Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lent Helping Me As A Writer

It kept me only one more day, but I finally finished reading a novel last Thursday. Now to break out another one. That way I can try to get a second completed in order to make up for slacking off last month. Although I haven't started a second book yet, I'm hoping I can crack down on reading during Lent.

Yup, for those who might not know, today is Ash Wednesday; the first day of the Lent season. Forty days and nights of sacrifice - usually by way of giving up a vice - leading in to Easter. This also means us "hard core" Roman Catholics also give up meat on Fridays. I always suck at that, mostly because I tend to lose track of what day of the week it is.

In fact, if it weren't for someone posting about it on Facebook, I would have completely forgotten that yesterday was Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Doughnut Day/Pancake Tuesday/Faschnacht Day/etc. In other words: Last Day To Get Your Vices In Before Lent. Which is why people tend to gorge - Fat Tuesday - or eat sweets; one of the top things given up for Lent - Doughnut/Faschnact Day - or get "freaky" - Mardi Gras.

Anyway, last year I realized that I was getting really addicted to Facebook, and I cut my time on it down to about an hour or so every day. Boy did my notifications build up! I do tend to spend a lot of time on Facebook again, but it's not nearly as bad an addiction as it was last year.

Instead, I recently noticed that - thanks to Netflix - my husband and I tend to curl up on the couch - especially in winter - and just watch TV for the majority of the day. While I enjoy staying snug and warm on the couch during the winter months - especially since it's been below zero here for over a week - and I love just cuddling next to Hubby for hours on end, this is NOT a healthy or productive life style.

We're both getting pretty husky, the apartment is a disaster, and our couch legitimately broke. It's one of those reclining loveseats, and the cross-bar that holds up the seat just busted. So, we can no longer recline since the metal bar that locks the foot of the couch in place is also currently holding up the seat. You know you've become a true couch potato when even your couch gives out on you.

So, while it will be hard since it's sort of forcing Hubby to have the same resolve, I'll be cutting back on TV for Lent. Yes, I know you're supposed to give something up completely for Lent, but - much like Facebook - it's just something I can't cut out of my life completely, even for 40 days.

Hubby and I have REALLY been looking forward to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returning in two weeks, and I'd hate to miss it. I'd also hate to force Hubby to either miss it too, or force him to not be able to talk about it until I get a chance to catch up. I've also NEVER missed an airing of a new episode of Castle. Beyond that, while I know this is going to sound pathetic, with my social life more or less D.O.A., the only thing I really have to look forward to is new episodes of my favorite prime time shows.

My days have become so monotonous, and draggy, and gloomy. I really need some sort of highlight to my days; something to look forward to. Sure, there are days where I know I'll be hanging out with friends, or Hubby and I decided to go to the movies, or I'll have something new to read when I get home, or there's a new video game I'll get to try out. More often than not, however, these non-TV highlights are few and far between.

Hubby and I don't have the money to get new games or watch movies more than once a month; if that. Aside from Quarthix hanging out nearly daily, my friends are typically too busy - or far away - to get together and just hang. Believe me, I've tried to set things up. Which is why I probably cling so tightly to Facebook - a means to keep in touch with these friends - and why I go to the vampire LARP even though my heart isn't really in it any longer.

As for the new reading material, well, once upon a time I was addicted to the X-Future boards. I'd spend nearly every waking moment lurking on the forum and waiting to read the soap-opera-like tales that wove throughout the game. If nothing else, I waited to see what Phfylburt would write next. Same with Ronoxym. While he was still on the boards, or while he was still actively working on Please, Let Me Explain, or when he was posting on his freshly started blog, I would race home from work; giddy and antsy all day, and geared up to see what he wrote next.

Well, neither Phyfl nor Ron have really posted any writing for me to read lately, so there goes that daily highlight....

I go to work and drudge through a tedious and irritating work day, only to come home to two highlights: cuddle my husband, and watch our TV shows.

Alright, this post has become kind of depressing, let's bring this back to topic, shall we?
The whole point of bringing all of this up...

Alright, so I can't cut TV out completely, but I AM going to whittle it down a ton. It will be a bit rough on my husband because that means I'm forcing him to give up HIS favorite pastime as well: watching TV with his wife.

That doesn't mean we can't still snuggle up and play video games together. Break out Wii U Smash Bros. or Hyrule Warriors again.

It just means that I'll now have the free time to do things like exercise, and clean. Most importantly, it means I have the free time to read and write. Instead of coming home at 1pm and snuggling with Hubby on the couch half-watching TBS for three hours, I can grab a novel and do the same. Or snuggle in to my bed to keep cozy while I read.

In fact, I've already kinda-sorta been doing this for the past week. Yes, I'm still on the couch binge-watching with Hubby. However, most of the time it's shows that I've already seen or I'm not really invested in. True, I still have that struggle that I can't turn away from a story being told, and so it's a bit of an overwhelming distraction to have a TV on while I'm trying to do other things. Yet other things were still done.

It's been a major labor of love - that's probably taken about three times longer than it should have due to the TV distraction - but I spent the past week chiseling away at "Please, Let Me Explain" some more.

