Category Archives: Is my book really ready for a last edit?

Biting the Bullet

The choice is easy. The path is not.

The choice is easy. The path is not.

It seems my dilemma with River of Lost Souls has come to an important crossroads. In an earlier post (To Hatch Or Not To Hatch?) I fought with the idea that the book might have resurrected too soon, thus explaining my reluctance to bite the bullet and dive into the arduous task of preparing it for publication.

Have you ever tasted brass laced with lead? It’s not a 5-star delicacy even in an army mess hall. The lead is too soft and the brass is too tough. Irreconcilable textures aside, the taste is flat, and to swallow the lot could mean real trouble.

Try as I might, I couldn’t resolve to bite hard enough and long enough to break through the casing to get to the black powder (as if that would bring just reward for my long-suffering).

So, finally, I did the only sane thing and spit the bullet to the ground and kicked it far enough away to temp me no longer.

That was over a week ago and as of yesterday my decision to bail out continued unflinchingly steadfast.

Today, however, I experienced a revelation: But a moment of heady enlightenment it certainly was not.

River of Lost Souls isn’t a book before its time. It’s a book much too disjointed and unfocused to waste precious time on!

There, now I’ve said it. Now you know. If only you could imagine the realization’s impact on my professionalism.

What? I’ve written a complete book, 150,000 words, and it’s an abysmal failure?

Yep, pretty much. The story is schizophrenic and the focus is worse than Hubble before eyeglasses.

Pardon the hand-wringing and the pathetic whimpering. How could such a thing happen? An entire book a complete waste!

Simmer down, Gary. The book is indeed a train wreck, but at least it traveled down the tracks long enough to crash.

Huh?

Yes, debris covers the rail bed and the right-of-way, and the crash site stinks of spilled diesel and charred remains, but much of what’s left is salvageable.

Salvageable? At what cost? Do you have any idea how much work you’re talking about?

Hey, I’m your alter-ego, buster. Of course I know how much work we’re talking about. Believe me, I’ve no intention of leaving you in a lurch. I’ll be right there with you, through every change of plot, every rewrite of dialogue, through every painful moment of altering the outline, through every wretched throb of trying to piece the wreck back together again.

Yeah, but why bother? Why not toss it and write another book. In my experience, that would be immeasurably easier than rebuilding a disaster.

Because you said earlier that Javier DeSomo is a decent and well-deserving boy. And such a fine youngster should have his coming of age, should he not?

Uh, perhaps. But oh so much work.

But oh so much weakness. Is not a good book worthy of such effort?

Oh my, yes ,,, if the book turns out good. Maybe it derails again. How will I ever endure?

Quit your sniveling.  Had we not learned a few important lessons on the first draft, would we be capable of discrimination now?

I … I guess not.

Are you not partly responsible for the ideal that “Writing is Fun”?

Quit attacking me with simplicity. A rewrite of River of Lost Souls will take months.

Years if you don’t quit stalling. Buck up, Mr. Professional and take you medicine. Javier DeSomo needs to grow up and so do you. The book promises the stars and you quiver like a noodle in a boiling pot. Negativity be gone. Pick up the first piece of wreckage and analyze it. Is it broken or not? Can it be reused? If not, replace it and pick up the next. Just that simple. Writing a good, even a great book isn’t about shortcuts. It’s about recognizing what’s broken and fixing it. Here are your work gloves. Put them on. I’ll take this side of the track and you take the other. We’ll rebuild until we meet in the middle and then Javier DeSomo will have grown up with us along with him.

River of Lost Souls isn’t just about Javier’s coming of age. It’s about our coming of age too.

Pass me the pain ointment, partner. It’s time we turn left and not right.

To Hatch Or Not To Hatch?

Am I first or am I early?

Am I first or am I early?

 

Javier DeSomo, the lead character in my latest book, River of Lost Souls, is a likeable boy. He’s kind, decent, generous, helpful, respectful of his mother and hard working. So, such a fine youngster deserves a strong and meaningful story written about his summer in 1873, when help from a fantastic source attempts to relieve him of the cruel abuse at the hands of Harvey Brampton, a dim-witted bully who uses his mother for fun and beats her son out of meanness.

Could this explain why I, the author, am having difficulty editing the book I completed back in June of 2010?

Yes, a worthy lead character deserves an equally worthy story, and this is where the problem arises.

Honestly, I am having a lot of trouble immersing myself into this project. Several months ago, when my work on Heller’s Canal neared completion, River of Lost Souls found itself at the top of my to–do list. Now, given the difficulty diving into the project has presented, I’m not so sure it didn’t bully its way to the top, much like Harvey Brampton bullied young Javier.

What do I do now that I have declared the official kick-off date to the world by way of this blog?

“Suck it up, wimp,” my right shoulder says. “River of Lost Souls is a much different book than Heller’s Canal. It’s a tale about abuse, rage, small-mindedness, shortsightedness and the courage to endure and prevail with the assistance of some really special friends. Heller’s Canal is an action-packed Western adventure with the depth of whitewash. Naturally, a more complex story requires deeper commitment. ”

“Now wait a minute,” my left shoulder says. “There’s more at stake than a strong commitment. Maybe River of Lost Souls hasn’t incubated long enough to hatch into the exquisite story its premise demands. Hatch it too soon and maybe it dies. At best, it walks through life misshapen and weakened. Maybe it sustains ridicule to ultimately fail out of self-hatred.”

Yes, yes, I see both your points. Right shoulder, your concern for the story is based on my shortcomings as a writer. Gut it up and plow ahead and all will turn out well.

But, left shoulder, your point is based on something more esoteric, shortcomings of a story that is related before its time — a premature rendering from which there is no recovery.

So the question now becomes which is most important, whether I ignore my doubts and get with the labor at hand, or whether I don’t force my will on a story that hasn’t matured yet?

Oh my, what should I do?

Here’s where experience comes to the rescue.

Gary, didn’t you have similar difficulties committing to Heller’s Canal (and other books) in the beginning?

Uh, yes, I did.

Well, there you go. We’ve been down this path before, so keep walking.

Okay, I’ll keep walking already. But what happens if my foreboding worsens?

Then we readdress the question. Nothing is set in stone. Understand that it is always hard to dive into a book and begin to tear it apart thought by thought and word by word. If at some reasonable time in the future you still have misgivings, we will talk again.

All right … sometime in the future.

(Isn’t it nice when the right shoulder and left shoulder have to come together in the middle and my brain engages to provide me a solution, albeit temporary.)

Off to work on Javier’s story now.

Indeed, you are a really fine boy, Javier. But rest assured the clock is ticking and if you need more time to come of age, you darned well can have it