One of the reasons I decided to expand my editing business was so I could free up more time to work on my own writing. Of course it seemed risky to walk away from science (for at least a year or so), but worth it if working from home would also allow me to write more seriously.
But, like I mentioned a few weeks back, I've been so overwhelmed with editing (on top of working my full-time job that I won't leave until the end of June) that I've had not one moment to work on my practice novel. I've spent every free second editing other people's work.
I thought I'd finally finished with dissertation season (the end of the semester is basically here), but then last week a master's student hired me to edit their APA formatted dissertation. Then as I was finishing that job last night, literally minutes later another client hired me to reformat their manuscript for submission to another journal. Just as I thought I was free to take a little break, there was the PayPal notification alerting me that I'd already been paid for another job!
It's a tricky spot to be in. On the one hand, I don't want to be ungrateful that I'm getting plenty of jobs. I need the money to prepare for the upcoming job transition. But on the other hand, I can't realistically keep up this pace of working two jobs at once. Either I have to cut back on the editing, or I have to cut back on my research, and frankly the later isn't really an option. I'm under contract until June 30 and I made a commitment to my boss to get several things finished before I leave.
Ok, so for the moment, I need to turn more editing jobs down, especially if I doubt the client would result in repeat business. I did that this morning when yet another person requested that I edit their dissertation. I took a look at it and realized that whatever amount of money I might get for it was just not worth the exhaustion. Also, a dissertation is a one-time job. I need to build more connections with people who would hire me more than once. Maybe a student would pass my name on to another potential client, but I've not yet found that to be the case.
Anyway, I'm going to finish this last job and move back to editing my own novel. Even my husband, who'd encouraged me to take every editing job I could, has suggested I ease back. I don't think he, or frankly anyone, realizes how much effort I put into these papers. The last job I finished was just 40 pages of text, but I put in over 20 hours editing it. I had to! When APA guidelines prohibit the use of passive voice, and my client has written their entire dissertation in the passive voice, I don't have much choice but to rewrite the entire thing in the active voice for them. That's why they hired me. It's time consuming and it doesn't even take into account all the other formatting and regular proof-reading that has to take place.
I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining. These editing jobs would be so manageable for me if they were all that I was doing, but that's not the case. I'm still commuting 2.5 hours a day. I'm still working full time. But I'm also using my morning writing time, my evenings, and my weekends to edit, which leaves me no time rest. I guess it's no surprise I'm feeling a little unhinged.
I'm also getting to the point where it's physically hard to read. I'm trying to read Atonement before I go to sleep at night, but my eyes sort of dart around the page looking for errors without taking in a lot of the substance. My head aches. I know I need to put the book down and catch up on sleep, but then I'd really be doing nothing but working, eating, and sleeping every moment of the day.
Whinge, whinge, whinge.
Anyway, let's hope this increased pace of editing jobs continues on through the summer after I've officially left my research job. I've never had so many people request me to edit for them before, so I must be doing something right with my marketing and my new website.
I guess this is just what it takes to establish a business.
A question for the ladies:
Have you ever wondered what guys talk about?
Sometimes I see guys walking around campus in groups of two or three, and I'll hear a snippet of their conversation as I pass by, and it's nothing that shocking or surprising. Usually they're complaining about a class assignment or a professor - pretty much exactly what the women and co-ed groups talk about as well.
But what do guys talk about when they're alone, say hanging out at home? Maybe this is incredibly sexist of me, but I have a hard time imagining them talking about their hopes and insecurities the way my girlfriends and I tend to do.
Do they gossip?
Do they talk about sex? (my husband says no, but maybe that's just him)
It kind of kills me that I don't know and that I don't think I'll ever be able to find out. My presence would affect the conversation. Yet somehow, I'm positive they talk differently and about different things when they're alone.
Even when I hear my husband talking to another guy, his tone and vocabulary shifts. His voice gets slightly deeper. He calls guys he doesn't know, "man," as in "Hey man, how's it going?" It's completely different from how he talks to me. I find it totally fascinating.
I wish I could be invisible and sit silently among men, if only to listen.
Have you ever wondered what guys talk about? Men, care to share? Maybe I'm overthinking this, but it has to be different, right?
When you were a kid, were you a cartoon nut? Were you that kid that got up at 5 am in the morning to watch cartoons? Or did you watch them if they happened to be on TV, but they didn't change your life.
