Just Finished

J

ASON CARTER FINN never thought he’d feel like he was watching himself in one of his grandfather’s generation black and white movies, but that’s how he felt during much of 2016 and 2017. A note on a photograph he discovered in the late summer of 2017 gives personal meaning to something his grandfather said about decoys the last Saturday of the 2000 water-fowl hunting season.

Twenty-five- year-old Finn uses his personal diary and declassified CIA notes to write a travelogue of curiosity, intrigue, mystery, and confusing relationships during 2016 and 2017.
Hoping for another assignment and perhaps more time with another agent, his field assignments become confusing, frustrating, and meaningless to him. Realizing there are few opportunities for satisfying personal relationships as a document reader, the young agent resigns from the CIA and returns to rural Oregon.

Like his change of duties from the mundane reading room to mysterious field assignments, some of his after-career events are unpredictable. Driving away from an ideal location for viewing the 2017 solar eclipse in totality over southeast Oregon is just one of the things he doesn’t anticipate.

 

Search

 

I

have three completed (well, I say so), and I’m in the process of finding suitable publishers. I do have to add a however here. However, I’m not totally opposed to self-publishing.

It seemed to be overwhelming, no, it was overwhelming, to look through the 2018 Writer’s Market book on Kindle for what publishers suited all three. I converted the Kindle format to MS-Word, deleted all but the section on novel publishers, then searched for words like erotica to eliminate those publishers. I did the same for agents.

I found myself loosing track of which of the three manuscripts was meeting posted criteria. I decided to go through the process for just one. But, I chose the one that had the least fit for the general requirements (word count) for novels. I read a blog about why word count is important to publishers. To put it simply – profit! I’m OK with that. Why would anyone go into business (designated as non-profits excepted) to not make enough money to support them and their employees? But, the post was more about high word counts than low word counts. It did give an out for longer manuscripts – one might get a read if the author could justify the story could not be told in fewer words.

I plan to do that for my shorter than general novel length.

Simultaneous submissions are important to me. I just don’t want to wait for a publisher who says, “Responds in 6 months,” or, “Not accepting simultaneous submissions.”

OK! OK, back to my title for this post. The search continues with a careful read of web sites to make a decision on which ones to query.


Advice

S

everal blogs I read give advice on nearly everything writing.

I just read “Bad Advice Boogie: Show, Don’t Tell” by Jeff Somers author of Writing Without Rules and other books. Just enter the title in your search engine to see what he had to say about show, don’t tell.


One important point he makes is in the example, “Mary felt tired, and longed for a nap.” Somers continues, “Or, you could spend 500 words on Mary’s physical and mental state of being, slowly shading in the fact that she’s utterly exhausted and having her think dreamily of her bed at home, the soft pillows, the sense of peace. You could expound on weariness as a human state of existence, research sleep and skillfully edge those statistics and myth-busting into the prose, and before you know it you’ve written an entire chapter about how sleepy Mary is without ever saying it explicitly! Unfortunately, your reader also fell asleep some pages back and likely won’t return.”


For me, the best advice in the piece is, “The more subtle you become as a writer, the more gray areas you’ll encounter, and trying to apply a ‛rule’ like that (show-don’t tell) in a brutal, simplistic way will actually make you a worse writer. In other words, mastering your craft often involves knowing the rules so you can break them with impunity.”

Speaking of advice, MS-Word blue-underlines ‘more subtle’ and suggests subtler in the previous paragraph.


One can check out the authenticity of rules by reading Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue – English And How It Got That Way. Knowing from where the rules originate aids in your having permission to ‘break them with impunity.’


A

nd, another blog says, “Show, Don’t Tell” Is the Great Lie of Writing Workshops.”

The frustrated writer jumping up and down on the concrete floor cries out like a banshee with its forefoot caught in a rusty steel trap placed in the primeval forest by a wantabe explorer, trapper, or guide of the eighteenth century North American frontier, “OK – OK, enough already!”

