The talented and lovely mnfaure has put out a general challenge to writers as part of the 7-7-7-7 challenge, so I decided to play along. I’ll follow her lead and rather than challenging seven specific writers, I’ll just say that anyone out there who wishes to join in should feel free to.

The Challenge

Go to the 7th page of a work in progress, go 7 lines down, post the next 7 lines, then challenge 7 other writers to do the same.

My entry turns out to be part of a letter to the editor of a paranormal magazine called The Between Times—maybe not the most riveting part of the novel, but hopefully at least slightly amusing:

I wonder if you’d like to do an article about the Chupacabra that’s bothering my chickens? Well, I’d better close for now. I am a big fan of your magazine. I have been reading The Between Times ever since I discovered it on a trip to San Francisco three years ago to visit my son’s grave. That was the issue on life after death and I found it to be a great comfort. Keep up the good work, and let me know about that Chupacabra article. I’ll even write it myself if you like, though I’m no creative writer.

Sincerely yours,

Ramona Hansen Tattinger, Hansen Ranch, Dos Lunas County, California

This was seven lines in the ms., but seems to have a different shape in the post. Anyway. Happy writing!

Inspired by that Albert Einstein quote from the other day…


is a beautiful thing.
Not loneliness, that bitter,
twisted root—but aloneness,
the chance to be filled with the silent
whispers of the world, to feel the golden sun
shining for you alone, to express the hope that
brushes loving fingers through the contemplative mind.

is the best friend
you will ever have—the warm,
caressing friend allowing you space,
time and stillness, who comes whenever
you fight your way out of the crowd into silence,
into peace,  oneness, and the deep, sustaining breath
of freedom.


Every new thing she see reminds her of the past,
or loved ones long gone, she the last of her line:
the way things used to be, how we did things then,
the funny thing her brother did, the tricks they played.

How much has changed.

A different world, consumed by history, lost
except in a few pale memories locked in spirits
headed away from Now and into the past tense.
The days wind down, grow fewer—whether
short or long we cannot say—
but not miles, not miles left to travel.

I listen for as long as I can,
stories told again and again,
trying to bear witness,
trying to let her know
someone still cares.

I try, but memories don’t get the laundry done,
the dishes put away, the dinner cooked.
The Now is relentless, unsentimental, unforgiving.

Someday you will regret not having these conversations.

Yes. Someday, someday, someday.

But for Now
I have many duties in my way
and steps or miles before that day.
Steps or miles before that day.

The WIP in rewrites was at first losing words at a good rate, and I was pleased about that. Getting rid of excess, making things clean. I actually like rewrites, perverse creature that I am. Structural problems, however, made it necessary for me to add new material and so I’ve written three new scenes and I will be adding more. Deleting and rearranging more, too, but the word count is currently larger than when I started. Not as large as the first bloated draft, but growing. I am not too worried about this. I have to get the structure, story, and character stuff right first, then I can worry about slimming. There will be at least one more draft for hammering that out.

I’m only on chapter 8, though I’ve been at it a month. It’s taking forever because my writing time is so limited these days. The only block of time I can count on is my lunch hour at work Monday through Friday. Weekends are completely absorbed with errands and chores and by evening I’m so trashed all I can do is sit it the chair, drool, and try not to fall asleep. Weeknights are often the same. I feel like I’m having to steal time for the creativity, and I’m hoping that when things regularize, my creative time-space will expand again.

At least I still have words. I was worried for a time that I’d used them all up. Things aren’t as fecund as they used to be, but I still have something.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve told myself bedtime stories: little storylets to help me drift into sleep; sometimes multi-pronged epics that I’ve been telling myself for years, often too silly to actually commit to the page, but fun and comforting all the same. These days, I fall into bed and I’m either immediately asleep or my mind is full of things to do, or worries, or…anything but stories. I can think of only one other period in my life when I didn’t tell myself bedtime stories. It was during that four or five year-long writers’ block I had. As soon as the bedtime stories started again, I began writing again, so there is something fundamental about my process involved in those dreamy tales.

I still have words. I still have words. I must remember that. Some day I may have time again, and I may have hypnogogic yarns to lull me into dreams, and oh yes, I may have dreams again, even dreams that are fit to put on the page.

I like this combining old novellas with new WIPs thing. It means hitting patches where I’ve got a new chapter in two days, like I’m writing really fast, when usually I’m…not quite so fast. Maybe I’ll do this for every novel from now on. I’ve got a trunk full of old novellas, stories, and novel partials. Maybe I should spend my time figuring out how to make the dear old things work and cleaning them up rather than coming up with, yanno, fresh ideas…

Or not.

But it sure is fun to drop a bunch of text into the manuscript and spend two days twiddling and poking and prodding rather having to crank it out.

And so it goes.

Chapter 4 is complete and chapter 5 is started.

I’ve also decided my opening paragraph sucks big suck monkey straws, but I am not going to fix it again. I’m pushing forward to a completed draft. Since I’m so big on giving other people that advice.

It’s both disturbing and gratifying to read old stories I haven’t touched in a few years. Gratifying because I can see the progress I’ve made as a writer; disturbing because I realize that stories I think are pretty danged good at this moment in time will probably make me cringe at some future reading. Not all of the old stories make me cringe, fortunately, but sometimes, as now when I am rereading a novella from some years ago, I wonder what kind of line of self-delusion I might be walking. Reading this poor old thing just makes me so tired, so much so that I wrote this blog post during my writing time rather than continue reading it. Back in the day, I thought it one of the best things I’d written. It even got some recognition as an Editor’s Choice on the Online Writing Workshop. And maybe it was the best story I’d written at that point in time.

