Thursday, May 14, 2020

What the hell was I thinking?

I was digging around in my blog post drafts file to find something pithy to say today.

I came across this, dated May 15, 2019.
In the intervening year, I've totally lost track of the point I wanted to make.

Which taught me: when I save a blog post draft I should probably make a note to myself about the point of the post.

I see a lot of new or starting-out writers in my incoming queries.
I always want to send them a big thumbs up (high fin!) for finishing a novel. In case you haven't tried it, I'm told it's damn hard. Given how I bleed over 250 word blog posts, I can only imagine the hemorrhaging over 75,000.

And often these writers have terrific ideas, and sometimes but not as often a zesty voice. I WANT to like their books.


The writing is the weak leg of the triangle.

And a lot of times, the weakness in the writing is cause the paragraphs don't hold up.

Let's take a look:

Myrtle and Mable were joined at the hip. Not literally any more, surgery at birth had solved that little surprise. They dressed alike, they both plucked a mean ukulele, and they were both in love with Tex Arkana, a Texas cowboy

Unfortunately Tex would rather kiss his horse than kiss a girl. No femmes, fatale or otherwise for him. The call of the open range. The squeak of leather chaps. Long nights under the stars with only Bud Weiser his trusty sidekick.

Myrtle and Mable tried their best. They sashayed past the barn, twirling parasols. All that did was frighten Tex's horse, and get them banned from the ranch.

They trash talked his mama, hoping to get a rise out of him. Sadly, Tex's mama was a Lowell from Boston, (yes, those Lowells who talk only to Cabots, and Cabots talk only to God)  so she not only couldn't understand Myrtle and Mable's Texas twang, if she could she would have only been amused.

In desperation they enrolled in rodeo clown training. Which would have been a brilliant idea, since it's impossible to ignore the person saving you from a snorting, slavering three thousand pound bull intent on crushing you into tofu on the rodeo arena floor, but for one thing.

Tex Arkana didn't ride bulls. Or broncs.  He was a singing cowboy.
Have you ever found something later and were totally puzzled by what you were thinking when you wrote it?

Do tell!


KMK said...

At my worst point in the query trenches, I did my one and only foray into fantasy(?): the love interest in a writer's unsold mystery comes to life and magically takes her through an R-and-R that of course leads to a deal. There was a very funny moment where she tried to make him go away with the TV remote...and a funnier one when her husband thought she was cheating with the character -- so at least it helped me get my sense of humor back! Because with whatever working brain cells I had at the time -- I had to know no one would buy that mess!

nightsmusic said...


No! Never!


I'm older now. There are days when I'm working in the kitchen and still can't remember why I'm in there. ;) I don't puzzle over it anymore. I just move on. I'll remember eventually. Same thing with stuff I've written. I have tons of openings and can't remember a single thing about where the story was going.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

All. The. Damn. Time. I sometimes write stuff just to feel my fingers moving and to see words appearing on blank, white pages. Sometimes, I forget in the middle of writing why I was writing or what I was thinking when I know there was some point I was trying to make. It happens in the books I write a lot. I will be reading a chapter I wrote months before, trying to figure out what I meant to accomplish. It's worse now than ever.

So much to distract in these weird apocalyptic times. And this is an actual apocalypse - as one of the definitions is "any worldwide catastrophe or disaster" - global pandemic fits that. Perhaps, it is not the religious grand triumph of good over evil - but still. I had hoped the apocalypse would hold off until after my series was published and tucked away. Alas.

Off to work in my tiny apartment - trying to figure out how we get the kids educated in these weird, unpredictable times.

Speaking of which - any of you know about the publishing of picture books? An 11 year old girl, the daughter of a good friend of mine, wrote the most amazing picture book and the kid wants to publish it. Who am I to say she can't just because she is only 11? It is brilliant. I think new readers and young children would adore it. She is quite a good, little artist as well. Her prose is beautiful. Anyhow, would any of you familiar with this genre have any advice I could pass on to young Sydney? She is a very determined young artist.

Steve Forti said...

Memory is a tricky friend, recalled or lost at the slightest provocation. In the same breath that I can spout old, obscure song lyrics, I can forget the time while still actively looking at my watch.
I'd be less concerned if I forgot what I was intending to say than if I had no memory of writing it in the first place.

S.D.King said...

Sometimes it is things I wrote, but often it is things I said.
Can't tell you how often people will say to me, "Like you always say, 'Keep a spoon in your glove box in case you happen across an accident involving a Swann's truck.'" Or "Like you always say, 'All potato chip bags are single serving.'"
Sounds like me, and I am sure I have said it...

PAH said...

This happens more with ex-girlfriends than it does with words.

Usually, unless we're talking old old stuff, when I stumble across a past "word fling" ... I can't even remember having written it, and I think... "Well that's not too bad."

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I've found stuff I don't even remember writing and I think ...damn that was good.

Um...another life, another century.

NLiu said...

I don't know what you were trying to say either, but that cowboy story sure is hilarious. Bud Weiser!

I got lost in the middle of a (spoken!) sentence just now. Need to level up on verbal orienteering skills.

Kelly said...

E.M. Goldsmith,

I've been trying to break into kidlit for 4 years now. I had an agent for one of those years, who turned out to be a schmagent. I'm using this tidbit as a sort of credential for my advice, but obviously I do not know everything :)

I recommend your friend's daughter read Jennifer Laughran's Literaticat Tumblr. Jennifer is one of the top kidlit agents in the industry. You can also ask her ANYTHING anonymously through her Tumblr, so your friend's kid can ask away with any questions she may have.

