a pen in each hand

Putting down the first word is often the hardest. To make the jump in and start that sentence has me dancing in the space between creating and pulling my hair out some days. Others are like my fingers are on fire with all the thoughts running through my head.

The first day back to work is always like this for me—which is today. I get nervous to sit down and lose myself in my own head. There is always a way in through the nerves and first word. Remembering that words only need to be present in order to be be fixed, helps.

In early January, I learned that the dystopian I had bled over was close, but the manuscript wasn’t quite “sell-ready.” I received great feedback and ideas, but the taste of “almost” brewed something new in me. My hunger became like a newborn vampire’s thirst. (Twilight reference.)

I spent a few weeks not looking at it, knowing I would fix it but only when I knew how. After soaking my hair in red dye, reading a towering stack of Image comics, and revisiting my go-to writing books (pretty much every one written by Chuck Wendig), I was ready.

I put everything I could down (podcast, other projects, chores) and allowed myself to fall into the story and the characters. I knew I had stuff I could keep and I knew the arrangement was off. Finding the story is like climbing out of an onion. One of Wendig’s “List’s of 25” made the visual of climbing out of an onion really stick.

Ten colored pens and a five subject notebook were purchased. I reread the manuscript, didn’t touch a thing, and took a disgusting amount of notes both inside the document and on paper. Some notes were ideas of what could be better or where scenes should move. Others were meaner. Once I was through it, I put it away again.

I am stubborn and obsessive—two things I consider some of my most valuable tools for the trade. I wanted to be very purposeful with how I bulldogged this. While I was feeding the crows and thinking about a short story in the works, exactly what I needed to do hit me like the realization I ate too many Girl Scout cookies. You know that heavy, sinking gut clenching sensation under your belly button? Yeah, just like that.

My ideas caused the dystopian to transform into high fantasy, and third person would become first. So, part of me wanted to tell myself no. The small, shrill voice said, “You are way off.” “Crazy.” “Trying to sabotage yourself.”

But, I didn’t listen to the voices or the doubt. I started a new document and rewrote the whole damn thing, keeping only 35,000 of the 120,00 words. I worked harder in the last four months than I had ever before. Which, is saying a lot because hard work is my favorite hobby.

Research.

Notes.

Layering.

Foreshadowing.

All of it.

I kept listening to my gut and ignoring the less productive trains of thought. When I handed it over to my editor the Friday before last, I felt like I was delivering my best foot. Now, I wait to hear back. It’s a battle to not worry about it or think about what needs fixing.

My kids had spring break last week. All the adventuring and quality time took my head out of the fantasy world I created and put it back into my very pleasant reality. It was nice. Coming back to my chair and career wrangling made me nervous, but I’m happy to be back. If this were easy, I would have lost interest years ago.

This post has helped me get my fingers and mind moving, so I thank you for that. I’m going to tinker with a pile of short stories that I had going before the rewrite took my brain to places I didn’t know I was capable of going.

So, yeah. Here we are.

-J

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