My Brain is Toast. Crunchy, Charred, Toasty Toast.

Posted by:
Susan Rooke
August 16, 2018

The twelve-step countdown has begun. After 2 weeks of long days, I wrapped up the first three of the steps I’d outlined in the previous post. The Realm Below is now much closer to publication. It was two weeks of minimal cooking, minimal laundry (oh, wait—I swore I’d never do laundry again. Dang it!), minimal errands, minimal everything except working on the book.

1. Starting as soon as I finish this blog post, I read the printed manuscript for consistency, continuity, loose ends, etc. DONE
2. I start again at the beginning with the document on my laptop, doing a line-by-line edit, correcting typos, simplifying sentence structure and fixing any problems I found in step 1. This of course means I’m rereading it. DONE
3. I email the manuscript to The Daughter. Katie is my first outside editor, reading for all the same issues that I have supposedly addressed already in steps 1 and 2. She never fails to find things I’ve missed. DONE

Yesterday (Monday, August 13th) was a 12-hour workday, but it was worth it. By evening I’d completed step 2 and then I wrote another 700-800 words to tidy up the ending. Time for step 3, firing off the manuscript to The Daughter. With enormous relief, I pushed “send” and staggered away from my desk, collapsing on the living room sofa with the stiff highball Glen had poured me.
I was lifting it to my lips when my phone dinged. What’s this? I wondered. Oh, a text from Katie. I read it with the warm expectation that she would tell me how excited she was to finally read it. No. She was requesting a paper copy.

I panicked, worrying about even such a tiny delay, since I’d still like to get the book out by the end of the year. Glen offered to print it out the next day and overnight it to her, but luckily, she was thinking a lot more clearly than I was. She decided she’d transfer the document to a flash drive and run it over to Kinko’s for printing. Brilliant! With that problem out of the way, then she told me how excited she was.

Which made two of us. So I took that sip I’d been meaning to.

Now I get to take some time off. Relaxing, running only the most necessary errands, doing the domestic things that have been shoved aside. And sitting on the porch watching the cows (it’s quite therapeutic, provided the bull isn’t tearing down the fence again to get to the neighbor’s cows). Where’s this free time coming from? Well, it turns out step 4 is unnecessary. This one:

4. While Katie is busy doing that, I’ll reread The Space Between to be certain I haven’t introduced inconsistencies or contradictions in the sequel. And not for the first time, I will tear my hair out and ask myself why I thought it was a good idea to write a series.

Technically it’s only the first part of step 4 that I won’t need to do. Katie’s rereading TSB herself, which means . . . I don’t have to! She’ll catch any inconsistencies that may have slipped in. (She won’t be tearing her hair out on my behalf, though, so I’ll still have to do that.) Her efficiency will give my brain time to recover from writer’s rigor, or, as I like to call it (after just now googling the genitive for conscriptor), rigor conscriptoris.

Which brings me to the inimitable Edward Gorey.

I’ve been a huge fan of his books since childhood, and one Christmas when I’d just ended my first semester of college, my mother gave me The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel. By then I’d been writing short stories (bad) and poetry (worse) for years, slowly improving. But what I longed to do most of all was write a novel. Gorey’s description of Mr Earbrass’s biennial novel-writing method captivated me. I pored over the book countless times, imagining myself doing as Mr Earbrass does, producing a novel every other year, living the literary life. Decades passed and none of that happened, of course. But . . .

The morning after sending the manuscript off to The Daughter, I thought of Mr Earbrass again, in particular this page:

And I realized that was exactly how I felt.

Your faithful correspondent,

Susan Earbrass, signing off until August 30th.

12 comments on “My Brain is Toast. Crunchy, Charred, Toasty Toast.”

  1. Susan, I can only observe that you are so fortunate to have Mr. Glen Earbrass at your elbow to keep you well supplied with those whatchamacallits you imbibe. I truly hope the book is well received and that your expectations are met. We have been witness to a tortuous journey, in fact, so tortuous I believe I am going to help myself to one of those whatchamacallits my self. Best wishes, John

    1. Thank you, John! And I must say, there are times when a whatchamacallit is exactly what’s needed. Especially with a squeeze of citrus on these hot summer days!

  2. I'll tear your hair out for you if you really want me to, but it'll have to wait until Christmas. 😉 I'm loving it so far!

    1. No, no, no. You're supposed to tear YOUR hair out. To save mine! See? 😉 And thank you, darling, I'm so thrilled to hear that!

    1. Thank you, sweetheart, I love you too! Please keep 'em coming, because it's going to be a long few months!

  3. Bravo! and cheers to you, Miss Earbrass! Can't wait to read it!
    So many writers talk about the value of sitting and staring into space, and letting their minds wander. So should you start to get restless, you can tell your inner rigor conscriptoris to pipe down, because while it may look like you are doing much of nothing, you will be, in fact, working. And then you can pour yourself another highball and maybe discuss the major plot points with the cows.

    1. A great plan in all respects, Claire, and I especially appreciate the part where I'm working even when it appears I'm not! And thank you so much for your support!!

    1. Thank you, Susan! I’m still kind of tired, but slowly recovering. I have to, since Katie is going to have it ready to come back to me fairly soon! I can’t wait for you to read it!

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