Tag Archives: rewriting

Here’s your raven

I kicked ass at work this week. My office was so full of projects I couldn’t fit everything inside. I wound up shutting my door for a few hours each day and turned off my phone. I hate to do that to my staff, so I stayed available in the morning and afternoon. At the end of the week, my office was clear of old projects. Monday I have to move in the piles of other old projects, but I’m calling it a victory. Yay me!

I got my ass kicked at critique group last night. This always makes me whiny, but the guys are always right. That’s the purpose of critique group, to make me better. I had a short lived idea of maybe publishing my book tonight, but I needed to clean up a section. I chose this section for critique group, because I had some concerns.

Lisa* dropped off Doubt**, the raven, and let me be. It was hard going since I seperated the book into two versions. I knew right after I finished altering the international version that I would have to pay for it.

Doubt was his usual depressing presence. He taunted me and made me feel like a hack. I’m getting better at ignoring him, and forced myself to forge ahead.

The secret to critiques is not to follow blindly. I didn’t make every change the guys suggested. I look upon critiques more as guidelines than formal rules.

Every change I made required me to open the other version and make the same change. It’s much better now, but will never be perfect. I got over being perfect a long time ago, and that’s an important issue. If we keep working until it’s perfect, we will never publish anything.

I couldn’t have written Will O’ the Wisp three years ago. If I wrote it three years from now, it would be better. What’s an author to do, wait three years? What about three years after that? Not this guy. I’m getting this thing published this weekend one way or another.

The reports from my advance readers are more than encouraging. I’m excited about this book, and expect it to do well. It will have an error or two, but they all do. I know it’s a good story, and people are going to like it. Right now, I think it’s beer time.

* Lisa Burton is the main character in Wild Concept. She’s a robot girl who helps me around the writing cabin these days.

** Doubt is a raven. He was given to me by my Muse. I don’t know what she was thinking.


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Saturday Update

I went to the writing cabin at 5:00 AM today. I reviewed the last chapter of Will ‘O the Wisp, and it was off to the races. It involved sending Patty on a bus ride, and a lot of internal thought.

Patty has been through some bad things and went on a road trip to get some answers. It’s a good way to imply some stress. A stranger in a strange town; she winds up alone in a group of more strangers.

Lisa* moved quietly around my new writing room. She wore a green corset dress, and high heeled button up boots. She was totally into the whole witchcraft theme. Her strawberry blonde hair was brushed down over her shoulders. She filled my cup and left me alone.

Doubt** made a Kruk Kruk noise at a couple places, but I ignored him. I know I could amp up the stress, but I wanted to forge ahead. I could revisit it all later.

Just when I got the key information in front of Patty, Lorelei*** showed up. She wore a Greek Olympic warmup suit. She tossed Lisa a bag of USA warmups, and me a USA hockey shirt.

“What’s the deal?” I asked. “I thought you wanted me to write.”

“You wrote,” Lorelei said. “The games are on, and they’re important too.”

I stopped at 38,060 words, so I made a little progress.

I shut down and carried my iPad to the main writing room. Lisa hacked the television broadcast into my Mac, and we watched the men’s skeleton. What a great sport! It was nice to see an American on the podium, even if it wasn’t gold.

An emotional interview followed the race, and I wound up with a tear in my eye. I caught Lorelei watching and knew what this was about. She never does anything without a reason. Emotions are important, and expressing them in writing would help me along my journey.

I edited my way through a chapter of Lisa’s story, and it wasn’t good. There was more telling than I can sell. I wrote this four or five years ago, and I’ve improved since then. It’s going to take some work to whip this into shape, but it’ll be worth it.

I folded up my iPad and told Lisa, “Be ready tomorrow. We need to work on your story. Scenes I described years ago need to be lived through your eyes. It needs more feelings and thought.”

Lisa put both hands to her heart and bent her knees. She smiled from ear to ear. “Do you mean it? Really?”

“Of course. We know it’s a good story, but we want readers to feel it more. Maybe we can weave in some of that emotion we saw in the Olympics.” I glanced toward Lorelei; she cast her eyes down and smiled.

I left the cabin shortly after. I promised my wife, old what’s her face****, we could go out. We skipped Valentines day because of the crowd, and it was our turn. We had a nice Italian dinner at Asiago, then went to Old Chicago to work on my beer tour… Well, I worked on my World Beer Tour, old what’s her face went into the mall. We decided what to get my mother for her birthday, and she picked it up. I wound up drinking enough beer to deserve a nice heavy bottle opener. Mom will be so proud.

Tomorrow is all about editing and rewriting Lisa’s story, Wild Concept.

* Lisa is a character from the story Wild Concept. She’s a robot, and helps me at the cabin.

