the cutting room floor

As I’ve discussed before, history isn’t tidy. I made some strategic cuts to the story at the outset, mostly for my sanity. Now I’m cutting even more as they don’t add to the story I’m trying to tell, which is a damn shame as Dee and Kelley generated So. Much. Weird. that begs exploration. Just not by me:

Dee and Kelley’s possible ties to Shakespeare – interesting if true, but not relevant to my story

Nuances of alchemical process and symbolism – you’ll get your furnaces and flasks but not painstaking detail because I’m not a chemist.

Dee and Kelley’s sojourn in Poland courting the patronage of Stephen Bathory (yes, cousin of that Bathory). It’s not the story I’m telling and someone already has anyway.*

A series of incidents in which Kelley apparently conjures demons and poltergeists outside of his actions with Dee – and this breaks my heart because I so, so want to play with what was going on here! I found this delicious story in the footnotes of part 9 of I.R.F. Calder’s thesis but it’s so divided from the rest of the spiritual actions that I can’t justify including it.**

The possibility that Jane Dee was from a recusant family. I could only find one reference (since removed), and there’s more narrative tension if Jane is solidly Protestant in Catholic Bohemia.

And there’s probably more. What are you cutting, and why?

animated gif of little girl and men in suits sawing/drilling away on a piano
Hacking away. Courtesy gfycat.

*Looking forward to reading this after I finish the WIP.
**Actually, I might do a short story based on this.

lemonade out of lemons

A sudden illness laid me low so I don’t have a ton of scintillating prose for you this week. I’ve made good use of the downtime though:

Vintage postcard/image: When I was sick and lay abed, I had two pillows at my head, And all my toys beside me lay, To keep me happy through the day.
From the New York Public Library’s public domain image collection.

Just like the fun stuff, I journal the rough stuff. Given how writers need to torment their characters I chronicle every twinge and ache. I’m currently smacking Edward around in rewrites and a reference file saves time.

I find this works for anger too. Hell, I find arguments easy to write in general, but it clears the mind enough to write it well.

And, of course, reading still feeds the muse even when I don’t have the brain power to create anything.

Illness and other downtime is inevitable. How do you make it work for you?

year in review, year to come

Strange days, the weeks around Christmas and new years. I find it difficult to keep motivated due to the disruption in schedule (and a nice cold I’m working on – achoo!) Certainly not a time to start anything new. So I thought I’d review:

For the coming year:

  • Attend the HNS conference in June
  • Have a proper second draft in time for this conference if it kills me
    • To this end, write a bit every day, even if it kills me
  • Keep meeting with critiquers and critiquing in turn
  • Guest blog post(s?)

And this is just off the top of my stuffy head.

Happy holidays to those that celebrate. Don’t worry, I’ll see you one more time before the new year, with a tidy link dump for next Wednesday.

structure and the leaky plot

ship as drawn by John Dee in the margin of one of his books
One of Dee’s marginal doodles, shown in the Royal College of Physicians exhibit “Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee”. More about the exhibit design here, including the joyous news that there will be an exhibition catalog.

Keeping it short this week because I’m up to my knees in story slurry.

The plot fell apart once I got put everyone on a boat to the continent. Effects with nonexistent causes abound, stuff happens without consequences, and useless character tail-chasing brings the action to a crashing halt.

So many craft books talk about the pitfalls of the “mushy middle” but I honestly thought that the sheer amount of stuff I have to cram into the second act would prevent it happening to me. Yet somehow boring departures/arrivals, exposition, and wheel-spinning are all in there and I have to hack them out.

This thing may never map out to a predictable plot structure but A must lead to B because C and have D lingering effects. Trying to include all the facts only left me with enough red herrings to stock a fishery and I’m having to cut out every one to avoid confusing the reader. I’m re-outlining to clarify themes and character arcs, which probably adds as much new junk as I’m cutting out.

The book’s taking a new shape I can’t define yet, but taking this wider view has already answered some long-standing plot questions. Repeated “edit-edit-edit, walk away” cycles tend to make fixes obvious, to the point that I can almost feel when another bit is about to snap into place.

Has anyone else experienced slump in the middle of your WIP? How did you straggle through?


perfectionism paralysis

scissors going after a single blade of grass
My old first pass rewrite/editing approach. Courtesy

Twenty-eight pages.

That’s how many I’ve managed to get through in this first round of edits. Which sounds good until you realize I started rewriting in July.


I do think I’ve figured out what’s slowed me to a snail’s pace – it’s excessive perfectionism. I’m doing sentence-level polishing when I should concern myself with the broader issues of story structure: filling in scene gaps, answering research questions, and pacing.

The root cause isn’t lacking “flow” or time – it’s terror of showing my beta readers something less than perfect. But worrying over every turn of phrase at this stage probably makes nonsensical dialog worse, widens plot holes, takes vague cause/effect into “what was I thinking?” land.

My resolution for March: instead of a scene a week, a scene every 2 days, fixing the big stuff. Let’s see if I can do it.