Writing From The Back Burner

After much consideration over the past week concerning my second novel work in progress, I’ve decided to wrap up work on the first part (1/3) and clear off the back burner until I start editing for the first draft of my first novel in October. This wasn’t an easy decision.

First, I no longer have the motivation to continue writing the second novel since I have a self-imposed editing deadline for the first novel, and I didn’t want to stop in middle of part two when I could make a clean break after finishing part one.

Second, since the second novel is a diversion between editing rounds of the first novel, I couldn’t give it my fullest attention without impacting the first novel. The second novel requires a complete breakdown analysis of the first part before I can outline and write the next two parts. An extended break should help with that.

Third, the back burner has unfinished short stories and poems that I would like to finish and clear out before I start something new. With the summer break coming to an end at many short story magazine publishers, I’m expecting a flood of returned SASEs bearing rejection slips, some acceptance letters, and no money to pay for anything. I’m always tweaking or rewriting a piece to make it better before sending out again. These admin tasks always take more time if I don’t plan for it.

Maybe I’m too lazy to pound out a 400-page rough draft of a novel in three months, or maybe six months is a suitable amount of time to write a novel. I hope editing my first novel goes faster than that. If everything works out, I’ll be working on the second part of my second novel in January. Or maybe not.

NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.

The Middle Is Where The Story Dies

The 700-page rough draft of my first novel took a year to write. I spent the last two months writing the first 130 pages of a 400-page rough draft for my second novel that I planned to get done next month before I start editing for the next draft of the first novel in October. I’m only one-third done, stuck at the beginning of the middle, and uncertain what to do yet. I’ve been wallowing in a writing funk for the last few weeks that isn’t related to my recent birthday funk. Recalling my experience with the first novel and reexamining the half dozen short stories that I started but abandon after a few pages, the middle is where a story can and often does die.

Writing something new is always exciting. Unless the story is very short (say five pages or less), the excitement wears off in a hurry and writing becomes work. That’s the problem I have: work. While the beginning and sometimes the ending tends to write themselves with little effort on my part, writing the middle is all work trying to bridge the beginning and the ending. Work that I don’t enjoy tends to make me want to do something else that’s more fun and exciting.

The middle of my first novel felt like stringing a rope bridge across a deep chasm without any help. I forced myself to start writing one bloody page after another until what I written became the bridge needed to cross the chasm. The structure was seven parts with seven chapters each that kept me from falling into the abyss.

The middle of my second novel felt more like climbing the high wall of an obstacle course and getting stuck on top with no one to push me over if only to see me land on my face. That’s probably because I’m experimenting more with this novel—shorter chapters, flexible POVs, and naming all the characters—to avoid repeating myself. Writing fast and dirty to get the main story down, but also taking care to avoid the sprawling mess of the first draft and respecting the deadline that I set.

What to do about this horrible middle?

There are several options but none will have the second novel done any sooner before the deadline. I can keep writing until the deadline, ending the story halfway through. I can stop at the one-third mark to clean up what I have written so far and outline the middle. Or stop at the one-third mark and finished the abandon short stories for the next month. All three options appeal to me in one way or another.

Maybe I need to buy a Magic Eight Ball to decide this one.

NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.

The Big Four-Oh Whatever

The last two weeks been the week before and the week after my birthday (August 7th) where I been in deep thought—very dangerous but the planet didn’t explode—trying to answer the one essential question in life: What does the big four-oh really mean?

The answer: Not a whole lot.

Physically, I don’t feel all that different.  Still working out at the gym and eating less to lose weight (lost ten pounds over the last month).  I have  a compulsive desire to remain clean shaven.  I’m now shaving every day since shaving every other day wasn’t cutting it anymore.  I still miss my Amish beard from a few years ago.  Emotionally, I’m still melancholy as usual when contemplating my past and my future.  All of which is tied to my work as a writer rather than growing older.

The rough draft of my first novel is on ice until I start editing in October.  The rough draft of my second novel is floundering at the one-third mark (middles are so exciting), and may be abandon when the time comes.  Other projects are dying on the back burner.  Being unemployed for six months is creating a lot of uncertainty with some days being like this or like that, and that’s affecting my ability to write.  (No, it’s not writer’s block; I can still write myself out of a paper bag if I can find the cattle prod.)  If I was writing full time, I would be doing a very poor job indeed.

The worst part is all my short stories and poems (40 pieces) are still circulating in the slush piles, and I’m on pins-and-needles waiting for a response.  August can be a cruel month for waiting for something—anything—to arrive by mail or email.  Everyone in the publishing world is on vacation.

The next year will require a lot of hard work as I finish two novels and a short story collection before I look for an agent.  When that happens, I’ll be working on my third novel and waiting for an agent to tell me that I won the publishers sweepstakes.

NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.