Monday, December 27, 2010

!!!surprise x-mas post!!! Everything INTERN Needs to Know About Manuscript Repair She Learned From Fixing Her Spaceship

Greetings, erstwhile readers! Over the course of the past six months, INTERN has found her thoughts straying to you time and again, wondering how you're doing and how your dear manuscripts are getting along. Now, in this warm and fuzzy season of well-wishery, INTERN is breaking her vow of bloggerly silence to indulge herself in a brief hello.

As some of you may know, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend have been living in a spaceship they bought for $750. For most of the past month, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend have been completely swallowed up in engine repair as they desperately strove to make it to Techie Boyfriend's family homestead in California in time for Christmas. Over the course of those alternatingly tense and joyful hours spent under the hood of the spaceship, or lying underneath the spaceship while Techie Boyfriend dropped various tools on INTERN's face, INTERN realized that engine repair is basically the same as manuscript repair, except greasier and with a greater chance of getting blinded by terrifying chemicals.

INTERN would therefore like to share with you some quick insights, now that she has abandoned writing for auto shop. Here they are:

Everything INTERN Needs to Know About Manuscript Repair She Learned From Fixing Her Spaceship

1. It helps to have a beta driver.

Because there is a good chance that you, on your own, are completely delusional:

Techie Boyfriend: Whoa. Why is the spaceship shuddering like that when you start it?
INTERN: (gripping the wheel and grinning broadly) Hmm? It’s not shuddering.
Techie Boyfriend: What’s that black smoke coming out of the engine?
INTERN: (gazing vacantly straight ahead) There’s no black smoke.
Spaceship: (spitting balls of fire) Frak-bleargh-akakakakakakkkk
Techie Boyfriend: Oh my god. Pull over. We’re about to blow up.
INTERN: (turning to Techie Boyfriend and snarling viciously) WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO GODDAMN NITPICKY ABOUT EVERYTHING???

2. There are parts of your engine held together with zip ties that really ought not to be held together with zip ties.

This might explain why that gas station attendant who walked by when you were checking your oil the other day begged you with tears in his eyes not to attempt to drive your van any further.

3. The functionality of your engine is not “subjective”. It is not “different for everybody”. Either your engine runs or it doesn’t. Either it degenerates into a smoking wreck in an east Texas rest area or it doesn’t. Either it is purring along nicely at 60 mph or it is sitting on the side of the highway with the four-way flashers blinking.

If you are still not sure which camp your engine falls into, just ask any objective bystander for a speedy clarification.

4. You cannot step into the same engine twice.

This is an ancient saying attributed to Heraclitus. What Heraclitus means is that, every time you pull the head cover off to adjust the clearances on the valves just one last time before driving your van off into the sunset, you will discover that the engine you thought you’d been working on for the past infinity days has been replaced by a completely different engine with a completely new set of completely impossible-to-solve new problems.

5. If you take apart your engine, you will find that some idiot stripped a bolt in the intake manifold, figured it “wouldn’t matter that much”, and created a horrible coolant leak that will now take you twenty hours to repair.

That idiot was probably you.

6. No engine part is an island.

That means you can’t replace the bejongler without realizing that the wokkapiggery and the bauschnauserum also need replacing. You will also realize with horror that the Imminent Death Cable is frayed to a half-millimeter in thickness, the Brake Pads of the Apocalypse are fossilized, and some young punk scratched your new gradient-fractal paint job with a key. The scary problem you initially set out to fix is actually trivial in comparison to the howling ruination that is the rest of your engine. Have fun with that, Chip.

7. Other people will try to distract you from completing your engine repair job.

Like the upstanding citizens of the Bryan, TX neighborhood association who give you 24 hours to clear your eyesore of a vehicle out of your friend’s driveway when the engine is already completely disassembled in the garage. And, um, the Arizona police.

But whatever happens (or whoever comes glaring), you must prevail over these minor distractions and get the job done, because at the end of your day you believe in your engine even if nobody else does, and you are determined to make it run. And screw Bryan, TX anyway.

8. There’s no shame in calling in some expert assistance if you get stuck.

Like your uncle’s cousin’s friend’s neighbor’s socially awkward but mechanically-minded teenaged son, who will help you diagnose that strange ticking sound in exchange for frightening amounts of Mountain Dew.

9. Your engine does not work through a mysterious and incomprehensible combination of wizardry and leprechauns.

In fact, your engine works through a rational and really quite accessible process of mundlefrommery, sparklemangery, and dequarkification. Like, RTFM.

10. If you keep at it long enough and don’t give up, your engine will slowly start to reveal its secrets.

You will start to realize that bolts that were impossible to unbolt two days ago now come off and on with ease. Wires that seemed to go nowhere yesterday now clip neatly in their sockets. Oil that was dripping all over your face yesterday is now staying obediently inside the proper receptacle. The mechanic’s flight suit that looked ridiculous on you last week is now looking authentically filthy, giving you reassuring amounts of cred when you’re waiting in line at Napa Auto Parts. You will start to realize that maybe this engine repair thing is possible after all.

11. No engine repair experience is ever wasted.

Because even if, God forbid, you end up hauling your spaceship to the junkyard, you will have learned so much, gotten your clothes so greasy, and tested your relationship with your beta driver to such an extreme level that you will approach your next engine repair job with that much more wisdom, insight, patience, and, um, possibly dread. You will be a stronger person. A more knowledgeable person. Perhaps a person who now requires a few years of mental and/or physical and/or marital therapy to work through all the issues that came up over the course of the Engine Repair Experience. But all in all, a person who is now better quipped than ever before to work with whatever engines the future holds.


