Friday, May 31, 2013

Editing Gets Scary

Yesterday was kind of crazy, what with last second preparations for graduation and a variety of students in my room for in-school suspension (the bane of every senior teacher's existence) and credit recovery, so I didn't get any editing done, but I did the day before.  I stopped at a pivotal chapter where my editor wants me to make some rather substantive changes and I'm not sure I'm ready to make them yet.

I've tried to set aside my ego up to now, allowing her to lead me in terms of what is best for making my book saleable, despite some misgivings--about the process, not about my editor, who is a lovely, brilliant woman.  But she has asked me to take out some things that I feel are pivotal to knowing who my main characters are.  The pace things and the spots where I'm simply not following the rules of formatting are a non-issue.  I can definitely see where my prose is tighter and smoother than it was.  But there's one early scene where Harry makes his breakfast.  Harry is a foodie.  The process of cooking and enjoying food are significant to knowing who he is.  But she says that this drags the pace down and that readers want action.  I'll give her that, to a point, but Harry's a gourmand because I think of myself as one and one of the things I love about my hero, Robert B. Parker's, Spenser books is how much love he gives to the food.  It's integral.  But I cut that scene to the bone, just as she suggested.  Maybe I have to earn the right to go into such detail.  Like J. K. Rowling earned the right to write long, dizzyingly detailed books by writing compact, efficient ones that got her readers hooked enough not just to stand for, but even clamor for more and more in each book.  Again, I make no comparisons between Ms. Rowling and myself in terms of skill or potential success.  Just illustrating a concept.

But that leads to the spot in the book where I'm a little scared to go on.  Part of her comments are perfectly sensible--well, all of them are.  But she says we spend too much time in Harry's head.  That kind of hits home for me.  That's me as a writer.  Harry is a thoughtful guy.  He's even a bit of a worrier.  He overthinks things and his mind wanders around an issue for a while before he figures things out.  If spending too much time in his head is a fatal flaw, I fear I am just fatally flawed as a writer.  At what point do I say this is who I am and I will either get my book sold writing this way or I won't, but I'm not changing the essence of who I am as a writer just to sell a book.  Or is there a point where I do that?

I guess I need to stop and think about what I want to do with my writing.  Do I want to write for myself and hold to a high-minded (which probably means unreasonable) standard and not budge even if it means I'm a commercial failure?  Is it possible to write for myself but find a way to still succeed in selling to the public?  Do I need to "give in to the man" to start in order to gain the right to be myself with subsequent works?  The short answer is I don't know.  But I think that what I'm going to do is, for the most part, trust my editor and make the changes she suggests.  I may decide once in awhile that something is just too important to knowing Harry and/or Dee and the readers are just going to have wait a little longer to get to the next shootout and believe that they will appreciate them a bit more when they know my heroes a little more fully.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I Really Am Still Alive

For the handful of folks who actually follow this blog, it may have seemed that I had fallen into a sinkhole or stepped in front of a bus, considering how long it's been since I've made an entry.  But it's nothing so dire.  My absence has been occasioned by two major time-eating events, one of which is actually a number of smaller events.

The first was the end of the school year for my seniors, who make up pretty much all of my students.  That's the one that's several smaller events combined.  My students had three major projects due over the last two weeks, which meant I was busy helping with last-minute issues, grading papers, answering literally hundreds of emails, watching and scoring presentations, recording grades, fixing grades--the list goes on. In my role as senior class advisor, it's mostly been preparation for Color Day, which, despite the fact that we felt like we were temporarily relocated to the Arctic Circle, went very well.  The cleanup is finished and all the bills are paid; all that's left for me is working with the commencement speakers and attending functions, which requires no preparation on my part.

