Summer’s End

Happy end of the month, everyone. And sort of the end of Summer, or at least “conventional” Summer, though the calendar tells us it’s not over for another 22 days or so. In my heart, Labor Day, nah, even September 1st, is the end of Summer, for September and October (and to a lesser extent November) are a sacred time for me. And it’s interesting that my creativity is usually at its peak during this time. I’m definitely looking forward to Autumn this year, as I think it will be very productive.

First of all, thoughts and prayers to everyone in Texas. I’m not usually one for demonstrative presentations of things like this (or in general), but I’ve been watching the situation with increasing horror and am looking for the best way to help out from a distance. Definitely keeping an eye on things.

On a more personal note, the theme of the last week has been “transition”. We’re now getting settled into our permanent address in Lake St. Louis, and are about three-fourths of the way through unpacking. The move is certainly feeling interminable, but I think a good push over the three-day weekend will go a long way to getting it knocked out. We also got our new licenses and registrations, along with registering to vote (very important), so we’re now officially official. It’s been a tiring process, but the relocation has been good for my psyche, and I think for Mary’s, as well.

Big news on the writing front: I finished my self-critique for Came to Believe on the evening of the 24th and soon began writing (I hope) the final draft. How’s that for transition? I’m even happy with the rewritten intro paragraphs, which is a rarity in my writing. Always trying to nail down that beginning, that’s for sure.

I’ve learned a lot from the lengthy process of writing this novel. One of my biggest writing weaknesses is getting deep into a novel and realizing that the plot scope is not quite what I had in mind, or that another plot thread would be stronger as the central pillar. Because of this weakness, I’ve had to rewrite pretty much every one of my books mid-stream, which costs me time and sanity.

 

With this in mind, my sincere hope moving forward is that I can nail these details in plotting and then have a clean and simple drafting process. Plotting must do the heavy lifting because we’re talking about editing 20 to 25 pages versus 300 or so once I’m fully into the novel. The plan is to run through three to five drafts of the plot up front, from the rough initial draft to increasingly structured outlines that match story beats with character information and ensure that important plot points get covered.

From there I can break it down and read through it as a “critique”, incorporate those edits, rinse and repeat with the outline, to ensure I’ve hit every beat and that no subplots are superfluous. It may take a month to get through, but again a month > a year with rewrites.

I’m already into this new process with the next book, a horror story with the premise of increasing human expansion bumping into ancient evil. Sure, it’s been done, but I think I have an interesting spin on it by including modern technology in the mix. I also want to test out some of my more surreal modes of writing through the story. The goal with this one is to be super-lean, tight, and compact. Something that can be done in a hurry and doesn’t sprawl on for 100,000 words. We’ll see if I can pull it off.

Anyway, hope everyone has a great weekend, and a long one if you’re lucky enough to get Monday off. See you next week.

Don’t Call it a Comeback

Or do, if you wish. Either way, I’m happy to be back and among the productive. To tell the story of the last three years of my life would be a lesson in tedium, anxiety, and stress – the kind of caustic stuff that melts the creative impulse. I’m still not fully back on my feet, owing to a move to a new city and a new office, but almost as soon as we set foot on Missouri soil, the juices started flowing again. Memories flooded back; I remember what it felt like to create, to let my fingers dance over the keys and channel the words like some shaman. How nice it was to tap into the creative force underlying the universe, or whatever you want to call it.

In short, the last few years have sucked. We underwent what seemed to be a layoff (only to get my job back at the last moment), not one but two mergers, and an extended period of unease and uncertainty regarding relocation. Our – and I very much include my loving wife in this – lives seemed to be suspended in mid-air. At first I was able to write through this, push it aside and keep going, but as I watched friends exit at work and found myself increasingly isolated in an empty building, I had a hard time bringing my focus back to writing at the end of the day. All I wanted to do was go home and shut the world out, whether it be through reading, video games, or other pursuits.

In the end, a combination of factors brought the muse back to me. One, reading through Mark Frost’s A Secret History of Twin Peaks. It contains a lot of the conspiracy lore and mythos-building that drew me to writing my first few novels, and it reminded me of the promise of weaving my own reality within fiction. It also reminded me of the power of magick, and of seizing control of the reins of your life. It didn’t take long to start to feel the pull toward something new, a framework that helped me to put my chaotic thoughts into some semblance of order.

Then came, of course, the move. While he had relocation assistance and support, it’s hard to imagine a more “seize the day” act than packing up the car and moving across half the country to see if it will all work out.

I came to realize that I had become…well, passive is not the right word. We wanted to relocate from the moment either of the two mergers were announced. More that I had resigned myself to hunkering down and letting fate whip me where it would, so long as it ended with us out of the DC area (something that both of us very much wanted). And so I became less an author of my fate than a pawn at the hands of people with much larger agendas. At some point I lost sight of the fact that I had made this choice to wait and hand things over, and became depressed and resigned. That’s when my output dropped. I think I can pinpoint it to March or April of this year, somewhere in there, because there is a steady downward curve in my word count until July, when I barely wrote at all.

Now, though? I’m back, I think. I’m currently five pages short of finishing my “critique” of Came to Believe, at which point I’ll go back and make the suggested changes and try to hammer it out. Given the massive delays (we’re just about at year four of working on this thing and I want it out the door), I’m likely just going to self-publish it, but we’ll see how I feel when I get there. In the meantime, I’m plotting the antithesis of this story, a quick, pulpy horror novel that I think will be a blast to write.

In the meantime, I intend to check in with you guys more often. Thanks to those of you who are still with me. We’ll see where this ride goes next…