I haven’t written any blog entries for some time now, so I thought that I’d take a moment today, as a break from daily editing on “Mark Red,” to give those who are interested an update. I apologize for the delay; I’ve been sick as a dog for a surprisingly long time recently, and as a consequence my motivation has been lagging. It seems that, after catching one respiratory infection, and being on the tail end of it, nearly recovered, I caught another one. These are the hazards of riding mass transit, I’m afraid. With so many people using the train every day, touching the poles and the hand-rails, the petri dish for contagious diseases is prodigious. I’ve resolved to minimize my contact with said surfaces as much as I can, since I’m still coughing up nasty phlegm after almost a month of illness, waxing and waning. It’s frustrating, but I’m nevertheless a big fan of mass transit, not the least reason for that fandom being that I can do my writing and editing while on my way to and from work, dreaming of the day when I will no longer have to do so because I’ll be able to make a living solely from my writing.
With respect to the editing of “Mark Red,” it’s proceeding well, but there’s much work still to be done. I think one of the very best guidelines for editing that I have found is the one an editor gave to Stephen King back when he was starting out (as detailed in his wonderful book “On Writing”), namely, to make your final draft ten percent shorter than your first draft. This is a terrific rule for me, because I tend to digress a bit in my fiction as well as in my non-fiction. It’s not such a crime in non-fiction—digressions can be fun and can keep things interesting. However, when writing fiction, digression tends to slow the story down. Also, I get too much into my characters’ thought processes, which is particularly bad when they repeat those same thoughts many times. This isn’t necessarily unrealistic. After all, people do tend to ruminate a great deal in their daily lives, and if the voices in our heads were all played aloud, every human would no doubt sound hopelessly neurotic. It does, however, tend to get boring pretty quickly in a novel, or even a short story.
So my goal, among others, is to make “Mark Red” only ninety percent as long as it was when I first started editing, by trimming off the stray bits that don’t add anything to the flow of the story. This may seem elementary, and I suppose it is, but it’s crucial.
Regarding other matters: I’ve been getting more exercise lately, despite being ill, because I’ve been walking from my train stop to my new office location instead of taking the bus, and sometimes walking back to the train at the end of the day. It’s about 2.4 miles each way, so it’s a nice, healthy stroll, and can be very pleasant in what passes for winter in south Florida.
On that note, a few weeks ago while walking, I came upon a sad but interesting sight: the beheaded corpse of a coral snake on the park path which I take from the train:
This is, of course, the most venomous snake in the western hemisphere, but it is also not particularly dangerous, since coral snakes tend to be mild-mannered. I think it must have come out onto the pavement to sun itself during the relatively chilly weather, and someone saw and recognized it for what it was and overreacted. It’s a shame, but an interesting example of the sorts of amazing wildlife that we have here in south Florida. I recently read Dave Barry’s “Best. State. Ever.” and I couldn’t agree with him more in that conclusion. The politics of Florida may be insane—an insanity that has apparently spread to the national level—but it is an amazing environment. Also, the national weather service reported about a week ago that 49 out of 50 states had snow on the ground. You should know which state was the exception (Hint: It wasn’t Hawaii).
Well, I think that’s enough meandering for today. I considered writing my own semi-deliberate digression about the curious phrase “sick as a dog,” since in my experience dogs don’t tend to get sick as often as humans, but I’ll leave that at the immediately preceding comment and spare you any further speculation. I hope you’re all well, and enduring the ongoing winter in the northern hemisphere with as much equanimity as you can muster. The days are now getting steadily longer, and that’s good news for those of us who get moody when the nights predominate. For those in the southern hemisphere, enjoy the summer! For those who live in the tropics…well, you don’t need any boosting from me, I would imagine.
Stay healthy, everyone. Watch those doorknobs, hand-rails, and standing poles, and wash your hands regularly!