The second, probably more stressful, time-eater was my National Board renewal.  As hard as it is for me to believe, it's been ten years since I completed work on my NBCT and nine years since I received certification.  So I had to submit a renewal portfolio this year.  The process was not nearly as daunting as the first time around, but still required a good deal of reflecting, video-recording, writing, and gathering of materials.  Somehow adding to and simultaneously subtracting from the stress was the fact that the whole process was online this time around.  Rather than mailing in a box of items in various envelopes behind various cover sheets, it was all uploaded to a website.  It was less stressful in that the deadline was extended an entire month, something of which I took full advantage.  It was more stressful, however, in that this was a completely new process--this is the first year they are doing the e-portfolio-- and it was so simple that it seemed like I must have missed something.  But all of the items were uploaded, reviewed, re-uploaded ,sometimes three and four times before I was happy with the final product, and I am excited, though trepidatious, that I clicked, "Submit For Approval" early this afternoon.  Pass or fail, it's now over.

So now I have a short window before the merry-go-round starts up again.  I leave for the AP reading on June 8, so for a few days I get to do crazy things like read for pleasure and actually edit my book.  I'll have to re-introduce myself to Harry and Dee.  They'll have forgotten who I am it's been so long.  

And I might even have some time to write on here once in awhile. :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


The bulb in my giant TV blew out last week.  I was in the middle of an episode of Castle when it just went, "POP!"  The sound continued to work for a minute but then it just quit altogether.  The good news is that I found a replacement from a website at a much lower price than I was told it would cost when I first bought the television.  But that only makes sense; projector bulb prices in general have plummeted and this is basically a really fancy rear projection TV.  The bad news, or so I thought at first, is that it will take 5-7 business days from the day they processed my order.  It's our only TV, so I've been without for the better part of the week.

But something has happened.  I've found I don't miss it.  Last night Andrea and I ate supper together.  Often, though not always, I would go downstairs and watch TV in my recliner while she ate upstairs in her recliner.  We would shout back and forth, but the reality is we were on opposite ends of the house.  But last night, we were in the same room and we carried on a conversation.  After dinner I read some Sherlock Holmes adventures--one of my favorites--and then cleaned up the dinner dishes and got the coffee ready for this morning.  And it wasn't even 9:00PM yet.  So I read some more, then went to bed.

That's when the really crazy thing happened.  I SLEPT!  I mean I fell asleep quickly, slept through my alarm, and barely got up in time to have breakfast and get to work.  Luckily I had run yesterday and showered before dinner and there is food provided today for Teacher Appreciation Week, so I just had to eat and get dressed.  But the key concept here is that I SLEPT ALL NIGHT.  I may be reading too much into it, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the entire evening involved no technological stimulation.  Well, technically speaking, I was reading on my Kindle, but it was still just a book, after all.  I was relaxed, my mind was clear, and I went to bed without it going a thousand miles an hour.  And I feel awake today.  People who don't have sleep issues have no idea how significant that is.

I know that the bulb will be coming soon, but I may not install it right away.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thinking About Thinking

I really love sleep.  Sadly, like other things I love to do, like golf and singing, I am really bad at it.  The bulb on my TV blew out yesterday, meaning my pacifier is out of order.  The one thing that allows me to doze off with relative ease is having that idiot box on.  It's like having it on shuts off the nonstop stream of meaningless drivel that parades through my brain as soon as I close my eyes.  And it really is meaningless and random, though the one constant is the thought that I need to go to sleep I need to go to sleep I need....

So last night, instead of sleeping, I read my latest copy of Poets & Writers.  The two or three articles by authors and the article about an author got me thinking about thinking.  That's called, I'm unduly proud to say I  know, metacognition.  As I read these words by and about these great writers, I realized that the thing they have in common is that they think deeply about important things.  They are profound.  I want to be profound too.  I badly want to think deeply, but I wonder if it's in me.  When I try to sit and ponder important stuff, I find myself contemplating dinner or movies or whether I need to buy new running shoes or what is the third line of this dumb song that's running through my head because I'm sick of singing the first two lines over and over and over.

But I believe I am capable of metacognizing (I'm somewhat less than convinced that this is an actual word, but I've decided that if Shakespeare can make up words I can too.) but I have to do it in writing or out loud. I seem to be able to harness this unruly child of a brain while I'm doing those things.  So I've started carrying my journal with me (Thank you Sabrina.), allowing me to jot down ideas when they wander toward the front of my mind.  And I always have this blog too. Whether any of these thoughts are actually deep is a question I guess I will leave to the reader.