To See What Isn’t There and to Take Away What You Can See – Editing Frustration Edition

As the universe is my witness, I did not foresee these difficulties! ~ Me, circa now.

The editing journey is quite often a TRIP. Never more so than when you need to make some massive changes in your manuscript…like, thematic changes! Whoa!

This is the case with my current WIP. I did not realize how hard it would be. When you see the way things are, you cannot easily see the other ways they could possibly be…when it comes to your own manuscript. You always see the story the way it is…and as you change it, the way it was. That original story acts like a ghost in your head…inserting itself damnably and relentlessly into the current rendition of the story.  It’s a seriously difficult situation to be in. Like, impossible. It’s hard to actualize something DIFFERENT once the story is down on paper. It takes the work of a magician, I think. And even when you make those changes, it’s hard to erase the past from your memory…and, at times, from the story itself.

That was convoluted. I apologize…but also the convoluted-ness of it helps to define the difficulty level I’m facing in re-writing this story. The original is not only haunting the revision stage…it is fighting for its life…it does not want to die.

 

This is how my editing process is going today. Writing is hard. Editing is hard. Revising is hard. The conundrum is that these things are also, in their turns, divine and divinely easy. Writing life is so bizarre. Do we make things difficult, or are they inherently difficult.

I just need the ghosts of this current WIP to die already, to allow me to move forward with another version of this story. Like, just shut up! I have deadlines, and you’re not making my work any easier by sticking around and staying in my head and refusing to be deleted.

That is all.

Except also, preorder my upcoming novel BOOK OF DREAMS so I can feel like I’m still propelling myself forward with this writer thing. Just click on this highlighted paragraph to preorder.

 

 

When Paris is Possible – A Journal of Paris…

When I want to manifest something, I first bring it to life on my blog. For those paying attention, I always do this. I’ve become predictable, even.

Sometimes these notions I have first appear in my Twitter feed. And then I feel the need to solidify them by writing about them on my blog. It’s called accountability and it’s a way to hold myself to task. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Dollarama has such cute journals!

This is how my last novel, The Camino Club came about. At first, I dreamed it. Then I tweeted about my idea. And then, while I was preparing to walk my first Camino in 2014, I blogged about it. It was a kernel of an idea. So in order to hold myself accountable, I put out into the world that I would write a YA novel set on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path.

That novel was published by Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press, in 2020. Ask me about launching a book during a pandemic. You know what, on second thought…don’t ask me. Nobody should have to do that!

Anyway, I’m also famous for digressing. Today I want to hold myself accountable for a new idea.

My dream this time is to release a journal of our upcoming short trip to Paris. It will only be a week in Paris…but a week is enough if you’re fast of your toes. Paris is a moveable feast. But it’s also a well constructed easily traversed city that’s perfectly laid out for the hiker and consummate walker. That happens to be what Michael and I are. We will take that city by storm, one footstep at a time…and we will cover it all!

And I will keep a daily journal. And if all goes according to plan, I will publish it. The only other thing I ever self-published was my short story set on the Camino called Light Near the End of the World. So this will be my 2nd journey into that world.

My short story set on the Camino.

I don’t have a plan, but I will write about the places we visit in Paris and how we got to those places. And I will write about food and restaurants and cafes and macarons and baguettes. I will cover everything that strikes my fancy. We’ll see how this goes.

I will probably start writing in the journal before I even get to Paris. This will be a personal account of ONE JOURNEY. We’re traveling during a pandemic and we’re getting to Paris via Iceland. I mean, anything can happen, right? We’ll see if we get there…and if and when we do, I’m sure I’ll have lots to write about.

I’m ready. With my Dollarama journal and the lovely bookmark I picked up somewhere along the way as its traveling companion, I will take notes on our Parisienne travels.

I hope this goes well! I’m so passionate about Paris. It appears in many of my short stories, and I am also currently writing a YA novel that takes place there. Wrapped somewhere in the reasoning for returning to Paris–one of my favourite cities in the world–is the excuse of doing some extra research for my novel in progress. But honestly, I just love it there so much. I want Michael to see it…and I want to see it again for the first time, through his eyes.

My Paris journal, with a Camino bookmark I received with an Etsy purchase.

