Waiting Game and Writing

Hello, friends,

Since my last check-in, I had the blood work I mentioned.  I expected my iron to be low and possibly my B-12.  But I never expected what happened instead…  My “sed rate” (short for erythrocyte sedimentation rate, also known as ESR) came back high.  It’s supposed to be between 0 and 20, and mine was 125.  (Zoinks!)

bariumSoooo… needless to say, my doctor ordered a bunch of extra tests, more blood work, a CAT scan (hence the nasty barium you see here!), an x-ray, and other stuff.  The x-ray already came back fine.  The second sed rate test came back elevated again.  And I don’t yet know the ANA and Rheumatoid Factor test results, nor the CAT scan results.  As far as I know, I have to go back again next week for yet another sed rate test.  I don’t know what he’ll order next depending on the other results.  But until I know something, I’m still plugging away trying to make it through the day without puking or needing a nap!  I’ll keep you posted as I learn anything.

In other news… Since I’ve been too exhausted to spend much time at the computer writing anything new, I’ve been taking some of my printed manuscripts to bed and trying to commit to editing at least a few pages each night.  I believe I’ve made it through all the obvious typos, misspellings, bad or missing punctuation, etc.  (Printing it out really makes quite a difference in catching these little blunders as far as not seeing the same thing as my eyes have passed over on the computer screen so many times before.)

I’ve let a few people (including a few of you) read some of these manuscripts before, and many of you had some remarkable suggestions.  But there was one manuscript – The Prison – which I’ve only let a couple of people even see.  It was the first one I wrote, and I wrote it before I learned and became obsessed with “The Rules.”  You may remember my frustrations when my exact-word orientation from my Autism got in the way of “just writing” once I learned there were so many dos and don’ts.  I got so hung up on The Rules, that I wasn’t able to “just write” anymore, and as I’ve been re-reading, I wince as I see how much I held back.

Don’t get me wrong, I (now) think The Rules are a good thing (for the most part), though my Autistic brain still wishes they were called “The Suggestions” instead.  What I realized was that my first manuscript had so much more “feeling” behind it and felt less “mechanical” than the others.  When I asked myself why, I came to a conclusion:  I used a lot more similes and strong descriptions in The Prison than I used in my other works.   The sad thing is, I know exactly why I did this as well…  I got so stuck on “Show Don’t Tell” (of The Rules), that I was afraid I was “telling” too much, so I deleted almost all instances of these types of phrases and sentences in my subsequent work.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of my problem was due to an article I read that instructed me:  “In order to show and not tell, you have to write as if you’re describing what’s happening to a blind person.”  So, I did just that.  And in doing so, I added a lot of stage direction (a LOT of stage direction!) as well as clumsy description that sounded as if I were telling the story of cyborgs rather than people!

For example:  After learning The Rules and allowing myself to become obsessed with adhering to them — or else!–, I wrote:

Neil’s face turned scarlet as he jumped to his feet.  His chair fell to the floor, and he narrowed his eyes.  “What did you do?” 

Rivers grabbed her arm as hot soup splattered on her.  Tears formed in her eyes.  “I’m sorry.”

He grabbed her shoulders tightly and put his face close to hers, then without saying a word, he released her and spun on his heel.

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Ugh!  Isn’t that just awful?  It feels so cold and mechanical.  I’m embarrassed to think I actually allowed people to read my work like that!

Now, I’ve changed a lot of sterile scenes like that to be something more like this:

Neil jumped to his feet.  His face was flaming, and he appeared to be six inches taller than he already was. His eyes penetrated Rivers’ as he glared at her with repugnance.  “What did you do?” 

Rivers’ voice caught in her throat, and she began to tremble. “I’m sorry,” she said under her breath.  Tears streamed like twin rivulets down her cheeks as she tried to ignore the hot soup that splattered on her arm.

He huffed and grabbed her shoulders, digging his fingers into her flesh.  He pulled her so close, she could feel his hot breath on her face. 

She attempted to explain, but her voice caught in her throat like a lump of clay suffocating her.  Before she could speak, he grimaced and released her as if she had the plague.

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Isn’t that much better?  The sad thing is, that’s roughly how I wrote in the first place, (though I admit I had a bad habit of changing points of view as well as making the scenes too short and choppy…  Those are some of The Rules that are actually a good idea to follow.)  So, as I’ve been able, I’ve been slowly making the changes to a lot of these old works and trying to get them in their best possible shape once and for all.

 Anyway, that’s what I’ve up to lately, friends.  What about YOU?

Things are looking DOWN…

Hello, friends.  Last week when I told you things were looking up after my recent gallbladder surgery, I apparently evaluated my condition prematurely.  Today, I am EXTREMELY ANNOYED to say the least.  The VERY least.

In fact, please pardon the “French,” but I’m fucking pissed!  If you have a weak stomach, you’ll probably want to skip the rest of this paragraph and the next one.*  I was feeling a lot better after my surgery.  They gave me two to three weeks off work instead of just one because of all the pus that was in my gallbladder and the fact that I’m allergic to antibiotics.  So I was working half days and still getting pretty worn out from just four hours of office work, but still, I was hopeful that things were definitely improving.

