Finding a Balance

The last couple of days have been a relief as far as getting paid assignments. In the last 48 hours, I have written 11 articles. Since they are on spec, it remains to be seen if they sell or not, but at least I have gotten the work after a very long dry spell. The bummer about this is that for the last two days I’ve been writing my ass off and at the end of the day I don’t have much left in the tank as far as working on the book.

Even right now, I feel like if I start on edits at 10pm, my brain won’t be able to shut up for a while and when that happens, mornings are the worst. I fight to be productive and then my whole day just keeps getting pushed further and further until I don’t have enough time or energy left to do one thing or the other.

But I did have a coffee about half an hour ago, so we shall see.

A lot of this is about finding a balance in what I want to do versus what is critical in keeping myself alive. The book, as I’ve mentioned before is more on a Need/Have to do basis. But the last couple of days has required me to pick up the assignments as they drop, because otherwise someone else will snatch them up and I won’t have any in my queue. Which means I won’t be getting paid. I’m still kicking myself over missing two last night, but I was just wiped out.

Unless it’s a deadlined post, I have anywhere between 1 to 3 hours to write 300 to 2000 words. So if they release an assignment at 11pm, if I accept it, I have only a short time to write it. By then, after a day of writing web content, I tend to get a little sloppy. Then they don’t sell anyway. It’s very competitive too, since I have hundreds of other very capable writers vying for the same jobs.

Even now I find myself clicking back at the site dashboard to see if anything new is out there.

Editing is a whole other critter. Right now, it’s a bit of a slog, since I’m looking at syntax and continuity and grammar. I’m trying to eliminate wordiness too, which will keep the prose nice and lean and the pacing solid. The bummer is that right now I’m creatively anaemic because I haven’t actually written anything in the book for a week now.

The editing has given me ideas on what I can write, especially on gaps in the story I have missed and wanted to include. The hardest part about editing is being objective. Being honest with myself.

At some point I have a decision to make, and they call it “killing your darlings.” It’s less purple prose than plot points, which might seem to be superfluous on a first sweep through the second draft, but having been the person who has gone through beginning to end, I know that these points WILL come back up later on and there are good reasons to leave them in. Maybe I’m trying to say I’ve been thinking of cutting things out because my reader mind thinks “Who cares?” but the writer mind says, “Stay with it. This little detail becomes very important later on.”

Life is a lot like that. It’s never the obvious, in your face moments. Looking back, we see the trail of breadcrumbs that got us here and those minor details are so obvious now. I guess the hard part is putting those little seeds in the story without drawing too much attention to them, but still feeding the reader the story to keep their interest.

I hated that so much when I was submitting my SF/F stories ten years ago. A few super editors were so gung ho to say, “I’m sorry, but the story just didn’t hold my interest” that I wondered if they all had ADHD. If I fed them the plot points and character bits to keep it interesting, it was bad writing. If I didn’t spoon feed them the story, they wouldn’t even finish reading it. After a while I just had to figure it said more about the state of Science Fiction and Fantasy than it did my writing. The other thing I learned was the people they hung out with at conventions were the ones with their names on the covers of magazines, while the rest of us were duking it out in the slushpile.

Submitting my first book to publishers and editors was actually a welcome experience, because they were reading what I sent them. But from a publishers perspective they didn’t have a lot of confidence my book would sell. “Too weird” was what I got a lot. I would imagine this book will have “Too sad” as a black mark against it. Maybe draft three will be to throw in some jokes. I have no idea.

I think tomorrow needs to be a book day (unless some juicy assignments drop) because I am close to getting a good second draft finished, which means I can start a synopsis and query letter and really polish the hell out of my first 50 pages. That could get me through the door to the place I have wanted to be for a while now. I think I’m the writer I need to be now to be in that place. Plus, the edits are helping me take risks and push my comfort zones.

Anyway, that’s it for tonight. I think I’m going to watch Moon Knight and decompress a little bit. I’m less worried about starving to death now. We’ll see if that holds.

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