The Editing Goes On (On Writing and Editing)

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Source:  http://therefinedinvestor.com/2013/10/sisyphus-part-i/

So I am about sixty percent done with this round of editing. I speculate that I am going to have to do at least two more “Final Edits”, or read throughs. These should be much easier than this current edit. This current editing round has been all about cutting words, and smoothing out the language and major plot points. The next round is going to be “Big Picture”, reader impression type stuff, making sure all the loose ends are wrapped up. So I’ll be focused on more abstract issues like, does the story flow, are all the chapters necessary, can we cut anymore, what is the overall effect of the novel? I will also try to focus in on themes and philosophy issues, am I consistent, is it interesting, do I get where I want to go? Am I leaving anything out? 

This is also a series book (I know everyone does a series these days). So I am also going to be thinking about the set-up for future books. Have I laid the ground work for future books? Have I cut myself off from any possibilities in future books? Do i even NEED future books!?

The editing process is helping me grow as a writer. I have multiple stories that need to be edited. It’s an exciting prospect to have all that unrefined material, but it is also daunting, because in all honesty, editing isn’t my favorite thing. But maybe it could be?! And in reality it has to be! Writing and Editing are like the Yin-Yang of authoring. Writing seems more natural, feminine, unconscious and uncontrolled. Editing is more controlled, systematic, conscious, masculine and orderly.

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Source: http://licomomo.deviantart.com/art/Yin-Yang-357806069

So now I start asking, what’s next? Again, all I really want to do is go back to writing the stories; that is the fun stuff. But I also want to get this book out there in the world, so it can be read and enjoyed, so that means I have to start learning about another process, self-publishing. Honestly, after the daunting editing process, I’m not even afraid of the self-publishing process (I am a foolish man though). I’ll do another post here soon about why I am going to self-publish and not go through the traditional publishing journey. That said, if you got any great books or articles about self-publishing let me know! Or if you’re a bad ass editor who wants to come help, holler at the dude!?

Motivation (On Writing and Editing)

So I am getting a little word overdosed this weekend, so I thought in today’s blog I would just show you some clips and music that I like to use to get motivated. I would love to hear any motivational tools you use to get your art done?

I love powerful speeches like this. They are always my favorite parts of movie and favorite parts of books too. Anything that can capture that adventurous, conquering spirit is so empowering and motivating. Al Pacino is the best at it and Rocky movies, and Bruce Lee movies. Damn, if I watch some Rocky I can chop down a mountain bare handed in the snow, shirtless, fighting a bear!

Damn here’s another one. Stuff like this is too good. Dare to lose. Dare to get it and try again. Don’t stop. Get it.

Oh and this legend Mr. Bob Marley, especially this song “War”, this can put me right in the creative space instantly.

Chapter 5

 

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http://www.businessinsider.com/some-soldiers-are-so-attached-to-their-battle-robots-they-hold-funerals-for-them-when-they-die-2013-9

She had been it for hours. She felt so tired. She had a head ache. All the parts were in front of her. The schematic for the U.G.V. she had created was spread out on a work bench the 3003 had made. The 3003 stood next to her erect and silent, awaiting her next orders.

The announcement of the next A.C.T. challenger was coupled with the declaration that she would have two days to prepare. The next challenger was Rubix Color. Room four. The smallest of the boys, when the Nanny had announced he was her second challenger, for a second she had felt relief. She towered over the boy, weighing fifty more pounds than him. In all the physical training him and Virginia Vanish couldn’t even finished. But what if it was another mental challenge? 

The two free days had been heaven for Echo. No classes. No Nanny. No Atticus. No Helen. She had been on her own for the whole first day. She knew she should have been studying U.G.V., practicing building them on her own, but the freedom from the routine has been too wonderful of an opportunity. She had decided to use the 3003 to make her a baseball glove and she had played catch in the large classroom with Paul and Frank. 

They had both tried to steer the conversation towards her next challenge but to no avail. In all the fun of playing catch and chasing the ball, it seemed they had forgotten about the challenge too.

Margaret and her clique had stood in the entrance to the hallway watching the three of them playing. She had smiled, a sick little disdainful grin at the trio and then they had marched back down the hallway.

That first day had been pure bliss. After catch with the boys for hours, she had taken lunch in her room, and spent the rest of the day hanging with Sylvester and watching cartoons. That evening she had tried to review some footage of previous A.C.T.s but when she had seen little boy Beta, struggling to build the U.G.V. and had seen the pressing faces of the huge crowd, it had brought back all her anxieties.  

She did flip through A.C.T. handbook for a few minutes that night. She discovered an important point in the rules. She didn’t have to win every A.C.T. to not be terminated.It was three losses and then she was out. This gave her quite a bit of hope, to her it seemed it didn’t matter if she tried or not, and her new plan was just to let Rubix win. Maybe she’s just let them all win. This was comforting and soon she was off to sleep.

She woken up early the second day. Everything had been dead silent as usual in her room. She had wanted to go back to bed, and maybe even sleep the rest of the day, but then images of broken Beta ran through her mind and she realized she would not be able to go back to so sleep. She grabbed her glove and headed for Frank’s room. She found all the doors of her classmates shut. This was odd. They had all never been shut like this before. She had the terrifying thought that she was all alone and was going to be stuck that way. 

