Category: Life


The Writing Life

January 14th, 2020 — 3:16pm

or, Things You Might Not Suspect About Me.

I can spend a lot of time debating between ‘invective’ and ‘expletive.’

A lot of time.

Happily, doing so is my actual job right now.

(Wait for the upcoming novel to discover which I chose, or if both ended up on the cutting room floor.)

Which to use?

4 comments » | Books, Life, Things You Might Not Suspect, Words

Fat Stacks (of paper)

January 6th, 2020 — 9:10pm

I’m finally back to work after my long, fantastic Christmas vacation and recovery from that vacation. The job is the almost-final round of edits on the novel due out in a year or so. A big undertaking. Sometimes tedious. Always satisfying. In many ways it’s the best part of a project. I’m done being scared and unsure; now I polish. Exchange passive verbs for active ones. Coax characters into more interesting moves than shrugging, smiling, and sighing. Eradicate scores of adverbs and adjectives. Sand transitions smoother.

Yesterday I cleaned my loft office in preparation for printing the book and reading it out loud. (Softly.)

Here’s a portion of the acres of paper I’ve produced in regard to this story:

Fat Stacks of Paper

There is more where that came from.

If I ponder all the iterations, the stops and restarts and angst, my shoulders droop. At the same time, I’m filled with contentment. I sat in front of the wood stove just over there, following my character to the local tavern in her search for a place to rent. Here, the fire crackled; in the story, the juke box played Warren Zevon and and an old friend showed up and rubbed her shoulders. I rode the ferry to Beaver Island listening to Of a Revolution sing “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker” through my ear buds; the sun shone, the lake chopped, a chummy mahogany-colored lab wandered about the boat deck, and then right into the manuscript.

One night in the winter of 2015, I lay on my couch, itchy with panic. I phoned my late brother, Matt. Words tumbled; I stared wide-eyed into the dark as I scratched around for a way to make this book work. I asked his advice for a section of the action. As a man and as a middle school principal, he knew a lot about a great many things.

My panic receded as we talked; I slept better that night than I had in a while. It bloomed again many times, but what a treasure that bleak evening is now. And there near the end of the third quarter of the story–there’s where I was working. Matt is gone but his help lives on.

On another day that winter, he gave me a bit of input I jotted down on a one-inch Post-it. It turned up in the cleaning yesterday. I nodded at it, smiling. I’ll keep it, and the paper, close.

"I think you should focus on why they did do something, rather than why they didn't," Matt said.

6 comments » | At Home, Life, Words

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