09 May 2010

Losing the gumption

So I got chapter 6 back from the editor about a week ago.  I haven't really looked at it yet, and I should have, long and ever ago. 

Playoffs, my only weakness.

Yes, my beloved Senators got dumped in round one, in a series that was a lot closer than most people think, but I'm still watching.  Because I love hockey.  More than most.  Even if it's two teams that I hate (see: Washington vs Montreal), I can't help but watch.  Especially in the playoffs.

Americans love the whole idea of baseball as a metaphor for life.  They have it all wrong.  It's hockey, and it IS life. 

For those of you who don't enjoy hockey, I feel sorry for you.  You can't appreciate the feeling of passion that comes with the cold smell of ice in your nose, and the sound of steel on ice in the air.  The feeling of wooden or concrete seats under your ass, eating rink fries and cuddling into your sweater.  You'll never know the feeling of power you get when you strap on a pair of skates and step onto the ice with a stick in your hand.  The absolute feeling of victory you get when you snag a slapshot out of the air with your glove.

I think my editor will forgive me for being late on this chapter, and the next few.  This is, after all, the post-season, the most wonderful time of the year.  Nowhere will you see more grace, skill, and drive than you will in a hockey game.  It is primal, but it also transcends humanity in a way that cannot be adequately described.

26 March 2010

Two chapters down

Working with my editor a chapter at a time.  After a slight delay on my part, the first two are done.  So far, I am very impressed with his work, and look forward to continuing on with this process. 

Oddly, I'm actually having fun with the editing process, now.  With somebody else directing it, most of the tedium and frustration is on somebody else, for which I am eternally grateful.

13 March 2010


I hate this word.  I've just decided this today.

It's a redundant word.  Not in a 'other words mean the same thing' sort of way; every word in every language could arguably qualify for that.

It's redundant in that saying something is remarkable makes it remarkable.  You are remarking on it.  Therefore there is no need to say it's remarkable.

I hate it, and will no longer use it.

03 March 2010


As mentioned, I was in the hunt for an editor.  I met with a young man from Kensington a few weeks ago, and I was impressed.  We agreed on a method of feedback, and a fee, and have begun working together.  On Friday, I received the first chapter, with his notes and suggested revisions, and I have to say that I am glad I went with him.  He's good, and I can see this working quite well.

I've just sent him the first chapter again, with my own comments on some of the suggestions he made, though I've incorporated most of them into the text, there were a few that I kept as is.

I'm excited to hear what he has to say about it, and we'll keep moving forward through the manuscript.

18 February 2010


In a further attempt to actually get published, and potentially make some money off my work, I have been in contact with several editors.  Two, in particular, seem promising.  One is a young man, fresh out of his degree, who is being very accommodating in regards to my finances and lack of travel ability.

The other was very highly recommended by the professor I spoke with about this, though I haven't talked to her about fees yet, or how she works.  I should be meeting them both, face to face, by the end of this week, and will make a decision on the matter then.  

The price involved in this is prohibitive.  We're talking in the thousands of dollars.  But, it is something that needs to be done, as this manuscript needs a pile of work, and I hate editing myself.  Getting an outside eye, one without bias, should only make it better.

29 January 2010

Taking the Next Step

So I've been sitting on a finished novel for some time now.  I've submitted it to two publishers, and am still waiting on a reply from the second.

But it's time I realised that I can't do this on my own.  I contacted a professor, and published author, at UPEI, for some help.  He is pretty high up in the English department at the university, runs the Creative Writing program, and is the sort of teacher that everybody should have at least once in their lives.

I met him in his office yesterday afternoon, and he was incredibly helpful.  More helpful than I think he realises.  He gave me some tips on how to contact a publisher correctly, how to get in touch with an editor, and how the editing process works.  He's passing my name on to a professional editor (and fellow English/Creative Writing professor at UPEI), and mentioned several workshops in the area that I should attend.