The room to the classroom was open though and so she made her way there. It was completely empty except for the usual table and chairs, and one 3003 which stood silently glowing. She lazily tossed the ball in the air and caught it. She knew she should just try to build a UGV, in no way could a little preparation hurt, and she was the Captain so it wouldn’t be right to just let Rubix win, but some little part of her was just determined to throw the whole thing.

She had been wandering the room playing catch with herself for ten minutes or so when one of her classmates appeared in the door way. At first she thought it was Helen, and her heart stopped; she would not be forced into studying by her, but then she realized it wasn’t Helen, but Grushka Lana and she had a sword at her side. 

In the C.C.D. she would be trained in two weapons, a sword and a rifle. Echo hadn’t even begun training on the sword yet, so she was surprised to see the one hanging from Grushka’s hand. It was a glossy black thing that looked sharp as hell. The sight made Echo’s skin bubble up in a thousand tiny goosebumps. 

Grushka was a scary, serious monster. Everything Echo felt she wasn’t. Smart, serious, intense. Atticus had paired them up early on in the UGV workshops, but it hadn’t worked out. Echo had frustrated the girl to an unproductive level. Grushka had insisted that Atticus put her in another groups. 

She was also one of Margaret’s clique. All this led to them barely knowing acknowledging each other.  Things were no different this morning. Neither of them said a word. Instead Grushka moved to a corner of the room and requested from the B.R.A.I.N. a 3003 machine all to herself.

The rectangular object rose from the floor. “3003 activate Samurai simulator, level medium,” she said. A holographic image of a Samurai soldier, in full regalia, came out of the 3003. Grushka took a combative position, holding the large sword close. 

Echo kept on tossing the ball in the air as if she wasn’t scared, but she was. 

There was no real danger to Grushka. It was a sophisticated hologram. Totally life like, but when it slashed it passed through like a ghost. Now if the girl blocked the blow, there was the realistic twang of steel on steel and a visible reaction from the opponent. She blocked most of the them. 

Grushka made a fearful display of her ferocity. She sliced and hacked, grunting and breathing loudly. Quickly she made a killing blow on the hologram, plunging her sword deep into its digital guts. She pulled her blade with a satisfied grunt and returned to a starting position. 

Echo made a few more laps around their table, keeping a steady eye on Gruska the whole time. She realized she had to try. But still she was confused, what was the point of trying when she was so behind? Out of fear, she realized she had to apply herself. She studied into the night, only dozing at her chair. 

Nightmares came too. She dreamed of giant U.G.V.s with long arms coming and snapping at her. Weird machines, with swirling blades, imagined by a mind like Da Vinci’s. It caused her to wake up and frantically try to find her place in the material. 

Helen finally stopped by late in evening of the second day. It had been an awkward conversation. Frank and Paul also came later and tried to help her, but they sensed right away that it wasn’t sticking. This just wasn’t Echo’s challenge. 

Before she would have liked, the weird ceremony was dragging her into the auditorium. All she could do was close her eyes and try to imagine a better place than his. A natural place. 

The crowd was enthusiastic again. Cheering for each of them. There was also plenty of side chatter this time, or so it seemed to Echo. She just wished everyone would shut up so she could get the thing finished. 

After introductions by Attics, Rubix had snapped into a flurry of motion. She would have never anticipated this from the kid. He had always been weak, non-sporty, but he had rolled up his sleeves, showing his bony arms, and had gone to work. His U.G.V. was almost assembled, before she had a wheel on hers. It looked so brilliant, and perfectly thought out. 

The challenge was rather simple on the face of it. There was a large clear cage with four items in it, and there were corresponding holes which the objects could be put in. They were arranged in the center of the room. There were also two openings stacked on top of each other, about three foot by three foot, which their U.G.V.s could enter or exit. 

Atticus in a booming exalted voice had instructed them that the winner would be determined by who ever placed the most pieces in their right spot and make it out of the trap, and let the game’s begin, and Rubix had become a furious, demon mechanic. He was putting the final pieces on his creation, as she finished producing what she needed from her 3003. It was hopeless that was obvious. She scanned her schematics for something to do. Anything to take her mind of the beating she was taking. She began to take it step by step, and it started making sense. She had to try. She began to focus. 

Not near fast enough to beat Rubix; but still fast enough that soon she had it built; not perfect, but at least it might roll; that would be a big victory to her.

She got done as Rubix placed the third piece in its hole. There was a satisfied grin on his face. He had noticed her picking the pace on her U.G.V. His face said it was amusing. It was wobbly, and she didn’t know how long it would last, but she entered the ground level door with U.G.V. Doubts still plagued her. Rubix had already won. She wondered if perhaps he would let her just try, just to get a taste for it. 

Out of no where, he attacked. She hadn’t noticed his machine stop in it’s path to the fourth object, or the hush of the crowd. She was too focused on operating her machine. At that moment she realized, maybe she should have looked more into the rules, because Rubix’s U.G.V. turned on her, and a brilliant flash was emitted from it and Echo’s machine was split in half. 

The roar and applause from the crowd was deafening. They began to chant his name. He laughed and happily went and got the fourth object. It was a large black ball which was suspended by chrome rings. It was awkward and required a special attachment for the Rubix’s flying U.G.V.; she realized her machine would have been worthless with it. There was the glitter and the announcement. Rubix had been paraded around the room by the rest of the class and the teachers. 

Atticus had congratulated her about completing the U.G.V. “It is not easy. The act challenge must be taken seriously. I know you have been studying hard through the night, but these challenges will get more difficult, and as you can tell the competition is stiff. You must apply yourself at all times.”

