Monday, 21 April 2014

The Inner Workings of Me.: Operation: Recovery

The Inner Workings of Me.: Operation: Recovery:      I deal with a handful of 'invisible' medical conditions. I don't think anyone understands exactly how exhausting that is....

Operation: Recovery

     I deal with a handful of 'invisible' medical conditions. I don't think anyone understands exactly how exhausting that is. The fact that I can maintain my performance at my job often is a success in itself; many days just making it to work, through work, and home again is an outstanding accomplishment. And I know I should be thankful for the fact that I get to do that. Go to work. And believe me, I am. As I know there are many out there, battling with a handful of medical conditions of their, invisible or otherwise, and are unable to work. It really is a matter of being grateful for what you have.

     One of the conditions I am faced with daily is Endometriosis. The main symptoms are pain in the pelvis area (abdomen and even the lower back region) and extreme fatigue. While it isn't curable, there are procedures to reduce, at least temporarily, the pain experienced. Last week, I had an operation to remove a cyst from one ovary, and remove endometriosis from the other ovary - as well as my pelvic area. In the pre-procedure appointment, my specialist estimated I would need 1-2 weeks for recovery time. At first, I figured he was over-estimating that time, just to be on the safe side. Now that I am just at the one week marker, I realize he was right on target. For me, I can honestly say I underestimated the impact of the procedure. I have had a laparoscopy once before, for endometriosis. The last time the growth of endometriosis was only on the wall of my pelvis. Perhaps because this procedure involved both of my ovaries...maybe this is why the pain and discomfort persists? I can only speculate. I personally expected to be back at work today! That didn't happen. With how physically exhausted I still am, and the pain in my abdomen - albeit better, I am doubtful that tomorrow will be the day either.

     It's just hard for me to just relax. I am learning this with each passing day. It's one thing to come home after work and unwind after ones' day, but it seems to be another thing all together to honestly rest and recover, and truly relax. I feel like I should be getting chores done, accomplishing something - anything. Since, small efforts seem like monumental physical exertions, I may need to accept the fact that things can wait. There will be another day to catch up on chores. For today, right now, I just need to stop worrying about all I am not doing when I am simply lying around. And just be.

     I thought a positive in all of this, along with a successful procedure which hopefully will give me another year with minimized pain caused by endometriosis, would be that I would have time to write. Write and read, that was the plan. It was frustrating to realize I had no focus for either. I would crack open a book and the words would blur before my eyes. Just as it would when I opened a word document to work on my book. A friend made a very wise, apparently true statement the other day: That nothing special would be created during a time if I have to force the effort. This blog entry, and a few practice Haikus sums up my writing success during the past week. Hopefully as each day passes toward me being back to normal, these examples will grow in number. Until then, I will simply have to accept is what it is.

      The bewildering thing is, even though I have a valid reason for it, I actually feel guilty about each day I miss at work (and each day I am not producing with my story). I feel the need to hop to it, get on with my recovery and get back to work. Not that there is any way to rush the body as it heals.

     I guess the lesson of the day, or more appropriately the week, is acceptance. If it's something I cannot change, ie the time it takes for my body to recovery from this particular operation, to learn to accept that and relax and everything will work out in due time. Life has a way of reminding us of this, doesn't it?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A New Writer's Conundrum: Trust my instincts? Or trust the constructive criticism?

Since I won a critique of my current manuscript, I have been eagerly and nervously anticipating the response. Well, today I received it and, while I have points to work on, I know it will only serve to improve my novel so I couldn't be more grateful.

It was interesting to have someone highlight some of the areas I already knew I somewhat skirted past. I sometimes sacrifice some of the extra details, only doing so can assume the readers knows what I am talking about - which isn't always a safe bet. I will have to keep this in mind as I review and improve my novel. It was suggested to infuse more information about the setting and I absolutely agree so am so thankful to have this in my editing toolbag. I realized I need to introduce the city to my readers just as I need to introduce it to my protagonist. Along with highlighting my setting more, I definitely need to determine how much is too much (or too little) with regards to referring to accents. My 'lead male' is Scottish. From some previous feedback and research, it seems to be more common to choose a few choice words to highlight the characters accent and remind the reader that the character is Scottish (or another background). I have always struggled with this. If I put too little, someone comments to add more and vice versa. Is there a rule? I especially want to know because I don't want to submit this to the interested agent only for her to reject it on some small facts that I could of/should have corrected before hand.

While I have only had feedback from a few people now: a blue pencil review, 3 beta readers and now a critique, the results have all varied, exactly representing the vast differences of opinions out there. I love that I am receiving feedback like this because, like all writer's, I just want the readers to love my characters and enjoy their story. Having readers of different preferences helps me improve my story even more.

The slight downside to having some difference in opinions is when it comes to working off of those suggestions to make improvements. I actually changed the start of my story based on a blue pencil appointment at the SIWC, indicating I should include some background of how we get to the scene I had the story starting on, as opposed to just jumping into it and revealing more details along the way. With the new beginning in place, when sending my first chapter to beta readers, I asked their opinion specifically on the current start compared to where it previously began. I received unanimous response that the addition works better which was rewarding. I felt that I was able to take the constructive feedback from SIWC and improve the start of my story because of it.

Now, with the response from my critique, it's questioning if the readers need this information (a reason why I didn't have it to begin with). Similarly, some descriptive choices I make, while I have had a reader boldly plead that I never change that sentence ever, the critique narrowed on this point more negatively, once again leaving me with the question: Which is right?

I feel inclined to sway toward the information from the critique, though a rebellious side of me wants to pretend I didn't even notice the suggestion. The first beta reader I was lucky enough to find, has been responding exactly as I had hoped a reader would: commenting on areas of improvement yes, but also becoming instantly attached to the characters. She gets me as a story teller, including these particular descriptive points, but I know it's not as simple as that. As we all know, just because one person likes it, doesn't mean the next will. It's more difficult than I imagined.

 I am not necessary a 'new writer' but I am new in the sense that only in the last year have I begun working at improving this manuscript, completing it and cross-my-fingers becoming published. Meaning, I care more. I feel more invested. That's not to say I was disinterested before with my writing. That couldn't be further from the truth. I always love writing. I love learning about my characters and the story that develops around them. What I am learning is that the 'writing' part is much easier than attempting to become published. There is much more work involved and, it feels like, much more is at stake. Because, now that I have decided I want to have these stories published, the real work began. It's just...the more I reach out for feedback and suggestions, and the more I work on improving my story, I'm finding it quite like a tennis match. Left or right. Yes or no. I just am not sure how I will know which is correct and which will have a more positive affect on my novel. I already tend to edit and re-write my scenes over and over again. I just don't want to make changes that will hinder an agent from wanting my novel. I already feel I can edit until I am blue in the face, especially having contradicting comments. It makes me think it's only going to get more difficult from here. I am prepared for all feedback...I just want to somehow avoid writing and rewriting and not knowing when to 'put down the pencil and eraser.'

To fellow writers out there: how do you know when to incorporate the feedback, and when to STOP with the re-editing and rewriting? When to know to trust your instincts and when to listen to the feedback?

I appreciate any comments. I want to be able to move forward in my editing and get to the finish line. Your feedback here will help me so thank you in advance!