On top of this, he gave me a list of publishing houses who would be more amenable to my writing, and was very encouraging.  He was friendly, accepting, and seemed very excited that I was taking this step.  He mentioned that, as the Creative Writing prof at UPEI (which has a higher percentage of douchbaggy writer wannabes than most other universities, it seems), he sees a lot of people who say they want to be writers, but who never go past the actual writing stage.  He seemed pleased that I was willing to put in the money and the work to do it.

Writing a book is the easy part.  Getting it published is like performing brain surgery while blindfolded, on fire, in space, and fighting a rabid grizzly bear with your bare hands.  It's difficult, frustrating, and more a matter of luck than anything else.  You hear stories all the time of people who went it alone, and almost singlehandedly get their work written, edited, polished, published, and on the best sellers lists.  But it doesn't work that way.  You need the support of people around you, even if it's just those people who are willing to put up with your pretentious bullshit.  You need contacts, and friends in the industry.  You need to make friends with people who you normally wouldn't like, and you need to do it with a smile on your face.

But, if you're lucky, you meet guys like this professor, who was genuinely helpful, friendly, and willing to give you the advice you need.

I'll be stepping up my efforts to get my books on a shelf near you, and am willing to work my ass off to do it.  This is what I want to do for a living, and I'm not going to let anything stop me.

04 January 2010

Breaking the Rules

I've been reading a lot of Cormac McCarthy and Chuck Palahniuk lately.  I picked up No Country For Old Men and Pygmy with a gift card to the bookstore I got for Christmas.  These two, combined with a read of Jose Saramago's Blindness not that long ago, has brought me to the subject of this much-delayed post.

The rules for English grammar are pretty hard and fast.  These rules are what make English an actual language; without them, it would just be a bunch of sounds.  Whether you realise it or not, you use grammar every day.  Every time you speak, you are building your sentences according to grammar's rules.

But these rules can be broken, and often are.  The rules themselves have countless exceptions built right in, and break themselves all the time.  But I'm referring to a more fundamental destruction of grammar.  McCarthy and Saramago, especially.  Chuck is a little more subtle about it.

These men don't do it out of ignorance.  Quite the opposite.  They have an intricate knowledge of how the language works (Saramago in Portuguese, but the translation to English carries his infractions almost completely), and they know how to manipulate it very well.

The key thing is, they are consistent in how the break the rules.  McCarthy uses no punctuation to specify dialog.  You have to infer it most of the time.  After a few pages, you don't even notice.  The way he writes, you instinctively know when somebody is speaking, because there should be somebody speaking at that point.

Saramago goes one step further.  Not only does he ignore punctuation for dialog, he ignores the structure rules for it, as well.  An entire conversation between half a dozen people will be contained in a single paragraph.  For example:

"How are you today?" she asked.

"Fine, thank you.  Have you met my sister?"

"No.  Hello, nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you, as well.  It's a beautiful day, isn't it?"


"It is."

That sequence above is hard to follow as it is, because there is no way of know who is speaking what toward the end, without keeping track of the flow in your head.  Saramago would write the same as follows:

How are you today she asked.  Fine, thank you.  Have you met my sister?  No.  Hello, nice to meet you.  Nice to meet you, as well.  It's a beautiful day, isn't it?  Yes.  It is.

It completely breaks it down, strips out everything that identifies a speaker, the change of orator, or even any indication of dialog.  You have to infer it.  The reason he does this, in Blindness, is to enhance the story.  The anonymity and confusion of the dialog pulls the reader into the story, in which everybody is blind.  Every character is completely blind, and cannot tell when somebody is about to speak, let alone differentiate between speakers.

McCarthy does it for much the same reason.  When there is no break in the text (and a quotation mark is a break. . . mentally, you switch gears to a dialog-voice), it flows much better.  With the style of McCarthy's prose, that lack of a break serves to pull you in all the more.  You're breathing with these characters, sweltering in the Texan heat right next to them, or suffering under the oppressive grey skies of a post-apocalyptic world with them.  There are no quotation marks in the real world, when somebody speaks to you.  The lack of them on the page makes everything seem more real as you're reading it.

But it's very hard to do.  You need a very good reason to break the rules in such a way, and you need to be consistent in it.  But, most importantly, you need to know the rules themselves, inside and out, before you can effectively ignore them.