“I don’t care,” she said, “this is a stupid game, and I don’t want to play.” She knew it was petty to say, but it came out anyway. She couldn’t believe she was talking to her teacher like this, but in all the commotion that followed, either standing or sitting, in a controlled repetition, somehow she felt insulated. She wasn’t out of the A.C.T. She was still the Captain, wasn’t she? That had to amount to something. 

After some time it all wound down. The crowd remained in its place the whole ceremony, behind the thick glass barrier and above the exhibition floor. She wondered why she could not go with them at least for a little bit? Get away from all this pressure. See the real sun. Why did she have to be trapped in these three areas?

Then she was back in her room and it was all over. Sylvester sat calmly next to her on the bed. She was exhausted now, but still she could not sleep. Tired, but also tensely awake. Something burned so strongly in her mind. There was something wonky in all this. She had to figure it out. 

 

Throw It All Away and Start Over (On Writing and Editing)

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Like so many good and necessary things, like exercise and healthy eating, sometimes we can fight the rewrite, self sabotage the evolution. Don’t fight the rewrite. Embrace the rewrite. Embrace the chopping.  You got more words. Don’t be afraid to let go. It feels so good to let go of bad words.

To me, writing is a very mystical experience. I just sort of jam on ideas, characters, and worlds until things start to take shape. This captures the emotional quality of production very well, but could tend to ignore the technical aspects. The technical aspects are what allow the emotional and narrative elements to work. If the sentences don’t flow, the mind won’t go. Once you have that general shape,  you have to refine it until it makes sense.

The key to the rewrite is locating the actions and event of your writing, the scene. What is the scene? Where are we and what are we doing? One tip is to locate info and backstory in characters thoughts and reactions. And as always, let the events speak for themselves.

In my current story I have chosen a well worn, hopefully not cliched ahem, formula of the gauntlet, a la The Running Man, Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, The Long Walk. Now one might ask why retell the gauntlet, challenge story? I would say I want to crack the nut. I want to show how we can stop playing the game. I want to win the gauntlet in a way that makes sense to me. Further, look around you are we not all put through the proverbial meat grinder everyone once in a while? Isn’t the art project itself a meat grinder? It’s a rich tool for self reflection, and more importantly a good frame for a story.

Chapter 4

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The first A.C.T. had taught her a lot about her world. She had been celebrated for weeks, but as time drew closer to the second challenge, she began to notice a change in her classmates. They had become frustrated, on edge. They started giving Echo a wide berth. 

That was fine with her though. She liked being left alone. Even Helen and her had a falling out, when Echo informed her that she would prefer to study alone some nights.

She spent six months in this strangeness and then Santa showed up. He appeared one morning after breakfast. He was dressed in street clothes, khakis and a red sweater, not the metal encrusted uniform she had seen at the first challenge. She had used the B.R.A.I.N. to research him. 

His biography had her panicking. He had led initial security force which guarded the 120,000 Saints, as they were labelled by the Union, locked in a cryogenic facility, where the last remnants of her people were preserved. He was commended in the log for setting a fierce standard. His smiling face and pleasant demeanor made this seem impossible. 

“My name is Peter Atticus. I will be your next instructor. The Nanny has brought you to the point of a healthy foundation of general knowledge. At this point we will begin to apply this knowledge to real world circumstances. Ideas are of no value until they are actualized. I will enable you to actualize your dreams. B.R.A.I.N. enable multifunctional 3D printer.”

A large cube raised from the floor perpendicular to their table. Peter walked over to it and stood by it. 

“This printer is the key to actualizing your dreams. As you all have learned, there was a stalemate that occurred in the middle of the second millennia. Our problems with energy and power, our limits of speed and environment, our own social problems, all these had been resolved, but still we had not gotten passed our own astroid belt.

“There was again, like so many times in the past, a failure of imagination. I say this because, we had already discovered all the technology necessary for this multifunctional printer, but the idea had not been realized to it’s full potential.

“Then came Dr. Morrow and his brilliant breakthroughs and supreme leadership. The Cloning Ban of 2203, had left the idea of whole human printing dead in its tracks. Organs were fine, animals were fine, but humanity had to remain sacrosanct. Ideas are persistent things though. 

“Dr. Morrow born on the streets of Bangladesh, had been well versed in the struggle for survival. Perhaps I should just let Morrow speak for himself. B.R.A.I.N. play Dr. Morrow’s 2199 Galactic Senate address, begin at the 13 min marker.”

Dr. Morrow appeared holographically at the side of their table. He was standing at a podium. The people and things around him were a shimmering mirage. Echo couldn’t make out any of these details, but they are what she wanted to know.

“I realized,” Morrow said, “that for my life to have meaning I had to do more than get by. I saw the ban as an impediment to the production of life, which became my ultimate goal. Why most we suffer? Why must we die? It was all there just waiting to be put together like a puzzle, the only thing stopping us was the will to change. Imagine, a person of my humble origins, was able to create such marvelous things. How could I not? How can we not?”

Atticus stopped it here. “This is what he came up with. Known as the Morrow 3003, this device can produce anything. Echo, please name an item of your desire.”

That familiar pressure exploded in her, the bending tension of being on the spot. The whole class was looking at her.

“A cat?”

Atticus’s laugh filled the room.“Good answer, but what type of cat? Ragdoll? Calico? Siamese? Savannah? Maybe a Turkish Angora, they are quite lovely?”