Just over 40 days before our departure. Let’s hope the Delta Variant doesn’t keep us from our already postponed (we originally planned Paris for September, 2020) trip to the beautiful city of light!

Updates from the Edge – Worldbuilding Zone Edition

Today, I am almost to the end of a very complex (for me, the creator) story. It’s a story I had contracted just a couple of weeks ago…to my favourite LGBTQ publisher, no less.

The thing that makes it complex is the thing that takes it out of my usual lane. Truth/Confession: I am NOT a worldbuilder. I do my best to navigate my stories through the contemporary non-shifting non-magical world of now. Sometimes, to be honest, even that’s a struggle.

Contrary to popular belief, writing doesn’t always come easy. Throw into the mix the fact that I like to shift lanes and expand my comfort zone and I often find myself in over my head.

This manuscript is one of those times, indeed.

But I have persevered. My first chapter told me this was going to be a story outside my comfort zone. I still buckled in, knowing it would be a hard–but not unrewarding–ride.

I’m closing in on an ending now…after trudging my way through a mile of worldbuilding complications and learning moments. The fact that my publisher offered a contract on the novel after reading the first third was the fuel I needed to edit the second third and complete the last third. Also, deadlines help!

Fast forward to earlier this week and I find myself with an appointment with a WORLDBUILDING CONSULTANT. Or maybe a WORLDBUILDING AUDITOR. Yeah…auditor. That’s it. My son-in-law has offered to do a reading of the manuscript for me…with particular attention to worldbuilding. I still have time to make corrections/edits/rewrites before my deadline, so I thought it was a timely lifesaving offer. I’m definitely going to take him up on it.

During the course of the conversation, he also laid down some knowledge when he said there’s NO GROWING IN A COMFORT ZONE AND NO COMFORT IN A GROWING ZONE. I mean, yeah…I get the concept, but I don’t think I ever saw it laid out so BOOM…there. If it’s a popular saying, it’s one that has, until now, escaped my radar. I definitely needed to hear it. Man, have I been outside my comfort zone on this one!

So…stay tuned. I might just make my deadline on this horror novel I’ve had contracted with Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press. And I have a worldbuilding doctor on hand to give it a pre-submission check up. Pandemic aside, things are going well.

Happy Writing or Editing or Worldbuilding or Whatever it is you’re doing these days. Push those boundaries. Comfort zones are nice, but sometimes tedious. It’s a false lull. Change lanes and see what happens…

Book of Dreams

Win a Novel Marathon – We’ll Show You How!

The 20th Anniversary Muskoka Novel Marathon is this coming JULY!

The 20th Anniversary of the Muskoka Novel Marathon is Open for Registration! Save the Date: July 16 – 19, 2021

Have you ever thought about taking part in a novel writing marathon where you set aside a whole 72 hours to do nothing but write? It IS possible to have all or most of a first draft manuscript completed within that time period. I’ve done it several times. And if I can do it, anyone can.

Usually an in-person event, with meals and coffee and snacks and friendship and outings into the wild and into a lovely northern town, this year’s event is ALL VIRTUAL…thanks to the bitch known as THE NEVERENDING PANDEMIC.

So what this means to writers anywhere in the world, is that you too can attend the 20th anniversary marathon! There will be Zoom meetings throughout for bolstering, socializing, etc, etc, etc. And there is a coveted BEST NOVEL AWARD trophy. All manuscripts handed in at the end of the 72 hours are judged by a panel of industry professionals. They pick a BEST NOVEL out of both a child/youth category AND an adult category. Both of these BESTs move forward to a publisher for consideration and professional feedback.

On June 3rd I will be a panelist on a panel/lecture about putting your best foot forward during the writing period of the marathon…and winning that coveted BEST NOVEL AWARD. Joining me on the panel is Jennifer Turney and Shellie Westlake. Between the 3 of us, we have won 8 of the novel marathons…that’s just shy of HALF! We may have some tricks and insights to share with you in order to help you achieve that coveted win.

See above for the lecture’s description.

The Active Learning Centre in Huntsville, Ontario, where the Marathon usually takes place.

HOW TO WIN THE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON is free to attend and it’s an online event in ZOOM. We’d love to have you aboard! Whether you’re registering for the marathon or not, I’m sure we’ll have some great advice to help you in your novel writing path.

