Book Update #2

As I mentioned in my last update, my manuscript is due on March 1st. After that I will be working with an editor. When I think about it rationally, I have plenty of time. The bulk of the manuscript is essentially finished – I have 13 stories at various stages. Some of them have already been published, so I can set those aside. Others have been workshopped, read by friends, and have generally been knocking around my brain for enough time that I’m fairly comfortable with them and the rewrites I need to do. The remaining stories are very new, a little raw, written in the past 6 months, as recent as three weeks ago. But as long as the bones are there, I have enough time to work through them. Right?

One of my challenges is firming up a writing schedule. In the past few years my day job has ranged from consisting of soul crushing hours to, more recently, normal ones with certain busy periods. I remember the feeling of starting to work regular hours: I suddenly had so much time! It was amazing that I could come home, cook an actual dinner, work on writing or see friends on a weeknight. I would get so much writing done, I told myself. And I did get more writing done, but because I was never a write every day kind of person, not as much as I had initially hoped. So, in order to rework my internal writing wiring, I’ve been setting deadlines for myself, assigning different days of the week to stories or tasks, and it’s working, I think. I’ll um, let you know.

I’ve also been reading “The Best American Short Stories 2009″, edited by Alice Sebold. Soraya gave it to me for Christmas and it came at a time when I was thinking about what made stories work. I know thought has been put into the ordering of stories in the collection, but I prefer to treat best of anthologies as Magic 8 balls or tarot cards. I read stories randomly, trusting that it will lead me in the right direction. I know it’s kind of new age-y, but this actually works. I mean, I know it’s because a good story will always be a pleasure to read, but seriously, guys, sometimes it’s uncanny. I read Victoria Lancelotta’s “The Anniversary Trip”, a story about a married couple that travels to Paris with the husband’s mother, when I was rewriting a story about a couple that takes a significant trip of their own. I read Adam Johnson’s “Hurricanes Anonymous” when I was fretting about voice, and man, the voice in that story really rings out. I had so much luck with the 2009 collection that I dug out the 2006 anthology, which I had on my bookshelves and, judging by the uncracked spine, barely touched.

It’s my kind of hocus pocus.

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