Editing and Trunks

Lately a fellow blog writer/aspiring novelist and I have been talking on our blogs about the editing process. Today she posted a really interesting post about her trepidation in deciding “to cut or not to cut” material she had written from her novel.  Having recently done some serious sheering I felt like I would weigh in, and as I answered, I made a pretty fun observation. Sometimes what you cut, may have had a purpose for you as a writer, but is not something meant for the reader. I then compared these types of cuts/edits to “Trunk songs.” In Musical Theatre, some songs are written for the show, but they they don’t make the final cut. These songs are often referred to as “trunk songs” because they are theoretically put into a trunk, never to see the light of day, unless they are going to be reworked into a different musical. In an interview that the American Theatre Wing did with Alice Ripley in their weekly interview series “Downstage Center” Alice Ripley talked about important those songs were to her. She said that in the workshop phase, she learned a lot about her character from those songs, and that informed her performance of the show.

In editing, I find this idea helps me cut with ease. I would wager a good 20% or more of what I’ve written is material for a trunk. They helped me find my characters, but the findings from it are better expressed elsewhere in the book. So they need to be cut. I hope that by articulating this idea here, I will be better/faster at editing.

I’ve now been able to return to chapter 5, having finished reworking chapter 1 today.


Multitasking overload

So lately, I have fallen behind. I’ve got 2 readers who have finished chapters 1-4, but I’ve been so busy revising chapter 1, that I keep forgetting to work on chapters 5 & 6. I want to get chapter 1 set. Beginnings are important, so I am really focused on making it as perfect as possible. Also because that first chapter is the sample chapter on my website. So I’m struggling. Especially since I’ve been juggling the whole job hunt as well. On that front, several new positions that I am actually qualified to do have been posted in the past three days. I applied for them today, and I hope they will actually work out.

I continue to spend too much time on Twitter (a new problem for me) and I tell myself that I am doing research on the publishing industry. I’m not sure that is entirely true, but I do feel like I understand what book agents do nowadays. Still, observing them is only informative if I actually finish my manuscript. Which is what I should be working on more than I am. Let’s hope the rest of the week is easier in terms of keeping my focus.

Where should I be?

So yesterday I had a full blown Diva moment, in the form of a pity party. I’m not proud of this, and am happy to report, today I am happy and back on track. But….this blog shouldn’t just be me asking questions and being nice. I think it is okay for me to demonstrate how flawed I am. Why was I upset? I got rejected for a job interview….again. I kept thinking: “If I was auditioning, and they said no, I wouldn’t care. I mean…directors have ideas on how a person looks or sounds.” but I wasn’t auditioning, I was applying. Although Television might want us to believe all lawyers look a certain way (another reason to watch Drop Dead Diva) they don’t. The only thing most lawyers have in common, is that they usually are dressed in a suit.

So when they said “no thanks” after an interview I was certain I nailed (I am charming after all) I was crushed. I wanted to do something drastic, but thankfully I didn’t. I am certain partially because I had no idea what I could do. It’s not like if I walked back into their highly secure office, I could do anything. So I got in my rented car and made my way to a coffee shop. I moped, instead of editing, and basically lost a day.

Part of me expected people to psychically (or through very intense facebook screening) know I had been wronged, and reach out to me. The other part of me didn’t want to talk to anyone, and was glad most people had lives. I guess yesterday I failed at being a good role model, but acknowledging it here, makes me hope that I will be better at keeping it together. That way, when someone needs one, or is bothering to look, they will see the artist and not the diva.




Decisions in Editing

similar but not the same

So I have started to really get into the actual editing process. The first few chapters of editing were a lot of tiny things, but having read and revised them a lot, the changes were primarily superficial. Over the weekend, however, I had a much harder time. When I am revising and rewriting conversations, I am not not sure which is better.  I am going on instinct and saying that, now that I know my characters better, the new versions are probably better. But the old ones did have some nice zingers, and I am sad to see them go. I try to save them as best as I can, but usually the flow of conversation changes slightly, so they no longer can be used.