“A Ragdoll, I guess?”

“Perfect Echo. No guessing needed. If you don’t like this one we can always produce a different one. There is an infinite supply. Morrow 3003 make Ragdoll kitten, one month old.”

The black obelisk began to light up. Its glassy face warmed to a dark blue, and then a light blue, and then a bright white. It hurt Echo’s eyes and she had to look away. 

“Don’t look away,” Atticus ordered. “It is important for you to see this Echo. I can promise you it is all perfectly safe.”

She slowly opened her fingers to see it. It was the weirdest sight she had ever seen. Unlike the holographic projections which she was quite familiar with, that would just pop into existence, this thing was being built up piece by piece on top the block.

There were no moving parts, but only a shimmering, swarm of activity around it. Atticus explained as the cloud worked. 

“It uses Nanotech, Echo. This machine is able to harnesses dark matter and convert it into real atoms, which build the D.N.A. of our new Ragdoll Kitty. Quickly, as you can see.”

A little grey fluff ball, soon was standing on top of the cube. It was already back to a dull black. The kitty stood with shaky legs. Atticus walked over to it and picked it up. 

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“Do you like it Echo?”

“Oh yes,” 

Margaret interrupted. “Is Echo the only one to get a cat? I want one. Maybe an Abyssinian? No wait, I want an Egyptian Mau.”

“No, that is not possible. As you are well are Ms. Marduk, only the Captain is allowed a pet. Only one pet at a time though Echo, as the handbook states, we don’t need to turn this place into a zoo.”

“That’s not fair,” Margaret muttered, “there’s nothing special about her.”

Atticus continued as if he didn’t hear her. “The 3003, as it is commonly referred to is not just for making cute animals. That is for sure. It was the key step to deep space penetration, because what could also be produced here were persons themselves. Now ships could be sent out with a 3003, to the farthest reaches of space, and once there the 3003 would produce a new Captain, much like any of our selves, and then–”

“Wait a minute,” Echo interrupted. This was the first time she had ever interjected herself like this. “Are you saying that this thing made me?”

“No, of course not, Echo,” Atticus said. “I’m saying it made us. The Nanny explained all this to you before I’m sure.”

Her mind reeled. It was an epiphany. She remembered bits of the Nanny’s long monologue, but she had always seen herself as a part of the crew. It was all just so much information. Her mind couldn’t keep it all straight. Right now all she could do was stare at the 3003. It seemed a monster to her, maybe on the verge of attacking her. 

“You must not get caught up on these technicalities,” Atticus continued. “Echo, would you like to name your cat?”

It took her a moment to think of a name, still trying to figure the previous revelations.“Sylvester, I guess,” she said softly. 

“Ah, that’s a perfect answer. Now Echo, I want you to imagine something. Imagine that Sylvester has been your kitty for twelve years. You have loved him and feed him, and watched him grow into a big fat cat.”

Echo liked this idea. She ran a finger over his little head. Sylvester meowed at her, and pawed at her hand. She felt instantly better for some reason. She could almost ignore her new teacher. 

“Now Sylvester has gotten old. He’s lazy now, sitting about all day, doing nothing. He gets sicks. You are able to determine its a heart problem. What do you do? This is open to the class.” 

Several of their hands went up. Echo’s did not. 

“Virginia, go ahead.”

“You can have the 3003 fix him.”

“Absolutely, see, so simple, so elegant. We would simply place the plump little Sylvester on to a 3003, and run the appropriate program. Now things are simple here on a home planet, with plenty of resources, but out in the great beyond, ships have to conserve their resources. This means we must make strategic choices when using the 3003. How would we fix Sylvester in a more economic way? This is open to anyone?”

Echo wanted to answer the question, but her mind was still stuck on the fact the 3003 was their Father. Images of the Nanny cuddling the pillar flashed in her mind. Those were there parent’s? They were monsters. Paul was called on. “It would be more economical to make the medicine to fix its heart.”

Margaret spoke without being called on. “That’s a dumb answer. Sorry Paul, why not just have the 3003 make you a new cat? That is the smallest use of energy.”

“That’s a fine answer Margaret,” Atticus said. “Paul was on to something though. I believe he assumed that we were trying to save this particular cat, and so then his answer is correct too. In this hypothetical situation, how do we make our decision? Echo, this one is for you, specifically.”

The familiar heat of attention. “I would do nothing.” There was a dramatic pause, as everyone contemplated her answer.

“Brilliant Echo,” Atticus responded. “That is exactly the sort of thinking we need in our leaders. Let nature takes its course. I believe that is a wonderful solution.”

“Anyone could have got that answer,” Margaret muttered. 

The rest of the class was smiling at her.  Atticus had gone on for sometime. He had explained that as the challenge developed, it would take this type of “abstract thinking” to succeed. He asked them all to begin drafting a system of values or ethics, to make these sort of decisions, and to apply them in real scenarios. 

She was informed she could keep the cat, as long as she cleaned up after it. She was told to consult the B.R.A.I.N. for proper procedures of caring for it.

Frank came by that night. Helen had jumped right on the cat maintenance, saying with this new teacher and assignments Echo couldn’t possibly deal with stupid Sylvester all by herself. She didn’t say it meanly though and Echo could tell by how Helen scooped her up and hugged her that Sylvester was in good hands. “I had to come say goodnight to Sylvester,” Frank said. 

“I don’t know if he likes you very much,” Echo said. “He whined until Helen picked him up.”

