I have decided to take the week off from writing or any writing related activities (editing). For some reason, since we returned from Tennessee I have not been able to edit. Every time I pick up my manuscript, I put it down again after a few sentences of reading.
I think I might be leaning toward writing another middle grade novel. I have not finalized my decision, but this is the way I am leaning. It feels weird to not be working on anything, but I might need that for a week or so. I would compare the feeling to the one I experienced after finals in college, where in the previous weeks and months I was used to studying, writing papers, reading the textbook, and all of a sudden final exams finished and there was nothing to do until the next semester started. Every now and then my stomach would drop as I felt like I was forgetting to study. That is what I have been feeling.
I think the new semester will start next week. I’m just not sure what classes I’m going to sign up for yet!
As a family, we went to Tennessee this past week to visit my wife’s grandmother. There is nothing to do there, which was just what I needed. As I have mentioned before, I hate editing. I edited about half or more of The Big Stinky City while we were there and I actually enjoyed it. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t have anything else to do, or if it was because I was in different surroundings, but it was enjoyable.
I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it is because I had not gone back and read what I had written with this book, and as I edited, it was almost like reading it for the first time. I had forgotten most of what I had written, and it is a very good book.
Back from Tennessee, I decided to spend Sunday night on the 70’s camper and pick up The Painter where I had left off writing a year or so ago. When I got to the campground, I noticed that I had a flat tire on the camper and all my plans just went straight out the window. Two or so hours followed before I was able to sit down at my kitchen table and write.
When I was finally able to sit down and write, I stared at a blank Chapter 8 heading for thirty or so minutes before opening up a blank Word document. For two nights, I have been unable to sleep with thoughts of a new middle grade novel. I opened the Word document, and this is what I wrote:
I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, but my mama died. I hadn’t seen my daddy in years. So long, that I didn’t even remember what he looked like. He used to send me postcards from all over the United States, promising to come and visit, but he never did. Until now. It doesn’t really count though, he had to come and pick me up. He even missed the funeral.
I was sitting there at the graveyard, watching the men cover my mama’s casket with dirt when I heard the truck. The low sound of the muffler broke up the steady sound of dirt hitting dirt. The men shoveling the earth looked glad as I stood up to go. They hadn’t wanted to do their job in front of me, but they couldn’t wait either.
Daddy didn’t even get out or apologize for not making the funeral. He just waved for me to climb up into the giant truck. As I did, I read the sign on the side of the truck, which read, “Sonny’s Carnival and Sideshows.”
My name is Sonny. My daddy is Sonny too which makes him Senior and me Junior. Everybody calls him Boss and me Sonny.
I even call my daddy Boss because he told me to. When I got into his truck after the funeral, he shook my hand and introduced himself as Boss. Shouldn’t a daddy hug a kid when their mother has died! That is what I was expecting—a hug. That was about the last time I ever expected anything normal to happen in my life. As I looked back to see the graveyard fade out of sight, my daddy asked me if I liked country music. I told him that I didn’t and he tuned the radio to a country station and laid a wheel coming out of the cemetery.
I wrote a little more on this and then back to The Painter and wrote some on that. Something about travelling carnivals and the life of a carney fascinates me. I think it would be fun to research and create a world inside of this idea. I’m not sure what I will do and what I will work on. I guess time will tell.
I finished writing The Big Stinky City two nights ago. It feels great. I'm going to take a few days off and then start editing. I will also start working on The Painter. I am looking forward to the new book but not the editing of the other. The whole idea of trying to sell it makes me feel tired. I just wish I could skip all that part and keep on writing. Too bad it doesn't work that way.
I had a great night of writing on the 70’s camper last night. I am so close to the end of The Big Stinky City. In some ways I can barely wait to finish the book, but I will miss the people in this book greatly. For the past year I have lived with these folks. I love every single one of them and know them inside and out like the closest of family members. When I finish writing, they will no longer live in the present with me, but will be in the past. I will have good memories of all of them.
But back to the good feeling of finishing a novel.
I think that feeling comes from the sense of accomplishment one feels on finishing a book. Yes, there is still a lot of work to be done in editing and writing letters to prospective agents, but to finish the writing of a book is an indescribable feeling—but I will try to describe it!
When I finished Birdsongs, I was elated. I think it may have taken me two years to write it. I was still learning how to write a book and about the dedication that was required. I had written a book titled, Trenchgold, a year before and the novel was just a mess of words. Thank God I never let more than three people read that slop. So, finishing Birdsongs was new territory for me. I had written something I was very proud of and believed in. I thought I would write a few letters, snag an agent, and chill at the 3-Day Ranch for the rest of my life writing books. The elation soon gave way to reality. Hardly a soul would even write me back. I have to give it up to Janet Reid, an agent who rejected my work, but wrote me a handwritten note gently letting me down and offering encouragement. She was a bright spot in all the disappointment that soon followed.
When I finished Camp Timber View, I felt the same sense of accomplishment, elation, and the sense that I had improved my craft considerably. I felt that this book was the one that would give me the keys to the 3-Day Ranch. I started to decorate it in my mind and even planted a flower and vegetable garden behind the pool. A few agents wrote me back this time. I wrote a hundred letters over the course of a year and had about thirty form rejections, five personal rejections, and the rest must have been lost in the mail. I was pretty disappointed.
Now, as I near the end of another novel, I am once again filled with hope. Once again, I feel as if I have improved my craft to a new level. This novel, I feel is worthy of great things. Time will only tell, but for now I will ride this wonderful feeling of hope and new beginnings. I hear the keys of the 3-Day Ranch jingling, somewhere off in the near distance.
I tried to plant a garden this year and approached it with the attitude that it would be the easiest task in the world. Plant some seeds and water them regularly and I would have enough vegetables to fill any small town’s grocery aisle. I imagined I would have so many vegetables that I would have to build and set up a little stand at the top of my driveway to give away free vegetables to neighbors. I would have so many I would have to put ads in the newspaper and signs on all the telephone poles pointing people in my direction. I envisioned myself making giant witches’ cauldrons of vegetable soup and starting a Meals on Wheels program that only served my nutritious potage. All of the shut-ins in my town and surrounding areas would love me as I drove around daily filling them up with my delicious, fresh soup.
Not. I don’t even have enough vegetables to feed a starving ant. I saw this little formation that almost looked like a cucumber about a week ago; I touched it and it imploded. I swear to you, it did. I think I even heard a pop. I must be the worst gardener ever. I just looked and my thumb is not black, but it does have a squiggly scar on it.
I feel so betrayed by the plants that my daughter and I so carefully took care of. I wish they could just speak English, or any language. I would be willing to learn a new language in order to communicate with my squash. I just need to know if they need more or less sun, more or less water, and if they would like some fertilizer—they have it on sale at Wal-Mart. Just tell me! They have said nothing and they have basically done nothing. They are the most boring plants I have ever been around.
Wake up plants! I told everybody I was starting a garden and I am so ashamed of you when they ask about you. If you start growing now, we can forget this whole thing and I will forgive you. If not, next year I am going to raise chickens. Ummm, chicken soup.