Ok. I’ve been scouring the internet for the ultimate editing checklist for editing my novel. That has proven to be harder than I thought. I wanted real concrete specifics, and I kept finding lists of generalities, which while useful were ultimately disappointing.
Even the longest, most complete checklist devoted most of the content to story arc, themes, point of view, scenes and chapters. It’s all good stuff, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.
I wanted a list, a big literal list of mistakes I should make sure I didn’t have in my manuscript. Particularly around my bane in the English language – the comma.
And I wasn’t finding it. So, I did what any hyper-driven, hyper-independent person would do – I made my own. Is this the final version of all my efforts? Not likely. I’ll keep tweaking this as I find more things to make sure I weed out of my manuscript.
But, even without the final, final, final stamp of DONE I’m going to share it. Because it is a useful tool. It’ll improve and grow no doubt.
Will this list solve all your writing woes? Probably not but it can provide a place to start. If you have a suggestion for another item, or group of items go ahead and drop it in the comments.
CPTSD is a strange thing to grow up with. Even stranger to live with it.
For Example: My latest InstagramPost-
There it is the manuscript for Book 4 in the Unhomed series. Still debating titles. I do like to stick with one word – but this particular word is proving elusive. Despite that this manuscript will be placed into a drawer to ‘marinate’ for a year, at least. I’ll come back to it in Jan 2022. Provided I’m still here.
You might be wondering what is so ‘typical’ of CPTSD in that little post above. I’ll point out the last line. Now, while it may be very appropriate in 2020 to not take making it to tomorrow for granted it goes a bit deeper than that.
From Pete Walker’s Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving I pull this quote from the section on “Toxic Shame and Soul Murder.” (If that isn’t a powerful phrase I don’t know what is?)
Quote: When our emotional intelligence is restricted, we often do not know what we really want.
~ Pete Walker
I don’t think I can convey how estranged I was, and let’s admit still am, from my feelings. I can see that emotional emptiness echoing back through my life. With it I can follow the ambivalence I had about life.
One of the questions I have always struggled with is “Where do you want to be in ten years?” Or even five. Hell, I don’t know where I want to eat lunch let alone what I want to do with myself in a year. Never mind ten years.
Learned helplessness is a survival tool. Additionally, it is a phrase I absolutely loathe. But, love it or loathe it, learned helplessness is a firm part of my past. I still wrestle with it.
I never really planned for anything because promises were broken, plans were ignored, asking for something was too much. I became able to be grateful for what I was given and not to expect or hope for more. This is the core of learned helplessness. There is nothing you can do to improve your situation, so you learn to endure. Later when the cause of the suffering is removed the mind is still locked in the role of the abused and cannot see that circumstances have changed.
How does all that relate to planning for tomorrow? For me there was no planning for any future. I dealt with what was given to me. My future was to fulfill the expectations of my family. I didn’t think about my future. I didn’t get to.
So, although I have every intention of revising, editing, and publishing the book above, I know that nothing in life is promised, not even tomorrow.
I have spent 50 years doing as I have been told, as I have been advised, as seemed best by the masses. It has brought me a living but one washed in doubt, grayness, and despair. No longer. I will write my own story, and if I fail I will do so with my spirit in tact, instead of surviving in dreary mediocrity for someone else’s dream.
It’s not often I have something burst into my mind fully formed. But this thought, once tangled up with so many others, broke free from the pack today. I stopped what I was doing, full stop. My hands dropped, the sheet drifted to the floor, the dog started from beneath the sheet, and my world tilted, it was that kind of stop.
As many of you might surmise, I’m trying something very new for myself. I’ve finally given myself permission to follow my dream of being a writer. Win or lose, fly or fail, I am allowed to pursue this for myself. Not for my family, not for my father, not to fulfill expectations that my brother couldn’t shoulder, but to define my self by myself.
I would love to insert something witty or humorous about being a late bloomer right about now. But, I’m determined not to look backwards at all the ‘wasted’ time, because as a writer, I call it fodder. So here is a thought… Gardens use manure to bloom.
I saw a thread over on Twitter, some of you all may have seen or participated in it as well.
What it was about was looking at the positive side of the traits of CPTSD that we have. I was skeptical at first. It struck me as rather ‘wishful thinking’. But, I stuck around and listened and I realized there was something amazing happening.
Folks in the thread were giving examples of the parts of CPTSD that they struggle with, and sometimes another reader would turn that struggle into a positive. Sometimes the person who still struggled with the trait could express how it influenced their life in a positive way.
It was, for me, a lightbulb moment. So I started thinking: What is one of the biggest things I struggle with or a trait of CPTSD that still influences me? And, has that had any positive outcomes in my life?
For me, a trait that I know I still possess is the inability to ask for anything. Which results in a distinct pride of being able to do without, or do with less. To make do. I’ve been called Spartan in the manner that I live.
The positive side of this is that I have skills that are quickly vanishing from the 1st world. I can preserve food, I can mend just about anything, I know basic carpentry and electrical work, and I’m thrifty. And those are some worthwhile skills to have.
What is it for you? Give it a think. Perhaps you can see the positive outgrowth of some of your traits. Please share them so that others who might be struggling with something similar can see that there are some useful/positive aspects that we can dig out of the mud of our past.
Once, long ago in a place far, far away from reality, there was a young woman and her new husband. Outside their home, in the dark of winter, the wind howled and the snow swirled forming little peaks across the fields.