I was definitely in the former camp. I loved cartoons (still do, though Pixar's been disappointing me lately). I watched all kinds of stuff, ranging from the classic to the truly weird, like Ghostbusters, Denver the Last Dinosaur, Heathcliff. Darkwing Duck, and some bizarre cartoon about a purple alien with a creepy floating head sidekick. Did you know there was even a Back to the Future cartoon? Yeah, I watched that. There was no cartoon too stupid or poorly drawn for me. They all had their own merits.
So anyway, the other day I was listening to one of my favorite science fiction/fantasy podcasts, Anomaly (another great podcast by women) and they did an episode on their top 5 favorite cartoons. You can guess how excited I was to hear their picks.
And their lists were fine, not what I would have chosen, but that makes sense. Cartoons are personal. They're a snapshot of your childhood. Of course my list would be different.
I've asked myself this question before: what are my favorite cartoons? Hard to say. There are so many that I have absurdly clear memories of, that I remember enjoying, but which did I love the most?
First, maybe we should differentiate between Saturday morning cartoons and the animated shows we watch as adults.South Park and DuckTales are apples to oranges; there's no sense trying to decide which is better. The one show that's kind of a crossover for me is The Simpsons, which I watched religiously as a kid and then well into my teenage years (before I eventually decided the quality had fallen off). Also, I could devote an entire blog post to anime, so let's leave that category to itself.
For now, let's stick to the Saturday morning or after school style cartoons that were clearly targeted at kids. Off the top of my head, here's just a sample of the shows I remember liking, in no particular order:
DuckTales - Launchpad was the best. Also, I loved how they would sometimes visit Donald Duck in the Navy. Bonus points for a great theme song.
Rescue Rangers - Cheeyeeeseee!!! Also, this show had an excellent female role model in Gadget, who is criminally underrated in feminism pop culture. Also had great theme song, which I believe was written by the same people who did DuckTales.
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters - So weird, loved it. In general, I loved the Stick Stickly lineup on Nickelodeon.
Classic Disney Chip and Dale cartoons - The colors! The animation! The twee little acorns!
Classic Disney Donald Duck - Again, the colors! I just love those burnt yellows, reds, and browns of the 50's and 60's.
Animaniacs - We laughed.
Batman the Animated Series - I don't need to explain why this show is awesome. I re-watched some episodes recently and it totally holds up.
Transformers - I have hazy memories, but very real feelings for this show. I was pretty little when it was on.
Rugrats - Those first few seasons were brilliant.
Doug - Sweet and pleasant. A nice way to come down from the usual frenetic cartoon pace. And who didn't love Porkchop?
Rocko's Modern Life - So weird! And faintly disturbing! And yet I loved it so much...
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Classic show. One of my earliest childhood obsessions. My babysitter's sons had ALL the action figures too, which were pretty amazing on their own.
X-Men - The extensiveness of the Phoenix saga blew my 10 year old mind. It was probably my first exposure to carton serials, which would set me up for anime later in life. Also, Gambit and Rogue 4eva. Also, hell of a theme song.
Conan the Warrior - I think this came on right before X-men, and we (my brother, babysitter's sons and I) loved it almost as much.
Gummi Bears - A bunch of bears drink gummi berry juice which makes them bounce violently through the air, helping them to either escape or beat up the bad guys. How high were the writers on this show? Regardless, it was sort of brilliant and super imaginative. I loved their underground "train" system.
Alvin and the Chipmunks - so 80's.
He-man - Again, hazy memories, but I remember loving it.
Tiny Toons (also classic Looney Toons) - Babs Bunny was the best. Also, this is the show that gave us Elmira.
Muppet Babies - ADORED this show. Loved their imaginations, especially when it put them in old movies (especially Star Wars clips).
And then there were the shows I had mixed feelings for:
Tailspin - I liked the idea of surfing on the clouds behind a pontoon cargo plain, but I disliked the Baloo character and his boss (Was her name Rebecca? Hold on, I'm going to look that up - holy shit, I was right. See what I mean about how I have this crazy skill at remembering story details?)
Woody Woodpecker - entertaining, but frenetic.
Ren and Stimpy - So weird and gross, but we couldn't stop watching it. It had this strange ability to fool adults into thinking it was appropriate for children (even my babysitter let us watch it and she was very uptight about what she let us watch on tv), but every kid knew it was deeply disturbing and we really shouldn't be watching it.
And because I'm passionate about cartoons, here's a list of the ones I really, really hated.
