If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything!

Those words really entered the American lexicon when they were spoken by Chris Kraft, the first space flight controller in the manned space program called Project Mercury. An underling didn’t know what to do during the simulation of an early space flight, was intimidated/terrified of Kraft, did something hoping he was right, wasn’t, caused a gigantic error, and incurred the wrath of Kraft.


(Kraft in Mercury Control in 1961 giving hell to someone)

And right now I don’t know what to do with “Blue Cottage”. I have five drafts, but it’s very hard to tell what’s missing.

I know…

Chapter 1 needs a lot of work. Description of most things is pretty pathetic. There is little to no description of the apartment or the hall. There is no physical description of either of the characters in chapter 1 and almost none on the police officer. I read what I had written then started wondering how to fix it.

I suspect that most of the pieces to this literary puzzle already exist in one of the five drafts. But it’s bloody frustrating knowing what has to be done, and not knowing how to do it. I’ve purchased books by Janice Hardy, Marcy Kennedy, Rayne Hall, and Natalie Goldberg to see if they could answer some questions. I’ve downloaded or printed out posts by Lorraine Ambers, Laurence MacNaughton and others and created a binder one inch thick of posts giving literary aid. I want to make it perfectly clear I am not blaming any of the above named authors for any of the short comings in my story “Blue Cottage”. But for all the reading I’ve done I’ve come to one conclusion: if you find ten author/coaches and ask them one simple question you’ll get ten very different answers.

Over thirty years ago I went through a medical event that almost killed me, and supremely messed up (and that’s being obscenely polite) my memory. Try to imagine there’s a brick wall in front of you. And each row of bricks represents a year of memories.  Now imagine there are over twenty rows of bricks in front of you. You’re now dealing with a lot of information. Now imagine a truck comes barrelling down the street, and smashes into that wall of bricks at high speed. Some of the bricks are totally destroyed – turned to dust, some are badly fragmented but can be used again, while others are so badly fractured only a fraction of them can ever be used again. Almost ten years of memories were totally destroyed –  completely erased , others were badly fragmented, and the remainder were just barely accessible. Everything I learned in elementary school with regard to the construction of a sentence was destroyed. I have no idea what a subject is, and for all I know a predicate could be related to a parakeet. A noun is nothing but a word to me, and the only thing I know about adverbs is that they should be avoided at all costs. I think adjectives are descriptive words but the frustrating aspect is I can look this information up in a dictionary, but I won’t remember what the blasted answer is.

A lot of information was destroyed to the point where I can just barely make use of it. If I were to meet Janice Hardy at a dinner party there is a good chance I would forget meeting her five minutes later. However, if I met Janice Hardy of Fiction University.Com there is a chance, a slim one, that I might remember her. Laurence MacNaughton might be remembered if he talked to me of his love for cars. I had to re-learn a great many things, and I have to constantly re-learn things I’ve already re-learned. Re-learning something by associating it with something sometimes helps, but not always.

I would dearly love to find is a comprehensive glossary of writing terms. A book that told me in very basic terms what a plot is, what POV is, what description is, etcetera. Just in case someone reads this and puts together a glossary like the one I just described do not use the word being defined in the answer. Apparently this sort of thing is a no-no.

I started writing Blue Cottage two years ago. Draft one appeared on this very blog. But if you were to compare draft one with draft 5 you would see very little resemblance.

Many writing coaches (legitimate and not so) suggest writing quickly. I can’t do that. My brain simply can’t handle the stress. I tried it once and ended up with a doozy of a headache. When I write my brain functions very quickly while my fingers are dead slow. Plus I have to watch my fingers actually press the key. The brain functions so quickly the fingers might not get the message to press a specific key.

I’ve finally decided who the audience for Blue Cottage is. Me. I’m writing it because I enjoy it. When I wrote draft one I felt somewhat “under the gun”, pressured, to produce 1500 words each week. But I kept going. The word count was the last thing I was paying attention to. Eventually I had 86,655 words by the end of draft one. Rayne Hall advocates that anybody finishing a first draft should scour it for words that simply aren’t needed. Her words of wisdom may be correct, but I found draft 2 getting fatter instead of slimmer. Draft 3 and 4 almost suffered from obesity. I stopped re-writing/re-vising shortly after I began draft 5. After reading all five drafts I decided to take a break from “Blue Cottage” and return to another story I abandoned a few years ago. “Second Chances”  is a story I started in 2006. It’s a Star Trek story. I saw the film “Generations” where the character of Captain Kirk is killed off. And I remember coming away from the film feeling somewhat cheated. I thought and felt the character could still be explored. Only this time James Tiberius Kirk would be retired, and the U.S.S. Enterprise would be gutted and mothballed. I didn’t want to deal with a large cast of characters so I thought about what I wanted to write. It started James T. Kirk, Tonia Barrows and Dr. Leonard McCoy and grew from there.

So I’ll distance myself from “Blue Cottage”, give it a rest, and work on “Second Chances”. Maybe I’ll return to “Blue Cottage” in the spring. Maybe later. But I’m not going to totally abandon it. I’ve too much time invested in it. Besides, I get a kick out of working on it.

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