Then on Tuesday, just two weeks post surgery, I woke up with a “tummy ache,” and my belly was more swollen than it had been at my post surgery check-up the Friday before.  I went to work for the morning, and while I was there, I just felt “off.”  People started telling me I looked grey and not good at all.  When I came home for the day at lunchtime, I ate some broth and crackers soaked in broth (which was my only meal of the day).  About an hour later, I puked broth and crackers.  Then I had three more rounds of puke, which can only be described as black sludge!  And in that black sludge, there were four “hard things” that looked like cat turd and were the size and shape of a tube of Chapstick!  (Keep in mind, I ate nothing solid.)  I won’t even disgust you further by describing the foul stench.  HOW NASTY!

*The weak at heart can continue reading here –>  So I immediately called the surgeon’s office and spoke to his nurse, and said, “I think I just vomited feces.”  She told me the doc was in surgery for the rest of the day, but if I felt it was an emergency, I should go to the hospital.  Otherwise, she’d talk to the doc and call me the next morning.

The next morning, I was even more swollen, and I hadn’t heard from anyone by 9:30 (they open at 8:00), so I called them back.  The nurse told me to go to the lab and get bloodwork and an x-ray.  So I got the bloodwork, then the x-ray.  The x-ray tech had me take off my bra because it had metal wires, but she said I could wear my pants because they were elastic (because I was so swollen) and had no metal.  She ran two x-rays then called in her supervisor.  There was “something metal” showing up near my left ovary.

They checked my pants, my panties, my gown, and the table, and found no metal.  They asked me repeatedly if I was “sure” I never had any other surgeries on the left side.  (Did I forget being sliced open before?   Uh, NO!  Of course I haven’t had more surgeries that I forgot about!)  So they assumed it was on the film, and ran a second set of x-rays.  When the metal showed up again, they ran a third set.  It showed up in all three sets.  It’s about the size of a pinky fingernail.  I asked to see, and they showed me.  It’s definitely something that was NOT there in the x-rays I had three weeks ago before surgery.

So I got home before noon and waited for the doctor to call me with the results.  (I have to wonder if the titanium clip they put on during my gallbladder removal didn’t slip off…  I did NOT see the gallbladder clip on the x-rays, but then again, I only looked briefly, and I was looking at the foreign metal.)  When the doctor hadn’t called by 3:45, I called, and his nurse said they didn’t have the results in yet (even though it’s from the same facility), and she’d call me as soon as they did.  I told her my concern about the metal, and she made a note of it.

Today, I woke up even more swollen, and I went to work.  I expected to get a call telling me they need to schedule surgery to remove this thing (and possibly put it back where it belongs).  When I didn’t get a call by 9:45, I called them and was told that the doctor and nurse were both in surgery until the afternoon.  The nurse called me close to 1:00, and said the doctor says my x-ray results are “fine.”  I asked about the metal thing, and she put me on hold then said he again said I’m fine.  I reminded her how swollen I am, and she put me on hold yet again, then said the doctor said he doesn’t believe it’s related to surgery and I should make an appointment with my primary care doctor.  I then got a little postal.  Just a little.  I told her I was rather perturbed, to say the least, that two days ago I called to tell her I’m puking shit, I’m swollen several inches, and the doctor hasn’t even wanted to see me, and two days later he tells me to see someone else!

So I called the GI doctor (from the same facility) who referred me to the surgeon, and his nurse was with patients, so I told my story to the lady who answered.  Only this time, I was a bit more forceful.  I asked if I needed to make an appointment with him, or perhaps if I needed to make an appointment with a different facility altogether to get a second opinion.  She said the doctor was booked, but she referred me to their after-hours annex where I am supposed to be in about an hour.

What’s really frustrating is that with tomorrow being Friday, if this annex doctor also tells me things are fine, I don’t foresee being able to get an appointment anywhere else until next week at earliest, not to mention being able to obtain copies of all my films and records to take.  So I’ll keep swelling over the weekend and hopefully not die before I talk to you all again, not that these turkeys seem to care.  (And people wonder why I have such mistrust for most doctors.)

I’M SOOOOO ANGRY!

Anyway, that’s the update, friends.  Thank you for allowing me to vent.  I hope you all have a much better weekend than I’ll probably have.  I miss you guys!

-R.

On Editing

Tap, tap, tap.  (Tapping my microphone.)  Is this thing on? 

Well, folks, I thought I’d have a nice little Tuesday segment during the summer that all of us writers could participate in and share and enjoy, but I can’t get anyone else to play along.  Don’t YOU want to share some of your editing tips and tricks with us here?  In exchange for your participation, you’ll get a shameless plug for your book(s) as well as a heartfelt thank you from many of my followers.

Too many of you seem to think that you don’t do anything special or you don’t know anything that everyone else doesn’t know.  But that’s not necessarily true.  We all do things a little differently, and we want to hear from YOU.  What do you say?