“He probably just senses Helen will be the one feeding him every morning.”

“Ah, don’t say that. I love him.” She picked him up and squeezed him. 

“Have you hear of Garfield yet?” Frank asked.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“B.R.A.I.N. show comic strip Garfield.”

Her screen lit up. On it was the toothy grin of a fat Calico kitty. He used his hands to flip through the archive for her.  

“He looks sort of creepy,” Echo said. 

Frank’s face contorted in confusion. “Ah no way, he’s just a fat cat, that likes to eat spaghetti and drive his owner crazy.”

She watched him. She couldn’t articulate it, despite enjoying his company so much, something inside screamed at her to be cautious. She needed an answer to a question. 

She needed to know if her shipmates were like her, or where they different in some way? She wasn’t able to bring herself to ask Helen. She didn’t want the long explanation and the intense concern for her own stupidity. Finally, she just blurted it out. 

“Are we the same?”

She watched him intently. His face was blank. The worse thing of it was, for the some reason she found herself liking his innocent face in a different way, a more mature way. He had soft brown hair, which the Nanny cut once a week. He had always been so wonderful, helping her, being her friend 

“No…yes. Echo, I don’t know,” he said. “You should have read all this in the A.C.T. handbook. It explains it the best. The crew and teachers are all offspring of the 3003. You’re the special one, Echo. You’re a human being. We needed a human being. Listen, don’t worry. In the end Echo, we are all the same okay? Look at Sylvester, he’s no different than any other cat.”

The cat was playing with Echo’s recently discarded socks. 

She couldn’t explain why but suddenly she was up, crossing the room. It startled Frank. She hugged him strongly. They stood like that in her cell for a few moments. 

“Thank you Frank,” she said. “You have been a good friend.”

“It’s no problem, Echo. You’re my captain.”

Something about that last bit wanted to make her cry. Instead, she pressed her head into Frank’s shoulder and closed her eyes. Helen’s awkward “ahem” broke the moment. 

He left embarrassed after this, somewhat flustered Echo thought. She immediately asked the B.R.A.I.N. to bring up the A.C.T. handbook. She wanted to go over the section on Captain’s Duties again. 

Helen had read all this to her before, but she had barely paid attention. It was dense wordy stuff, hard to scan, but Echo did her best. She found the section a section titled “Generation of the Captain.” This is what it said. 

It was wordy small print with many annotations. Annotations which would send her running between pages, until she forgot why she had searched the annotation to begin with. She finally found her awful answer. “The Global Union declared the need for  a Natural, Biological Captain for a number of obvious reasons (See Section 78A “Existential Need For Humanity”). The Biological Sources were the tested for physical viability and longevity. A Captain must have an optimum genetic background. This is essential to making the best Captain possible. 

“If the Captain was selected from the synthetic general breeder population any number of mental or physical deficiencies may be introduced. The primary goal of the Captain Program is reestablishment of the Homo Sapien bloodline. The Morrow 3003 controls the synthetic epigenetics of the Captan’s crew, which allows for the removal of any negative personal characteristics and allows the application of positive qualities which would be essential to the new biological Captain, like intelligence, patience, problem solving abilities, empathic tendencies etc.” 

“B.R.A.I.N, define epigenetics.”

“Epigenetics is the study of cellular phenotypes, evolved by mechanisms of the environment, which prompt behaviors and ideations. Discovered in the twentieth century–”

“B.R.A.I.N. stop.”

It was more scientific jargon. So many word and ideas she didn’t understand. She could sense it was all very important, but she couldn’t fathom why. It made her feel sick and nervous, like she had felt during her first A.C.T. There was something strange in all this but she couldn’t articulate what it was.

It frightened her. She told Helen she was going to bed and then grabbed Sylvester and turned the lights out. 

 

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Keeping It Simple (On Writing and Editing)

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Sometimes it helps to keep in mind some basic facts. Sentences are machines. Machines have parts. There are three basic parts to a sentence, subject, verb, and object. For example, “I walk to the store.” I is the subject; the verb is walk; the object is to the store. Go through your writing and identify each of the three parts. If you are missing a part that isn’t good, and if you got too many parts that might not be good either.

That’s it. Over and over, and over again, just keep doing that in interesting ways for the next 60k and you’ll be good to go. There are a couple other grammatical parts. Nuts and bolts we can call em. I’m talking about things likes commas, colons, semicolons, those sorts of annoying things. The rules are simple. Most of the time avoid them, unless they serve a critical purpose.

Small parts, like commas, are deceptively simple. The idea is two independent clauses, which have both a subject and predicate, are separated by periods. Commas are used when you are using a dependent clause, which is attached to the independent clause. So for example, “I walked to the store, for milk.” is a proper use of of comma. The “for milk” being the dependent clause, I think?

Semicolons, these buggers are tricky. I recently read an excellent article on semicolons which I will leave at the bottom for you for better explanation. But in my own words, a semicolon is the exception to the rule on the commas use. One way semicolons are used is in lists with internal punctuation. For example, “I had three friends over for dinner, Frank who I knew since childhood; Andy, my neighbor; and Carol, from First Presbyterian Church.”

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The other way  is more interesting and hard to always get right. Periods are full stops; Semicolons are like half stops; and commas are quarter stops. Semicolons strangely can hook up independent clauses, but again they are like commas in that they refer to the first independent clause, for example, “He went to the store; he had not eaten for days”. Overall,  Simplicity is is advised though. Subject/predicate. Subject/Verb/ Object.