I also had to cut my first character, and I am sad about it for many reasons. One, she is inspired by a dear friend. Two, she was one of the very few women in my novel. Now my novel is a LGBT novel, about gay men doing a gay show. The fact that not a lot of women are involved is not shocking, but I am sad about it. My main female character is pretty strong, and I intend on changing her a bit to be even better, but one strong female character in an entire novel (for the record there is a minor character who is also a woman, but she works behind the scenes and is therefore prone to silence) feels a little thin to me. Hopefully I’ll be forgiven.

Baby Steps

Jogging by the Hudson in Hoboken

So today I changed up my routine, that I decided had not been working out for me. Instead of working out/jogging/walking/doing something physical in the afternoon, after writing/editing/job hunting, I did it in the morning. It was hard to convince myself to do this, as it is cold outside, but I managed it, and the results were good today. I edited a full chapter. A small chapter, but a full chapter NONETHELESS.

During the writing process, baby steps felt big. If I got a chapter done, or really, anything done, I felt I was amazing. After all, I was weaving a story. But editing, is about turning that woven thread and making it a full blown tapestry. Making each moment depicted, eye catching. For some reason, even though it is equally hard, it feels like I should be able to do it faster. After all, I tend to edit other people pretty fast. But then, it is easier for me to say “this doesn’t work” or “people don’t talk like that, what about….” than it is for me to not only point those things out to myself (which is harder for some reason) but also fix them.

So why did I write this? Well…I applauded baby steps during the writing phase. I want to applaud what I did today as well. I not only worked out, but I actually got work done!  So go me!

Current word count: 91,968

I thought writing was hard….but then I began to edit

So, I’m happy to report that for the moment I am no longer bummed about the Rolling Stone article. Unfortunately, my spirits are not as high as usual. A few lawyer job prospects that showed promise, fizzled out, leaving me with nothing to do but search and edit. Neither of which are enjoyable, and oddly enough, it is for the same reason. In editing, I am no longer thrilled by the exploration of what my story is, rather I am refining the tale. Now, some changes are going to be made, new things written,  but a lot of it is more about reshaping the heavy blocks of text into something beautiful. There is art in this, but it is not particularly fun, and few people are able to see it to appreciate it. However, now that I have the story, I’m wanting to craft my words to tell it well, in the hope that when I send it to a book agent, I will get an agent who loves it, who can get it published and promoted like a real book.  Job hunting is the same, I’m crafting cover letters, in the hopes that I can convince them to take a chance on me, so I can get a real job.

Unfortunately, both a really isolating. Whenever I send a resume, or post something to the website I made for the book, I want to hear from everyone! I want to be overwhelmed with a response, but that desire is just not realistic. So a lot of it is telling myself to be patient, which is advice I’ve given lately, but is much harder to take than to give. Hopefully, this is just a slump, but I never knew editing would hurt so much. Most writers discuss editing as a thing they do for their agent or publisher, which I think is easier to handle. I mean, that means someone is interested already. For first-time novelists, that lack of interest/support is really deadly.

In short: Editing seems harder than job hunting.

I have made plans to treat tomorrow as a new day, and change up my morning. Lately, I’ve felt I’ve wasted my mornings, and now I plan to make better use of them!

Something worth living for

After reading the rolling stone article I posted about yesterday, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. It made me mad and sad, but most of all, it made me want to help. So I wanted to talk a little bit about something I’ve been thinking about.

For many people, I was the fist gay person they met. I didn’t really think about that a lot, until I received an facebook message from a teacher I had when I was four years old. She said:

“I’m so glad that you have found someone to be happy with. I always suspected that you were homosexual, from you I learned that sexual preference is determined from birth or before.”

Later other friends would tell me:

“I never thought being gay was a bad thing, because when I learned about it, I associated it with you. Being gay meant you were like Richard.”

and just last month someone told me husband and I

“You’re the ideal candidate for people to introduce their kids to. You’re proof that being gay is normal, and as stable as any other couple.”

