State of the Zoo-nion Address

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Hello, my fellow Simians.
Today, I’d like to brief you on my current state of affairs, not as your faithful Primate President, but as a Reader, Writer, and Editor.

First of all, in the wake of my whining two weeks ago (“Hedging an Investment in Myself“), I was delivered from my woes. Unbeknownst to me at the time, but I was sitting on a Christmas gift that I was about to crack open and rediscover inside it my love of reading. My new muse is Kate Morton, whose The Forgotten Garden I just finished over the weekend and whose debut novel, The House at Riverton, I purchased the same day. Her stuff might not be everyone’s bag, but this book was like a more accessible Possession meets The Secret Garden—a family mystery spanning generations and set largely on a Cornish estate with a maze and hidden garden—which suits my literary gothic fancies just fine. Her skill in structuring a story and incorporating detail (that richly fleshes out her settings and characters without seeming superfluous) is not only providing me new writing guidance within a genre and style that appeals to me, but has also at long last delivered me into a storyworld I can submerge myself in. I’ve read many books that I’ve enjoyed recently, but it’s been ages since I absolutely got lost in the atmosphere of one and didn’t want it to end. I came out of it feeling very satisfied as a reader and inspired as a writer.

Which brings me to the next talking point of my address here. The writing. Because (contrary to the bratty little rants I might have now and then) I do take constructive criticism to heart, I’ve lost myself in my own story again to overhaul its beginning. Whole sections have been hacked and the remaining ones rearranged, so the manuscript is looking a bit Frankenstein’s Creature-ish until I go back through and stitch up some of those fleshy seams and smooth it out. I’m now starting my novel with what was originally the third chapter as it involves a more critical turning point for the protagonist and gets on with the main story more quickly at not much sacrifice of backstory (which is just reinserted other places). I’ve heard this advice given to newbie writers countless times, and I’ll be damned if I’m not surprised it finally came my turn to follow it. Not as great a sense of loss as I thought it would be, though I’m being extra cautious not to throw any babies out with the bath-water.

And wouldn’t it figure my mother tells me over Skype last night that the lil’ stinker found an old copy of my manuscript on her computer, has been reading it, and loves the beginning just as it was. Doh! I might have to comfort her more through this revision than myself :).

In any case, I’m up against a March 1st deadline for both polishing my first chapter for feedback at an upcoming writing festival and completing my developmental edit, so I’m concerned I won’t have a new February story to submit for Write1Sub1…yeesh, time to crank. But never fear; the zoo is not yet in a state of crisis, merely raised to an alert level of **Yellow**.

How are YOUR current projects going, everyone?


About thefallenmonkey

Primate that dapples in writing when not picking others' fleas or flinging its own poop. View all posts by thefallenmonkey

18 responses to “State of the Zoo-nion Address

  • glen

    Is that sock Monkey doing a Nazi Salute?

    I’m glad your mojo is returning. Mine has not yet returned fully, but where there is cake there is hope…

    • thefallenmonkey

      Yes, campaigning for office a lot of controversial dirt on the Monkey, nasty sympathies and such…
      Ahh…cake. I reckon you are correct. For me it was mint chocolate Meltaway candies that my mom sent me for Valentine’s Day; my keester seriously didn’t get motivated back on my project until I took a break to just read for enjoyment. That’s the lovely thing about writing–reading is part of our research! So never feel guilty for stepping away for a little bit if you’re still able to engage with words in another way. You’ll get your mojo back!

  • Milo James Fowler

    I’ve heard this is the way to do it, too, to start “with the main story more quickly at not much sacrifice of backstory (which is just reinserted other places)” – but I’ve yet to successfully implement the method. For some reason, I usually think Chapter 1 should be the first chapter I write; but I know I’m wrong. Anyhow, I look forward to reading how it goes for you from here on out.

    • thefallenmonkey

      I know, there’s something to be said for beginning at the beginning, isn’t there? When that first chapter is written, you’re already building into it the possibilities, so just dashing it away in one fell swoop feels tragic…which is why I didn’t :). I stole the bits that I liked best and found other good fits for them in other early chapters, so it’s all still generally there in the opening. I do feel, though, that whatever incarnation this manuscript ends up in, in my heart the story will read as it was originally written…that was all part of the initial journey, which shouldn’t be discounted.

  • Cities of the Mind

    This was far more uplifting than the State of the Union. Maybe it had something to do with the liberal sprinkling of good news. Keep on working on that manuscript.

    • thefallenmonkey

      Thanks, Cities! I’m likewise glad my post was kept bubble-wrapped and protected from the cruel world outside :). Still truckin’ on the manuscript and wishing you well with your latest writing endeavors!

