Still Wandering in a Fiction Dreamland
by John Andreula
edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
Truth be told,
this wasn’t the piece I intended to write. . .
Coming off producing the most recent chapters of The Dreamer, I’ve been feeling pretty good. The story has been exciting, unique, even a bit scary and, dare I say, well-written.
Early this week I set to trucking right along and kicking out the next installment of the epic.
So far the story’s been told rhythmically from one of three perspectives: that of young Sierra and her family, the Stewarts, of Ty the Traveller and his tribe of super-powered compadres, and finally, of Seth Stanton, the Controller, and his dark and twisted family.
Sierra’s was next up.
Yet I faced a significant challenge; my own disorganization.
I was at a loss for how to weave where I last left Sierra, her mother, Janice, and her father, Stephen, into the rest of the characters and recent events.
My incomplete outlines and segmented character notes were of no use. They were spread thin across a multitude of notebooks and journals.
I knew I had a plan for the eventual climax, but no clue how I would tie it all together in the present.
My jumble of non-published materials wouldn’t serve,
so like Neo from the Matrix, I needed to go to the source. . .
Anyone who has ever spent time with an artist knows they struggle to look upon their previous works. The toil, sweat, and emotion poured into each earlier piece becomes forgotten and taken for granted.
A creative does nothing but look ahead towards what’s next.
Painters, sculptors, photographers, and other artistic designers look upon their prior creations with scorn and disdain. They are filled with the awareness that their next attempts will be far superior, possibly by leaps and bounds, in comparison with what they have already produced.
Failures, learnings, hacks, and other key lessons take shape to enhance and embolden what is yet to be born.
Maybe it’s the same with writing. . .
The handful of writers I count close enough to discuss process with all seem to contend with a different demon than that of the aforementioned material artists.
Once a painter’s brush strikes canvas, its mark lives with permanence. A writer, however, can cheat the finite fates with tools such as white-out, an eraser, or their computer’s delete button.
As a jewelry maker or clothing designer completes a piece, they must then decide to release and showcase their work, or break it down into its composite materials and start anew. Writers retain the blessing of being able to chop, reform, and move around anything and everything until their creation is set to their satisfaction.
Several of my writer companions sit atop awesome, lengthy works that may never see the light of day due to a misguided desire for perfection.
They remain unwilling to say,
Fortunately—and unfortunately in some ways—I am not afflicted with this common writers’ curse.
I am wholly aware that perfection is an impossible target. Instead of fooling myself into considering anything I produce will ever come close to it, I aim for great, and am contented if each work lands somewhere close to very good.
I also thrive in deadlines. For better and worse, facing a looming deadline is where I do my most damage.
Due to an ever-constant rate of production I consistently learn new tools, develop skills, and improve my style, much like the other types of artists who will not look back.
Back to The Dreamer. . .
Where was Sierra’s tale headed?
As I stated before, I needed to return to the source. I finally had to cave to the call of edits—that hideous killer of creativity.
I reread the early chapters of The Dreamer to seek out clues and details that could lead me onto my quest for the future of the story. After recognizing the general disarray of my notes and materials from the story, I figured it was as good a time as any to compile a comprehensive outline and more complete character file.
It stood to reason that an epic of The Dreamer‘s proportion was so dense with details and personalities that I would need to be able to recall much of it as I pen future chapters.
Hence, I went forth into my cave of creativity and located a crisp composition book to make wholly The Dreamer‘s. I booted up my computer and proceeded to log into my word processing program.
I pulled up the post “The Whole Dream So Far,” which compiled the first twelve chapters of the epic. I had created the document hastily to give a readers a jumping off point to follow the story in the present.
I did so without as much as a second glance at the text.
Returning to the piece, I read the brief introduction I wrote for the thirty-plus thousand word compilation.
My mouth fell agape.
The earliest chapters of the story were rough. Obviously they were rushed by another of my self-imposed deadlines, so commonly hanging over my work as an imagined guillotine. Even the introduction had blatant grammatical and typographical faux pas.
It became apparent as I read that the chapters would have benefited tremendously from another read through (or two).
Additionally, my constant production and experience, as well as what I had learned from studying writing manuals since, had exposed many wrongs in need of being righted—pardon the dumb pun.
And once again my weekly deadline loomed. . .
What was I to do?
I knew what I had hoped for. . .
That was to forge ahead like I was in possession of the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak. I wanted to ignore the inner call to correct the misdoings and just get on with the damned thing.
But alas, that would not serve. . .
I couldn’t read through The Whole Dream. . . without correcting my many mistakes, and if I couldn’t do that I wouldn’t be able to complete the organizational tasks I had set forth either.
Lastly, I had no hope of creating a cogent bridge for The Dreamer‘s three principle characters without doing the other tasks.
It’s been nearly four months now that I have been linking the steaming pile that is The Whole Dream So Far to each subsequent Dreamer chapter’s publication on 5280Geek.com.
I’ve repeated the whole process countless times as I’ve republished each in turn on my own blog, Failing Upwards.
Upon the collision of The Dreamer‘s many needs with my impending weekly 5280 Geek column deadline I spent two hours editing and taking character notes as I went.
The end of the night approached and I came to terms with the fact that there was no way I would accomplish so many tasks in such a short time. There was no chance I would be producing Sierra’s next story in time.
I closed the lid on my computer and resigned myself for the evening. I commenced watching the beginning of the final season of Jessica Jones on Netflix. . .
I awoke in the morning humbled, but no longer feeling defeated by the daunting task that lies ahead.
The next piece in The Dreamer puzzle could wait.
For now I would take a page from my writer friends’ unreleased books and revisit the rest of The Dreamer before I get on with what’s next.
The side-mission I’ve set forth for myself shouldn’t take long. Many of the chapters, particularly the more recent, are already clean and right in my desired range between very good and great.
As for the rest of the story. . .
I must fix The Dreamer promptly, so my story and I can move on.
Recently, I have read and watched Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I have begun to read its spiritual sequel, Anansi Boys, as well.
Additionally, I have consumed an expanse of Marvel comics collections including Jeph Loeb’s Red Hulk Omnibus and all of Hope and Cable’s post M-Day tale. I have also read the X-Force story from the same period up through Rick Remender’s “Dark Angel Saga.”
I have listened to audio-book versions of the first two “Great Brain” books, by John Dennis Fitzgerald, as well as Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain Book 1. I’m currently reading George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” prequel, Fire & Blood.
Although these works are all entertaining and well-produced, each author allows themselves the indulgence of wandering within the confines of their own stories.
And with the notable exception of Martin, each author invariably brings their stories to conclusive, concrete endings. I aim to do the same with Sierra and the rest.
For the time being, however, I will have to content myself with correcting my missteps.
So I’d like to apologize to the readers who have been offended by my seeming lack of attention and care for my story’s many warts—I know how I would have reacted upon reading such flubs in others’ works. It would have been quite critically.
And I will right—that is, write—my wrongs, before I move the epic along.
In the meantime, I will continue to honor my 5280 Geek readers and friends with more Wanderings, Quarters Worths, and any other creative madness I can muster.
And know that the dream will live on. . .
For now, thanks for reading The Dreamer, in all its imperfections. I cannot state my gratitude enough.
Until we dream again,
a.k.a. The Wanderer