Inside their little home, the cold was kept at bay by curtains and thick rugs covering the floors. And her husband kept a fire roaring so the whole house was toasty. But, the young woman couldn’t feel the warmth of the little house.
Instead, the cold of the season penetrated her bones, and her heart and her mind. She could feel herself going numb. She kept her face pleasant so that her husband wouldn’t worry. It was “the happy” time of the year. And she wanted to be happy. To revel in the warmth that her husband provided to so many. But, even though she couldn’t feel his cheer, she didn’t, she couldn’t be a burden to him. Let him be happy. So, she placed a pleasant mask over her face. She smiled as her toes grew colder. She smiled as her fingers became brittle with ice. She smiled as her mind became numb. These days were so important. And she wanted him to be happy.
But, there was a weight that came with the cold. And steadily as she froze the weight increased and pressed her down until her feet were trapped within the floor. Motionless, it didn’t matter. Still, she smiled.
The holidays were coming. The great celebrations with family were almost here. And she knew this feeling of dread would pass as the days grew longer. So she sat, pleasantly smiling, frozen within, and waited for the sun to return. As the days of the celebrations drew nearer she worked in silence to prepare for the day. She and her husband would travel to his parent’s house. And then to hers. Then to brothers and sisters near and far. And all the time, as they worked to prepare their home for their absence and the car for their trip the ice within her grew thicker, heavier. Even the small chores, the tiny tasks seemed to require all her effort.
But still, she worked and placed one lead encased foot in front of the other. Her step was so heavy across the floorboards that she was amazed they did not crack and protest as she passed over them.
But, that hardly mattered. Expectation was gathering in the air. And every day they moved closer to their departure. There would be family. There would be food. There would be laughter – perhaps. The knives would be sharpened. The tongues as well. Hers was not a family that brawled. Instead, they were all stilettos. Fine, honed and effortlessly slipped into any opening. Wreaking damage without spilling a drop of blood.
It was better to be ice. Despite the weight that crushed her. Ice was impenetrable. It was hard. It was safe.
And then the day came.
The sky was clear. The car was packed. Her husband had lined her seat with blankets to preserve that single spark of warmth that huddled in her chest. The seat was there, the door open, inviting her to travel. Down to her family. Down to where they dwelled. Down away from the scouring cold to a house that simmered with its own feverish heat.
She could not move her feet. She stood there on the stairs before the door, the wind plucking at her scarf. Frozen. The touch of her husband’s hand on her cheek startled her. She checked to make sure her mask was still in place. Smiling.
With his arm to steady her across the ice, she dragged her leaden feet towards the car. She paused at the door to grab at the frame. Anything to help her stand. If she bent she feared she would break. But, bend she must. First to break was the ice that held her knees. Feeling the ice about her hips protest and then crack she folded herself into the car as her husband glided to the driver’s side.
He dropped into the seat, warm and pliable. And for the space of a thought, she hated him. Couldn’t he see? Couldn’t he feel? Didn’t he know how heavy the air had become? How could he breathe when it seemed to her that there was no air in the car. The weight had settled on her chest like a tiger, immense and deadly. To say nothing was to die compressed beneath its weight.
To speak was to wake the beast that was crushing her. Blood. There would be blood. The white world outside the car took on a scarlet hue.
The world outside turned white again. She looked to her husband – and not even his warmth could penetrate her.
“Seatbelt,” he said again.
They sat poised to start.
All she had to do was to place the thing inside the other thing and wait for the click.
The click that would mean she was in. That click that sounded like the closing of a lock.
“I can’t,” she said. “What?” he asked as he stopped fumbling for the straps. And there it was, his disappointment. The ice around her shattered. Tearing pieces away it scattered across every surface. Free of the ice and once again able to breathe she spoke, “I can’t. I can’t do it.” She said it around the panicked shattered lump in her chest, frantically as she attempted to pick up the myriad of pieces. She scrambled after those pieces desperate not to lose another. She had lost so many pieces of herself already. They were the toll she paid every year. Another small piece of her was taken as she traveled down.
Down to where her family waited, keen and poisonous. It was too much. The emotions long hidden in the ice poured out as hot tears. She had failed. She had broken. She was broken.
Unlooked for. Unexpected. Unfathomably her husband reached out.
First, his touch and then his words calmed her frantic hands. They slowed her racing heart. He enfolded her with his arms and then his warmth slowly crept over her.
He held her until she melted into him. The wind ripped past the windows, but all she heard was the steady beat of his heart. That, for blessed moments, was all her world. He waited, and she sheltered in his arms until the storm passed.
Together they picked up her shattered pieces. “Ready to go?” he asked. Dumb and numb she nodded.
He helped her from the car and curled about her guiding her back to their little house. It was cold now, the fire out and the windows dark. But, in his embrace, it was warm and safe and sheltered.
That is my holiday wish for all of you. That you have a place that is warm and safe and sheltered. Peace.
For a long time, the joke around the house was that I was the professional writer. This was based on the fact that I have earned a total of 47 cents with my writing.
You might notice I vanished for a few weeks there. I was working on a super-secret ghostwriting project. Bwahaha. I have finally finished it. I can’t reveal what it was – ghostwriter and all that. But I have finally earned something better than 47 cents.
The pay was low for the work I put in but it has demonstrated to me that I can make some significant money with my writing.