Old Moon

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wanted: More Hours in the Day

With all the inventive talent in the world, where is the means of adding hours to our days? (Leaving the same amount of time for sleep, of course)?

If the sun is shining and I'm at my desk, I see all the work needed outdoors; when I'm in the garden, I try to forget what's waiting to be done at my computer. That would be enough, but then there are the meetings that are the fault of my interests and willingness to commit to something, and add the things that come up unplanned that are musts, and...you get the drift. Almost everyone could use help with this. Think of the money to be made...

About one third of the way through novel No.3 on the suggestions and critiques coming my way from my editor, I can't even catch up to what he's done to date. That would be all right if only I didn't need to rewrite the rest of the book to incorporate what he's already taught me. For the first time in my life I can understand the drive to speed up electronics. I always thought "high speed" was more than fast enough for me. Now I'm beginning to get it about gigabytes instead of measly old megabytes. Unfortunately, the speed of light wouldn't help with the speed of my fingers on the keyboard and especially with the slow pace of my mind!

It's nice to see the flowers coming out and to be able to take a breather watching the mockingbird having a drink in the bird bath on the deck. Thank goodness today is cloudy and cool. After putting in some perennials yesterday, I even hope it will rain. Now I have to get back to those pages.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Favorite Words

There are a few words that have jumped into common usage in the past fifty or so years that were once so rare as to make a reader have to go to the dictionary. I'm not sure how they achieved their new status, though I think political speechwriters may have brought "charisma" to the forefront. I learned it as a college freshman in a Greek class and never thought to see it anywhere else. The other is "serendipity." I do wish that one weren't becoming so hackneyed that I feel I need to find a synonym when I'm tempted to use it. The trouble is that I can't find another single word that says exactly what's implicated in that one word.

One of the things I'm often trying to do is write something under a maximum word count. For that, single words that can take the places of phrases are really neat to have. Of living languages, English is said to have probably the most separate words of any. (About 885,000.) True or not, borrowed from other languages or not, our mother tongue gives wondrous opportunities for precision. And that's my problem: too few writers, readers or listeners seem to care about that virtue. Whatever comes close to the intended meaning seems all too often to be sufficient.

Like any other erstwhile English teacher, I cringe at all the misuses of the verbs "to lie" and "to lay." I become twitchy with irritation at the references to "healthy food." I wouldn't eat sick turkey,would you? "Less calories" and "less commercials" make me almost willing to turn the darn TV set off and go read Jane Austen. I won't "bring my car" to the garage to get it fixed. I don't have the knowledge or the equipment. I'm going to take it to the shop. Well, you get my drift.

So to go back to those two words at the top of this post--I'd like for someone to suggest some precise synonyms for each of them; not approximate meanings. I can use a Thesaurus like anyone else. This is a challenge.

I just love it when there's one word that's just right. Then I feel justified in using it, and nowadays nobody would criticize my diction for being too hoity-toity, would they?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do You Get What You Pay for?

I'm somewhat embarrassed by the time that has passed since the last post. As one of my sons says, "Life happens," or words to that effect.

I'm finding out a little about how it might feel to be schizophrenic. As I work through the comments and suggestions being made by my wonderful editor on my third novel, I wish (no joke!) that we were back in the hard copy age. I could separate chapters and new and old versions in stacks and/or folders and find them again. As it is, I have the (at least three times rewritten) original copy on my computer. I cut and make a new file of the section being sent for critique. It comes back to me with the notations. I need to make a new file of that section to reword and rework and hope I'll end with what I might consider finished--for the time being. Then I copy and send the next section for comment again, and again. (This is a pretty long book now, and getting longer.) Nowadays I feel that I may truly be "losing it" completely as I try to come up with something resembling a final version that I know will have to be rewritten. Which of the expanding list of files is the right one to copy and paste and send, which is the last with tracked changes, which is the first one before the corrections, additions, cuts, et al.? My eyes cross as I survey the open files.

Yes, I remember to give each file a different name, and I print out what I think I've finished with, but I'm digging out of drifts of paper that I hope I won't have to retype until the whole thing is ready for submission, I'm floundering and coming up for the third time from the depths of too many megabytes in Microsoft Word.

I'm still stimulated by the challenge and the hope of print someday, but there are times when I understand what makes people turn glassy-eyed and catatonic, or into raging maniacs. I think even if I'd started when I was younger, if there had been computers then, I'd still feel as if I were trying to find my way back to the car after a carnival ride. Talk about dizzy!

Reading a blog on the subject of finding an agent has made me come to a cynical(?) conclusion: to get fiction published, a writer needs money. Since finding an agent who might be a match involves finding ways to meet one (conferences, workshops, other writers, signings and the like) that aren't possible in your own back yard, you need time and funds with which to travel and buy books -- so you can have ten words with the authors thereof. You need to do a lot of this if you're to meet enough of them to have a hope of being able to choose.

I recently read an ad in a Sunday New York Times book review section that was placed by a "vanity press." "___________(the press) affirms that ________(author)of _____________(title), is free of blame in regards to omitted words or grammatical errors in his book."

If you can't get what you pay for, at least you can get noticed in The NYT. It makes me wonder if any agent who might be seeking a client looks first at self-published, subsidized, or POD writers. Should we be paying to be published after all?