It’s funny how little down time I allow myself by before I feel the need to get something done. My husband’s the same way. We like to be productive.
During the “holidays” one would most likely find us in our respective offices brain-deep in some type of creative or career project: digitizing rare audio cassettes, typing up old journal pages, writing a proposal for a conference, a class, a book.
Between the productivity we take a walk to a local coffee shop and the subject of how we rarely relax comes up. “It’s because we like our work,” I say to him. “But our work is our play. We don’t work; we plerk.”
(SIDENOTE: we discussed the spelling of the combination of “work” and “play” and decided against “plork” because no one would pronounce it right.)
Plerking for me is writing this now. It’s editing a manuscript. It’s jotting a poem down, capturing a melody, brainstorming TV movie ideas. Plerking is when one enjoys the work of one’s life so much that it doesn’t feel like work – which is not to be confused with the ease of the endeavour.
Play can be just as challenging as work. Have you ever played sports? Sports are challenging physically and mentally, but we never ask, “what sport do you work?” Not even to professionals.
A few weeks ago I gave myself (and invited others) the challenge of writing a short story by the end of the year using a paragraph from the 50 First Lines exercise. I posted my top 5 and ended up choosing the following paragraph:
Green, red, blue . . . what mattered the colour of his blood when his heart was a broken hinge? He lay his head back down on the institutional hospital pillow. The nurses didn’t know what to do with him. He had red blood spurting from a gash in his arm and green blood coming from his nose. He reached up and touched it. His nose. Where Karmen had punched him.
EDITING YOUR PLERK
I was on a panel about editing at VCon with four other authors. All of us had different techniques and rituals around editing. The only thing we all completely agreed upon was the importance of it.
When someone asked if it was possible to spend too much time editing, I said, “Perfectionism is the opposite of done, but I have never heard anyone say, ‘Wow, that was a great story, too bad it suffered from over-editing.’ It’s a bit of a balance.”
Here are some basic steps I take when I edit a short story:
-After I pound out the first draft, I usually read it over a few times and do some straight intuitive editing.
-I tend to explain too much in the first drafts of my short stories. If I explain anything I first ask myself, is this information necessary? If so, is there a way to show it in action or dialogue instead?
For instance, here’s a doozy:
Karmen had always loved attention, had loved flaunting her nerdy boy toy with his natural, baby-faced good looks. One-hundred percent human, not like those trendy “mutants” with their artificial modifications. She liked showing him off like a pet, daring any man, woman, or hermaph to challenge her claim.
Instead of explaining all of this, I could have a scene where she takes her boy toy to a party and threatens someone or makes a snide remark about a “mutant.”
-I examine each character individually. What is her motivation? What is his character arc? Who is this person? I visualize each character in my mind doing something. I think it’s important to visualize them in action, not just what they look like physically.
-Once I’ve edited it a few times, I give it to one or two people in my crit arena. I get some feedback, take some notes, read over my notes, and then set them aside. (I don’t obsess over notes. If something clicks, it will reveal itself in the rewrite)
-I PRINT the story out and read it OUT LOUD. This is vital. I read every line for “sound” and “sense.” Meaning, does it sound good and does it make sense for the story.
-I question my “darlings.” If certain lines make me feel clever, I examine them in the context of the story. Yes, cleverness is good, but I was a bit in love with the last line of my story so that each of 3 versions of the ending still contained that final line. I wanted to make sure the last line actually worked.
-I look for the logic of the story. The overall holds-together-ness of it. If I look at it objectively, do the pieces of the story fall together so that the outcome is believed to be a necessary conclusion?
Sometimes when I’m editing I freeze up and procrastinate, fearing that I will somehow “ruin” the story by editing. That I’ll make it worse. I can’t say that has ever happened. I have to remind myself of that. I always save each new version just in case, but I rarely find that I need to refer back to it.
Your End-Of-Year Plerkout:
If you’ve started a short story, use that. If not, find something you’d like to “plerk” on that needs finishing (assess that it is finishable in 6 days). A poem, a song, a collage, even a novel – but only if you’re that close to the end.
The idea is to FINISH something, as in, ready for submission. An actual edit and polish so that you can start the New Year with a brand new story to toss to the story-catchers.
Have a Great New Year and Be Safe.