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Thursday! Between the Zines: About The Lighthouse...
The first iteration of this sentence began, “It’s not every day you turn something you’ve written into something else…”, but wow is that a stupid way to begin a sentence. Of course you do, if you’re a writer1. You change things all the time, don’t you? I know I do. I have a bunch of little pieces — paragraphs and first verses and tasty morsels of dialogue — sitting in a notebook just waiting to become something much different than they are right now.
There’s a famous quote that goes, “Real writing is editing”, or some such2. That’s true in several different ways for any creative endeavor. Most obviously, editing — the formal “sit me down and make sure all this crap I wrote makes sense with punctuation and grammar and resolved plot lines and nice, tight narrative” process — is where authors turn good into great, but that is only part of it. Let me give you an example.
I first wrote “There Are 216 Steps to the Top of the Lighthouse" as the first part of an ongoing story that I would write bit by bit, in public on my blog, on the fly. I wouldn’t pre-plan anything — the whole kit and caboodle would be what some folks call “discovery writing” and others call “pantsing”. I’ve never written a particularly long piece of fiction and I thought it might be worthwhile for me to try, by the seat of my pants, to write a story in a post-apocalyptic world about which I had only vague images and ideas. If that doesn’t sound like much of a solid foundation from which to start any sort of story, well, you’re right. I went three short bits in and realized I had absolutely no idea what I was doing3. So I gave it up and let the whole thing sit there, unfinished, but not entirely forgotten.
See, the lovely thing about the editing process for for any creative work is it is not just one thing. That is, editing a story isn’t just sitting down after it’s done and doing all the stuff I mentioned earlier. Far from it. Editing is an ongoing process that starts when an idea quickens in your mind and begins to take some kind of form. Editing happens when the idea grows and demands space outside your head. Editing happens when you need to find a good place for that idea to become what it will and it happens when you shape the idea, draw the boundaries inside which it will blossom, and trim it so it will be the best it can be.
Sometimes, though, you do all that and realize you messed up at some point, or at many points, or — if you’re me — at every point but perhaps one. That’s what happened with what I like to think of as The Lighthouse Story. I intended one thing for it and tried to make it that one thing but that wasn’t the right thing.
Oh, I’ll tell you one more secret about it. The world in which the narrator and Lighthouse exist is inspired heavily by the “running down” Mid-World of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger books. There was once a civilization, or many such, in that world that is clearly well along the road to decline. That world built itself on top of the detritus of another, more advanced, civilization that left many operational things behind. Except, as often happens, they have forgotten how those things work. Indeed, they have forgotten how nearly everything works. They became users and not makers, consumers and not builders. In doing so they fell back farther and farther and, well, I don’t know exactly how their world looks except to say that many of the old things left to them look very much like mystery and magic and they are failing. Some of the failing things are very important.
Like the lighthouse.
Here’s where the editing all the stinking time comes into play. My original notion for the…narrative4…took place in a more Old West setting, with revolvers and horses and all the Mid-World trappings. Turns out, that’s not what the piece needed. It didn’t need to be “Like Stephen King, but mine”, because no matter how hard you stress …but mine, the Like Stephen King… will always be louder. Makes sense, right? The established work is bigger and, well, established! Stands to reason it’ll be louder than anything you can do after the fact.
So, the Lighthouse Thing5, didn’t work the first time, which is why I tore big chunks out of it and filled those spaces with better stuff, stuff that wasn’t someone else’s material with my style slapped on it. I don’t know what form the idea will take in the end, but I know a heck of a lot more about it now that I’ve put my Editing Brain on it.
Was there a point to all that? Not a big one. Not really. Mostly, I wanted to tell you about the cool thing I wrote and how I made it more cool than it was before. There are some interesting things about how editing isn’t just one thing, but is baked right into the whole creative shebang, but you probably knew that already. If you didn’t though…bonus!
Oh! Oh! One last thing. The Christmas lights story is based on a real thing. The first bit was an actual tweet6. from a good friend of mine Jason Dibler. I asked him if I could use his tweet7 as the jumping off point for a weird story and he graciously assented. The rest, as they say, is a brief but horrible incursion from An Eldritch and Terrible Dimension.
Hop past the ad for audio goodness (but not too hard, because maybe you want on the SupportWagon?). The stories lately have required a bit more voice acting from me, which means you get Various Accepts and Attempts At Different Characters. I’m learning this as I go, so I apologize in advance for any unskilled weirdness. I am getting better, you must admit!
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“Fixing the Christmas Lights. BRB”
“There Are 216 Steps to the Top of the Lighthouse”
Okay, maybe not every day, but you get the idea.
I could probably look it up on the magic Internet, but nah. I’m on a roll and I don’t want to stop and take the rabbit tunnel trip I know the search would become.
Worse, I started with a couple ideas, when promptly used them right up and had no more ideas.
What is it? Honestly? A poem? A story? A monologue? A dramatic whatchamacallit? I have no idea. If you do, please let me know!
Oooooooh! Now that gives me an idea.
Or whatever the heck it’s called now that Twitter is X, and Elon Musk is now (apparently) The Most Evillist Man What Ever Evilled an Evile.