Priming the Pump (On Writing And Editing)


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So, I started back at my farm handing gig this week. On the farm they got this cool hand pump, and and it’s sort of confusing to use, because when you pull the handle open, at first nothing comes out, but then you pump it a couple of times, and then you hear this little push of pressure and then water is just gushing out of the pipe. I read recently about how it was a good idea for writer to prime the pump as well when editing and rewriting. So that before you set down to edit even, you should take some time and just write some new stuff, maybe more background, supplemental material for the work in progress, or even the next sort  You may not incorporate this material into the final story, but doing it you will learn new things about your characters and get into the rhythm of being a word slinger. 

Today I started priming the pump by doing some free writing. So I wrote two sections adding on to pre-existing scenes, one of which I got into a characters heads which I hadn’t done previously, and with both of these I think I actually may incorporate some things in the final draft. I also just did some writing about the world of my story, and it actually was pretty insightful. I was able to generate some interesting ideas which help me understand my world better. And though I may not use any of this materially directly in the story, knowing it will help me mature the world overall.

I have been having some trouble editing, duh says frequent readers of the blog, but I think my problem was I wasn’t priming the pump. Instead what I was doing was just staring at a mass of text, hoping somehow that the yellow break road of the story would just open up. But like all things worthwhile and challenging, it is all about routine and doing the work. The work for a writer is writing, coming up with new words everyday. You have to feel that energy and have that creative energy to keep the whole process alive and moving forward.

I am currently reading “Revision and Self-Editing” by James Scott Bell. I am really enjoying reading all these books on writing. Even when the tips aren’t groundbreaking, just having another writers thoughts and experience, helps the spirit and the method. Also because hopefully it is writing, these books are easy and quick to read. And you get great reading lists!


Does Size Matter? (On Writing & Editing)


Well I don’t think it does, really. I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity, in most areas really, ahem. There is a lot of discussion out there among writers about how much is enough. There are different word count for different genres I’ve learned, and a myriad of reasons and explanations for these different levels. Like Hard Sci-FI should be no less than 90K words, and YA should be somewhere around 60k. These are of course dictated by the always dubious and ambivalent, “publishing industry”, and so of course my Generation Y, anti-conformist, middle-child syndrome, wasn’t raised right ass, is highly doubtful of all these conventions. Of course no one is really saying these word counts are a hard line in the sand or anything. No, of course not, just merely suggestions, based on empirical research and common sense.

For a thorough listing and explanation of word count expectations, check this out

So I am on Chapter 3, Draft Three, and I am having another sort of size issue. The first two chapters are each roughly six pages and then my third chapter end ups being only like two. So I have gone back tightened it up, done some rearranging and rewriting, removing some of this telling, adding some of that showing, and it still sort of tops out right around two. So then I ask, well is this just the way it is? Is this okay? I think about pacing. We start out Chapter 1 in the action, 2 we get a little interlude world building, 3 bam we get another little bit of action, 4 we will return to development, five pick up the action, I see some sort of scheme here. All sounds fine and dandy, but then again the over analytic, non-conformist, begins to think, well is it too symmetrical, too formulaic, and then suddenly an existential abyss opens up and the whole thing must be evaluated for all points of problem and merit, until we find ourselves lost in circular battle of artistic doubt and mania, and then our Tuesday is ruined…



That’s not what happened though. I edited for an hour, will probably spent another half an hour, in deep contemplation, rereading Draft 2, and then I’ll call it a day, and go plant some tomatoes. Now how do I grow those things into monsters….

The Work Continues (On Writing and Editing)




We are off on draft three people. About one and 3/4 chapters on our way, so we still got some way to go. I understand too of course that this may not be the last draft either. I do hope though that this can be a definitive draft. If I can’t get this basically in line, this round, then I will have to caste it to the abyss officially. I don’t want to do that.

All right with that melodrama out of the way, life is going very well for me. Spring garden is rocking, except for the ravaging bunnies. My garlic is about twelve inches tall, got a tater popping, and seven tomatoes plants out in the raised bed. Little kiddies are keeping on rocking in the free world, and the Wife has five days off! It’s write time folks. Actually edit time, I guess.

The great thing about writing is you can only do it so long. If I get in my morning session, like I like it, by noon I am basically spent and can go do other stuff. Like read! I picked up a few books on editing. I started Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy. The first chapter was about the differences in the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy. How they each have similar rules and conventions, which self-identify to perspective editors and publishes. He also give a wonderful overview of the readings that should be done to acquaint yourself with the scientific cannon. So basically I got like twenty some authors I need to go get into, super exciting!


