IWSG—June odds and sods

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s time for another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, we share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

The books I wrote on MacWriteII, ClarisWorks, and AppleWorks were inaccessible to me for up to a decade, due to being either stuck on obsolete file formats on disks or on an older desktop I didn’t bring over all the files from. Obviously, I finally learnt how to convert and open all those file types.

The ones created or saved in MacWriteII have/had a lot of bizarre formatting issues caused by data migration; e.g., floating chunks of text that belong elsewhere in the document and need to be C&Ped back together in their proper order (often breaking off in the middle of words or sentences!), gibberish at the beginning, words I taught the ’93 Mac’s spellcheck, text from files on other disks, symbols in the middle of words, repeated letters, huge indents. That needed addressed before I could even begin editing and assigning them places in my long queue.

As I’ve said many times, it was a blessing in disguise that the original files of Little Ragdoll were held hostage for so many years. There was no way I could’ve salvaged even a halfway decent story by writing around this Grimms’ fairytale on acid. I needed a complete rewrite from scratch and memory, though I kept the same general outline.

Being away from a story for 5–10 years provides one with a whole new set of eyes. Now, I like to wait at least a few months before diving back in. When we begin editing and revising too soon, we’re often blind to mistakes both big and small.

I learnt a big lesson from my mad dash to the finish with And Aleksey Lived in 2018. Since there was almost no time between the day I wrote the last word in the final appendix and the release date, I had to fly through with proofreading. A lot of little errors also turned up in the first printed edition, which I thankfully was able to correct for free.

I’m doing JuNoWriMo for I believe the sixth year, though I’m not hopeful of reaching 50K. All part of the joy of being stuck in a home not my own, with the local libraries still not open to more than brief browsing, and in an open concept house that makes privacy all but impossible. </extreme sarcasm>

I’ll be using June to work on my radical rewrite of the book formerly known as The Very Last, start my new alternative history, and do my final proof-check of the third edition of Little Ragdoll. I also count blog posts as creative non-fiction.

After daydreaming about this for at least 20 years, I’ve finally begun the process of applying to make aliyah (move to Israel). I came up with a lot of stupid excuses and reasons to postpone it, and even let my now-ex talk me out of it. Unfortunately, I’ve aged out of a lot of great opportunities, like work-study programs and volunteering on most kibbutzim.

I’ll be discussing this much more in future posts. If all goes well and I’m approved, I should be there by next summer. Though I used to want to live in Haifa, my dream city now is Tiberias in the Lower Galilee.

In response to the awful events of May, I’ve changed my Twitter display name to my Hebrew name, Chana Esther Dafna.

What are your summer writing plans?

Jumping through hoops

It’s quite a bit of work to convert old files on now-obsolete formats into Word. First you have to put the discs into an external disc drive, since Macs no longer come with internal disc drives. Then you have to open the MacWriteII and ClarisWorks files through TextEdit, which produces a lot of garbage, jibberish text (mostly at the beginning and ending of the document). At first I was copying and pasting the whole thing into a Word file and then deleting the garbage, but eventually I felt it would be easier to cut and paste, and then additionally copy and paste the middle text, without the garbage, into the real Word file. There’s some other garbage throughout the files, but not as much as in the initial conversion. And for some reason, the Claris files were a lot easier to fix up, whereas MacWriteII files have weird misplaced text blocks. I have to copy and paste these orphan lines back into the places they came from. At least with some of these manuscripts, I have the original handwritten drafts to check against if I’m unsure where an orphan line or passage goes.

And then of course I have to auto-hyphenate, make it double-spaced, and change the font from the generic Times New Roman into my belovèd Palatino. Any other formatting from the original is also lost, like italics, bolding, bold italics, underlining, and centering. At least you don’t lose accent marks when you translate; that would’ve been a nightmare for the 42 chapters of my Russian novel plus the short Epilogue, since I used accent marks wherever I was aware of for personal names and Russian words and lines. I know accent marks aren’t normally written in actual Russian publications or regular writing, but I decided to use them for the same reason they’re used in dictionaries and textbooks—as a pronunciation guide for the non-Russian or non-Russophile reader who isn’t familiar with all the rules of Russian pronunciation. For example, I know a lot of Westerners erroneously mispronounce Boris as BORE-iss instead of Bah-REECE, and Ivan as EYE-vin instead of Ee-VAHN. (And in my opinion, both of those Anglo mispronunciations totally throw those names away. They sound so elegant, refined, and romantic in Russian, but they sound so common and ordinary in English. And don’t even get me started on how my favoritest female name, Anastasiya, is often mangled into Ann-a-STAY-zha. The true pronunciation, Ah-nah-STAH-zee-yah, is so much more beautiful.)

Those are a LOT of hoops to jump through just to finally have access to my older manuscripts again and to start fixing them up for eventual publication. I know many writers might write them off and not want to bother with going to so much trouble to access and revise older manuscripts, but my writing is the most important thing in the world to me. I’d do anything for it, the same way Aleksandr Isayevich was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for his writing (but thank God he lived to the ripe old age of 89 and saw all of his writing published in his homeland after the Soviet Union fell!). It’s also like how a mother would do anything for her children, since I do consider my manuscripts, all of them, to be my babies, in the absence of any blood (or adopted, for that matter) children. Yes, it does take a lot of time to reformat and fix these translated manuscripts, but it’s worth it in the long run. I also love going down memory lane and having a whole new chance to edit and revise these manuscripts.

I spent too much time, effort, and love writing them in the first place (and in the case of some of them, transcribing them from handwritten originals and then adding in more text where necessary) to just let them sit forever on old discs, in obsolete, inaccessible formats. They mean too much to me to abandon to the ravages of time. I’m going to have to go to even more effort to get some of the files off of one disc that isn’t being read by my external disc drive. I really only want two files on that, the beginning of the original Part II of the book I’ve been querying, for comparison’s sake, and the long-hiatused second book of the second of my four Atlantic City serials. That file was partially printed out, but it caught the same type of error that Part I of the currently-querying manuscript did, and I figured that if that massive file was able to be miraculously resurrected 17 years later, why not try it on that one as well? I never went back to try rewriting that other book or to just pick up where I’d left off, but maybe now I have a chance to work with the original as I edit and revise it.

There are also some files on the hard drive of my old computer, which will require just as many additional hoops. I’m pretty sure that’s the only other place left to look for the first two (I think) chapters of the long-hiatused sequel to my Russian novel. Sure, I could start again from scratch, esp. since I was only about two chapters in, and the entire thing is outlined on paper and in my head backwards and forwards for years, but it would at least be nice to pick up where I left off. There are also a couple of other files I’d like to look for on that hard drive.

I believe Hashem created me to be a writer, and I recognize that our talents, passions, and gifts are ultimately on loan from Hashem. Yes, we can always do things to improve things we already have a talent or passion for, like taking writing workshops, voice lessons, and art classes, but I believe the base talent was implanted there from birth. It’s up to us to use these talents and gifts wisely. It’s like one of the messages of the song “Pure Smokey,” recognizing talents and gifts come from Hashem, and thus ultimately thanking him/her for those gifts, and those people whose gifts we admire. And I also don’t want to end up like Mrs. Turkina, a character in one of Chekhov’s stories, a woman who wrote many books but who was content to just read them to friends and family, never pursuing having them published so everyone could enjoy them.