My husband joked that we should charge for this service. I am tempted.

I bring this up here to point out that being first isn’t easy, but it can make a difference. Out of the hundreds of people I’ve met, a lot of them have told me I’ve changed their mind about gay people. It wasn’t because I got up on my soap box, but because I was happy to answer questions. For me, I think it is easiest to be open about most things, so if people asked one question, I would inquire if they had any other questions. I would also try and slip in that nothing was a “dumb question” and that “while being gay, I don’t know everything about the gay world.” For instance, I genuinely forget what poppers are. In my single days, only one guy asked me if I wanted to use them. He also couldn’t explain what they were (only what they did) and I declined.

I’m what most people would describe as “obviously gay.” I think the quote from my pre-school teacher helps support that. However, despite being obviously gay, I have always felt like I wasn’t a good rolemodel for the LGBT community. I don’t look like what society/marketing thinks gay men look like. I don’t have abs, or a lisp, and I only refer to people as “girl” ironically. Yet for many people, I am the one gay person they know. I take that fact pretty seriously, and while I’m not “preachy” I am always willing to discuss LGBT culture.

For youth that are being teased, well, I am here to listen. But if I can tell you anything, it is that, by continuing to exist, you make a difference. I’m not famous, I’m not drop dead sexy, but to many people, I am the person who helped shatter prejudices. And I think that is something worth living for.

Sometimes Being There is what matters most

So, I have had a pretty selfish week. It’s been a lot about me, and my book that I am editing. Then someone sent me an article from the Rolling Stone:

One Town’s War on Gay Teens

In Michele Bachmann’s home district, evangelicals have created an extreme anti-gay climate. After a rash of suicides, the kids are fighting back.

The article is hard to read, not because of the length or the prose, but because of the heart-wrenching content.

I grew up as a gay teenager in Little Rock, Arkansas. For most people who read this, that will not be news, but if even just one person out there comes across this and is in need, well, I think it is worth talking about a little bit. I’d like to start off saying that Little Rock is not the worst place to grow up gay. It is also, however, not a great place either. I was fortunate to find friends who loved me, in the closet and out, and honestly that is what saved me. I’ve thanked those friends often, but I never can thank them enough.

I pondered suicide in school, there were times I got close to killing myself, on nights or weekends when my parents were away. I thought about how I would do it and where. I wrote several “final letters” over the period of 5 years. Sometimes addressed to my parents, sometimes friends, and sometimes to no one. Because I thought no one would care. Part of what stopped me, was that my explanations never felt like enough. I worried that somehow my death wouldn’t be enough to make the statement about the hell I was living, and I also found I wasn’t able to write a letter that did any better. I think that in the darkest of times, this might have been what kept me alive.

For people who are in that place, and reading this, I hope you can see. It really does get better. We’ve spent so much of our lives becoming used to things getting easier and faster so the idea that you might have to wait 5 years to not feel persecuted or horrible, sounds like a pretty tall order. I get that, I’ve been there, and I can tell you, it is worth the wait.

What I want people, especially kids, to know out there, is that they are not alone. I know what it is like to be surrounded by a football team, thrown into the mud, kicked, scratched, and beaten. It’s something I don’t talk about, because most of the people who did it, grew into better people. It, and a few others, were moments that really pushed me to the point where I thought I’d be better off dead. But talking to someone, anyone, really did help. I talked to strangers a lot in those days. Sometimes strangers are people who become friends, but often, strangers are just people who show you that humanity is actually good at the core. I have never been able to thank them, because I have no idea who they were.

If you want to contact me, do it. I’m happy to lend an ear. Tell me about anything that is troubling you. Even if you don’t think talking about it will help, just do it. There are plenty of people like me in the world, who were once like you, and any of us are happy to talk to you, or simply listen.

Your voice is powerful. You probably know the power words have had on you. Don’t let anything silence you for good. Even if your words only reach my ears/eyes, they could possibly change the world.