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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She Likes Me, She Really… Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Snoozing chimp
Snoozing chimp (Photo credit: World of Oddy). [Not my cousin MV]
I’m sharing a hotel room with my cousin MV following this afternoon’s bridal shower for our great-niece and this evening’s dinner with great-niece’s grandfather.

(Don’t waste time on the relationships. Only the cousinship applies here.)

MV crawled into bed early, turned on the TV, and channel surfed, but could find nothing interesting.

“I need someone to read me a story,” she said.

I volunteered to read the latest version of my Molly manuscript. She said something like, “Oh goody.”

Booting up the laptop, I located “The Definitive Summer 2012 Version” (so named to distinguish it from the other 3,243 Molly files) and crawled onto the queen-sized bed opposite hers. And I began to read.

I had reached the last paragraph of page 11 when I heard snoring.

Could this be, I thought, an omen?

And if an omen, is it good or bad?

I never stood on ceremonies, but–when your own blood kin, whom you’ve known for over half a century (wow!), whose infants you fed and diapered and lugged around as if they were your favorite baby dolls, for whom you served as target for the all the slings and arrows of outrageous cousinhood she let fly–like the time she was visiting you and she got all wasp-stung picking Kentucky Wonder beans off Mr. Armentrout’s fence and went to bed with an ice pack on her hand and in the middle of the night she laid it on your mid-section just to see what you would do and you were only sixteen and she was thirty and old enough to know better–well, when your own blood kin can’t stay awake to see what happens at the end of chapter one, then you might do well to find something to take the place of novelizing. Like playing Bookworm for eight hours straight without guilt rather than with it.

So. I sat for a while in contemplation, and then I emailed several friends for opinions on the omen question, and then I checked what’s happening on Facebook. And about the time I got to the fifth cat picture of the evening, I had remembered several circumstances that might be called extenuating:

1. MV liked the very first draft I wrote and keeps telling me I’ve ruined it and I need to toss all my (years of) revisions and bring back the original. It’s nowhere near publishable, but she liked it.

2. She laughed at all the right places, or most of them, while she was awake.

3. She’d had a long day and was tired.

4. She might have been motivated by revenge because I told her she was old. Which I’ve done several times on this trip. Like when she wanted to lift my suitcase onto the luggage rack for me. I mean, my doctor has referred to me as an “older person,”* but she’s been eligible for the senior citizen breakfast at IHOP for years. And just minutes ago, at midnight, she racked up another birthday.

In short, it’s possible her untimely entry into the land of Nod is a non-ominous omen, having zilch to do with literary criticism, and therefore no reason to get my knickers in a twist.

I’ll interpret it that way anyhow.

About paragraph #9, above, MV woke up and walked to the refrigerator for a bottle of water. On the way back to bed, she noticed me sitting on the sofa where I am still parked, composing.

“You’re not going to want to get up in the morning,” she said.

“I never do,” I replied.

She didn’t ask what I was doing, so I didn’t tell her I’m writing about her. I didn’t tell her about the photo I’d already chosen to illustrate this piece either. She’ll find out soon enough.

She’ll also learn what happens to kinfolk who fall asleep during a dramatic reading of Kathy’s Perfectly Polished Prose.

*****


Happy Birthday, Mary Veazey!

*****

* But he did it only once.

*****

Photo of Snoozing Chimp by World of Oddy via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).