The other cringe-making thing is that I reworked this novella so many times I edited some of the life out of it. Now that I’m incorporating it into my WIP, I’ve gone back to an older version to compare/contrast. Some of what I cut out to streamline can probably be added back into the novel with no harm, reincorporating some of the richness that got rinsed away.

Or I may wind up cutting it out all over again.

That’s the thing about writing. One has to stay true to the current moment: pushing and expanding outside the comfort zone, climbing the next hill, and the next. I have to keep learning my craft, not resting on what I learned last year or the year before. It’s a constant climb up the rock face, scrabbling for finger and toe holds. Sometimes when one reaches a plateau, one can take a break, but there will always be another rock face. I can’t worry that some future plateau will show me what a hash I made of the last plateau and the stories it contained. I have to stay true to where I am now, either climbing or resting, and realize I’m doing the best I can now with the tools I have provided myself. And the tools that each day of writing helps me develop.

Two weeks ago I spent most of the week plumping up chapter one of my WIP and adding detail; last week I spent a good amount of time cutting back some of that detail (about two pages).  The result was that I had a solid start and now feel no itching need to rework it again until I have a finished draft.  Or, yanno, about halfway through when I start to panic.  But that’s another post.

I finally started on chapter 3 at the end of last week, but the crud knocked me flat and I didn’t do much new writing for four days.  The latter half of his week I’ve been inching forward again.  I think I finished chapter 3, but it’s a shorter-than-normal chapter.  I’ll have to go back over it before I decide if I’m starting chapter 4 now.  My MC (Molly) is doing web research to find out about a mystery man.  She’s sitting in her room in the Boar and Lion Inn in the fictional Somerset town of Tildham.  Really, the scene isn’t as boring as it sounds.  Really…

I’m only slightly disingenuous there.  The opening of the scene does a great deal of in situ describing, the kind of detail that I know, even as I’m writing it, will have to be cut or reduced.  But I have to write it that way the first time through.  It’s the way I make the setting come alive in my skull.  Once it’s a living entity inside me, I can skinny it down in later drafts, but that first time through is for me.

I love that little room that Molly’s sitting in, though it really isn’t much to look at.  It very much harkens back to a tiny room I stayed in for a couple of days on my second trip to England, in a little village called Coxley, on the Glastonbury Road between Wells and Glastonbury.  I have such lovely memories of that place, and it’s been fun ensorcelling them back to life in my head.  I loved that room—or rather, I loved the inn itself and the countryside around it.   At one time it had been a farm, so it wasn’t in Coxley village proper.  Open fields stretched on either side, and black and white cows roamed the one outside my window.  The fence was quite close to those windows and sometimes when I opened the drapes, a big bovine head would be leaning over it to stare in at me.  I may have mooed at them a time or two—not saying I did, just that it is a possibility.

I drove by it again during my trip in 2004, or thought I did—quite disappointed because the area was more built up than I remembered.  The place I tentatively identified to my friends as the inn was now surrounded by other buildings.  Turns out, I was wrong.  I found the correct place on a Google satellite yesterday from 2007.  It’s still there, still as I remember it, surrounded by open fields.  And it isn’t creepy that I looked it up because, like, I’m doing research for a story, right?

That’s one of the great things about writing.  Getting the details right is a great excuse to get nosy, maybe even a little creepy.

Once I gave my main character, Molly, in the new WIP permission to tell me about herself, she’s been going crazy with the information.  Chatter, chatter, chatter.  Her, her Uncle Dray, her Grandma Theodora.  Which is good—it adds all those nice layers I need.  Which could be bad down the road—too much information, probably, that will have to be cut.  But I don’t seem to be able to do this process any other way.  I seem to be stuck with writing large and cutting down.

I’ve essentially rewritten the same three pages for the last three days, which is not as grim as it sounds.  I start off on page one to read through it and before long, Molly’s off on some tangent, adding and padding material.  What was originally page three now begins on the bottom of page five.  I’ve added about 1100 words to the opening.  More than that, I’ve added pages and pages of notes and charts, figuring things out, seeing where the connections take me, broadening the picture of this family.  It’s all good, all what I need to know.

Even if I wind up cutting a lot of it.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the title poll.  Sympathetic Magic edged out Time in a Bottle, and after giving it due consideration, I decided to let my prejudice against Time in a Bottle make my decision.  I’m going to be calling this novel Sympathetic Magic for the time being.

With no context, just which appeals to you the most.

Time in a Bottle

Sympathetic Magic

Of course, neither may work for you, and if that’s the case, feel free to comment as such.

I’ll be honest. I don’t like Time in a Bottle as the title of my current WIP so I’ve been casting about for another title. It is, however, more accurate than the other title. It may be more intriguing? I dunno. That’s why I’m asking.

In other related news, I’ve been working on the opening chapter of the novel currently called Time in a Bottle. When I posted chapter one on OWW, I got two common complaints: people wanted to know more about Molly’s background and her quest sooner, as well as the specific nature of her magical gift. So I’ve been dutifully filling in her background.

If I may be frank, Frank, I had only the essentials of her character down when I wrote the exploratory first chapter. It showed. So now I’m filling in the gaps, excessively, obsessively, even including a genealogical chart. Which isn’t just about blowing hot air out my *** or wanting to make pretty! charts! Molly’s family history is vitally important to the plot of this here book, so.

But being me, I am worried that I have tipped too far into the opposite direction and am now including too much damned detail. (An old and repetitive failing.) Only time will tell, whether in a bottle or not.