January 12, 2016

Editing...slowly

I'm reading a fascinating book, The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity, by Louise DeSalvo.  For the past three books I have written I considered the edit the last thing I wanted to do.  Once I wrote I was impatient to get to press.

But this book has changed my thoughts on editing.  Let me examine this term "slow writing."

In the past I have been a "dumper."   I dump 1000 to 2000 words a day into my computer until I have a book.  I always let someone, some unconnected editor, deal with the detritus that I have created.  And yet, I have always been vaguely unhappy with the final result.  It is not really the editor's fault,  here's why.

GIGO.  Oh you know.  I've given them garbage and they have made a superhuman effort to make sense of it.

This all came to a head a couple of years ago when I submitted about 100,000 words of sheer mess to an editor friend who endeavored to tell me what was wrong with the pile of manure by cutting out about 35,000 words.

I was indignant.  How dare she?

Well she was right, of course.  GIGO.

I have written very few lines since then.  I seemed blocked.  But really I was fighting with myself about the importance of self editing before it even hits an editor.  The Art of Slow Writing has changed that.  It has taught me that the best writing comes with contemplating what one has written no matter how long that takes.

I've carefully selected a novella that I almost finished about 17 years ago (and started 25 years ago.)  Going against my impulse not to print it out to edit it (I'm awfully cheap when it comes to paper and printer ink), I am resolved to look at a maximum of only 5 pages each day, and edit it with a pen.  Yes, folks, that 19th century tool.



Perhaps it will be, when I am done many months from now, a present to you, my readers.  Stay tuned.

December 4, 2015

Just because you are all so patient...

From Remarkable Likeness

(Which I SHALL publish in 2015)

 
 
“In spite of everything I still believe people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.  I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end that that peace and tranquility will return again.  Anne Frank The Diary of a Young Girl
 
 
Prologue:  In the forest near Alten Frühling, Germany
 
 
She opened her eyes cautiously.  This was the third day in a row that the sound of shelling and the smell of cordite drifted from the town below.  As far as Helena knew none of the shells had hit the camp.  Yet.  Between the shell bursts the only sound was the buzzing of flies.  Always in summer it was the flies, but now with summer ending the pests were getting meaner, as if they knew it would soon be the end for them.  And perhaps also for the women around her too.  There had been no food for four days and, while it was tempting to go to the well outside, they all suspected that the Commandant had ordered the well contaminated.  There was paranoia everywhere.
Only a handful of men remained in the camp.  The guards had left two days ago to reinforce the fighters defending the town.  Most of the male prisoners had struck out then toward the woods but Rabbi Cohen had argued that they were safer in the camp.  If the fighting spilled over into the forest they were likely to be caught in the crossfire.  Still.  Most of the women, and there were many, cowered in the barracks.
Scratching, she sat up.  Why were the fleas so healthy when none of the people in the camp could stand?  Virtually all of the women were huddled together in the far corner of the barren room.  They talked only of the hope that the allies would come up from Alten Frühling where they were fighting and find them here in the camp by the river.
The door burst open and then slammed shut.  Helena snarled.  It was the Commandant, the man she hated most in this world.  For a moment she was ashamed of the feral woman she had become.  She was ashamed that her mother would have not approved.
“Up against that wall, all of you.”
Even his voice made her furious.  She rolled off the bed and tried to slide under it but he saw her and a vicious kick of his boot and a jab to her side with the butt of his rifle sent her scurrying across the floor on her hands and knees biting back a scream and joining the other women near the end of the line.  She stood up, back against the wall next to Alma, eyes downcast, heart racing. Outside an automobile engine was running and then she knew his plan.  She had heard the gunfire from the other barracks. He would kill them all before they were rescued, before they had a chance to identify him to their liberators.
But just as the thought finished its journey through her brain the gunfire started. His gun sprayed quickly down the line. 
But she was quicker, years of dodging her tormentor made it instinctual.  As the woman before her began to fall to the floor she began to fall too dragging Alma with her.  She felt the bullet enter her arm, but it was just her arm.
She lay absolutely motionless on the floor.  Could one breathe without moving?  She tried.  When she breathed there was a whistling sound.  She had to silence it. She had to try. 
His boots with their mirror shine moved nearer.  He would kill her now.  He would kill her because she knew and she would tell. He would kill her because he knew she was strong.
The crack of the door hitting the wall tested her resolve to remain motionless. The Commandant jumped back, his weapon at the ready, but it was his assistant, Hans, who came stumbling in, grasping his thigh.  The Commandant gave her one last kick and then dragged his subordinate out of the room. In a few moments there was a spray of gravel on the wooden steps to the barracks.
For three minutes more Helena still held her breath.  Then, when her eyes and her heart told her that she was safe, she lightly touched Alma who lay beside her.  There was no response to her touch.
She rolled onto her side.  She knew her ribs were broken. Her breath came in short gasps.  She considered that holding her breath was a better idea because it didn’t hurt so much but, she needed to staunch the wound in her arm.  With her teeth and her good arm she succeeded in ripping off what was left of the hem of her dress and tightening it around her upper arm.  For a moment she rested against the post of the bunk bed trying to find air.
She looked around.  They all looked dead.
“Is anybody alive?”  She asked tentatively.
No response.
She sighed and tried to crawl but that hurt too much so she pulled herself to vertical.
Methodically she checked the women with whom she had worked for the last two years.  None of them showed signs of life.  At the door she collapsed sending waves of pain through her brain.  But she willed herself to stay awake, afraid that she would be thought dead and buried alive.
The door opened with the barrel of a gun.  A boot cautiously slid across the door jam.  She was ready to trip him but looking up she saw the face of a very young British infantryman and heard him say,
“Bloody hell, they’re all dead in here too, Sergeant.”
She wanted to say “all but me,” but she was afraid of scaring him and catching a bullet so she waited.
He turned to see her sitting propped up by the door.
He knelt down with his gun as a staff.
“Who are you?” he asked, his adolescent face crossed with amazement.
“Helena Sarah Steinberg, I am a British subject.”
With that the world went dark for Helena Steinberg.
 