Although my annual taxes are SUPER simple to do, I was dragging my feet to do them because it was such a tedious process. However, when it comes to writing, I have NO problem doing something so repetitive.

Let me explain. See, when Ron first started up PLME a year ago, he set it up as a Google Doc that I could read and comment on, but I couldn't edit it. Soon his doc was flooded with annotations about "this word should be change to that" or "use a comma here instead" or "I have a rewrite for this paragraph; here it is" and so forth. Nearly every paragraph had a comment attached to it, and it was overwhelming even for me.

So I decided to help myself out by starting up another version where I just did all the edits I had commented on. This was my master copy, and then I tasked myself to see the difference between the two versions and find a way to combine them. After putting the story away for a little bit I tended to think that the way Ron originally wrote the section was better, or that a combination of our two versions worked best, or that it needed yet another complete rewrite since neither version quite worked.

Eventually I started up a THIRD version of the story. It was mostly Ron's version after he edited a little and added the suggestions he agreed with. However, I still threw in some of my rewrites that he had yet to decide one way or another on. I then set it up so that we could both edit the file.

This third version is now the master copy that I've been using to post online. The version that I've been meticulously editing and polishing for over a month. However, I still have two other versions to compare it to. For the most part there isn't much to change, perhaps one version has a sentence or two different than this master version. I also take care to read the comments I have on Ron's version to see if there's any that I need to re-state in the third version. Things that we haven't decided on one way or another.

The Labor of Love part came up about the start of this week.

I was confident that I had the one scene as good as it was going to be. I debated between having it be a tiny transitional chapter of it's own right, or if I wanted it to be the start of the main section I originally intended to post. I decided to just go with it and post it as a tiny chapter since the main one has become a beast to edit.

Ron had written his version of the confrontation between Devon and Willow. Then I once again threw him a curveball like I did when he first sent me this story. I took it on a completely different direction, but it was all as comments on his version. As I was editing the master copy I realized that I had BOTH of our versions written back-to-back with a break in between; waiting for us to decide which version - or a combination of the two - worked best.

Well, Ron still hadn't said anything about this segment, and so I've been trying to find a way to weave the two together. I really like parts that he wrote, and I of course like the parts I wrote, and it's a pain to try to figure out which works better, or if there's a way to use both.

The action is jumbled and the dialogue pacing is off. It's tedious and tiring to go line by line to see where the three versions of the story differ. What transitions where? Can this part be put before or after this section so it still fits? Can I combine these speeches? Does this description slow the pacing here, or would it fit better there? How do I get rid of all of these adverbs!?

I honestly don't know why I excitedly go back to such a mess of a section.

Labor of Love is all I can think of. That, and yet another bit of proof that I'm supposed to be doing this. I'm supposed to write and edit. I'm supposed to tell stories. This really is my calling.

So, while I'm off trying to detangle the next portion of "Please, Let Me Explain", you can take about five minutes - according to Hemingway Editor - to read this baby-chapter. With any luck I should have the main chapter I was aiming for up in a week or two. However, I don't know if I want to post the chapters up any faster than once a month so that Ron has time to work on the story more...

Eh, whatever. Enjoy.

"Please, Let Me Explain: Part II"


  1. Hi Dana, Just nipping over to see how you are doing? Sounds like you are all organised for Lent. I'm sure things will work themselves out regarding hubby and the lack of watching TV, perhaps he will see it as an opportunity to change, perhaps a challenge for him too. Maybe he can develop a new interest. Could be a chance for him to clear out some clutter for an hour a day, or learn to cook if he can't, or maybe you two have a 'date night' no TV, nice meal, candles, music and the two of you chatting to each other.

    I was thinking about what to do over Lent, I'm not so well at the moment, and feel life is passing me by a bit, I am not working at the moment, due to these health issues, and feel a little isolated and off par with stuff. So I decided I will try and get back on my novel by doing a tiny bit of something everyday. I am struggling to concentrate as the pain killers are very strong, so things need to be very easy and not take very long to do, as my attention span is that of a gnats! Apart from that, I am going to do mobility exercises every day for five minutes, which should help me.

    Thank you for sharing with us.

    1. Oh, my husband is the chef in our family. If I don't have my favorite sous chef Microwave, I'm screwed. :D And we tend to talk incessantly anyway (comes from 8yrs long-distance relationship before we wed). However, that long-distance thing is a double-edged sword, because now we want to be right next to each other whenever we can. So it's a bit of a bummer for me to hide in our bedroom to write while he's in the living room doing whatever: TV, video games, movies, etc.

      It's just 40 days, and it may whittle the wasted time down - like it did with FB last year - even after Lent is over. We can manage. :D

      As for you, while it's noble to try to keep with Lent, be careful to not push yourself too far. Your primary concern is obviously getting back to wellness. So hopefully the dedication to physical therapy will help with that. As for the writing, well, I zone out just from exhaustion - and cold meds really kick my butt too - so I can relate (in part). It's frustrating to want to do something, but your focus is only about 2-minutes long. Try to push yourself here, but also know in advance that it's going to be a struggle, so don't kick yourself too hard if/when you fail now and again.

      Best of luck on both your health and your writing. :D