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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

So, I’m slowly building my editing business…..

……and it’s starting to take shape.  I have a few potential clients and am creating a website designed for this purpose.  My portfolio is beginning to look respectable and I’m excited to see where this will take me.  Yes, it means taking time away from my own writing to help others shape theirs.  However, by tackling issues in someone else’s work, it will help clarify similar ones that I’m having with my own work.

Most of my work will be focused on managing website content for local businesses.  Keeping the information short, to the point and exciting helps direct traffic to their site and then to their business, which encourages cash flow.  Marketing pamphlets and press releases will also fall under the umbrella of my business.

Will I be tackling manuscripts?  Yes, and I’ve already got a couple of potential clients.  My own experiences with my editor taught me a lot on what to look for and what to ask.  My goal is to help the writer shape their work into the best possible story it can be.  Beyond that, is up to the writer.  Just like it’s up to me to push my work into published form.

As mentioned earlier, I’m excited to see where this business will take me.  It involves words, I love words and it’s something I’m very good at.

So, I got hooked on Grey’s Anatomy a couple of months ago……

……. thanks to Lifetime Network and their habit of airing half a dozen episodes five days a week (it repeats to the first episode of season 1 after the last episode of season 10).  I’m surprised at how much I like it, considering that my memories of the show when it first aired were decidedly not impressed.  I’ve been wondering why it took me this long to get sucked into the daily life of Seattle-Grace turned Grey Sloane Hospital and my only conclusion thus far is that, like anything else in life, there is a timing for everything.

And seriously, what’s not to like about this show?  Women are allowed to be silly and strong and angry and loving and emotional on this show (and its spin-off, Private Practice, which I preferred over Grey’s at the time).  No one comments on it, except as a response – a woman getting pissed off is actually respected by the male characters as having a reason for being pissed off, not just dismissed as unimportant.

This is due to Shonda Rhimes’ vision and direction and she has chosen writers, producers and directors to further that vision.

There are characters I don’t really like (Karev, Arizona, George), despite their moments of pure generosity and humanity;  there are characters I really like because of their utter awkward goofiness (Lexie, April);  I like the friendship between Callie and Mark, who keep the lines and boundaries clear, regardless of where it goes;  I like Derek and Meredith’s faith in each other, despite the heartache and pitfalls;  and I absolutely love and admire the almost Victorian courtship of Owen Hunt and Christina Yang that didn’t entirely hide the raw passion between them.

Of all the characters on the show, Christina Yang has emerged as one of my favorites.  She doesn’t have time for bullshit, she doesn’t have time for niceties, she just wants to work in surgery and be the best in order to save lives.  Sandra Oh brings that hard-edged, unapologetic character to life so fully, that it would be impossible to picture anyone else in that role.  Yang may not have the best bedside manner, but if she’s there to save your life, I rather think the latter is more important than the former.  I’d certainly want her as my doctor and surgeon because I know she’d fight like hell to keep me alive.

No spoilers on Seasons 11 through 13, please!!!

So, after six years with nothing but an idea…..

…….a time frame, and one chapter, I finally found the story to the sequel to Secrets & Howls.  If Novel Now Finished gave me insight to its own sequel (and it did), as well as the first couple of pages, then I feel confident that it also gave me a window into two characters that featured prominently in S&I.

And I’m excited about that, because I genuinely like these characters.  I’d like to get to know their story better, of how they met, how they became lovers and what led to their decision to have their relationship play out as it did.  The questions I have for them run deep and I suspect that more than one surprise will happen when I finally dig in.  Of course, there will be plot threads from S&H running throughout the sequel.  Those threads will be tying into different time-frames that I’d set up for the world of Wolf’s Head Bay.

Some threads will be tied into a neat and tidy knot, others will serve to create more questions to be answered in succeeding books.  As is my plan for my other series, I’m planning five books total for the village of Wolf’s Head Bay, with a few short stories thrown in.  I have an overview of how my supernaturally themed stories tie in to each other and I think that’s why I like them so much.  These stories have a kind of depth that is demanded of me, and so I throw everything into them, including the kitchen sink. [1]

I’m interested in seeing how this sequel turns out.  One scene meant for S&H is being utilized in this story, but with some minor differences.  I keep everything I write, in part because these cut bits are really good when I read them.  And they got cut because, as it evolved, these bits no longer served the story.  But I knew I could use them elsewhere.

