writing

Down the Rabbit Hole: Embracing the Slow Edit

You did it! You did it!

You pulled the story out of yourself for however many weeks, months, or years it took, and now it stretches before you in its entirety. No longer confined to the imaginative terrain between the walls of your skull; rather, a new-formed entity ready to suck air into its lungs and squall forth a noise that will attract readers to its existence, enticing them to be amazed.

But…no.

Not yet.

You know it needs a little more work.

So you do what you consider ‘editing.’ You kick the typos to the curb and smooth the rough spots so no one will stumble over them. It’s a quick, triumphant jaunt through your creation, reinforcing your belief in its value, fanning to feverish pitch your eager anticipation of a glorious reception by agents.

But just as your mind is ready to break free and begin considering the perfect accompanying query, you realize there’s something else out there. You can hear it approaching, crashing its way through bracken and furze. It’s trudging toward you with the geriatric gait of an arthritic sloth. It’s so close you can feel it sapping all that energy geared toward spewing your manuscript out into agent-world.

It’s here.

It’s the Slow Edit.

You could evade it. It is possible to dodge its plodding presence and speed off into the distance. But the little, niggling voice that never lies tells you if you do, you’ll be speeding off all by your lonesome, ending up in that wasteland where agents never go.

They will know if you haven’t honored the Slow Edit, bending your knee and lowering your head before its ponderous girth.

Just do it.

Put on the brakes.

Settle in for the long haul and…

…before you know it, you’ll be down the rabbit hole.

You will study each word, each sentence. You will debate syntax, placement, order. Your brain will delve into a lifetime’s accumulation of vocabulary, searching for just the right nuance, savor, syllable. It will take multiple sessions to wade through your story, because your brain will be overwhelmed after several hours of unremitting effort. It will offer up optional wording with thesauric profusion, making it impossible to identify the best choice. It will begin to invent words like ‘thesauric.’

You’ll have to take a break, regroup, and tackle the beast when your literary awareness has regained its elasticity. Again. And again.

But in the end you’ll have a tale that doesn’t splay itself out before the reader, offering up its entrails in the hope that someone will find it salvageable. You’ll have a streamlined bullet-to-the-brain, can’t-stop-reading-it work.

Thanks to that ugly, paunchy, unwelcome creature. The Slow Edit.

All done? Feel better? Recognize the worth? Glad you did it?

Good.

Now, go back to the beginning and do it again.

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poem

Kayla

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Kayla never understood
the dangers lurking in the wood.
Never did set any store
by lurid tales and grim folklore.

Didn’t know why the scare
others felt wasn’t there.
Truth be told, she felt a thrill
while others suffered morbid chill.

Dusk would find her forest-bound,
following each nightly sound.
Any shrieks or moans she heard
she’d believe nocturnal bird,

sure that under starlit sky
prowling perils passed her by.
Kayla never reasoned why
she was not afraid to die.

One night she found a meadow green,
where ancient gravestones carved a scene
of leaning, broken, granite teeth.
Wondered what lay underneath.

Trailing fingers ‘cross the moss
she uncovered what was lost.
“Here lies our child, loved but gone.
Sweet Kayla waits eternal dawn.”

Hands to face, bones she felt
poking through as flesh did melt.
Looking down, no gown on her,
a tattered shroud the breeze did stir.

Kayla’s cries fell into dreams,
waking parents with children’s screams.
Back along the trail she flew,
headed for the home she knew.

But doors stay barred against the ghosts,
wandering souls, and hellish hosts.
So huddled on the window sill,
Famished Kayla is waiting still.

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writing

Submission: Act & Attitude

You pour blood, sweat, tears, and whatever else your life exudes for months on end, into your manuscript. If it survives, it’ll be your first published novel.

You’ve edited. You’ve polished. You’ve re-re-re-polished. Finally, finally, you’re ready to begin the submission process. (Although the polishing will never stop; you’ll be prodding and poking at it with relentless obsession until either success or defeat pry you away from the keyboard and slam you against the wall.)

Every writer who’s walked the walk of submission knows the tortured steps.

First, the dreaded query letter looms. You must distill your story down to a couple hundred words, turning it into a literary sphincter that grips the reader with strength and persistence, forcing him to cry out for the release of knowing more. You must also hit just the right balance of confidence and supplication. You’re luring, baiting, enticing. And then gripping! Gripping HARD!