Scooby-Doo - So boring. Flame me all you want. I hated this show and its repetitiveness.
Jetsons/Flintstones - I hated how angry George and Fred always seemed to be. Such nasty family dynamics.
Goof Troop - Goofy creeps me out.
Inspector Gadget - The worst. I don't like shows about incompetent people. I did however want Penny's computer book.
Ok, that's not an exhaustive list, but now that I have one I can make my decision. Here we go, top five:
1. Ducktales/Donald Duck Cartoons (it's my list, I get to lump the cartoon universes if I want)
2. Rescue Rangers/Chip and Dale Cartoons
4. Batman: the Animated Series
5. Muppet Babies
Why DuckTales? Proportionally speaking, I think I enjoyed it the longest. X-men and Batman were amazing shows, but I didn't watch them for as long as DuckTales. Also, for a show about a bunch of ducks, it was pretty weird and had a fun range of story lines. Wasn't there an episode about vegetable-shaped aliens? (Yep)
In retrospect, I think my cartoon obsession is where I learned the rudiments of story-telling. Were all these shows great stories? Maybe not in an academic sense, but they certainly entertained me and pulled me in to what was happening (i.e., "losing myself" in the story, which I think is such an interesting, but hard to define idea). Enjoying myself and losing myself, that's really all it takes to make a good story.
Sometimes my parent friends complain that TV turns their kids into zombies, but what's really so bad about your kid becoming engrossed in a good story? Isn't that preferable to mindlessly clicking at some pointless cellphone game? I think you'd learn loads more from a goofy little cartoon than how many points you get on Angry Birds. But that's just my opinion.
Were you (or are you still) a cartoon lover? What's your top-five?
Hello stranger, sorry things went radio silent around here. I finished my last dissertation editing job on Friday to cap off one of the more intense two and a half weeks of my life, and then spent the weekend catching up on some sleep and non-writing related activity (i.e. planting the garden).
The editing itself was fine. The problem was trying to do two full-time jobs at once. I still had to go to the lab and do research. And then on top of that I spent 20 hours editing student's honor's thesis (MLA format, which is simple and lovely), plus another 50 hours editing an APA format doctoral thesis in a partially overlapping interval of time. 50 hours! APA format is no joke! And then there were a smattering of smaller jobs, which were much easier, but they complicated my deadlines.
Anyway, now that's done and I'm glad it's over.
The semester is basically finished for college students, so there won't be any more dissertation jobs for a while, which is good. I need to spend my time building more working relationships with research professors. The problem with editing dissertations is that it's one and done. That person is probably not going to hire me again since they're unlikely to be writing more academic documents in the future. Research professors, however, publish a few papers a year and submit a couple of proposals as well. That's the clientele I need to target if I want to establish a good repeat customer-base. Plus, I think I'll die if I have to put any more 200 page dissertations into APA format again. My hat's off to social scientists. In the physical sciences, we just pretend there's no such thing as style guidelines or formatting beyond the reference list.
Outside of the academic editing, I also need to edit my practice novel. The first draft is complete, but I'd like to finish a second draft before May. Once I feel like it's not a total embarrassment, I'll look for someone to help me proof-read it and then hopefully I can get in onto Amazon kindle direct by June. Does that sound like a crazy plan? I have no idea. We'll see.
And finally, I need to outline some story ideas I've been kicking around for a while. One thing I'm going to try is handwriting them instead of using the computer. I have this theory that I tend to overwrite and get too descriptive because it's physically very easy to type all that b.s. on a keyboard. I can only hand write for so long and for so many words. I'm curious to see if this will help me adapt my prose into something a little cleaner and more direct. That's the kind of writing I like to read. Now I'm trying to figure out how to do it myself.
So that's the plan, Stan: network with research professors to build my clientele base; edit/publish my practice novel; and write out my more serious book in long form. Should be fun :)
Yikes. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I'm simultaneously editing two dissertations that are due within a day of one another. One's in MLA, the other's in APA, which makes my brain explode.
It's just hard because I'm still working at my research job as well, so all the editing is taking place in every spare moment I have. If I weren't working a full-time job already, this editing would be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, I just can't afford to be choosy right now. Working and editing at the same time extends the runway for establishing my business.
Yet, I still feel a little resentful. I want to work on my practice novel; edit that into shape, but I just don't have the time.