I really battle with these things and have to constantly remind myself and pay attention to the writing. Keeping it simple will move you along faster. Let go of cluttered sentences and reduce them to simple sentences. Keep it short and descriptive. Let the elements, the simple parts of the machine, work for you.

Reference-http://thewritepractice.com/the-poor-misunderstood-semicolon/

Chapter 3

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She didn’t know when her first challenge would come. That was part of it. The Nanny had been dropping hints for weeks now though. “You better getter your rest Echo,” she taunted for days. “Tomorrow could be the big day.” 

The calm voice had woken her up by surprise. “Good morning ship Sumer. Today’s regularly scheduled lesson are being postponed, so the first A.C.T. can begin.” There were all sorts of shouts and noise makers and then the calm voice cut back in. “The Global Union requires the crew’s formation in thirty minutes. Good luck Echo and Paul.”

She became a blur. Instinctually, she grabbed her A.C.T. approved uniform.  Monochromatic, a dark blue, she liked how it looked. Made from a thick material, with a zipper at the side, it fit her perfectly. 

She was also given a leather band for her hair, from Helen. She said it was good luck. Inlaid with gold and bronze, there were two figures on it, a curvy woman and her son. They held hands walking and the little boy had a short sword dangling from his right hand. 

As if her thought conjured her, Helen had burst in her room, already dressed and raging to go. She drilled her the entire time. “I’m sure there’s going to be questions on the Mars colony. That is very important to them. So, who was the Captain of the settler vessel which first landed there.”

“That’s easy,” Echo responded. “Vladimir Salinkov.”

“All right, what was the nickname of the first rover which discovered, Euphrates Springs?”

“There not going to ask something like that, but I think I remember the Nanny called it “Tumbles”, because it was involved in the first U.G.V. retrieval mission the crew contended with.”

“That’s right, good Echo.”

She hated it, but she liked her friend’s compliment. She was answering her questions better than she usually did.

A loud voice interrupted them. She was ordered to go to the classroom. They discovered a long red carpet running in the middle of the walkway. Helen and Echo walked the carpet, wordlessly. 

  The Nanny and the rest of her class were assembled in the center of the room. The large table was no longer present, and unique lighting gave the whole room an empty, cave-like feeling. 

“Good morning Echo,” The Nanny said. “Welcome to the first A.C.T.”

Echo wanted to say something confident, but then her throat seized up and went dry. She could hear a loud murmur coming from a new hallway which had opened to their right, but it was too dark to see anything. It sounded like music. A muffled music, which she could not quite understand. The Nanny lined them up into two rows. Echo and Paul capped the end of each line.

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They entered a large room with stadium seating. There were so many people there. Adults and children. She wanted to meet all of them. Know them, but then she was in her seat, and the Nanny took the large chair in front of them and began the task of emceeing. 

There were nine chairs set behind her and Paul. 

She could feel Helen’s intensity punching through the back of her skull. All the faces on her, and the new environment made it impossible to concentrate on what the Nanny was saying. Her voice was loud and filled the large dome of the auditorium.

“Welcome everybody to the first competition in Echo’s A.C.T. Echo and her challenger Paul Finnis will be competing today. This will be a spectacle of cerebral combat. We will pit the grey matter of these two individual’s against each other!” There was a robust round of applause form the crowd. 

“The game is simple. Each question will be worth a point, slap the buzzer in front of you when you have the answer. The first to a hundred points will be declared the winner!” There were loud cheers from the crowd. Echo could feel their screams through the soles of her shoes. 

“With no further delay, the first question Echo!” There was another loud round of applause.

“What chromosome is Wilson disease associated with?”

Paul hand moved in a flash slapping the round red buzzer in front of him. 

“We have our first attempt at a steal from Paul.” There was a groan from the crowd. “Your answer please?”

“The 13th chromosome,” 

“That is correct,” the Nanny boomed. “That is a point for Paul, and the lead. Tough Start for Echo. The second question for Paul is…”

On and on they went. Question after question. The crowd never lost their enthusiasm. Echo’s was hard to find. 

She couldn’t help but get lost looking at all the people. They all looked so different, so unique. All the faces young and old, light to dark skin, men and women. She just wanted to know who they were. She wondered if her Mother was out in the crowd. This thought gave her courage. 

The battle went on for hours. The answers came more clearly to her, as she relaxed. Paul was faster on the buzzer than her though. She had known the answer to bunch of questions, but he kept beating her to it.

  Finally, she realized she had to decide to slap the button whether she knew the answer or not, because Paul was already twenty points point ahead. “Next question, Paul,” the Nanny said. “What is the Treaty which brought the hot conflict of WW3 to a close in 2112?”

It took Echo an extra second to realize she had slapped the button. Thick shots of adrenalin rushed through her body. She could feel the crowd anticipating her answer. It was something about WW3, a history question. She hated history, it was too abstract and boring. The word “treaty” rolled in her mind and it came to her. 

“Treaty of San Diego.” Echo’s answer was barely a whisper, and she winced after saying it. 

“That is correct!” The Nanny called, the crowd burst into thunderous applause. Echo couldn’t help but smile. The approval felt so good. “Echo get’s a much needed point and her first steal. Paul twenty points, Echo eleven point. The next question is Echo’s…”

Echo went on a run. She got the next ten question right. She could hear grunts coming from Paul, every time she slapped the buzzer before him, and then when he finally did get the buzzer first again, he missed his question, allowing her to close the gap.

