“But What is it Really Like?”

For 20 days I’ve worked on my “Pizza Cat” (< working title) thing rather exclusively. As I feared, I love and hate it, in equal turns. Thankfully, since I’ve gone the preparation route, I haven’t had writer’s block or any worry of it. What I do struggle with is how to move between points A – B, simply because some of my “filler” takes on a life of its own.

And that leads to editing while writing, which is a huge time ‘n’ creativity suck. Worse, when I’m in that mode, it means that after I’ve written a single line, even one as simple as “They were in the house!” …it’s time to stare at the walls for a while and think about what it means.

And it doesn’t mean anything! It’s the rough draft! Creativity is what is supposed to shine here. I would never have thought myself a perfectionist, and I’m not, but it could be, more than writing, I’m an editor. I already have the penchant for typewriters!

That doesn’t matter. Either way, the rough draft is being trickier than I thought, initially. Focus remains an issue, but I keep worrying about stuff that doesn’t matter… and some of it that does. I wish I knew how to separate those two parts of myself, since that would free up some emotion and thinking time.

In an effort to completely understand this, of course I’ve eschewed all other everything. My work is my all, the only good news that since I’m editing as I go (now more than ever), is that some of the “rough” draft will be closer to “second” or such.

And I know. My work is crap, it needs a lot of work itself. It’s supposed to, I guess. But, “Mom’s” weak character development aside, things are progressing as I’ve planned. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve made it farther in the story than I ever thought I would (pre-dedication) and that’s been a nice source of pride. My work is my all now and I when I sit stagnant, I get upset.

But, writing a cohesive story isn’t the same as writing an open letter written in the stream of consciousness. And sadly, my time is good mix (ratios vary) of planning and writing. I’ve fallen waaaaay behind on writing exercises, electing to go straight into “Pizza Cat.” I wondered if that was good or not and I can say today that I know it is not.

I’m not going to worry about any of that today. I finished the scene with Mom and Katie (posted version ripped from the pages of the story!), not that it was particularly good or anything, but it was tough to write. I don’t understand that, either, since out of all it, that was probably the least personal thing I’ve written so far!

It’s probably good that it’s moving me to write this stuff, but that’s no indication of quality of work. That scene is too long and doesn’t say enough. I know it, but that’s a job for another draft. Now that scene is over, today’s effort is to have Mom talk to Justin and then the remaining time in GA is divided between daytime garage sales to nighttime packing and …?

As much as I like blundering into emotional scenes, I think they might need some set-up, and some of the nighttime scenes will have to include a place (or two) where Justin expresses that he, like all children, thinks its his fault that the parents are fighting. I have a scene like that already (see previously mentioned “blundering”), but I believe a sensitive kid wouldn’t let that issue drop. Is it essential to the story? I don’t know. At least one instance is, yes.

And the dialogue isn’t brutal enough, there isn’t enough action. But I’ve noticed that in reading some of these kids books, too. The dialogue isn’t flush with action, there aren’t notes of every hand gesture and so on. But maybe that’s why some of them aren’t as successful as they could be.

The last book I finished “A Boy and His Bot,” (taken because it’s a clear rip on “a boy and his dog,” the story I’m writing) was written by a smart guy, Daniel H. Wilson, a doctor in some field. He’d written other things before, (“Where’s my Jetpack?”, “How to Build a Robot Army”), but this may have been his first children’s book, from 2011.

I don’t know how successful it is, I enjoyed it in waves. It had some interesting ideas, but I can’t say why they didn’t resonate. Maybe everything was too easy? I mean, it wasn’t, but there were a lot of times where the characters would express woe over something “impassable” and then somehow, find a solution to fix it… usually on the heels of something bad coming to make things worse.

I don’t know, since it was about machines, you have to expect a certain amount of Deux ex machina…, but maybe there was too much. It’s an adventure story, which makes a lot more sense as a canvas for a boy and his dog. Originally, I had planned little exploits of Justin and Sophie, putting some adventure in there, but in an effort to keep the story shorter I haven’t had much by way of that.

But, honestly, that’s from rushing. I made solid characters, to some degrees, but I didn’t flesh them out fully or commit them to my soul’s memory… or whatever. I still have to check my notes and/or outline as to what they should do… And then, seconds later, when I have nothing in the outline for specifics (today’s foray into a large-scale garage sale coupled with emotional discussion to a child about family affairs), I guess I use my instincts to pull through. And maybe that’s why it’s a struggle?

This is what my outline says (copy-pasted, for this particular bit of story):
“During all the chaos, and with Dad gone, Mom decides that she has no choice but to go back to OH, too.

DAYS: Holds huge 4-day garage sale, ends up just leaving a lot of the stuff behind for people to take away. Team Dachshund in the house during garage sales, their bread hunting incident at being left alone in the house, check out Poe’s food dish, which is always empty like dogs’ food dishes, also nearly empty refrigerator (“A TD I”). Sophie wants to be outside, see everything, watch for Dad, Justin has her on her leash, she barks and plays socially, (Daphne’s comment about “being a Dog of the world?” also something about special pups/people changing the places they go to fit them instead of fitting in to places. They have to be tougher, stronger for that reason. “Pups like that are special, they’re very rare.”), neighbors all comment how good Justin is with Sophie, Mom very proud. Justin nervously hangs back, Sophie tries to encourage? Mom says something about how important it is for dogs to be around other people and animals. It helps them understand and understanding takes away fear. (< how to put that?)”

I mean, it’s a good start, probably more detailed than you would have guessed given what preceded. It doesn’t mention Mom talking to Justin, that kinda has to happen since it’s the next logical step after Katie-Mom dialogue. In some ways, everything else can happen if other characters don’t know, but the main character (and his dog) have to. Well, Sophie knows. I guess she can try to explain it to Justin first. That might make a nice segue, at least.

Then there’s the language issue… It’s not a “dumb” story and I’d like to think that kids would want the challenge, so I’m not going to worry about that. It’s not as stiff as “the Lion Bros.,” that will have its own day in the sun. I’m forcing myself to NOT go back and reread it, simply because I’ll want to work on it and I don’t want my focus to shift to something else yet. And more importantly, “working” on “the Lion Bros.” would really mean researching, reading, editing, rewriting, as opposed to adding anything new. It will probably be the next thing I tackle with everything that I’m learning from this ordeal.

Which finally brings me around to the end-point. It’s time to push a little harder. I’ve made good progress, but now it’s time for great. It’s time to get some of that understanding, to use my learning, and go a little more. Even if that only means to learn a little more. “A Boy and His Bot” was the first time I had the thought “Why don’t I like this?” and it’s time to learn why I didn’t and avoid it.

I’m becoming obsessed and overly-hyper-critical, too. Mostly of my own work, thankfully, but also to any poor individual who might try to stand in my way, which is also mostly me.

-j.

PS: Please note that I described almost none of the emotional stuff. (But why not?)

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