try again.

Just wo-ahn out
Just wo-ahn out

In moving on, I went from editing/revising to tampering. The official word is polishing, but I tampered: with words–thank goodness for thesaurus.com running in the background; with phrases; with sentence structure… Tampered with things better left untouched.

Tampering–especially when you think you’re polishing–is doomed to fail. It usually takes place near the end of a project, when you think everything is perfect, but not quite. So you make one little change, and then another, and another, and soon, part of your brain–the part where judgment lives–shuts off and you go on automatic pilot. You keep on clicking that mouse, cutting, pasting, copying, deleting, inserting…

Do this long enough and you can drain the life out of a story.

I’m most likely to tamper when I’m tired. I was tired last night. I should have watched Acorn TV or read or, better yet, given in and gone to bed at a reasonable hour. But I didn’t. Hyperfocused on the manuscript, I lost track of time and stayed up long after midnight. Then, in a perverse turn of events, I woke today up at 7:00 a.m.

So, as I said at the top of the page, I am tired.

A deadline approaches. I need to finish that story.  First, though, I’ll let it rest. Several days. A week. Until I’m sufficiently rested. Until I don’t hate it with every fiber of my being. Until I’m detached enough to distinguish the good from the bad from the ugly.

#ROW80 Update

The July 20 Buffet

The original Buffet was meant to cover 80 days beginning with July 4, not just a few days or a week. Some haven’t been completed. Number 5 is on-going. So nothing changes.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
    Tried but didn’t finish, might have created a monster instead. See above, if you haven’t already.
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique–Nope.
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”–Nope.
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
    Still reading Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover, 68 pages to
    By Mutari (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commonsgo. I used the calculator to figure that out. I didn’t have to. I can still subtract in my head. But I don’t want to think that hard. Sad.
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
    It’s Wednesday and I’m posting.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.–Nope. I don’t know why, but nope.
  7. Take three naps a week.–Nope. And I’m so sorry I didn’t.

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The July 27 Buffet

They don’t change much. The point of the buffet, per shanjeniah, is to have choices and plenty of them. So I’ll add more watermelon.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  7. Take three naps a week
  8. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m.
  9. Cook at least one decent meal for David
  10. Spend an afternoon at the Blanton Museum of Art
  11. Play the piano
  12. Dust the piano
  13. Get rid of ten things a day
  14. Collect and organize books
  15. Shred

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A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80) is The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.

To read what other #ROW80 writers are doing, click here.

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