That is all. Just in case anyone is fretting, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend made it to California in time for Christmas despite approximately twelve hundred engine-related disasters, and an exhausted INTERN spent the holiday lying on the couch like a sultan while Techie Boyfriend's many relatives fed her cookies and piled lots and lots of novels on the floor for her to read. What happiness!

INTERN misses you all and wishes you all ten thousand delights. May you all gallop into the new year with glee in your eyes and inspiration at your fingertips. Thank you for allowing INTERN the indulgence of this yuletide post. Godspeed!


  1. Yea! This makes it onto my list of this year's best Christmas presents. Hope you had a Merry Christmas and will have a very Happy New Year.

    I don't think we should underestimate the power of leprechauns. They have rainbows on their side!

  2. quite funny! I'm glad it's not my spaceship.

  3. Yes, but an engine won't give you a papercut.


    You can drink while writing with relatively little danger to anyone else (except the characters involved).

    So, they're really nothing alike at all :-P

    Though, at some point, both during space ship repair and MS polish-upping, you realize that you might just be able to take some little doohicky from something that doesn't work anyway, and make it fit rather nicely with the thing-a-ma-jobbie that's giving you issues.

    And, if that doesn't work, you can just line them all up on their end like that guy in New Mexico who made Stonehenge out of old cars.

  4. Yay! TWO lovely Christmas gifts--a post from THE INTERN and the sentence, "That means you can’t replace the bejongler without realizing that the wokkapiggery and the bauschnauserum also need replacing." Merry, merry.

  5. Welcome back, INTERN! What a delight it was to see this unexpected post appear on my Blogger dashboard. Sounds like a wonderful Christmas too, with armies of doting almost-relatives who have clearly done their INTERN maintenance research.

  6. Yay! Hugs! Happy Holidays and best of luck getting home. Maybe map a route that does not pass through Bryan, TX.

  7. A surprise post from INTERN! This is what holidays were made for.

    Glad to hear you made it to California, and boy, does Bryan, TX need some serious dequarkification. Even if Joseph and Mary wandered through, the people there would totally miss the beauty of all that sparklemangery and promptly tell Joseph to get that donkey out of the driveway. RTFM, folks.

    Great to hear from you again. Warm and fuzzy well-wishery to you, Techie Boyfriend, and to everyone who’s helped you on your journey.

  8. Truly an inspiring tale, which I learned many new words from!

  9. Good to read a post from the intern -- in fine form!

  10. Hi INTERN! Merry Christmas and almost happy New Year. What an adventure you've had. Thanks for saying hi. I'm agent hunting, working on a new wip, and chasing some international events. Talk soon, Simon.

  11. Yay! You've made my evening!

    I'm glad you got to California safely. :-)

  12. So wonderful to hear from you! Sorry Bryan TX didn't treat you well. You still have an open invite in Flower Mound if you dare enter the state again. And my husband is handy under a hood, though his name is unfortunately Bryan.

  13. O INTERN, how we have missed thee. (We count the ways.)

    Thank you so much for this -- for letting us know you're all right, and for your customary wisdom and ye GODS what writing...!

  14. Yay! I just wanted to add my voice to the general joy of all who have read this post. Intern, I hope this new year brings you and Techie Boyfriend many adventures and more happiness than the sappiest novel where everyone gets matched up at the end (even the two protagonists' dogs).

  15. Happy Holidays!

    Hope the spaceship gets you back home again!

  16. It is so good to hear from you! We're many who have been checking back often to see if you would pop in every once in a while...

    Glad that with all the repair work on the space ship that you and TB arrived to California in time for Xmas!

    Feel free to surprise us again Intern :)

  17. Thanks, Intern, I badly needed this post as I had just opened a manuscript that I had laid to rest about a month ago after the third revision. I see the above post much like a 12 (or 11 in this case) step program. Having worked my way through steps 1 to 7, I am now contemplating step 8. Step 3 tripped me up for a minute, but I got over that silliness. The rest of the steps are hanging over my head and it is only the hope of steps 9-11 that will get me to admit I am powerless over my desire to write and that revision and re-writing will lead to sanity.

  18. What a treat, a Christmas post from the Intern and a heads-up post from Editorial Anonymous on the same day! (for me as a reader, anyway). Glad to hear you made it to CA. Is there any life experience you can't turn into a writing metaphor?? (and not just any metaphor, but a really apt and also hilarious metaphor!)

  19. and you even made it out to CA. see? everyone really does love a happy ending.

    i'm really glad you posted here -- the interwebz are a much friendlier and happier place with you here making us smile.

    (hint, hint)


  20. Lovely to hear from you again! I love the technical mechanical terms you've used.

    Happy New Year!

  21. YAY! So wonderful to see this post! My heart fluttered as I read the title...thanks for the insightful, entertaining, totally fun post! Don't you just love couch-bathing with a nice warm drink and a good book

  22. Spaceships are holiday travel requirements!

    Yes, I read your post the day you posted. Yes, it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling for the connection with INTERN during my holiday revelry.

    And yes, I've been-there-done-that in engine repairs at times when it was so important to get there. A story as old as time, told in new words, a fresh voice, with a different hook.

    The new year is a bright new penny for you to flip. Charge forth, INTERN, your mighty steed will cooperate.

  23. Thank you, Intern. You're missed. A lot.

  24. Hi INTERN,

    Super nice to hear from you.

    Things that help a lot
    On the road or not:
    Dr. Bronner's soap, Marvel's Mystery Oil,
    and coffee from a pot.

    Happy January and the rest of the year.

  25. Ahhh, Intern, You are still the same. Have a wonderful year.