** Doubt is a raven. He was a gift from Lorelei, and is supposed to be helpful.

*** Lorelei is my Muse.

**** Not my wife’s actual name.

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Tough Day at the Cabin

I slept in today. I think I knew all along that I wouldn’t get much writing done. I’d written a ton of stuff on Wednesday, and it needed some major repairs. I took my time getting to it.

When I walked in, Lisa* was in a baggy sweatshirt and jeans. She was playing with Bunny her rabbit on the lobby floor. She never looked up as I headed for the coffee pot.

No coffee. I put the ingredients together and headed for my swanky new room. Doubt’s** water dish was empty, and so was his food. Back to the kitchen again to tend the raven. Lisa had her back to me now.

I went over my Wednesday writing and Doubt croaked multiple times. I’ve learned to pay attention to him, and tightened up my passages. An hour went by and I had to get my own coffee.

Lisa’s “I’d rather be naked than wear fur” poster looked down at me from the kitchen wall. Bunny covered all the good parts, but it was still impressive.

The shower came on upstairs.

Another four hours passed and I was able to get some new words down. My word count is up to 32,318 if you’re keeping score.

When the beer horns went off, Lisa never showed up. I filled them with beer and set one outside to keep cool.

She came downstairs, her hair in a bun and devoid of all makeup.

“What’s the deal,” I asked. “Wednesday you couldn’t wait to put on your Morticia dress and make me that weasel coffee. Today it’s like you aren’t even here. That isn’t suitable office attire, and I’ve never seen you not made up.”

She put her hand to her mouth and said, “Oh, do I still work here?”

“Of course you do. What makes you ask a silly thing like that?”

“What was yesterday?”


“Keep thinking.”

“Your boot up day?” I held my hands apart and tried to act cute. I never was good at cute.

She put her hands on her hips and leaned forward. “It was payday, genius. Did you forget?”

“Oh crap, sorry. I’ll take care of it right now.” I ran to my original office and booted up the Mac. The beer horn followed me.

A few quick keystrokes and, “Done!”

She paused at the door and looked off into space.

“What are you doing?”

“Spreading it across twelve bank accounts in bits and pieces, merging and re splitting, then transferring to a new account. I’ll withdraw it all from there and buy gift cards.”

“Why? Do you still keep a runaway bag?”

“You know it. I need money to get to my convention appearances. In my private life, I don’t like to be found. My attorney isn’t exactly free either. And sometimes, Lisa needs a new pair of shoes.” She ran for the stairs.

“Where are you going?”

“I’ve got to change. I have some cool dresses that are perfect for the kind of story you’re working on.”

I sipped my beer from my old recliner. Why can’t women just tell us what’s wrong? Maybe I shouldn’t have written her so accurately. I decided to write some more now that Lisa was into it. I have the house to myself tonight and there’s no reason to go back.

* Lisa is from one of my novels. She works as my assistant now, (still) and is a robot.

** Doubt was a gift from my Muse. He is a raven, but I suspect there’s more to him.


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Being true to your Era

My current project, “Will ‘O the Wisp” involves a degree of mystery. It’s the mystery of the unknown, not a police project. I just had to set it the the 1970s, and this poses some unique problems.

I’ve written science fiction – just hop online and get some info. I’ve written historical pieces, but they weren’t really mysteries. Sometimes a story is about survival in the wilderness.

My main character, Patty needs to visit the library. I lived through this era, and remember the need to get to the library. It takes time to go to the library, and it isn’t like you grab the first book and open it on the right page. It has to feel realistic. She can’t just whip out her iPhone like I can and google the answers.

It reminds me how lucky we are to have easy access to information of all kinds. (Even if I wind up on an NSA report because if it.)

It’s posing some problems, and I need to find a way to make it interesting. It would be even better to make it creepy, and keep the tension ratcheted up. I’m working on it, and it may get better in rewrites. There are some things I can do to make Patty uncomfortable while she’s “getting a clue”.

A big part of the rewriting is to take out the boring parts. In many cases, I just have to write the damned thing. I can condense parts later on.

It was my idea to set it in the seventies, and I’m enjoying the struggles. What about you folks? Have you faced problems because of the era your story is set in?


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Editing day

I got up early and headed for the cabin. It was foggy, and Pogonip covered the trees. I had to call Lisa* to guide my gyro copper toward the runway. She was able to talk to it and take the controls from her bedroom.

I booted everything up, and opened The Cock of the South. I had a notepad from my conversation with Cobby, the dwarf. He’s the story’s main character.

Doubt** made little karuk noises whenever I needed more emotion or scenic detail. I referred to my notes to get the ones Cobby described. When I got to one spot, Doubt flew over to my desk and paced back and forth. I don’t think he was ever happy with the passage.

The small trick with Doubt is, that’s all he is. He can help me make passages better, or make me doubt myself in a vicious cycle where nothing is ever good enough. Eventually, I have to decide. That’s the big trick, I’m the one in charge.

