What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Fall foliage. I live in the woods… but not the deep woods. That’s a plan for the future. After a couple of days of wind and rain I’m reminded that I have neighbors. For the first time since mid-May I’m starting to see them again. Well, not “them” exactly, but certainly their houses. I’m deeply happy with my little plot of land, but at this time of year I’d be ok with another hundred yards – or maybe a few more miles – of trees between me and the next guy.

2. Rain is the new snow. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen any rain to speak of. I know it must be a frightening and unnatural experience for everyone. I know this because for the last two days everyone has driven like there was eight inches of new-fallen snow on the roads. If nothing else, it has served to reinforce my long-held belief that most people are idiots. As usual, though, it’s probably all my fault for having even the lowest of expectations of my the average man on the street.

3. Draftees. As the American Army, the most decisive fighting force ever fielded in history, is drawing itself down to the pre-World War II levels, the Russian president is drafting an extra 150,000 of his citizens into military service. Let that sink in for a minute. In terms of troops in active service, that will put Russia within spitting distance of parity in manpower. Figure in their increased pace of modernization and the simple fact that they don’t have to move their personnel across an ocean to get at many of the world’s current “areas of interest,” and in my humble opinion, this brave new world of our is going to look very familiar… almost like the one we left in the early 1990s. Talk about back to the future.

Not sold…

Earlier this morning, while waiting for one of the endless piles of laundry to finish, I gave birth to a third draft. What we have is fully formed, edited, formatted, and copyrighted short story. I’d be lying if I said I was completely happy with it. Then again, you can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever been completely happy with anything, so take that with a Copyrighthealthy dose of salt. I’m happy enough with the content – aside from the inevitable grammar, punctuation, and usage stuff – but my real hang up at the moment is the title; Retribution: Chasing Hearts and Minds.

That’s not the first title. It’s not the second or even the fifth. It’s the eighth if I’m counting correctly. I’m just not sold on it yet even though it feels like the best of the bunch. Having said that, I’m not currently in a mode of letting the perfect stand in the way of the good enough.

This little project of mine is moving out. I’ve just launched it into the hands of someone who was there at the beginning to give this draft its first formal read through. Letting other people see one of these things is the most nerve wracking part – especially when that person reads. A lot. It means you’re going to get compared to people who do this for a living. That’s a tough standard to meet when you’ve cobbled the idea together a few hundred words at a time working nights and weekends. Still, it’s my baby and that means I’ll be immensely proud of it even if the rest of the world thinks it’s ugly as sin.

Soon enough you’ll all get the opportunity to make up your own minds on the issue. I just hope I’ve done the work well enough to meet expectations. Everything else is gravy.

The draft…

SSSI was scrolling through Twitter last night when I ran across a tweet from someone I follow commenting on watching the draft on television… Which my brain immediately processed as The Draft. The one in which numbers are assigned and men between 18-26 are inducted into the military. The draft that was never part of my personal life experience as it ended years before I was born. Rather than look for a some kind of draft that a normal person might be expected to watch in 2014, my brain rolled low def news footage from the early 1970s.

Apparently, the tweet in question had something to do with the National Football League. Who knew?


Anyone who was following along last month might remember that I was giving fiction a bit of a go. Since I haven’t mentioned that little effort in a few weeks, it felt like it deserved an update. If you’re expecting some exciting or late breaking news, this is your fair warning to go find something else to read this evening. That’s because the update is that there really isn’t an update.

Since I set it aside, Unnamed Short Story #1, has been sitting quietly in a file (or in several files to be more accurate). Why? Because if you’ve ever tried finding a mistake in an email you’ve just written, magnify that problem by a few hundred percent and you’ll start to understand what I’m up against.

What’s sitting on the shelf is a first draft. Some sections are barely an outline held together with a bit of awkward dialog. Translation: Almost every word of it is going to have to be rewritten before I even sit down to do any real editorial work. That’s not a complaint. It’s just the process. I know the only way I can even hope to make any objective corrections is to put distance between me and the first draft… and when you’re writing, time is the only real measure of distance there is.

So, USS#1 is in a holding pattern. Honest to God, I’m still incredibly excited that it’s even gotten to that point. Take my word for it, there were plenty of days I didn’t think it would even make it that far. In the meantime, I’m working on a few side projects and giving my alter egos a workout – some of it professional and some of it decidedly not. It might not feel like it from the position of outside observer, but every time I sit down at the keyboard, regardless of what I’m working on, it feels like I’m giving my chops a workout. I don’t know if I’ll ever make any money from doing any of this, but honing whatever modest talents I have still feels like a worthwhile investment.

USS#1 will come off the bench soon enough, but I’d like to let it sit for another two weeks or so. It won’t quite be reading it completely fresh, but a full month away feels like a decent enough amount of time away. How long things take from that point, your guess is as good as mine.

Best efforts…

This was very likely to turn into a long, rambling collection of words that wouldn’t end up saying anything at all. It felt like that kind of night. Actually, it’s felt like that all day, maybe even longer than that. Despite my best intentions, it may yet turn into a bit of a ramble. It certainly feels like it could.

The good news is that the Muse hasn’t left me high and dry. I’m still sitting down every night and making progress on the short story in waiting. I sit down as close to 7PM on the nose as I can manage and don’t get back up until there are at least 300 fresh words sitting in front of me. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes, other times closer to three hours. Admittedly, sometimes the words that end up there just plain suck. More rarely, the ones that appear are actually rather good. Like Gump’s chocolates, when I sit down I never know what I’m going to get.

As far as I’ve been able to tell, the quality of the output doesn’t particularly matter. What seems to matter is the routine, the habit of writing consistently day in, day out, when you’re sick, when you’re tired, when there are a dozen other things screaming out for your attention. What matters is sitting down and letting the words flow – or sometimes forcing them to flow against their will. It can feel like that a lot.

What I’m going to end up with 4000-odd words and 14-ish days from now is generously called a first draft. I know that draft is going to suck… and I don’t mean just a little. It’s going to be God awful – full of half formed ideas, words that aren’t really words, and phrases that are repeated on at least every fifth page. That’s fine. Not fine for public consumption fine, but fine by the standards of the first draft. It means finally there’s something there that wasn’t there before. Something that I drug into the world kicking and screaming out of my own head and onto the form of evil that fills me with the most dread – the blank, white page with its solitary flashing cursor.

Even after it’s no longer a first draft – maybe a 3rd or 4th version – after it’s been anointed as “final” I know I won’t be entirely happy with it. I’ll want to change and tweak and craft just a bit more. Right now I know it’s not even in the realm of good enough, but it will be. I think. That’s the theory I’m working under, anyway.

OK, yeah, so maybe this did turn into a long, rambling collection of words despite my best efforts to the contrary. Sorry about that.