If you’d like to play along, please email your responses to the following questions to my email address below, and include any photos and/or links of you and your blog and your work so we can purchase it.

  1. Please share one to three tips or tricks that you use when editing your work, how specifically you use them, and why they work for you.
  1. What was your biggest repeated mistake when you first started writing? What’s your weakest point of editing and why?
  1. Have you used any editing methods previously that just didn’t work for you? If so, what were they, and why didn’t they work?
  1. Please tell us something about your current work in progress or your most recent completed work (or both), and tell us where we can purchase your book(s).
  1. If you have any other news to share with us, please feel free to do so now.

On Editing

A while back, I posted a call to all writers who wanted to share their editing tips, and up next on my offer was my good friend and blogging sister, Claire Luana.  If you don’t already follow Claire’s blog, you’ll want to hope on over there right now and hit the Follow button!  Anyway, here’s Claire…

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Please share one to three tips or tricks that you use when editing your work, how specifically you use them, and why they work for you.

When I am hitting a rough patch in editing, I change the format. Somehow, sitting in front of the computer looking at the same screen for hours on end can kill my editing mojo. When I was doing a developmental edit of my current WIP, Moonburner, I started writing plot points on post-it notes and moving them around. When I hit another bump in the road, I created a non-linear map of how all my subplots connected, so I could look at the whole universe of it together.

For my latest edit, I printed my manuscript out and read it like a book. I highlighted areas that tripped me up or didn’t sound quite right, but didn’t go back and edit them until later, to keep myself in “reader” mode, rather than “editing” mode. I have found that the change in perspective from something purely mental to something a bit more tangible has made a huge difference for me when I am stuck.

What was your biggest repeated mistake when you first started writing?  What is your weakest point of editing and why?

I haven’t been writing for very long, so I am not sure I have fixed my biggest mistakes yet! As far as process, it was a mistake for me to over-outline. I am a very type-A person and so I assumed that I would be a “plotter,” not a “pantser.” I spent several months outlining, creating character sketches, even finding photos for my characters to put into my Scrivener folders! But when I actually sat down to write, I couldn’t even get past the first chapter. My overanalyzing of the story before it even began crippled my creativity. I ended up scrapping the whole project and starting from scratch on another idea with a one-page outline. It flowed amazingly!

I would also say it is a mistake (for me at least) to read books on the craft of writing and editing while I am in the process. It makes me start to doubt myself and go back and end up in a revision spiral. It is better for me to read a book on craft, absorb those lessons, and then sit down to my writing and editing with those things in mind. Mid-stream just didn’t work for me.

As for my weakest point of editing, it is definitely large scale, developmental editing. I have spent a fair amount of time in my professional career with copyediting and line-editing; I feel comfortable with grammatical rules and the Chicago Manual of Style. What still feels like a foreign language are the big things: character arcs, weaving sub-plots, theme, etc. All the aspects of editing for what makes a story compelling, rather than what makes good writing. I am still learning how to get my hands around the scope of a novel without feeling overwhelmed. Any tips would be appreciated 🙂

Have you used any editing methods previously that just didn’t work for you? If so, what were they, and why didn’t they work?

Editing from the beginning, over and over again, without utilizing different methods or focusing for different elements. I spent about three edits just plodding through my work, looking for the same things as I edited. I would get increasingly cavalier about my edits as I continued, meaning the beginning of the work is much tighter than the middle or end. I have learned that each of my edits should be unique–focused on a particular element(s) of the work. And if you are copy-editing, maybe start from the end and work your way backward!

Please tell us something about your current work in progress or your most recent completed work (or both), and tell us where we can purchase your book(s).

I am currently working on my first novel, a young adult fantasy novel called Moonburner. The synopsis:

Kai lives in Kita, where female sorcerers, moonburners, are hunted down and killed at birth. Her parents raise her as a boy in order to hide her true nature until she comes of age and can flee to neighboring Miina, where moonburners are trained and fight in the ongoing war with Kita.

Kai’s carefully laid plans are dashed when she is exposed as a moonburner and sentenced to death. In keeping with Kita’s cruel tradition, Kai is left to die in a vast desert bordering the two lands. Against all odds, Kai survives the desert and makes it to the citadel in Kita to begin her training.

As Kai struggles to learn to control her moonburning powers, she begins to realize that all is not as it seems at the citadel, and that the ongoing war against Kita has led the citadel leadership down a dark path that could spell the end of all burners. Kai discovers that her ties to the moonburners run deep, and that she holds the future of both Kita and Miina in her hands.

Moonburner is currently with beta readers and I am hopeful that I will begin submitting to agents in September. I am fully expecting that I won’t get any timely bites from agents, though, so I am also exploring self-publishing options!

I am loving connecting with other authors, editors, and writers, so please check out my blog at shotandahalfpint.wordpress.com!

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Thank you, Claire, for such wonderful tips!  (I really like the part about keeping it in “reader mode” versus jumping back and forth to “editor mode.”)  Now, who’s up next?  If you’re game, please contact me at: