My Brain Hurts

I just finished writing the rough draft of my new book. Although I would argue that it is better than a rough draft. I did a lot of revising throughout, went back over it a number of times to make sure that various plot ingredients were there and that the whole set-up part was working. It was hell. This book is a sequel. I had to make sure that things I had blithely glossed over or mentioned in passing which now have become of the utmost importance, made sense. Sure I write fantasy and I can stick some magical object into the mix if I want but it still has to make sense. And therein lies the heartache and the brain-ache.I made my secondary heros father a writer. Poor Percy- only a secondary hero! Anyway his father says that writing is like having “open-heart surgery without anesthetic”. This is quite an apt description in my opinion. Having your tonsils removed through your nose would be another. So I did a whole lot of revising and nit-picking and ceaseless worrying over whether the Orientator or the Stasis Spider or any of the other cool magicky things I created, worked, not to mention making sure that none of my characters was speaking dialog that they would never in a million years utter, or that the plot wasnt lagging, or that the whole premise wasnt the stupidest thing ever conceived. Its great having an anti-hero because he can say things that reflect my mood and frustration on any particular day. Like he can say “it was the stupidest idea in a day of stupid ideas” and that allows me to vent a little. So I thought it would be relatively easy to write this book. I had written it already just after I finished the first one but before I sold the first one. Unfortunately what happened was that the 150 page manuscript I originally sold, after serious revision with my great editor had become a 334 page book (The Curious Misadventures of Feltus Ovalton) and there were many, many drastic changes. So after fruitlessly trying to work off my original manuscript for the sequel (Feltus Ovalton and the Awful Becoming) I decided to start from scratch. This was back in May. I had a deadline – October 31st– which seemed generous at first and oodles more time than my good friend Alison Gaylin (a top-notch mystery writer- check out her new wonderful suspenseful book “Trashed” gets. She works down to the wire and is usually unrecognizable when shes done. Gaunt, glassy-eyed and exhausted, almost like one of her corpses. I thought because I knew the story, knew my characters, even knew the last line, it would be relatively easy but I had forgotten about the Lucy factor. Lucy is my six-month old. She is an angel and right now she is sitting on the couch blowing raspberries and yelling at her Lamaze caterpillar. But Lucy necessitates almost constant attention and that means that I write in 15 minute bursts, if Im lucky. When I first started Feltus about 4 1/2 years ago, I had an 8 month old boy. Time really does blur all, because when I think back on those halcyon days (ha!) I remember him sleeping on my lap or sleeping on the couch or the mat, beaming up at me happily and drooling a little. The kid was almost never awake (double ha!). I wrote 3 Feltus adventures in a fever of excitement and inspiration as if they were being dictated to me from somewhere beyond, just begging to be told (and then spent 2 years trying to sell the first one and another year spinning around in the wheel of the publishing machine). This time it seemed like a lot more work, a lot more frustration. I had notebooks all over the place because you know that when youre pinned to the bed nursing your infant out of arms reach of anything, any scrap of paper, any implement that could be used to write with, except perhaps for your arm and some blood, thats when youll get an idea or solve a plot crisis. It was pure torture but what I did was I wrote every day and slowly but surely at a pace of about 3-4 pages per day I got past the hell of the first 100 or 150 pages- always the slowest going as far as I can tell- and into the meat of the story which tends to be the most fun. Then I tried to wrap it up, always aiming for those neat, perfect short books like Roald Dahl (damn him!) was always writing, and it just kept going and going determinedly telling me how long it was going to be and what more had to be said, as if I am just the arm attached to the hand that is typing it all out. Sometimes I think Great Aunt Eunida is whispering her fragrant breath into my ear. But you know what? I stuck with it because a story must be told however it must be told. Sometimes you just have to relinquish control a little bit. So it ended up being kind of long- 300 manuscript pages which translates into a few more book pages- but I dont think theres too much filler in there. Who knows? My other weakness (if anyone is counting this brings me up to about 12 dire weaknesses) is that I cannot stand back far enough from my own writing to tell if its any good. I cannot bring myself to read “The C. M. of F.O.” and I probably wont read “F.O. and the A.B.” either although I might just the once once to find all the typos and count the horrendous over-use of adverbs.

I am trying, although its hard with only one book out there, to just get ‘em out, put ‘em out of my head, and go on my merry way. My aim is to someday have a plethora of books and be able to say, “oh such and such is my favorite” or just have others cast praise upon me, as I blush prettily and stare at my feet in mock embarrassment. I may have left it too late.


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