Click HERE TO VISIT THE EVENT PAGE.

If you want to know more about the Muskoka Novel Marathon, you can CLICK THIS LINK RIGHT HERE! For 20 years writers in the Huntsville, Ontario region (MUSKOKA) have been assembling for a long weekend in JULY to write novels…but the main goal of the marathon–outside of the grossly beneficial writing time experienced by the writers–is a fundraiser. Each writer gets sponsors and we collect money for the literacy programs in the area. This is no small fundraiser…in the previous 19 years we have collected over $200,000.00 for these programs. By literacy, I don’t only mean those who struggle with reading and writing, but also new Canadians, ESL, computer literacy skills for elder students…the programs help SO MANY PEOPLE. We, the writers, are thrilled to be able to help in this small way to bring much needed funds to the YMCA literacy programs that help so many. We are writers helping readers.

2 happy MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON BEST NOVEL AWARD WINNERS – 2016 – Best YA Novel (Lori Hanson for Ned & Nora Stone), Best Adult Novel (Kevin Craig for I Will Tell The Night)

While I have you here, I will share my MNM profile page and my own fundraising page, if you’re so inclined to donate to this much needed cause:

MY MNM BIO PAGE WITH WINNING MANUSCRIPT INFO

MY DONATION PAGE FOR 2021

Join us on JUNE 3rd, 2021 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm for HOW TO WIN A MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON. Shellie, Jennifer, and I hope to see you there!

It’s a Novel Writing Marathon – And You’re Invited!

It’s time, once again, to register for the annual MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON!

I have been attending this event for years! Pride Must Be A Place was written at a Muskoka Novel Marathon.

Every July, for 72 hours, a group of 40 or so writers have gotten together in the small but glorious northern Ontario town of Huntsville. Every July, they hole up in a space together and they each attempt to write a novel over the course of a three-day weekend.

THIS YEAR it’s the 20th Anniversary of this event!

Some of the 2017 Muskoka Novel Marathon writers!

Sadly, it’s also the 2nd year that the writers aren’t quite getting together. At least, not in the same way. Last year was our very first ONLINE EDITION. And this year will be our second online marathon.

There are AWARDS handed out for BEST NOVEL in Adult and Young Adult/Juvenile categories. A panel of industry judges reviews each of the manuscripts submitted at the end of the weekend. Invaluable feedback is given to each manuscript.

I’m not going to lie. IT’S NOT THE SAME. Imagine the energy of having 40 writers in one room together for 72 hours. It’s frenetic, it’s chaos, it’s practically euphoric. We help each other with plot bunnies and holes, we urge each other on, we tease and joke and laugh and cry. And we also break bread together…as we are served 3 meals a day. All we have to do is stop writing, leave our writing stations, and go to the mess hall for food. It’s all set out and ready for us hungry writers to dig into.

You just can’t get that online.

BUT…it’s still an amazing journey. Writers meet through Zoom frequently. We have smaller breakout groups. We support each other. We even have silent Zoom meets where all those who attend just quietly type out their words together. Trust me…those are super helpful. I got a lot of words down during the silent Zooms. I didn’t think it would work, but it did.

The gorgeous dock at the in-person event space. Sadly, we will miss this in 2021…but it’s there waiting for next year!

We make the best with what we have. What we have during this pandemic is online camaraderie.

The good thing about ONLINE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON is that it’s open to more than the usual 40 writers…and you don’t have to travel to HUNTSVILLE to attend! You can register and participate online in the comfort of your own writing space! AND you can be from anywhere in the world.

So think about spending a productive writing weekend with a group of writers dead-set on writing an entire novel in 72 hours.

The details (from the MNM website):

The 20th Anniversary of the Muskoka Novel Marathon is Open for Registration!
Save the Date: July 16 – 19, 2021

Due to the on-going situation with the pandemic, we will be holding our second (and hopefully last) all online Muskoka Novel Marathon. Join us for a ZOOM event. No seat limit! Tell all your friends!

This event is also a fundraiser for local (Muskoka) literacy programs. READ THE ABOUT PAGE HERE FOR ALL DETAILS AND HISTORY OF THIS EVENT.

