Revisions, Submissions, and Drafts—Oh My!

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It has been a wild and whirling period of writing. I finished a draft of an academic article, submitted it to a journal, and have been working on a seventh draft of my first novel Evil Lives After. In doing this, the writing of the first draft of my third novel has been postponed for a week or two. I will, however, resume that composing very soon, and I still expect to have a first draft done by late spring.

I have continued the process of submitting query letters to agents for Evil Lives After, and I have received nice rejections of the work. I decided to give it another read; it has been a while since I had looked at the text, and I realized that I could tighten it considerably, so I am doing that now, and I hope to have this draft complete in one to two weeks. I am approximately ¼ of the way through this draft.

I have also found a few publishers who will accept un-agented (is that a real word?) manuscripts, so I will probably send the novel to them also. I continue to hope for both acceptance by an agent and  publication, of course, but constructive criticism would also be very helpful.

So, back to the revision I go!

 

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A New Submission

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As I have mentioned in previous posts, my writing efforts fall into two very different camps: one of writing speculative fiction novels and one of academic writing. I recently submitted an article “Contagion and Apocalypse as Metaphor for Economic/Social Turmoil: The Destruction of the Privileged Nobility in Poe and Brooks” to an academic journal.

I examine the collapse of the upper-class in both writings as a result of some of the characters’ insular and classist attitudes. Poe and Brooks construct a metaphor for the economic distress of their respective eras and then employ a covert and overt critique of the ruling elites’ downfalls. In both works, the hyper-privileged attempt to create a fortress of immunity from the plagues destroying their societies; in doing so, they establish the reasons for their collapse and hasten their destruction.  Poe’s and Brooks’ writings serve as a class-based examination of the inherent illness in isolated, removed, and cynical upper-classes.

This submission represents the third incarnation of this piece. It began several years ago as a paper for a graduate seminar. While reasonably good, it needed a great deal—a massive amount—of revision and rewriting. I spent a fair amount of time working on a new draft, and then I submitted it to an academic journal. After a few months, I received a rejection, along with very useful critical advice. I then redrafted the paper, into what I hope is a tighter and more fully developed piece.

I then identified a new journal for submission, learned the authors’ guidelines, formatted it correctly and then submitted it. Now, with this piece I must simply wait either for acceptance or rejection. If it is accepted, I celebrate. If it is rejected, I do more revisions, find another journal, and continue the process.

The Importance of the Liberal Arts: Revisited

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I was looking over some of my early blogposts, and I decided I wanted to repost this piece about the Liberal Arts and their importance.

I had a piece published in the “Education Guide” of the Sunday, 2/15/15, edition of The Morning Call, the largest newspaper in the Lehigh Valley, PA. I am very proud of have the article in the paper, because I am very proud to be part of the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.

The Wescoe School is the name of the adult college program for Muhlenberg College. In this school, adults are able to gain full Bachelor degrees in a variety of majors and programs as well as certificate of study if they are focused on one specific area. I have been teaching college English courses for many years, and I have been an adjunct instructor at many colleges, but I am deeply impressed with the quality of education and the care for the adult students that are demonstrated in this program.

I was honored to be asked to write this piece, and I hope that I delivered a clear and sound explanation of the Liberal Arts, both in terms of history and application. I am an unrepentant Humanist; I still believe in the power of education to help people and in the ability of writing and words to help bridge gaps among people. Even at my age, I remain an idealist. Especially in the Wescoe program, I see education having a positive impact on students, many of whom have never attended college, might be starting their higher education in their 40s or 50s, and many of whom have full-time jobs and families. Their ability to learn and achieve never fails to humble me and to reinforce my belief in the strength of the Liberal Arts.

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A Change of Plans

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I have been making good progress on the first draft of my third novel and staying on my immediate goals for pages for the month. While I am pleased with my progress, I have also needed to make some adjustments to my monthly drafting goals because of the necessity of addressing a few other writing tasks.