 
© 2015 Christina Wible
 
 

July 16, 2015

What to do when you are blocked. Study number 1

Hi, my name is Christina and I am a writer and I am blocked.

Okay, now I've admitted it, what will I do?


The first thing I have decided to do is not to think about all the books I have in my PC just sitting there waiting for me to....  Oops.

The second thing I am doing is to cultivate other artistic sides of myself.  I've always loved photography so I bought myself a new (used) camera and I am doing light studies.  Eons ago when I was doing this it was a whole nuther thing.  You took the roll of film.  You had it developed.  You found someone who would let you have time in their dark room.  And then you spent oodles of money on developing fluid and paper.  Much easier now.

I may just concentrate on this for awhile but there may be other things in the works.

Standby.



July 12, 2015

Watchman angst (spoilers)




All over Facebook today the question is "Will you read Go Set A Watchman? so I sat down to answer twenty of my friends asking the question and decided to answer it here instead.

Yes.  Yes, I will read Go Set a Watchman.

I have heard answers that range from my enthusiastic YES.  To NO NEVER, EVER, EVER.  In almost every case the latter is explained that they don't want to know that (spoiler here) Atticus was a racist.  They say it would "spoil" Mockingbird for them or that it just wasn't right.

Now I know that lotsa people don't like change and certainly having your mind changed about someone is very hard.  But I don't think that gaining a better understanding of a man and his time is a bad thing.  To me finding out that Atticus is a racist is an interesting placement of the man in his profession.  That he can be a racist and yet still believe in the law and justice for everyone is not necessarily inconceivable for the time in which he lived.

Now, stop there a moment. I am not condoning racism or anything that happened with regards to the vile persecution of people of color.  What I am saying is that there must be, and I must believe that there is as a Christian Buddhist, a spark of the divine in everyone.  Sometimes that spark only manifests itself in an individual's love for a single thing.  Sometimes a person radiates love for the whole world.

In Mockingbird we were set up to believe that Atticus was a saint, the best, someone we could have to dinner without fear of a bad discussion at the table.  In Watchman we find out not so much.  Does that ruin my life?  I don't think so.

It's a book, people. A work of literary fiction.

Read it.  Find out what life is really like.  So another childhood dream bites the dust.  Adulthood is for finding out all about reality.  Adulthood is for changing, for learning forgiveness.

Adulthood is for creating new realities.

It's just a book, people.  Summer reading.