H

arper Lee writes in Go Set a Watchman, “The hunting club kept the steps in decent repair, and used the jetty as a dock for their bots. They were lazy men; it was easier to drift down stream and row over to Winston Swamp than to trash through underbrush and pine slashes.”

Is she showing or telling?

Oh, and MS-Word advises that ‘repair, and’ should be written without the comma.

Whom are we to believe?

After-Writing

I

n a “Crankshaft” cartoon strip, a librarian writes a book. When she feels it’s finished she discovers the after-writing is more difficult and complex than the writing itself.

After I’d written Peter’s Diary: The Story of Ross, I tried to interest a publisher got rejection paraphrased here: “We’ve just accepted a manuscript in this genre and don’t believe we can work with another.” I focused on technical writing after that.

Technical writing went well, so that’s another story.

I made several attempts at short fiction, but except for a very short item in Reader’s Digest, there was no success for my portfolio.

With time on my hands after retiring, I wrote An Odyssey of Illusions and submitted it to about 10 publishers. It was accepted by one and I thought I had the world by the tail. KAWO! Instead of a real success, the acceptance was a lesson in what I call a publishing puppy mill. But, used copies are still available on Amazon.

So I’ve started my after-writing program for the re-named, “rejected one” with helpful comments novella manuscript.

D

ecoy
Jason Finn from rural Jordan Valley, Malheur County, Oregon, becomes a multi-language document reader for the CIA after being graduated from Oregon State University in 2011 at age 20. He uses declassified sections from his personal dairy to write his story that could well be a travelogue of curiosity, intrigue, mystery, and confusing relationships.
The zither produced score from one of Finn’s Grandfather’s favorite 1940s black and white spy movies, The Third Man, frequently plays his head as he spends just over a year outside his professional and personal comfort zones.
His field assignments become confusing and meaningless to him, and there are few opportunities for satisfying personal relationships as a document reader. The young agent resigns from the CIA and returns to rural Oregon. A discovery about his grandfather gives his CIA field activities a meaning he hadn’t anticipated.
But, like his change of duties from the mundane reading room to mysterious field assignments, some after-career events are unpredictable. Driving away from an ideal location for viewing the 2017 solar eclipse in totality over southeast Oregon is just one of the things he hadn’t anticipated.

In anticipation, (or wishful thinking) I should spend a little time on front-matter, cover, etc., etc.

Peter’s Diary: A Story of Ross

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ecently, I came across a file in my backup drive labeled ROSS. Somehow the folder had been miss-filed. I’d not thought about my first attempt to write a novel recently, and my original research was long gone. My in-depth research about the Russian settlement of Ft. Ross, California, for one of my post-secondary degree classes, had prompted me to rewrite my report as historical fiction.

I developed a protagonist and gave him a name, Rubik Ivanovich Karnov. I put the 14-year-old into Sitka, Alaska, in 1806 and gave him plausible association with real people of the time and place. Then the Rubik’s Cube came into the public eye and gave me pause about my character’s name. I changed his first name Pyoter but called the book Peter’s Diary: The Story of Ross.
I spent many hours keyboarding my idea on an Apple II with primitive word processing software. The file I found has 34,000+ words, but I remember it being closer to 70k. When I thought the manuscript was nearly finished, I queried a publisher and got an answer I can still paraphrase. “We’ve just accepted a manuscript in this genre and don’t believe we can work with another.” I realized Michener’s Alaska had been recently published (not by the publisher I’d queried). Reading Alaska made me realize someone might have thought I’d tried to paraphrase his work. I put the entire project, including the research, in the trash. Several years later I did transfer the first half of the manuscript from an old 5-1/4 floppy disk to a more current hard drive.
Reading what I had left of the story was fun, but not seeing the work for nearly 30 years was eye-opening. The change of voice sometimes from sentence to sentence and more often from paragraph to paragraph is a problem I’ve managed to impede but not totally cure.
It would be an interesting project to rebuild the story, but with only headers for the second half of the manuscript and none of the research available, the task would be too daunting at this time of my life.