I recently found a few more agents to whom I can submit my first novel, so I decided to give the book another read, and I have been making a few changes, tightening where I can. I plan on having this reading and editing done in two weeks. Because I am going to submit Evil Lives After again very soon, this editing takes precedence over the drafting of the third novel.

I also just recently finished a piece that will be appearing in the Education section of The Morning Call Sunday newspaper. I will blog more about that soon.

Over the last few days, I also put the finishing touches on a rewriting of an academic article which I will soon be submitting to an academic journal; I will also write about this piece in the near future.

While these various tasks have precluded any real drafting of the third novel for a short period, I will return shortly to that task, within one to two weeks, and continue on a slightly revised drafting schedule. I am still on target to complete a first draft of the third novel by the end of the spring.

Benefits of Reading

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I have previously written about the happiness of reading, a pleasure I hope everyone, or at least, most people experience. As I wrote before, I consider reading to be one of the main joys of life.

I also want to consider the benefits of reading. I think the first, and perhaps most obvious, value is that of education. Regardless of where the reading is done, or if it is for class or for self, all reading informs the reader in some way. While there are a myriad of ways to learn in life, reading still stands out as the primary, and most efficient, way of gaining information. (I am not in any way discounting the importance of learning through experience.) Readers can learn about areas of study that exist far outside of their particular areas of understanding or expertise. For example, I am a student of English literature, but I love reading books about quantum mechanics and the extraordinarily esoteric world of String Theory. I do not understand these ideas the way a physicist would, but I can still appreciate the ideas from books aimed at intelligent, non-specialist readers. Such reading allows the book lover to explore an almost unlimited range of ideas.

In addition to education, I think there is a second and equally important value to reading. I have read numerous articles recently about studies suggesting that people, who read, especially fiction, develop more empathy than those who don’t read (Chiaet). The overall point of the results of this study, as well as others, is that people who read fiction tend to learn to identify with other human beings and their problems. This is what many of our parents taught to us when they said that we needed to learn to walk in the shoes of other people. It is the basic idea of trying to understand how other people think and feel. Even without these scientific studies, I would assert that fiction helps us to develop empathy.

What do you think about this? Do any of you have other suggestions about the benefits of reading? I would enjoy seeing your ideas.

Works Cited

Chiaet, Julianne. “Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy.” Scientific
American.Com. October 4, 2013. Web.

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The Pleasure of Reading

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I have spent the majority of my time on this blog writing about writing, so I thought I would address the most fundamental and most important part of this experience with books: reading.

I have been reading my entire life; in fact, I cannot remember a time when I did not read. And reading has informed my life in many ways, not only in terms of career but also in the joys of life itself.

I read books, I teach them, and I write about them, but mostly, I enjoy them. I remember my mother telling me when I was very little that you can go many places that you might not ever have a chance to visit, real and made up, if you read. And I have visited and continue to journey to real and fantastic lands.

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I am not a reading snob. While I teach college English Literature, I read in a very wide range, from adventure and horror to drama and so-called high literature, although I am not so certain that this distinction is accurate. Both Shakespeare and Dickens were considered popular writers in their time. Hemingway straddled the mythical fence of literature and genre writing. Today, I happily read authors in a multitude of genres, including Stephen King and John Connolly, among many others. So, I read whatever I choose, in any area. And I get great pleasure from the reading.

I hope that all people can experience this pleasure. I realize not everyone will, but I can keep hoping they do.

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Happy Reading!

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

January Writing Goal Met

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I am happy to report that I did meet my January writing goal of writing 80 pages of the first draft of my third novel. As I have mentioned previously, I am under no illusions of the quality of this initial writing. I realized as I was putting it down on paper, that there were many problems I will have to deal with in revisions.

But that understanding is completely acceptable. Unless there is something written, there is no improvement that can be made. And I suspect, no—I know, that I will be dealing with many aspects of revision when I do finally finish this first draft: development of plot, fixing holes in the story, expanding character treatment, and timeline issues, among many others that do not immediately jump into my mind.