  • Eva

    Lovely to hear things are progressing in the right direction – love how your energy is back! And as I am very fond of quick starts, I am sure you will be happy with the new thing. You don’t have to throw anything away. Can you imagine how ist must have been in the yesteryears, whith people typing up that stuff instead of hitting the “save as …” button?
    Anywho … I myself don’t have troubles starting with a bang (or so I like to believe) … my trouble is never starting to write on the stuff I should write on! Caught up in my paid work but on the upside just shed the whole story (plot summary, surprisingly developed) for a third manuscript over a couple of days. So you can see my ability to prioritize. First things first? Never heard of it … 😉 Anyway, am quite happy with my mid-term writing prospects. The current baby will be getting fed again one of these days, hopefully.

    Good luck with yours – hope to read something at some stage …

    • thefallenmonkey

      Third manuscript! That’s awesome, Eva! You are quite the prolific writer. Hey, no guilt over the current baby—sometimes it’s good to leave them crying in their cribs for a while…that keeps them from getting too high-maintenance 😉

  • Melissa

    My manuscript is still in the first draft phase (six. months. later.), but I moved the sixth chapter to the first and caught much more wind. They say the first 10 pages or so is us clearing our throats – apparently mine took around 50. Ouch. I’m hoping to incorporate them later.

    I am now adding this book to my TBR list. I thrive for books such as these.

    • thefallenmonkey

      Do not worry at all about your timeframe – it took me two years to finally slap an ending on my manuscript! Between other life priorities, writer’s block, and obsessively revising every chapter as I wrote it, these things can take time…and really ought to, I think. “Clearing our throats” – I love that. Have similarly heard it put that it’s us finding our own way into the story so we ourselves understand our characters and plot.

  • Ollin

    Great to hear your still trucking along, monkey! Good luck to you, and by the way how do you get such amazing photos with that same monkey! I love them. They’re hilarious.

    • thefallenmonkey

      Thanks, Ollin! Ha, ya know, it honestly surprises me, too, how Google Images manages to find so many sock monkeys in so many assorted situations—there are a lot of people even more demented than me out there! 🙂

  • Nicki Elson

    Yay! I’m so happy you found a story you could immerse in, especially one that fits well with your own genre. Congrats on making your editing deadline. 😉

    Also, it’s good to see you’re finding time to dress your monkey up and stage him…I mean you.

    • thefallenmonkey

      Thanks, Nicki! I’m already hooked by the next book I bought by that author, so learning a lot about how a novel can be literary yet marketable.

      And oh lord, the day I start dressing/posing sock monkeys instead of just Googling photos of them will be a scary day of procrastination indeed ;).

  • Alannah Murphy

    Sounds to me, as if you’re on the same boat as me, I’ve been busy re-writing the first chapter, and whilst my original first chapter was great, I know things had to change in order to build more intrigue on my boy.

    Agree with Ollin, the sock monkeys are hilarious and it’s amazing how many you can find online 🙂

    What event were you going to today? Good luck with it. I attended a few publishing conferences but I cannot afford anything at the moment, but it’s okay, I know what I must do, and that’s to work on my boy’s novel 🙂

    • thefallenmonkey

      Sounds like you’ve been having a productive re-write as well, then, Alannah! Yeah, it’s tough to let go of those openings that set great atmosphere and character build-up. I felt like I was selling out when I rearranged it the way I did, and it took a while to sit right with me, but now that I’ve gotten used to it, I see how it’s much tighter and truly is the beginning of this story. I’ve been able to keep a lot of stuff from those first chapters, though, and tuck them elsewhere, so have you been able to do the same? Maybe it can work into your sequel.

      Ah, and as for the event, it’s still coming up the weekend of 25-27 March—the Festival of Writing in York. I had to mail in a couple hardcopies of my first chapter, though, by the last week for a couple one-on-one sessions. They’re only 10 minutes apiece, but getting agent/author feedback will hopefully be more beneficial than the usual form rejection letter/no response. That’s my main reason for attending, but hopefully the workshops are interesting as well. If they could package the secrets to getting published so easily, though, we’d all be published, wouldn’t we, so I know not to spend much more money on stuff like this…good to try once, anyway, and I suppose it’s good for networking if I were any good at that at all! What did you think of the conferences you attended? Do you find it worthwhile?

  • Alannah Murphy

    Yes, same things has happened to me. I am using those chapters later, actually, my old chapter one is about to become my new chapter three, though changed somewhat.

    Ah, I know about that event. Run by the Writer’s Workshop. A friend attended the one last year. I did a workshop with them once, back in March 2009. I’ve found the conferences I’ve attended very useful, I’ve learnt from them, but I’ve gotten to a point where I feel I am ready to start querying for agents now, and that is my next goal.

    Had I been able to afford going, I would have gone to it just to get the 10 minute with an agent.

    I’m sure you’ll have fun. Be sure to tell us all about it 🙂

  • Monkey Can’t See, Monkey Can’t Do… « The Fallen Monkey

    […] would seem after throwing myself into the workload last mentioned in my State of Zoo-nion Address (and continuing to do so over the following week with manuscript revision and query research, day […]

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