There IS a nominal fee to register. This will cover all the expenses the organization incurs for organizing the event. Registration is $25 and there are also cool MNM T-shirts you can pick up if you wish.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Think about joining us this year. It’s so much fun to get online together and urge each other on! There’s also an evening during the weekend where anyone who wants to can read an excerpt from their MNM work-in-progress in a safe nonjudgmental environment.

You’ll have to make your own coffee…but what this organization puts together for this weekend is worth your attending. It got me through in 2020…and I’m looking forward to attending the 2021 event. It will be an opportunity to see old friends from previous MNM events…and meet new ones in this safe virtual creative space!

I’m guessing a good portion of my blog posts on this site are about the MNM. This will be, I think, my 13th marathon! I’ve written about many of them. Just search Muskoka Novel Marathon on this site to read more about it. And spend some time at their site:

MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON WEBSITE

I hope you’ll join us for the 2021 marathon! Take advantage of this burst of creativity this July!

Creative Motivation in the Time of a Pandemic

I know there are some creatives out there who are seriously taking advantage of this pandemic downtime. I see it happening. One just has to glance in Taylor Swift’s direction to see an example of this. She’s been on fire creatively…taking advantage, it would seem, of every second of her pandemic downtime.

But not all creatives are created equally. Some take the lemon they are given and make glorious refreshing thirst-quenching lemonade. Others, they look at a lemon and think, ‘Now, what the hell am I going to do with a nasty old lemon!? Those things are disgusting!’

Though I’m not always a negative Nelly, rest assured that I’m side-eyeing my lemon with hatred and disgust. This particular creative is struggling to put a sentence together.

I recall at the beginning of the pandemic that there were memes going around about Shakespeare. They were–I THINK–meant to bolster creatives. I immediately recognized it as a bad take, though. It was an insult to all of us and I’m ashamed that I may have even been one of the ones who shared it in the moment.

I believe Rosanne Cash was one of the first ones who perpetuated this bad take meme. Sittin’ up there on her hill, just spittin’ out takes willy-nilly.

Soon, the Shaky Pear’s face was everywhere…with any number of quotes and explanations as to how wonderfully he dealt with his plague lemons.

If you were furiously creating when this meme first strolled by you, you probably thought, “YES! Damn right!”

But…if you were one of the ones truly struggling to get words on paper, paint on a canvas, vocals on tracks, musical notes recorded, yarn on a needle, or any of the other million ways creatives choose to express their creativity, this take would have come as a hot slap across your face. A face that was already burning from the frustration of not connecting with your particular mode(s) of creativity.

We are now more than a year into this thing. As the world is PAUSED, creatives are either creating, struggling to create, taking a break from creating, or screaming into a deep void that appears to be both endless and unforgiving. It’s a struggle.

Stop comparing yourself to Shakespeare. Stop beating yourself up if you feel your pace isn’t enough. Creativity will happen, come what may. If you have to take a break, do so. There’s no scorecard. We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. You’re doing your best. You’re getting through.

We (creatives and humans in general) are our own harshest judges. We see what others are accomplishing and we beat ourselves up over the fact that we’re not keeping up. Now is not the time for that. Good for Shakespeare for creating during the plague. That’s awesome. Really. Commendable. But there were some other great creatives in his day, I’m sure, who took a breather during the fear and uncertainty of the times.

Be you. Create when you can, not when you’re feeling pressured to do so. Define your own timeline of creativity and be kind to yourself during the down times. This is a big worldwide event. Yes, a poem will uplift the world. But so will serenity in a time of strife. If you’re not the poet this time around…be the reader. Take comfort in the creations of others.

Stay safe.

From one creative to another, sending love and light…

Kidlit Against Anti-AAPI Racism Auction – Feb 26-28 2021

The ASIAN AUTHOR ALLIANCE has created an Auction Fundraiser to support both the STOP AAPI HATE and the HATE IS A VIRUS organizations. Here is a note on the auction directly from the ASIAN AUTHOR ALLIANCE KIDLIT AGAINST ANTI-AAPI RACISM AUCTION website:

“We are a group of Kidlit writers and publishing professionals who are horrified about the intense rise in anti-Asian violence  after a year of xenophobic rhetoric and racist attacks. “The NYPD reported that hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment jumped 1,900% in New York City in 2020.” (Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Are on the Rise. Many Say More Policing Isn’t the Answer,Time.com) We are running an auction to raise funds for two organizations that work against anti-asian racism and racism of all kind: Stop AAPI Hate & Hate is a Virus. Auction is open from February 26, 2021 @ 12AM EST until February 28, 2021 @ 11:59 PM EST.”

