Month: July 2013

Giant Cringe

Just for fun, I went back today and read the a couple chapters from the first draft of The Unravelling. It’s been so long since I’ve started it, and I’ve been through so many revision drafts that I didn’t really have much of a feel for the original manifestation anymore. Back in those days I didn’t outline and just let the words flow freely, at best spending a bit of time each night before I fell asleep dreaming up what I was going to write the next day.

Let’s be kind and say I’ve come a long way in a year and a half.

It’s actually kind of encouraging, if you look at it from the perspective of seeing how much I’ve learned since I started out. And the bones of the story were always good, there was just a lot of fat to be trimmed.

In all the cuts, I’d forgotten some little details, things that weren’t at all important to the development of the story, but make the characters richer in my mind. Things like the fact that Poppy was the fourth of eight children. Or that Callie’s job used to be designing websites. And revisiting characters that I subsequently cut completely from the book was kind of fun too. One has since reappeared in a slightly different characterization in The Unseeing, which just goes to show the importance of never deleting previous versions.

The next question is whether I have the courage to revisit my NaNoWriMo 2011 novel. I haven’t so much as opened the document again since November 30th of that year. But it, too, was a learning experience and while I’ll never even attempt to publish it, it was my first step toward authordom, and for that I’ll always hold it fondly in my heart, even if I have to read the whole thing peeking between my fingers.

Ivy, or the Cursed Cursive

Olympia SM4 portable from 1959.

Olympia SM4 portable from 1959.

Ivy had a storied journey to get to me. I bought her on eBay for what I thought was a steal, then paid more to have her shipped to me than I did to bid. Such is the life of the international eBayer.

In the pictures posted in the listing she looked like she was in okay condition but would need some cleaning. The description noted that all keys were working, which is pretty important. There was a particular reason why I wanted this machine, so I bid and won.

Herein lies the beginning of Ivy’s tragedy. The typewriter was listed as coming with a carrying case, as many portables do. These carrying cases have latches on the bottom so you can secure the machine to it and it doesn’t shift around inside. Well, the seller put Ivy in the carrying case UPSIDE DOWN. Those latches, meant to prevent damage, instead scratched the everloving shit out of the top cover. Then it was shipped in a plain cardboard box with no packing paterials other than a couple crumpled up balls of newspaper. The box looked like it had been beaten with a bat. So needless to say, Ivy wasn’t in good shape when I opened the package. I could have cried when I saw her for the first time.

An example of the damage to the top cover. Sadness :(

An example of the damage to the top cover. Sadness 🙁

Once I got my ridiculously high shipping fees refunded, I set to seeing what I could do to actually fix it. The damage from the poor shipping was totally cosmetic, but I soon discovered I had bigger problems at hand. Namely, the machine itself. The keys were not all working. They were not all working at all. About a third of them stuck, and that’s why I have it disassembled in the first picture. Note the many bottles of toxic solvents and cleaning tools (and my Method soft scrub – you know, for the environment). I have been cleaning Ivy for TWO MONTHS. I think somewhere along the way this machine was dipped in oil, and it’s full of sludge. In fact when I cleaned the exterior, it proved to be a completely different colour from what the pictures in the eBay listing showed. It’s actually robin’s egg blue, not swampy greenish. But all that oil has completely gunked up the inside and it’s been a bitch to sort out. Every time it seems like I’ve got it working, the solvent evaporates and I’m back to square one. But I’m making progress. Some of the keys wouldn’t strike at all in the beginning, and now they all will, as long as I give it a shot of degreaser first. The problem is the degreaser dries out eventually and it’s back to sticking. But I will persevere, even if it means disassembling it completely and soaking it in a cleaning solution for a few days.

As a side note, want to know what’s actually really useful to clean out a typewriter, for those hard-to-reach places? Tampons. You’re welcome.

So why go to all this trouble for Ivy?

IMGP0933aI have a soft spot for cursive machines. They type beautifully, but they’re also hard to find and Olympia cursives usually go for a few hundred bucks. And I really, really love this typeset. I’m determined to make it work (and get a new ribbon, obviously).

Stay tuned for a hopefully victorious post featuring Ivy, fully restored. In the meantime, I need another box of Tampax because there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Want to learn more about my typewriters: Check them out here.

Face. Meet Keyboard.

And then meet screen. And then meet tabletop.

Query letters are bastards to write. Really there’s no other word. Writing the book was easier. Even editing was easier. Since I wrote the first draft of my query, I’ve done more drafts than I did of my novel (12 vs. 6). It’s also taken the same amount of time as my manuscript revisions took (four months), and nearly as much time as the first draft.

That’s insane.

Now I’m at the point where I’m obsessing over single words. Leave it in or take it out? Where to put the most weight, voice, hook, concept or pacing? And the big one for me, Canadian or American spelling?

I’m losing sleep over it. I’m waking up at 4am to take out a comma or move two sentences around. THE QUERY MUST BE PERFECT YOUR ENTIRE PUBLISHING CAREER IS DEPENDING ON IT the internet screams.

I’m giving myself 48 more hours and then whatever I have at that point is what goes out. Seriously, enough is enough.