A Book that Begs to be Finished

I printed out my work in pause (not quite a work in progress yet, but I’m getting there). It’s been so long since I’ve worked on it, I don’t remember all the specifics of what I wrote and I need to know what I have and where I need to go from here.

It’s a book worth finishing, if only to see what I end up doing with it. Here is where I left the book more than four years ago:

A shriek like that of a jungle beast in pain woke Chip. He rolled over onto his back, too tired to wonder who or what could be making such a racket. Dry leaves scratched his bare skin. What happened to his shirt? He patted the ground beside him thinking that perhaps the buttons had somehow come undone during the night, but he didn’t feel any fabric.

Moclockre shrieks and shouts. This time the screeches sounded decidedly human.

He squinted at the sun. It seemed to be lower on the eastern horizon than when he lay down for a nap after his breakfast. Could the sun be moving backward? He closed his eyes. More probably, he’d slept round the clock. But clocks didn’t exist any more. Letting out a soft groan, he wondered how long such outdated expressions would linger.

A breeze ruffled the hair on his thighs. He raised his head and stared at his legs. When he fell asleep yesterday—was it yesterday? It could just as easily have been a week ago—he’d been fully dressed.

He caught a glimpse of hot pink and lime green between his thighs. He jerked upright.

Poor Chip, having to spend four years in such a state. It’s time I moved him beyond this horror and into even more horror. Or humor.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Drowning in a Sea of “It”s

I’ve started going through my poor old work-in-pause. (The manuscript has been neglected so long, I can’t in all honesty say the work is in progress.) At first, I only intended to read what I’d written to plant myself in the story so I could figure out what my hero does next, but I’m appalled by the bad writing. Actually, the writing is okay, but the work is in dire need of editing. And no wonder — I wrote these chapters five years ago, long before I learned how to edit.

The worst problem I find is a copious use of pronouns, especially “it.” “It” serves only to tell a reader that the writer couldn’t be bothered to figure out a better way of saying “it,” so the writer used the placeholder word in the hopes that readers would be prescient enough to understand what “it” meant. To many “it”s make writing seem vague, because . . . well, because “it” is vague. For example:

“She’s my mother. I can’t just throw her out.” He hefted the bag of dry cat food, then paused, arrested by the image of himself pushing Isabel out the door of his apartment. As tempting as it might be, he couldn’t do it. When he was a child, she’d worked two jobs to support him, and he owed her.

I’m not sure how to replace the “it”s without causing echoes by repeating words such as “mother” and phrases such as “throw her out,” but the “it”s slapped me in the face when I was reading that passage, and that is never a good sign.

From the very next page: A chime intruded into Chet’s thoughts. It took a second for him to recognize it as the bell over the door. He seldom heard it so clearly; usually the clamor of the birds and animals drowned it out.

And this from a few pages later: He heaved his computer off the dresser top where he’d been storing it, lugged it to his office, and set it on the desk. He turned it on, ordered the lemon drops, then pulled up his plans for the refuge.

Yikes. I feel as if I’m drowning in a sea of “it”s. Maybe by the time I edit these chapters and find concrete words to replace all the “it”s, I’ll be so deeply involved in the story, I’ll have no trouble segueing into writer mode. Despite being infected by a bad case of ititis, the story deserves more than to be packed away as a work-in-pause for five more years.

The point of writing is simply . . . writing

The book statistics continue to dishearten me. A recent study of 1,007 self-published authors shows that romance authors earned 170% more than the average, while science-fiction writers earned 38% of the average, fantasy writers 32%, and literary fiction authors just 20%. Even though I’m not self-published, these figures matter because they show the trend. Most of the books that are selling are romances, and most of the selling romances are written by well-educated women in their forties. Typically, 75% of the total sales were made by 10% of the authors.

That’s good news for women who write romances, but what about the rest of us? I don’t want to write to make money — I want to make money from what I write, which is something completely different. Considering that my books are genre-benders and that most readers seem to stick with recognizable genres and story lines, it’s not surprising that my books are slow sellers. Even if I wanted to write to sell, I’m not sure I could. Chances are, if I were to start out writing a romance, it would end up being something completely different after I filtered it through my writing voice. (Whatever voice that might be.) We can only write the books that are in us. And romance novels are nothing I have any interest in, either to read or to write.

Oddly, despite what I see as a dismal book climate, I am getting interested in writing again. My work-in-pause — a tongue in cheek apocalyptic novel — is so far out of the realm of any recognizable genre that it would probably be impossible to sell. (Even my father admits that it’s weird, and he likes my books.). But I’ve concluded that selling isn’t the point of writing, at least not for me. Nor is communicating with others. (That’s what this blog is for — to communicate with others.) The point of writing is simply . . . writing. Using my brain. Creating a world that didn’t exist before. (Could that be the point of life? The creation of a world that didn’t exist before? Hmmm. I wonder if there’s a book in that idea.)

I suppose my renewed interest in writing is inevitable. I’ve been spending less time online and more time in the real world. And for me, writing takes place in the real world. Or at least the real world of my mind.

No Wisdom, Just Words

I’ve been sticking to my self-imposed writing schedule this month, doing a blog a day (sorry to all my subscribers who have been getting an email each day announcing a new post. I promise I’ll go back to my more sporadic posting next month). I’m also racking up the word count on my novel for NaNoWriMo.

I normally don’t obsess over word counts. The way I figure, I either write or I don’t, the scenes are either workable or they’re not. But this month, it’s about the word count. I hoped that by writing so quickly I couldn’t stop to think, I’d stir up my depths, and words of wisdom would automatically appear on the page. Nope. No wisdom yet. Just words.

I did have an odd experience this morning, though. I sat down to write a scene for my grieving woman book, and ended up writing a scene for my poor old work-in-pause, an apocalyptic allegory.

Makes sense, I guess. That novel has been rattling around in my head for years. I started writing it months before I started this blog. Since then, I’ve dealt with three deaths (none of them mine), learned how to use a computer, learned how to navigate the internet, made dozens of online friends, started a dozen blogs (most of which are now clogs — abandoned blogs clogging cyber space), participated in hundreds of writing discussions, gotten three books published, edited those three books plus a fourth (which will be published in the spring), spent hundreds of hours trying to promote those books without actually promoting them (the only thing more annoying that a full email inbox is an inbox full of annoying emails), and  . . . well, you get the point. I’ve been doing everything imaginable except working on my WIP. So today — ta da! A couple of scenes for that book appeared instead of the one I planned to write for my grieving woman book.

I always liked the idea of working on whatever book stood out most in my mind when it time to write each day, but I never tried it before. It might help put the fun back in writing, and who knows what I’ll end up with!