You have to act fast if you want in on items in this auction, as it only lasts for 2 days!

There are over 400 items to bid on. Here’s a link to the page that breaks those items down by category…for easier navigating of what there is on offer:

Items by Category

SIGNED BOOKS, BOOK BUNDLES (US ONLY | US/CAN | INTL)

BOOK SWAG

CRITIQUES BY AUTHORS

CRITIQUES BY EDITORS/AGENTS

WORKSHOPS, WRITING RETREATS

CALL WITH AUTHOR & CLASSROOM VISITS

CALL WITH EDITOR/AGENT

NAME A CHARACTER

MISC

I have items in this auction. UNDER THE CATEGORY OF SIGNED BOOKS, BOOK BUNDLES, you will find the following (Click on link to see my auction offering):

#254: Signed copies of The Camino Club & Pride Must Be A Place by Kevin Craig + $20 Gift Certificate for the online bookstore at Interlude Press | Kidlit Against Anti-AAPI Racism Auction

The opening bid on my auction package is $25 and it’s open for bidding RIGHT NOW. Ships for free to USA or CANADA. Please consider making a bid on this and all items in the auction!

Please spread the word to your writing and reading friends…to all your friends! This is over in 2 days. This is a tremendous and important cause! Happy bidding…

When is a Writer Not A Writer, Because It’s Not When They’re Not Writing. Or is it?

Did that make sense? I mean, I always defended my right to call myself a writer whenever I go through long stretches of not writing. I get defensive and prove–with novels and plays and stories and poems already written–that I am indeed a writer. Even when I am not anywhere even remotely nearby the actual literal act of writing. But is that all just one big cop out? Am I justifying the owning of the title by pulling up historic data that makes it seem like it’s so when it isn’t actually so?

Wisdom from graffiti found on the Camino de Santiago…

By that measure, I should call myself a professional double-dutch skipper. I mean, I was REALLY good at it 45 years ago…so I should in fact still call myself a double-dutcher, no???

Maybe we should consider ourselves writers only while we are writing. The act of writing makes it so. I am writing at this very as we speak moment, typing these words out…so, therefore and ergo, I AM A WRITER. But once I click PUBLISH on this post…maybe I should just become Breather again. Human. Non-Writer.

Would it motivate me more to only call myself a writer while in the act of writing? I need something to get me to keep on track. I am between novels. One was just released. Three are near completion. One is completed and without a home. And I sit and do nothing writing related for far too many hours of the days I have left.

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

I keep hoping for an Elves and the Shoemaker scenario. I mean, aren’t the statistical odds in my favour that this could eventually one day happen? I’ll wake up one morning and all three WIPs will be completed! Perhaps the elves will even leave a lovely pair of slippers across the top of the manuscript, which will be neatly tied with a pretty purple ribbon, and finished off with a bow. Or, no…that is perhaps asking too much. Maybe they’ll just leave me a chocolate. After all, I can’t expect them to make me a pair of slippers and finish the drafts of all three manuscripts, can I?

See…this is me typing words now. I am fulfilling my claim that I am a writer, simply by typing this gobbledygook. Thereby tricking myself into not being required to dig into those manuscripts and get cracking. I’m so good. There should be awards for WRITERLY PROCRASTINATION!

How’s your writing going? Are you on task? Are you getting things done? Are you calling yourself a WRITER?

It’s NANOWRIMO 2020 in precisely 9 days from now. Are you participating? Are you planning? Are you going in with an outline or cold turkey pantsing it once the day (NOVEMBER 1st) arrives?

I need to commit to something, so I suppose NaNoWriMo it will be. Sometimes just thinking about calling myself a writer when I’m not in fact writing is stressful enough to motivate me to get back into the game. I keep thinking about that little saying, if you don’t use it you lose it. Man, I would hate to lose writing just because I’m too lazy and unmotivated to write RIGHT NOW.