Plus, I've been having fun posting some artwork on Society6. I'd really like to scan some more drawings I have laying around. Or, you know, actually draw something new. But if there's no time to work on my practice novel, there's definitely no time for scribbles.
Ok deep breaths. It's one stressful week. It'll pass.
Wish me luck :)
Last November, I participated in NaNoWriMo. I was super motivated. I thought this could be the thing that finally pushed me to finish an idea I'd been kicking around in my head for several years. But then some personal stuff cropped up that caused me to abandon the novel after I'd only written about 15,000 words.
But if I'm being brutally honest with you, I put that book on hold not just because I was hurting (my husband and I very nearly divorced), but because I couldn't handle my own story's complexity. It needed so much world building and I'd never written a novel before, much less invented an entire universe within the framework of one. I've written before about how much I enjoy simple stories, but mine was anything but.
So I set my book aside and promised myself that I would come back to it again one day. I still liked my idea. I just didn't know how to write it.
In the meantime, I worked on my marriage. For the first time in what had been over two years (pretty much since we moved to North Carolina), we got on the same page again. The things we wanted and how we wanted to get there started to re-align. It was a relief to us both. With the worst of that behind us, some normalcy returned and I started to read and write again.
According to my records, I began writing a new book on January 2. This one was going to be different. I'd thought about it and I'd decided that my NaNoWriMo project had failed because it had been far too complex when I still hadn't learned basic story writing techniques, like how to build plot and move characters quickly from conflict to conflict without getting bogged down in excessive scene setting. How to build tension and give characters motivation that caused them to act in believable ways. If you can't write these basic components of a story, it doesn't matter how good an idea you might have.
So on January 2, I made a conscious decision. This next book would be my practice novel. I had no literary aspirations for it. In fact, I aspired to just the opposite. I wanted to write what amounted to a paperback book you'd buy at the grocery store. It would be a simple romance story, nothing more.
Why romance? I don't know. I was originally trying to write a science fantasy epic for NaNoWriMo and it was so hard for me. Romance seemed easier. Everyone likes love and sex; that made it simpler to develop characters. The genre helped define their motivation.
I set it in modern day D.C. because I know the city and its neighborhoods. I know exactly how the characters could move from location to location, the kind of people they could expect to meet, and what kinds of jobs they'd have. Not that I wanted to spend any time at all on the background, just that I knew enough concrete details about the city to set the story without getting lost in establishing that kind of information. The opposite of world building, basically.
I limited the number of characters to five main players. There were a few supporting characters here and there, but most of the action was tied up between these five people, with three of them really pushing the action.
And I had an idea, a little twist, that kept the whole thing from being too generic.
I did my usual writing routine; getting up early each morning to clock in ~1000 words a day. And I just kept writing. I never stopped or reread anything more than a few paragraphs back to help me get restarted each day. I tried to end each writing session on a hanging note, so I'd feel motivated the next morning to finish the scene. I never stopped writing unless I knew exactly what was going to happen next and made my notes accordingly. I left blanks to later fill with details I couldn't at that moment visualize. I just refused to let dumb shit bog me down. Forward and onward, that was my motto.
End result? I finished my novel yesterday. My first, honest to god novel, done. It's a practice novel to be sure. It's rough as hell and will need a lot of editing. There's at least one chapter that I think is going to need a decent rewrite. But I did it. 54,256 words. It took me three months instead of one, but I never thought NaNoWriMo was that realistic anyway (see NaNoWriMo - you are drunk).
I'm really proud of myself. For years, I thought I couldn't do it and I'm happy to have proved myself wrong. I can write long stories. If I've done it once, I could do it again.
The only people who know about my book include my husband, my therapist, and now you kids. My therapist asked if I would try and publish it. I told her, yeah, I'd probably stick it on Amazon Kindle with no other ambitions for it than that. She asked if I'd publish it under my name, and that question got a resounding NO. No way. Sorry. I was raised by literary snobs. I am a literary snob. Even if I love all kinds of genre stories, there's no way I'd ever publish a silly little romance novel under my own name.
Plus, I didn't write this for anyone but me. I don't need my friends' or family's approval. I just wanted proof that I could write a coherent novel-length story and I did. Now I'm going to edit it and see if I can get it into readable shape. And if it passes my BS test, then I'll publish it on Amazon for fun. We'll see.
Anyway. The practice novel. I'm a fan.
Have you written a practice novel?
Writing, editing, and doing science when I feel like it. Just a book without a genre.