Writer’s Little Helper
By Tony Candela
March 16, 2021
My literary claims to fame number a memoir and a sci-fi novella. They took me a few years to write and a few more years to marinate before I developed enough confidence in them and also in myself to attempt to get them published. I am so glad I did the work as they were both published in 2019 (see below for details).
As we know, one of the hardest parts of writing, beyond the creative process itself, is the process of editing. One must be willing to engage in tedious and above all else, self-critical processes with zest and healthy non-self-destructiveness.
I happen to love these processes. Diving into word-choice, sentence structure, paragraph layout, and plot development floats my boat. When I review the work of others, assuring things make sense and engaging in the clarification process provides the author with not only a third ear, but gives the author a chance to think aloud which is often helpful.
Filling in missing information or adding stuff where the prose might be a bit sparse provides me opportunity to add my own creativity. This is why it has been no surprise to me that I have on a few occasions assisted other writers with their work. Give me an already-started idea or chunk of writing and I will fix it up for you. I find it exciting. Adrenalin rush notwithstanding, if the author does not like what I suggest, out it goes. The goal of these exercises is to assist the author to do what they are trying to do and not to interfere with or hijack their work.
. There is a plethora of aspects to this process, too many to mention, but suffice it to say, I love them all. So let me tell you about a current work in progress with the hope that sometime down the road I will be able to return to these pages with a big “hurrah” that the work was published.
A woman friend of mine is composing what appears to be a novella-length fiction piece about a young woman scientist whose life goal is to find out secrets about an ancient civilization and in doing so, secrets about the origins of the human race. She embarks on what turns out to be a dangerous trip across the Sahara, a male escort and body guard as her driver. Of course, a love affair commences in the midst of fighting off the “bad guys” and approaching the mysteries that may be hidden at a dig site. I don’t know how all this is going to unfold; my writer’s creative processes are still at work. I can say this much: I am glad it is she who is the creative one and not me. She is so much better at it than I.
The first difference I noticed between my writer and me is her comfort-level with continuous creativity as opposed to outlining and planning the plot from beginning to end. I first became aware of the outlining process when, if memory serves, I saw it in an edited version of Dickens’ “Great Expectations”. A nineteenth century technique to be sure, I felt immediately comfortable with at a minimum a mental if not written outlining process. Both my memoir and sci-fi novella are the results of this process. My writer friend may have a mental outline, but I have discovered the hard way (being scolded) that I should not ask her to verbalize it. I have also discovered that she is more creative than me and has more than once been willing to redirect the plot in ways that I thought had already been settled. While this has unsettled me, it seems to be working well for her.
Consistent transactional exchanges in which my writer and I take part pertain to some interesting gender differences. When it comes to the development of the romantic relationship between the two main characters and even the degree to which proposed sex scenes will be explicit, we have found ourselves engaged in quite interesting conversations. The other gender-related difference is in the detail provided around scenes of violence. Perhaps we are stereotypical binaries, but we have found that she prefers to develop the romance more quickly than I do and that she likes extending the romantic scenes just a bit beyond my comfort level. On the other hand, I have been the sex-writer. She has waxed and waned on the degree of explicitness of the sex scenes and surprisingly, I have been willing to either increase or decrease their vividness based on our discussions.
I am not sure how the final work will look, but thus far, it has been an adventure helping my writer put it together.
Regarding scenes of violence, I am clearly better at depicting them than she is. She was raised by an environmental engineer and I was raised by a Marine. Thus my writer has found herself first gasping, then cajoling to get me to calm these scenes, and on occasion, relenting. With some back and forth, we have managed to land in places that suit her tolerance level and, presumably, that of the audience she hopes to attract.
I must continually remember to step out of the way when my writer and I disagree on style, content, or manner of expression. This means that in remembering to be a proper helper, voicing my opinion and even composing paragraphs to provide her samples of different approaches, I must always be willing to give them up if she disagrees. Stepping out of the way means first stepping in the way and then doing the delicate dance of interjection and retreat. This is the role of a writer’s little helper.
If this work gets published, I will be as excited for my writer as I have been for myself. I probably will act as a better agent for her publicity than I have been for myself. Some of us do our best work in the service of others. We quite often must reach out for help when it comes to ourselves. That is why writers need other writers.
Stand Up Or Sit Out: Memories and Musings Of a Blind Wrestler, Runner and All-around Regular Guy
Christian Faith Publishing, 2019
Vision Dreams: A Parable
Christian Faith Publishing, 2019
Buy His Books Here Anthony Candela is semi-retired from a professional career in the field of blindness and visual impairment spanning more than 40 years. He is a “retired” athlete (wrestler and long distance runner). He loves movies, sports, reading, writing, and music, including dabbling in guitar. Mr. Candela has published two books, a memoir and a science fiction novella.
In his memoir, Stand Up Or Sit Out: Memories and Musings of a Blind Wrestler, Runner, and All-around Regular Guy (Christian Faith Publishing, 2019), Mr. Candela traverses a lifetime of challenges. Some of these are accidents of birth like his poor eyesight and slow trek to blindness and some are of his own making like choosing to compete as a scholar-athlete. Infused with lots of New Yorkana, a touch of California, and a few related historical references, this memoir conveys that in any environment, life does not always follow a prescribed course. Moreover, as humans, all of us are imperfect. This includes people with disabilities who are often thought of as transcendent beings, but who should also be regarded as “all-around regular guys”. Just like the rest of the human race, they often strive imperfectly to get through life.
In his dystopian novella, Vision Dreams: A Parable (Christian Faith Publishing, 2019), Mr. Candela, a self-described “Trekor” and “secular humanist”, shows us the extremes to which societies will go if sufficiently frightened, especially if science and technology permit it. Individuals will do likewise in order to achieve, if not happiness, then at least relief from tyranny.
Over the years, Mr. Candela has published short pieces in various organizational newsletters and magazines as well as several professional articles in peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness.
Currently, Mr. Candela works as an Outreach Coordinator for Bookshare/Benetech and on leadership development and employment projects with American Foundation for the Blind. He was founding Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Blind Rehabilitation Center in Long Beach, CA; Director of the Specialized Services Division of the California Department of Rehabilitation; National Program Associate in employment for the American Foundation for the Blind; Director of Employment Services for Lighthouse International (Now Lighthouse-Guild); and for 17 years served as a rehabilitation counselor, supervisor, and district manager for the New York State Commission for the Blind.
Mr. Candela has been an officer on several Boards of Directors and Advisory Councils and has chaired his professional association Employment Division three times. He is interested in enhancing the success of blind persons who wish to work in the computer science field.
Buy His Books Here