Once I stop writing this post, I will be a non-writer again. Until the next time I write something. Here’s to motivating myself to have less time in between these two realities. Or at least slipping into WRITER now and then. I’ve been so bad lately. Let’s see if waving this threat of removing the title from myself is the trick that gets me back in the business of word slinging. Wish me luck!

Oh! And good luck with NaNoWriMo, if you’re imbibing! And don’t forget to enjoy it. It’s the journey, not the destination. It’s the writing, not the having written. It’s the time spent in the web of words, not the word count. Just enjoy yourself this NaNo! 2020 is enough of a mess without imposing self-inflicted punishments on ourselves for something as arbitrary as word counts. Just enjoy the words you DO spend time with.

Happy NaNo, writers who are writing!

My After-The-Marathon Post

This past weekend was the 2020 Muskoka Novel Marathon. It was the…wait for it…QUARANTINE EDITION. Cue the creepy crawling dark and dreary music…

QE-logo-200x300

The novel marathon is usually 40 writers getting together in one intimate space and writing 40 novels over the course of a 72 hours weekend in July. It occurs in Huntsville, Ontario, the heart of the Muskoka region. Cottage Country.

This year? Not so much. We sat in our own houses. We wrote on our own.

But the Marathon organizers did a SUPER FANTASTIC ABSOLUTELY AMAZING JOB motivating the housebound writers! They are to be commended for thinking outside the box during this, the year of impossibilities. Covid-19 changed EVERYTHING, including the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON.

I know we won’t raise as much money for the YMCA literacy programs this year. It’s pretty much a given. But writers still did their best, we still did some fundraising. Hopefully, we raise enough to keep some of the programs funded. The yearly injection of funds that the Y gets from this marathon is no small change. We often raise upwards of $30,000 per marathon year.

The other elements of this event, outside of the fundraising? The WRITING. The camaraderie. The silliness. The emotions. The food. The coffee. The love. The words. The sunshine and the rain. While in Huntsville every year, the writers usually sneak out to explore the town…either on their own or in groups. We have a pub night, we take the old fashioned train at the historical HERITAGE PLACE TRAIN STATION. We do an amazing BAREFOOT CREATIVITY WALK with BAREFOOT SUE! We do all these things and more. We are a family gone on a long weekend vacation together. 40 of us. We click and clack in the writing room day and night. We stop writing long enough to break bread together three times a day (Called to the kitchen by the flickering of the writing room lights and presented with delectable food for every meal provided by volunteers and sponsors). We huddle in small groups and large ones, talking about writerly and nonwriterly things. We do a MIDNIGHT READING on the SUNDAY NIGHT…sitting around a large table in the kitchen (let’s just call it a mess hall) reading the fresh unedited words from our manuscripts to the other gathered writers. We are, for 3 short days every year, a family.

Enter 2020.

MNM2020
A screenshot of yours truly during one of the MNM 2020 Quarantine Edition WRITING SPRINTS. I chopped out all the other little Brady Bunch ZOOM squares. Our screens were filled with writers writing…quietly together. ❤ It really works, people! Motivates!

We did ZOOM meetings this time around. We wore pajamas and goofy hats and ate together and laughed. It was different. It was very different. But thanks to the gracious and tireless organizing committee, our family found to a new way to be together…to reach out and share. We even did the Midnight Reading.

MUCH THANKS AND LOVE TO: Karen Wehrstein, Colum McKnight, Jennifer Turney, Heather Cotic, Krystyne Taylor-Smith, Shellie Westlake, Sharon Bacon, and, David Bruce Patterson. These generous souls brought our happy family together in a new and vibrant way. Much things have been cancelled during Covid-19. Thanks to this group who thought outside the box and made the changes necessary to keep our little light aflame. The MNM did not happen in Huntsville this year, no. But we carried on…we came…we wrote words. We persisted.

There’s always next year, right? HUNTSVILLE CAN WAIT.

See you there, MNM family!

Kill Him or Keep Him? When Manuscripts Act Up…

During the 2019 Muskoka Novel Marathon I wrote a novel that I titled The Époque of Ethan going in (I always start my novels by writing the title at the top of page one). I almost NEVER change the title after it’s chosen.