And I did.  And now it’s time to find out what happens next.

What secrets lie hidden in this small, coastal village?

[1] Not really, but it feels like it.

So, I finished revisions on Novel Now Finished…….

…….and I feel pretty good about it.  Granted, I merged to short chapters to make a more robust single chapter, effectively losing one.  And I had to go through the tedious process of re-naming two minor characters and almost missed a couple of places.  Also, there was the general clean-up of the timeline and removal of dialogue that conflicted with said timeline.

The Manuscript in Question.

Still, it was well worth the effort and I feel very pleased.  As soon as I’m able and depending on availability, it then goes back to my editor with her laser gaze and keen intellect.  If it hadn’t been for her, I would not have gotten Novel Now Finished to its current state.

Now, as I set it aside once more to percolate, I’ve found myself thinking about two characters who appear only once.  They have a short scene that takes place in 1924 and both characters figure prominently in my first published novel, Secrets & Howls.

Outside the narrator of Novel Now Finished, they are my favorite characters.  I’m fascinated with their relationship, their passion and their places in the world.  In Secrets & Howls, they are older, wiser and still very much in love with each other, though they live their lives separately, a choice that seems to suit them.  In Novel Now Finished, they are young and impetuous, bold and secure.

I think they deserve their own story.  I want to get to know them and their world a little better and see how their lives unfold.  Maybe a short story, or a novella.  It needs to be something that will compliment the world I’m building.

Something to chew on, anyway.

So, I’m about thirty chapters into Novel Now Finished revision…..

……and it’s going.  I’ve finally worked out the timeline of the novel from beginning to end and it comes out to about a week.  While there’s a lot going on, the bulk of the action seems to be happening on the weekend, beginning on Friday and ending on Monday.

A lot always seems to happen on the weekend.

Had I thought about it a little more, I would have set up Novel Now Finished much in the same way that I had set up Secrets & Howls.  In that book, I had designed it to take place over the course of a week.  To clarify this point, I placed an independent page stating the day of the week, followed by the chapters that took place over the course of that day and then ended the day with a segment of a letter from 1852.  Then it would start all over again, until the novel ended with the final fragment from 1852.

But it was also a different kind of story than Novel Now Finished, which had always felt more fluid with its time than structured.  This is in part due to the fact that Secrets & Howls is told primarily in third person, with the ability to dip into the lives of various other characters and places without breaking the narrative.  Novel Now Finished is told in first person and, with very few exceptions, remains that way throughout.

Still, in keeping a timeline for any novel, it helps to keep the story’s continuity flowing and if you’re really on top of it, you’ll catch errors before it goes into print.  Whether it’s in third, first or second Point of View, it’s a helpful aid in keeping track of your characters and their actions within the story.

All I can say now is, whew!

The Manuscript in Question.

 

So, I’m revising Novel Now Finished…..

……and apparently, it decided that, yes, there is indeed a timeline.  Which I already knew about, because the bulk of the story takes place a few weeks before summer.  I wasn’t particular about the exact dates beyond the number of days between separate incidents.  And for the most part, it seemed to work swimmingly.

Except, now I’m going through and cutting needless words and cleaning up paragraphs that are left behind.  And the more I cut and revise and clean up, the clearer the story becomes.  And the clearer the story gets, the more details I’m finding about the timeline.  Vague, throwaway lines like “Oh, it happened a few days ago” will find it harder to survive.  Concise statements like “It was on Sunday” will take over.

So now, I’ve got a Word document in place to keep track of the timeline and help minimize confusion (which would be mine). This will also help keep it clear and concise for readers (which would be you, if I may be so lucky).  As of today, I’ve managed to track one week, beginning with a case of vandalism.  It’s a few sentences long, with the timeline basically being the day of the week, followed by a dash (-) and a short sentence describing the event that occurred on that day.

I haven’t decided on actual dates beyond the month, but that will change at some point.  I’m a little over a hundred pages into the revision as I write this blog, but as I go along, that timeline will grow and become as detailed as necessary.

And then I’ll go back and do it all over again.

The Manuscript in Question.

