Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Because my mother may be moving into a nursing home later this year, I have taken to volunteering there one day a week, reading two different novels aloud to two different people. I was assigned these two and while it was at least partly chance (they were in their rooms when the man in charge of activities brought me around), he could hardly have chosen two more different people. But both are alert, funny, cheerful and opinionated, neither is really elderly (one is in her forties, the other I’d estimate to be in her early sixties), and I’m really glad I signed on for this. I’m reading an Elizabeth Peters Egyptology mystery to the older woman because she is just fascinated by ancient Egypt, and a Terry Pratchett fantasy novel about a cat named Maurice to the younger because she loves animal stories.

I’m getting a second chance to read a notated manuscript of Blackwork. By chance, the method changed at Penguin-Putnam between the two times. First time, I got the manuscript back in the mail, with notes scribbled on it and queries written in the margin on Post It notes. This time I get the manuscript electronically with words, phrases, and even a paragraph highlighted in yellow and when I run my cursor over the yellow, I get a box with a question or comment in it from my editor. Other changes are made in sky blue or red by my copy editor or editor – and changes I make are in maroon. The original text has a dotted line run through it with the new text following it in the bright color. Too cool – except my old computer’s antique word processing program isn’t very fond of the attached program to deal with the copy-editing. For one thing, I can’t leave my own replies to the notes and am having to send them separately. For another, having finished with the thing (I just left my computer running the several days it to9k to run through the ms.), I saved it and shut off the computer. When I realized I wanted to do some more work on it and tried to call it up, I got gibberish. I guess this new program is still a work in progress. Fortunately, I had already sent the ms to my home-grown editor, Ellen, who is having fewer problems with it. Sometimes I think I’m up to date on most things, then I get reminded that in many othere I’m a troglodyte.

My eyes continue to improve, but very slowly, and I’m still very bored by it all. At least I don’t have to wear goggles at water aerobics anymore.

Meanwhile, Buttons and Bones seems to have dragged to a stop. I did have a good idea that is causing me to do an extensive re-write of the two chapters that are written, but with a deadline starting to loom a bit (December), I’m getting anxious. The story’s there, it just doesn’t want to come out and play. I think there’s some bit of information I’m missing and as soon as I figure out what it is and go get it, the thing will tumble out like the contents of Fibber McGee’s closet. I sure hope so.


Julie said...

I've always found the beginning and end of a book easiest to write. That big hunk in the middle has often left me feeling I can't write my name in the dirt with a stick and I'm the most boring person alive. Neither applies to you. Hang in there!

Monica Ferris said...

I fuss and fume over the beginning big time, don't have too much trouble with the middle, and skate happily over the ending. Different strokes, I guess.

Linda O. Johnston said...

You've got a lot on your plate, Monica. Patience, perseverance, and I'm sure Buttons and Bones will get where you want it to soon.

I'm looking forward (?) to my first electronically notated manuscript. It should be somewhat, at least, like a redlined legal document--I hope.

Monica Ferris said...

Let me know what it's like, Linda. That will be an interesting thing to learn.

Sheila Connolly said...

Sure, and we all remember Fibber McGee and Molly. Oops, I guess I do, at least second-hand--my grandmother had a "Fibber McGee closet".

I agree with Julie--the beginning is exciting, and you know where the end is, but oh, that gaping middle! I couldn't possibly string together enough words to fill it. Until I do.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Monica, I know I fear "saggy" middles. They are the beast we must conquer, right? You have so much going on with your life. I'll keep you in my prayers.

Julie (aka Lucy Hamilton) said...

Everybody's system is different, which is hard to get across to aspiring writers when speaking. They all want to know "the trick," and, of course, there isn't one. I can't even define the characters in a book until I've written 2-3chapters and have watched them and listened to them. The trouble is that feeling that I have nowhere near enough plot to fill up the middle. Until, as Sheila says, I've filled it up and now the book is running long.

Betty Hechtman said...

Monica, I always like your posts about what is happening in your life. I'm glad your eyes are getting better. It must be a relief.

I guess I'm going to be getting the same kind of notated manuscript. Maybe the corrections will show up better.

Camille Minichino said...

I twitter and Facebook and a few others -- I teach the history of technology and can't help making a parallel with so many "unwelcome" inventions over the centuries.

At the beginning of telephone technology, e.g., the US congress did not allow telephones in representatives offices since it would discourage them from walking down the hall for a face to face! Hmm, maybe there's something to that.

I admit that I embrace a lot of new technology simply so I won't be left behind.

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