The novel is the story of two characters, Cooper who is the nonbinary love interest of the dead guy, and Topher, who is the dead guy’s best friend. I won’t make you guess the dead guy’s name. It was, wait for it…ETHAN.

I had Ethan dead prior to the beginning of the novel. He actually jumped from a highway overpass. It was messy. Topher witnessed it and suffered much trauma.

The truth about that jump? It was a prompt from the lovely Wayson Choy during one of his workshops at an old Ontario Writers’ Conference event. I can no longer remember the prompt, but I wrote this scene about the Topher character looking back to the jump and how it made them feel. I actually got to read it to the group during the course of the workshop. It felt like something I could use later. I liked that its origin story is WAYSON.

Fast forward maybe eight or ten years later. I finally wrote 50,000 words of the story at the novel marathon last year. And I’ve been struggling with it ever since.

I rewrote a version where Ethan doesn’t die. He takes pills and ends up in the hospital. But I struggled with that one too.

Recently, Michael said, “Why don’t you make him disappear?” Or something to that effect. So now, I’m going through and rewriting AGAIN. This time Topher and Cooper don’t know if Ethan is dead or alive. The authorities assume he’s dead after some time passes, but the characters don’t know. They don’t want to lose hope. The story is really about what Ethan (disappeared or dead) reveals to them about why he made the choices he made.

Oh wait! I began with the TITLE and how I went into the marathon with the title The Époque of Ethan. Well, scrap that. After a short discussion mid-marathon with a fellow marathoner, the book (as of yet not fully written) was renamed. Say hello to the new title, mid-marathon!

No Visible Damage. Tada! The fellow marathoner that helped me come up with the title–which was a line from the novel that Topher used incidentally and then reflected, ‘that would be a great name for a band’–was Colum McKnight. Not only did he steer the ship that changed the title, but he later went down to the village with a broomstick in his hands…wait, no. Oops. He went down to the village–the town–and had the title magically lasered into one of the bookmarks we were all given. It was official! Just like that, The Époque of Ethan became No Visible Damage. Done deal.

At that point, Ethan was still very much dead. There was a funeral and everything. I can attest to that.

Fast forward a few months and I have this niggling feeling that Ethan maybe shouldn’t die. First rewrite ensues. Hospital scenes. Rewrite everything to fit the change.

Fast forward almost an entire year after struggling to come up with an ending, while preparing my upcoming novel release for its big debut. No go. The ending eludes me. Whether he’s dead or in the hospital, I just can’t make it work.

Bang. Michael makes a comment about a disappearance. Dead or alive? Who knows? No one. Not the reader, not the characters. No one.

Another rewrite. YAY.

Oh. And, guess what? Another title change. It had to be.

Welcome to Where oh Where is Ethan Sinclair? I feel like it’s sacrosanct to change the title again, but I also feel like I can’t NOT change the title again. I mean, the title is literally written in stone. I mean, it’s not stone, but it is leather. I mean, well, not leather, but a fake leathery thing. It’s written in a bookmark. Sorry, Colum.

All this to say WRITERS STRUGGLE EVERY DAY. All we want to do is get the story right. I’m working my way towards the end of what’s written in the manuscript again. Not the ENDING, just the stopping point where I’ve been stuck. This time there’s another plot point wrapping itself throughout. Is Ethan dead or alive? I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out if the train keeps on moving past the previous stop point. At any rate, this ranty post is just here to show you how hard it can sometimes get.

Don’t think for a second I threw the whole Époque of Ethan thing out the window, because I didn’t. I refused to. It became the name of Ethan’s blog, which is how Ethan fills the two main characters in on things in his absence.

I don’t know how this will play out. I really don’t. But I’m willing to find out. To be honest, a part of me has been full on pretending the novel is finished. I’m a great pretender.

Stick around. Maybe we’ll one day find out if I kill him or keep him. Or maybe it’ll be another manuscript for the Big Manuscript Burial Ground. One never knows.

(PS: The 2020 Muskoka Novel Marathon takes place July 17-20 and it’s a pandemic version. This means it’s online and anyone can register and participate. Writers should check it out! Just click these words!)