In my opinion, picture books are the hardest genre to break into because many people think they are the easiest to write when, in fact, they are the hardest to write having to tell a story in only 300-500 words (the recommended word count for PBs these days).

The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has some great resources on their website and they've been offering free webinars during the pandemic to their members. If your friend can spring it, pay the $95 for their daughter to join so she can access the webinars. There's also the FAQs on their website, which includes the question, " I've written a children's book. How can I get it published." Access to those are available to anyone. KidLit 411 on Facebook has excellent resources, as well, nearly all of them free. Finally, I'd recommend she check out Harold Underdown's Purple Crayon blog. He wrote the guide to children's writing and publishing, literally, and is a staple at many kidlit writing conferences.

Craig F said...

When I edit I try to keep two things at the front of my editing mind.

1)Don't edit the magic out

2) Don't muddy it up by painting another coat of watercolor over it.

About every sixth rejection I end up running through the manuscript again to see if I can find the why of things. I know that the premise of a former DARPA contractor who walked away from a new President is shaky at this particular point in time, but that can't really be changed.

Sometimes I find things that I can't understand their direction. My mind has flipped a page and I don't know where I was when I wrote.

Be careful of trying too hard when editing, you will fall into some isolated little world and make things worse. Take your time in editing.

The query id staying the same, by the way.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Kelly Thank you so much. I had warned Sydney's dad that Kid Lit was super competitive. Still, it won't hurt for Sydney to start learning about how to pursue her passions. She is a most determined young lady.

I will pass on this advice to her dad to share with Sydney. I think, sometimes kids, not knowing the rules of writing/storytelling, have such a natural and pure voice. That is the case with the book Sydney has written. It is the right length. A full story with a great message. Thanks again.

Lennon Faris said...

A singing cowboy? Sounds cool.

I used to scribble dreams down in the middle of the night. Those were some wild things.

KMK, as a fantasy fan, a character coming out of a book and interacting with the writer sounds pretty awesome. Just fyi.

John Davis Frain said...

I have the opposite problem. I remember things that never happened.

So yeah, I remember this post. You'd made an excellent point about crisp, clear Odare I say hilarious) writing that never gets around to a story. This version leaves out the paragraph with Bud's city-slicker attorney, Michael Lobe, who sues Tex over some frothy cowboy lyrics.

The upside of my version of this problem? I'm published! Now I complain about reader reviews instead of agents and editors.

Brenda said...

EM, haven’t a clue but good on you for helping out. I don’t write kid lit, Kelly, but I’ll check that tumblr account just for fun. Thankyou.

My most common WTH (that’s heck) moments come gift wrapped through my characters, who are written by me therefore it’s my own mind I don’t understand. I try to reason with them. So far they don’t answer back. Audibly, anyway.

It’s not popular just now to say that you don’t understand the actions of the little rebels but there it is. I have to root around in their motivations to sort it, or keep writing until all is revealed.

I believe that medication exists for these symptoms.

Beth Carpenter said...

I don't know, but I want more of that story.

Amstr said...

EMGoldsmith: Another great organization is Society of Young Inklings. Their focus is on mentoring young writers and helping them publish through Young Inklings. They run a writing contest every year, and every entrant gets feedback from a professional writer. Winners get mentorships for revision help and are published in their annual book. They also offer individual mentorships as well as a novel writing course, among other things. The founder, Naomi Kinsman, is a wonderful writer and has a heart for kid writers.

Android Astronomer said...

When I had my coffee shop, my baristas and I would FREQUENTLY go to the back to get something, then immediately forget why we were there as soon as we passed through the doorway.

We joked that there was an Orb of Confusion(TM) hidden in the back that was causing this.

Here's a text conversation I had with one of my off-site baristas:

Me: "I found the Orb of Confusion!"

Her: "Fantastic! Can you disable it?"

Me: "Yeah. I just need to unplug it."

Her: "Hurry! Before it scrambles your mind!"

Me: "Right. I just need to reach over..."

Her: "Well?"

Her: "???"

Her: "Did you unplug it?"

Me: "Unplug what?"


I would never believe this conversation took place if I didn't have screen shots. :)

Theresa said...

I really want to read The Further Adventures of Myrtle and Mable.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I periodically go through my "ideas" and "in progress" folder for short stories, etc. and often find files that have like, 2-3 sentences in them that make me go "yes, but now what?" or files that have an interesting title but are empty, because apparently I thought the file name was indication enough of what was supposed to reside therin, when I got there. Every once in awhile, I'm able to peck at these things and gain some understanding and then momentum and others languish, waiting.

Timothy Lowe said...

I used to write "deep" poetry that made me feel cool.

You know, weird, experimental stuff.

Once I took a roommate's half-finished grocery list and made a poem out of it.

They got shorter and shorter, until one day I outdid even myself. The poem went something like this:

"Sin skin"

Yup, that was it. Two words.

Yeah, what the hell was I thinking is right.

BJ Muntain said...

Since I moved onto a new computer, I've been looking at files from the old computer. I found a revision of one story I know quite well, that I'd forgotten. Reading it, I found ideas and thoughts that were not in the original story that really clicked. I'll have to go through the revision, compare it to the original, and see what I want to use.