My next goal with this book is to draft 60-80 more pages in February. I am trying to keep on this accelerated pace in order to finish a first draft by the end of March or sometime in April, because I will soon start revisions on the second novel as well as making drafts on a large academic project—a book based on an obscure Irish playwright whose work I investigated in a chapter of my dissertation.

I hope that by the end of February, I will be able to report that I have reached my drafting goals on this third novel.

Printed Copies of My Dissertation

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My hard bound copies of my dissertation finally arrived. While I had finished the work and graduated with a Ph.D. in English Literature in May of 2014, I had not received any printed copies of the work. Dissertations and Master’s Theses are published through ProQuest, but that is completely online as part of ProQuest’s online database.  If a writer desires to have a physical text of his/her writing, it must be ordered.

It gives me great satisfaction to see my work, From the Political to the Personal:
Interrogation, Imprisonment, and Sanction In the Prison Drama of Seamus Byrne and Brendan
Behan, bound and printed. While this is an academic writing that is unlikely to be read by many people, it still is the culmination of many years of research and writing.

I am working on using a portion of the dissertation as the basis for a scholarly text, and that is just one of the various writing projects in which I am currently engaged. I will report later in the year on my progress on this effort. I hope to have at least two chapters completed by the end of the summer.

I will keep you informed.

Writing Goals (Not Resolutions!) For The New Year

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I was very pleased to have achieved my writing goals for the year. This does not mean that I am satisfied with the works in progress, but that I can see my self-discipline in writing is working. In the past, I never was happy with my ability to follow self-proscribed plans of action. It was a year, however, of satisfaction, in completing my dissertation and earning my Ph.D. in English Literature, and in sending my paranormal thriller Evil Lives After to agents. That is an ongoing process. I hope that I will have news on that front in the not too distant future. I also completed the second draft of my second novel. So, I am happy with that progress.

In no way, however, does this work represent an end, only a continuation of the process of writing. My goals for the first half of 2015 are threefold: the first is to write a first draft of my third novel, which is squarely in the horror genre; the second is to work on at least finishing the first half of a draft of an academic book on an obscure Irish playwright; and the third is to continue revising my second novel. Of course, if an agent is interested in the first book and asks for a revision, I would certainly move that task to the primary position.

This set of goals may seem like it is too much to accomplish since I am not a full-time writer, but I have found that I am capable of giving time, five to six days a week to the writing. If I can continue to do that pace, and maintain focus and self-discipline, then I believe that I can achieve those goals. I cannot control what agents and publishers will do, but I can control the process of the writing. That is what all writers need to do.

Response to Evil

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Maledicus Final

Copyright @ 2016 by Charles F. French

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” This issue is one of the central themes of my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I and is also one of the main issues that has faced humanity in the last one hundred years. From the consequences of millions slain in the Holocaust to one single person murdered on the streets of New York City while many watched and did nothing, humanity has been confronted with this dilemma. When finding evil threatening others, what do we do? Do we ignore it and pretend that it is not there? Do we call authorities to try to handle the situation and hope they arrive in time? Or do we inject ourselves into situations that for both individuals and nations could be filled with the worst kind of danger?

It does not take much effort to find contemporary examples of such circumstances. In all of these situations, the observers are faced with a moral quandary, and in my novel, it is that circumstance which drives the central conflict. What do three retired gentlemen who are trying to find the answer to the ancient question—is there life after death?—do when they are confronted with sociopathic supernatural evil that threatens an innocent? It would be easy for them to turn aside and say—this isn’t our fight, or this doesn’t concern me.

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These three retired gentlemen do decide to fight this evil, even at the potential cost of their lives and perhaps souls.

In our cynical so-called post-modern world, I feel that I am a bit of a dinosaur, because I am an unapologetic Humanist. I still believe that our connections as people are more important than that which disconnects us. My three central characters believe this ideal also. Hence, they understand Donne’s admonition—“Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” And they understand that whatever threatens an innocent must be opposed.