I got slightly more than half way through before I had to stop. I’ll take a little break, and hit it again in the afternoon. Then I’ll probably spend my evening reading Harry Dresden. I don’t think Sherlock comes on until tomorrow. Then I’ll have to decide between Sherlock, Sleepy Hollow, and Klondike. I can record one, watch one, and probably miss one. Cable stuff usually runs more than once though. I might be able to set a midnight recording.

I went upstairs to check on Lisa. She was standing in the center of the room with three holographic monitors open, one for radar, one for topography, and one for Boise. She wore her tight denim pedal pushers with a blouse that was covered in cherries. Her high heels were a regular thing, and today was no exception.

She glared at her monitors and said, “Going home is going to be dicey. I can help you take off, and point you in the right direction. It’s sunny up high. Dropping into Boise will be the hardest part. You’ll be out of range for me, and there’s another inversion.” She turned toward me and said, “You might be better off staying here and trying it tomorrow night.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said. “I’m going to stretch out on the couch for a bit. Then have a snack and edit some more.” I tugged on my beard, “Is the forecast any better tomorrow?”

“A bit. If Boise gets a little wind, you ought to be okay.”

“I’m off Monday. Let’s stick with my plan and see what it looks like this evening.”

“Okay. You really ought to write yourself a bed for the cabin. Then you can spend long weekends here. I can bring up the Will ‘O the Wisp in the morning so you can write about it.”

“You’re a good assistant, Lisa. I’ll take it all under advisement.”

*Lisa is from one of my early novels. She’s my assistant now, and a robot.
**Doubt is a raven. At least he looks like a raven.


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Floundering with a Wasted Day

I got to the writing cabin earlier than normal. I still have a house full of grandkids, and alone time is hard to find. It was dark as I meandered through the basement.

Cool things lined the shelves. Steampunk pepper sprayers that worked like bagpipes, helium drop balloons that substituted for parachutes, and tablet computers that were dishwasher safe. Readers like this kind of stuff. I liked writing it, they ought to too. The problem is in the presentation.

I kicked my way through a swarm of Panamanian beetles and stomped up the stairs. Lisa was doing something upstairs, I heard her walking around. Robots don’t sleep, they just recharge.

The Will ‘O the Wisp bounced around my office like a mindless three dimensional pong ball. It was moss green and gave off an eerie glow. Without me, it doesn’t do or symbolize anything.

I turned on my Mac and went to the lounge. I don’t mind microwave coffee, and Lisa would make some fresh stuff later. I went through the refrigerator and moved around bottles of frog poison, a Hand of Glory, and a shrunken head. I found some old chicken nuggets and grabbed them for Doubt, the raven.

I put the cold chicken bits in one of Doubt’s folded bronze leaves and took down his Christmas decorations. He flew over to my desk and paced back and forth.

The Wisp floated past my head and ricocheted off one of the logs toward the ceiling. I flopped into my easy chair and watched it.

Lisa came down in her snowsuit and hat. “Gee, you look busy. Sun’s just coming up, time to get started.”

I put my elbows on my knees and cradled my head. I didn’t have anything to say.

“Well, okay then. I’ll be taking down the Christmas lights if you need me.” She headed for the lobby.

Doubt retrieved a piece of chicken and flew back to the desk. He pecked at my keyboard while he ate.

“Go ahead. You’re probably a better writer than me anyway.” I watched the Wisp careen off the waste basket and head for the door. I blew the heat off my coffee and watched. It rebounded and headed for the window.

Lisa was outside pulling off the string of lights. She looked in at me and spoke. Her voice came across my telephone speaker. “Okay, so you have to rework Cobby’s story. Do you want me to get him out here?”

I gave a half hearted smile and walked to the pager. “Not today. I’m just thinking today. The kids will get up and call me back before I can get anything done. Maybe I’m not cut out for this. Maybe I should just write for personal satisfaction.”

“Bullshit,” It was the raven.

“What did you say? I mean, Lisa said you could mimic, but —


“Okay, you’ve stayed pretty quiet so far. I figured you’d be happy I’m doubting myself.”

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.” He flapped back to his perch for another nugget.

I went back to the desk and watched the Wisp do a double bank off the window then the frame, and ducked as it fluttered slowly overhead. “It’s just so much to do. I need to limp through Cobby’s story again, then do the same with three others. In fact I owe it to Lisa to spend some time on her story too. What I’d like to do is work on this stupid thing,” I waved at the Wisp as it wobbled near the ceiling.

Doubt dipped his bill in his water leaf and drank. Apparently, he didn’t have anything else to say. I looked at the monitor and a website was displayed. It read, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

I looked up under my brow at the raven. “Lorelei said you came from Mt. Olympus. You’re not a regular raven are you?”

He pecked away at the last chicken nugget, and said nothing.

I grabbed my iPad and made a task list. I can do this, but have to take one bite at a time. The grandkids came down the stairs and called me away. If nothing else, I have a plan.

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