Everything must be targeted. Your manuscript must fit a genre, and you better know which one it is. The agent you choose to entreat must be a proponent of said genre, and you better know his background, too.

Many potential agents require a synopsis. Think of it as a query on steroids. Longer. Bigger. But it must retain that sphincter-like quality that sucks the reader in. It must be emotional and immediate, demanding a right to exist.

Many publishers also require you have a website; someplace where they can browse your personality, your ‘voice,’ to greater depth. Or maybe they just want a good laugh while eating a tuna sandwich at their desk, about who’s out there banging on their door.

All of this is well and good for the most part. It puts you through your paces, forcing you to see your work from different angles. Sometimes it leads to a moment of revelation, resulting in a great, big, fat rewrite. Sometimes it just makes you calm down enough to abandon the idea of grabbing agents by the lapels and shaking them because they don’t see what a terrific find you are.

But the part of submission that hits me like a sea-change, is the attitude adjustment.

All this time you’ve been The Creator. The Sole Authority. The one gifted with divine inspiration to tell your story as no other can.

And now, with the click of a key and the flip of a switch…you’re a beggar. A supplicant.

And you realize that submission isn’t only the act of presenting your work. It’s the act of bending your knee and bowing your head and hoping someone will hear the squeak of your voice that was once a roar as it crafted words into marvels of imagination.

This is submission. Expose your belly.

Welcome to Hell.

submissivedog

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poem

Nymph

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A water nymph with ice-white eyes
Watches nearby as the sailor dies.
No pity within her liquid heart
For a creature who doesn’t know the art
Of ocean travel through wind and storm,
Since leagues from land, such is the norm.

Her pearly skin glows and shines;
Lighting his way as he sinks in the brine.
A gift from the nymph to a silly mortal;
A vision of wonder as he enters the portal
Where his breath will stop and his mind will fill
With sea-borne phantoms as his heart falls still.

The nymph smiles as he slips beneath the foam,
Knowing his spirit now enters her home.
Tonight as storms darken the sky,
The sailor will learn that he did not die.
His bones and hair and soul will change
Into something enduring, rich and strange.

The water nymph’s salty kisses will stir
A transformation, if he wishes, into one like her;
A creature of river and sea and stream
Of ice and chill and rain and steam.
Hand in hand the nymph and her mate will go
Wherever currents pull and waters flow.

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writing

The Doggerel Dump

Once upon a time, poetry was, first and foremost, an exercise in rhyming.

No more.

In fact, most literati besmirch the humble rhyme, calling it a ‘hard sell’ if you want to submit such a gasping, grasping creature for publication. And yet, it is still the form of poetry with which most children forge their first connection to the art. So maybe because of that early exposure, the simple rhyme still catches my attention and dictates my own words.

I enjoy the rhythm. The beat. The way it catches the heart and propels the reader forward.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the other kind as well. But the small poetry-beast in me that was first enticed forward to sample this marvelous dance of words and ideas and musicality in the form of nursery tales, still pricks its ears forward in the presence of rhyme.

And sometimes…the little beast doesn’t just sample; it stays to consume the entire meal.

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poem

Shadow People

shadow people

Shadow people live
In the corners of his mind.
Incessant conversations
Of the most unholy kind.

He tries not to listen,
But the voices are so loud,
Drowning out his reason,
He is swallowed by their crowd.

Tiny little demons,
Or angels – he’s not sure –
Demanding his surrender,
Insisting there’s no cure.

He’s tired of the battle;
There’s no one on his side.
Doctors, drugs and clinics
Leave him nowhere else to hide.

So he’s thinking maybe this time
He’ll listen to their voices;
Shadow people in the corners
Defining all his choices.

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poem

Urbana

 

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When streetlights dim and pavement steams,
When passions peak and neon screams,
The urban fairy takes a chance
And breaks into her glamour dance.

As smokestacks turn the sky to red
And children are all sent to bed,
She leaves her lair and paints her skin,
Damp with fragrance sweet as sin.

Her laugh like chimes drifts on the night
Sometimes heard…almost…not quite.
It stirs the trash lying in the gutter.
Makes mortal hearts speed and flutter.

Her flight has sound that whines and shreds
And enters the dreams of those in bed.
A sleeping metropolis unaware
Of enchantment spun in polluted air.

Given the chance, she wouldn’t change
These concrete canyons with their magic strange.
She lifts her wings at a squad car’s lights,
She loves the wild city nights.

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