I’m realizing that my writing has a lot of plot holes, and not in the traditional sense of a singular distracting instance, but instead like holed swiss cheese. I need better character integration, and better frames for the main narrative. I need substantive development through narrative, but not info dumps. All the actors are here, the set is made, and the ideas are on the page, but we still don’t have the story, beginning to end. But we are getting there, one day, one session, one sentence at a time. Hope you are getting somewhere too.


Book Review: The Empty People, Barry N. Malzberg (as K. M. O’Donnell) (1969)

Great book review!

Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations


(Howard Winters’ cover for the 1969 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

“Inspecting a few she found that they were about what she had expected: the science-fiction books seemed to be full of nonsense about extraterrestrials or flights into space, the damnedest silliest stuff imaginable, and the sex part was sheer filth.  There was no question about it; there was no other way to describe those books” (12).

Science fiction as delusion.  More specifically, chapters replete with SF plots with evil aliens with interchangeable names and megalomaniacal claims to power culled straight from the pulps are delusions.  Imagined (perhaps?) by an average American man with “metastases” (14) growing in his brain while a concerned, albeit cheating, normal American housewife waits at his bedside.  The Empty People (1969) is considered Barry N. Malzberg’s (writing at K. M. O’Donnell) first SF novel.  However in the vein of his more famous Herovit’s World(1973), the most convincing interpretation of the novel suggests…

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Draft 3 (On Writing and Editing)

I’m finally back at it. I spoke of a first brief bit of hope in my last post a few weeks back. I had intended to let my current WIP rest until April 1st, but then it didn’t really rest and there was much existential angst and study, and before I know it another month had progressed. 

In the mean time, I did start a new work, and now I’m almost up to 5k words on that. And to be honest I still really was never able to let the WIP rest to any great degree. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy thinking about the changes that needed to be made, but for some reason I’m having trouble doing the work. I’m working through that limbo, self-doubt phase though for real. What has happened is that I have thought about the WIP enough where now it is easier to just make it less crappy and do the work, than continue to muddle over it and not move forward. 

I got my spring garden planted, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, arugula, in the extra month. My garlic from last October is looking great. I also built a large raised bed to hold all my plants. So again the rest period is not all that restful, but doing other things definitely helps the writing. Writing is a lot like gardening, or cooking, or even raising kids. It is a process, that has to be taken step by step, and though you work towards some imagined end, there is no real end and you just got to keep at it. 

I’ve been reading a lot during these last two months. I think I am at like 8-9 book so far this year. I am a little behind the pace I wanted to be, but I have been reading more overall, so it’s nice to have the challenge in mind. I’m just about to the end of Stephen King’s newer book “Doctor Sleep”, a sequel to the “The Shining”.


I’m really enjoying it. It’s fun not just because of the interesting story, but also because I am paying extra-attention to how the story is set up, and what works. I am looking at it more as a writer, as an editor. I also recently finished the Western “Rider of the Purple Sage”, by Zane Grey. It was another great lesson in what makes a book exciting  and keeps the pages turning.   



Stephen King is one of my heroes. I have definitely been influenced by his writing and love how he tells a story. It is all about story. Good ideas and good characters are important, but there has to be a story; Stephen King gets that. He makes you pay attention to a character, and then before you know it you’re empathizing with that character, and mad as hell at another, and then problems start popping, and you just got to keep reading for some resolution, and before you know it’s over, and you’re just out on your ass from the whirlwind. That’s what I like in books and life, getting messy in the whirlwind. 

So I started Chapter 1 today. I basically took three chapters, sixteen sum pages and smashed it into six. I probably wrote another new 1k words, reincorporating chunks of details which I felt were key from Draft 2. I also took the advice I was given and started at a point of action, and worked some backstory in flashbacks and the scene. And you know what it’s better. Not perfect, but it is a better first chapter than Draft 2’s first chapter.More than the good chapter I am comfortable and aware of how the changes looks, how to make it better, and that is my goal, steadily getting better. I was also able to go through the kept stuff from Draft 2, and edit it again, tightening up some of make dialogue tags, clarifying/rewriting bad sentences, eliminating unnecessary or incorrect details. 

It’s a weird feeling watching it coalesce, and evolve into something which feels more like the real thing. I am able to take pieces of the earlier drafts and then graph them on to a tighter narrative. It is almost as if the earlier drafts become cheat sheets that I can than plagiarize to make a better story. Anyways, I could go on all day. I hope you out there are progressing in your efforts. Do the work!