They went back and forth for some time. So many of the answer Echo felt she got lucky on. They both sat hunched at the ready. Then was Paul was only ahead by five points. These games were the closest to happy that she would ever see the Nanny. Her broad, excited grin would haunt Echo for the rest of her life.

On the went until suddenly they were closing in on one hundred.  “Next question, Paul Finnis only five away from victory. Echo was ten away. Paul, who in 1791, with his friend James Madison, organized the first Democratic-Repub–”

Echo hand flashed before her mind even registered the answer. “Echo, for the point,” the Nanny called, “what is your the answer?”

“Thomas Jefferson,” she said. She didn’t even know where this answer came from. It just popped out. She registered the delightful squeal of Helen behind her, indicating that she got the question right. 

“That is correct,’ the Nanny boomed, her vibrating off the walls of the auditorium. This brought a return roar from the crowd. “That makes the score 91-95. The next question.  Echo, who, in the year 2052, was the first to theorize the first refutation of the Hubble–”

Again her hand moved before her mind knew the answer. Her pulse throbbed in her ears. She knew she had read this in the introductory Physics material. The answer was there, but it wasn’t coming. 

“The answer is Edward Watanabe.”

“That is correct! Making the score, Echo 92-Paul 95. A stunning twenty points deficit comeback from Echo. One for the record books. Next question, Paul, what is the name given to the effect which first established a force arising from a quantized fie–”

She didn’t know the answer. She was going to lose. Her hand shot out, smacking the bottom again, despite this.  

“Echo for steal and point!” The Nanny called. There was a roar from the room. 

She felt the thinnest layer of sweat developing on her forehead. She hated this. She thought she was going to vomit. She forgot the question. The word “quantized” was on repeat in her head. It was broken by a deep sigh from Helen. Echo could easily identify it as frustration. This was a question Helen thought Echo could definitely get. 

“Echo your answer, please.” The Nanny said. 

She could hear the squeak of someone’s shoes behind her. “The answer is the Casimir effect?”

There was a long dramatic pause. 

“That is correct Echo!” The Nanny yelled. There were more screams from the crowd. A huge, toothy smile exploded on Echo’s face. She couldn’t believe all these answers were coming to her. I might just have a chance, she thought. 

“This is amazing,” the Nanny said. “93-95, Echo just two behind, and seven away from the win.” There was another boom from the crowd. Then the started chanting, “Echo, Echo, Echo!”

“Please everybody,” the Nanny said, “quiet down for the next question. We must respect our competitors.”

Echo looked over at Paul. The sight was sobering. He was staring down into the ground. His hands were clenched up in his lap. His eyes were watery. Echo wanted to call this whole thing off. It was stupid. She didn’t want to hurt anyone. 

“Echo, next question, what historic court case in 1967 in the United States invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage?”

She didn’t know. Her mind went racing through what she knew about American history. The answer wasn’t coming to her. She looked to Paul. He didn’t seem to know either. He was wiping a tear from his ruddy check, when out of nowhere his hand flashed out. 

“Oh,” the Nanny called. “Paul for the point, what is your answer.”

“The answer,” Paul said, “ is Loving v. Alabama.”

She thought she was going to die. She couldn’t take the defeat. She wasn’t sure why. She wasn’t even sure if she liked this game, but the thought of losing in front of all these people suddenly seemed like the worst fate imaginable. In this dead heavy quiet, a hope was still burning though. Something seemed off in his answer.

“That is incorrect!” The Nanny yelled. There was a groan from the crowd. 

The roar of the crowd left Echo stupid. She lost the next question in the daze and then another and he was back to his two point lead. She focus again, and then they exchanged a couple points and somehow they ended up tied at game point. She couldn’t believe how close it was. 

Paul was a trembling mess. It was just like he was running those morning laps, trying to keep up with Frank, and lap them.   

The Nanny was swimming in excitement as well. “Echo, next question, tied game point, a quote, tell me its author, ‘It is the greatest good to the greatest number or people which is the measure–”

She hit the button. It was from Ethics. Her mind couldn’t quite grasp it. 

She looked over at Paul he was staring at her. His reaction was hard to register. There was something like concern on his face, but something else too. Was it vindictiveness? Cold heartedness? She couldn’t explain it. 

She scanned the crowd, finally able to register individual faces. Some were blank. Passive. Others were smiling whispering to themselves. She had always felt the Nanny looked so strange, and now with all these other adult faces for comparison her suspicions were confirmed. These faces, were softer rounder, normal. Their portions weren’t all jacked up, with the big head and shoulders, and the tiny waist of the Nanny. 

Through the plethora of people four stood out. They all had on matching uniforms. She had never seen anyone dressed like this, but then a history session hit her mind and she realized these were military uniforms. 

They sat in the front row. Three men and one woman. The woman had black hair which ran over her shoulder, smooth like a calm river.  She was scowling at Echo. Next to her was a man with screaming red hair that snaked in all directions into the air. His uniform was disheveled. His tie hanged loose and big, knotted at his mid-waist. He couldn’t seem to sit still either, and kept jerking this way and that in his chair. 

Next to him was another man. He sat calm, stoic. The wild man next to him never bumped him in his jerky movements either, like he had some invisible bubble around him. His big hands rested on his legs, the fingers on the right hand never stopping their thumping. 