So, I’ve been brushing up on my editing skills…..

…….by looking over the first chapter of an acquaintance’s novel.  It’s been a while and I was more than a little nervous, because it’s different editing the work of someone you know (even slightly) than the work of someone you don’t know.

There’s that added pressure of not wanting to hurt or bruise feelings as you go through their words and say, “That sentence strikes a nice image, but take out ten words” or “Reduce that paragraph to two or three lines”.  But you gird your loins and you wade in and you do your best to give them clear, concise notes on how to excavate the story buried underneath a mountain of words, like an archaeologist sifts through dirt to find the relics.

Because that’s how I view a completed manuscript – as an archaeological site that is pristine and untouched.  Editing is the tool used to dig and sift and brush away the excess to unearth what lies beneath.  Michaelangelo had a similar point of view – he didn’t carve the statue of David out of marble, he simply whittled away at the excess, freeing what was already inside the slab.

My own experiences with the editor of my Novel Now Finished taught me a lot as I prepared to go over that first chapter.  And I discovered that I still have that skill to edit, to offer notes and suggestions.  It was rusty from disuse, but there, and the notes I made for my acquaintance helped him enormously.  I feel confident in that skill again.  And I plan to move forward and keep doing it.  Not only am I working on a marketable skill, but it helps me to improve my own writing.

Complementary skills, writing and editing.  And useful.

Suggested reading:
On Writing by Stephen King

Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967) by Joan Lindsay

Description:

It was a cloudless summer day in the year 1900. Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of the secluded volcanic outcropping. Farther, higher, until at last they disappeared. They never returned. . . .

The first time I read Picnic at Hanging Rock, I was maybe 13 or 14 and had come straight off seeing of the movie of the same name (directed by Peter Weir) on TV.  Both the book and the film carry the narrative in a strangely quiet way, trusting the story to invite and beguile readers and viewers for years to come.  For me, with my love for all things unexplained and mysterious and slightly supernatural, that made it all the more haunting.

In my recent re-read of the book, I was reminded once again of how the quiet voice of the omnipresent narrator slips past one’s guard.  It insinuates itself into one’s thoughts as it tells the story of a women’s school in 1900 Australia.  Like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House or We Have Always Lived in the Castle, the subtleties at play require one’s full attention or you’ll miss the clues that paint the final picture.

There are a variety of characters that work against and play off of each other – from unpleasant and cruel (Mrs. Appleyard), to the ethereal (Miranda), to the lost and hopeless (Sara).  And while there are a few male characters one might think of as leads (Arthur and Mike), this is primarily a story about women.  It’s about how, in the aftermath of the events at Hanging Rock, their lives change from existing in the protective web of their expected roles in society to the uncertainty of life’s cruelties and uknowns.

Told in the frame-work of being based on actual events, Picnic at Hanging Rock has haunted many readers over the years.  It has also inspired many amateur detectives determined to solve the mystery of two missing schoolgirls and their teacher.

In essence, the book and the movie are to 1967 what The Blair Witch Project was to 1999.

My rating: 5 out of 5.

This haunting tale can be found at your local bookstore or online.

So, I’m plugging along on my Ancient Greek Comedy….

……and I can feel the tangents wanting to take off and create something new.  This is exciting to me, because it means that this play has a lot to say, that there’s more depth to it than I had originally anticipated.  But because these tangents are too nebulous and without form, I’m making them wait until this revision is finished.

I know, I know, I’m being terribly mean to these tangents.  I mean, they only want to help my Ancient Greek comedy become something truly magnificent.

And I can’t argue with that, because I want the same thing.  Still, this revision has to happen first and then the tangents can come in and do as they please.  If it makes anyone feel any better about it, I write these tangents down to remember them.  That is, if there’s something solid enough to write down.

In any case, I’m delighted to see characters that I’d written out make their way back in,  One character has regained his speech after I took it away from him.  Issues that I have strong ideas and feelings about are working their way in, which is only right.  Theater, and the arts in general, are about exploring ideas (good, bad, ugly) and politics and feelings.  The arts are here to make us think, not just make us feel.  There is something at work within the confines of this play that I can’t readily identify, but it’s exciting to me.

And that’s a very good thing.

Title and cast list of Hotel Mt. Olympus.

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