The last uniformed man was smiling at her. He had a bright white toothy grin. He was smiling at her with a look of anticipation and support. His bearded face seemed to be about to explode with delight. She could sense him urging her on. The word, Santa Clause, popped into her mind, and she had no idea why. She noticed the slight movement of his mouth, as if he was about to word the answer to her. Just this nudge brought it out from deep in her memory, and it worked.

“The answer Nanny, is Jeremy Bentham.”

“That is correct! The Winner of the first A.C.T. of the magnanimous ship Sumer, is Captain Echo!”

There was an eruption of cheers and applause. A downpour of confetti and glitter covered the whole auditorium. Her classmates surrounded her, congratulated her. The Nanny shook her hand and told her well done. 

Paul didn’t shake her hand, instead he just stood off to the side bursting in tears and trying to wipe them away with the back of his hand.  Frank did congratulate her, but just for a second, then Paul and him disappeared down the long hallway. 

 

I’m in the thick of it, sorry for my absence…(On Writing and Editing)

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So, apparently to make a book you have to have a series of psychological break downs and rebuilds. There are parallel processes of critiquing going on between the art project and the artist. The book is refined, along with your opinion of yourself, but there is healthy chunk of impurities in man’s modern psyche, and so the process of self refinement is scary and emotional. It is also very elating. Transcendent. The struggle is real.

You hear the same things from writers; it becomes like having an affair. You’re always sneaking off, piddling about. Your partner watches the ups and downs as you fall in and out of love with your affair, and then that makes you love them even more for tolerating such a fool, and then if the works sucks too then the world is doubly at a loss and that just sucks even more. I don’t want my writing to just be a hobby, another thing I’ve tried to do that didn’t quite work. I want it to be great. I want it to entertain but I also want to create discourse and inspiration. I want to create the best meal of someone’s life, not just another trip through the drive-thru.

It always comes back to self-responsibility. You have got to work. You have got to do things. You can’t just sit around, but then the most curious thing happens. You ditch the thing which triggered this realization; you go to the distraction.

I think the turn-over moment is when you are so committed to your project that you start wasting time better, like cleaning the house or exercising. You realize how sometimes you can just be a whiny lazy ass bitch and if you just focused yourself and worked hard things would happen. If you turned off the goddamn music, and internet, and youtube and twitter and just spent some time thinking this project through, it would be done! So what do you do you do? You go do a blog post…

5 Things I Love About Workshopping My Fiction (Where I Regain the High Ground)

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So I don’t know what happened in yesterday’s post. I had a great working day. Coming off the great critique I got, I had worked on my editing and was doing good. Then when I come to the blog, suddenly I get all confessional, Catholic and depressive about reality. Suddenly I’m flagellating myself in front of the internet again. So instead of that today, because again I am having a great working day, I’m going to emphasize the fun I’m having in my editing process. 

“I’m workshopping and I love that…”

 

1. the work is improving. 

 

This is undeniable. My first draft is quickly distancing itself from the rough draft. This I have learned is a good thing. It is the proverbial bird leaving the nest and it is wonderful and terrifying. It is developing wings still, and there is still a lot of work to do before it takes off. 

2. I am getting better at editing.

 

So I have put years now into initial writing phase, but I am only like six months into learning how to edit. The analogy that has come to my mind is that writing is to taking pictures, as editing is to making a movie. At first my mind was resistant to the editing process, but as I have talked about already that had more to do with me than editing. 

3. Writer Friends!

 

Writing can be lonely isolating business. When I am in writing I am by myself, it is easy to get locked in my own perspective. So having someone read my story is still very new, different and exciting to me. It is a dream of mine to have a good set of those first readers who really believed in my project that can help me. I know to get that I have to be that person for someone else too though. You have to give to receive. 

I’m discovering just how much I enjoy working on other people’s fiction. I’m in the United States and I had always thought it would be cool to help the indigenous people of this land, in rhetoric and writing and all that sort of thing, and this week on scribophile.com I had the opportunity to read a chapter from a woman’s book and she is a Native American. That was really cool. Her story was awesome and full of knowledge and experiences from her life. She told me how when she writes she hears her Mother’s voice, helping her with her story. I love experiencing that and knowing that. 

You learn so much from trying to help other authors. It is weird how it is so much easier to see problems in other’s people manuscripts that you miss/ignore in your own. Working with other people’s works keeps you more honest, ironically. 

Not many people are wired to be writers so working with other minds like yours is special event, at least for me anyway. 

4. There’s a track to the goal!

 

So I have like 1/6th of my book edited, about four chapters. The rest of the way seems pretty daunting at this moment. My editing skills are getting stronger though and as the book comes into its final form, I imagine there will be a quickening, as I really figure it out. It is about making decisions, by rearranging the story over and over again, until it just sort of emerges. That sounds mystical and not necessarily like a clear track, maybe more a misty track, I guess, with a vague sense of a goal. 

No, tighten it up now, dammit. It really is one foot in front of the other. Long ways are travelled by small steps and all that? All who wander are not lost, maybe? You get the point. 

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5. I’m Spawning Self! 

I think art is about infecting the world with your essence. That the true pursuit in art to recreate a self which can be shared with others. You can sense when someone is open to that when they workshop your writing. You can sense when they have really gotten their hands in your mess and are genuinely want to help you along. This collaborative element can only exist when you share your project. That’s why early on I noted the reader is god . They are giving you their precious time and energy to help you figure it out. You have to be a student and humble yourself to your teacher and the world. 

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