Tension

Have found a better working title that I’m using on the novel in progress. It pleases me and hopefully fits. I’ve checked, and it’s available.

Meanwhile, I deleted a large chunk of previously written chapters, including the original ending. That ending no longer fit as first, my understanding of the concept evolved, and then my understanding of the characters and the story expanded.

Looking back, I see how involved I became in understanding the concept during the first draft. Understanding it consumed me to the detriment of the story. The characters evolved, but the story stalled.

In the second draft, I attempted multiple ways to clarify and sharpen the story. First was to expand some roles. When that didn’t work, I took all of that away. That worked better. Encouraged, I chopped more of that aspect away. That completely worked. The story came into much sharper focus.

I invested a great deal of thinking about the story and tehe concept at that point, and came to realize that what I’d learned from the concept was being misapplied in the story. In other words, the story wasn’t about what I originally thought.

Encouraged again, I kept on, but had to keep reminding myself of what the story was about vice what the concept was about. That caused a certain duality of thought and approach.

Fortunately, when I entered into a character’s skin and wrote in their voice, they had a deeper understanding of how the story was to advance versus what the concept is about.

As I’ve entered writing the final chapters, I’ve needed to draw up to think deeply about how it all ties together. Then I began writing at a furious gallop. Because this is the climax of so many story lines and arcs, it all began hugely tense. Typing in deep concentration, I had to stop and rock (and, weirdly, wring my hands together), or get up and walk around to release tension, or stop, close my eyes, and breath deeply. I found I could rarely type in more than ten minute bursts. The bursts left me feeling exhausted, forcing me to pause, regroup, and then press on. Meanwhile, my muscles and nerves strum with tension.

Closed to finishing then? Doubtful. I’ll get this raw stuff out of me. Then the holes will leap up, along with continuity and logic issues. Once they’re fixed, there will probably be pacing matters to attend.

In many ways, this final process reminds me of practicing and practicing, preparing for something. Then, finally, the moment arrives when it’s time to put the practice aside, take the stage, and make it happen. Writing this final piece of novel has that same sort of butterflies as acting (did that in high school plays), making a speech, playing in a big sports game, or making a major presentation. The tension just feels immense.

I don’t have all the answers. A lot of work remains. Days sometimes feel fantastic and exciting; other times, I despair. Many times, I’m reminded of the loneliness of this fiction writing business. It’s like being in a dinghy out on the vast ocean.

But overall, yeah, there’s exciting progress.

Butt is sore from sitting (yes, I have writer’s butt, once again), and the coffee is gone. Time to stop writing like crazy, tear myself out of that state of mind, and go back into the world and fulfill life’s mundane expectations.

Onward.

Three Months

It’s taken me three months to figure out this story.

Three months, four hundred manuscript pages, and one hundred fifty thousand damn words.

Now I think I have a handle on it. Of course that excites me.

(I also pause to think about the writing process and volume. Is four hundred pages and one hundred K words normal or standard? Is there such a thing? I started on 1 November last year, and here I am, a few days after 1 Feb of the next year (with time off for illness, holidays and good behavior). It’s odd, because it doesn’t seem like I’ve been doing much writing, just a few hours each day of vacuous sitting at the keyboard, but here I am.)

It’s the novel-writing rhythm, innit? Think, burst into flame with the brilliance of a new idea (or insight, aspect, whatev), jump to the medium (notebook and pen, notebook ‘puter, laptop, crayons on construction paper, again, whatever), and write with excitement and intensity until you flounder like a man on the can without any toilet paper (yeah, oh, no). Then think long, hard, and deeply (often while sipping tea or coffee) (or taking walks or doing dishes) until boom, the mini-process begins afresh.

In this case, I had a handle on eight of the ten main characters (after wrestling with one and getting thrown to the mat by them several times), but the other two continued vexing me. Those damn muses — that’s right, I cursed them, I’m not afraid of no muse — weren’t helping. (They seemed, in fact, to be hiding and not answering their phones.)

But once again, after editing and revising (and deeply pondering the distant mountains while draining the last dregs of cold coffee, and watching people walking by, people who seemed happier and more carefree than me) (well, some of them did) (like, that guy doesn’t, and that one), and then walking, driving, shopping, sleeping, reading, and thinking, thinking, thinking, when I took up the writing again, aha, there it is. 

Joy! Eureka! Etc. Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t writing fun?

I did my thing and did my writing, revising, writing, editing, etc., and it all seemed so terrific. I still don’t have it all fully figured out, and proceed cautiously (and hopefully). (But then again, that’s today.) But, yeah, good day of writing like crazy.

Time to turn it off and do something else before it makes me crazy, ya’ know?

 

Not Necessarily

Is three times a charm? Not necessarily when novel writing.

I’m into draft number three of the current novel in progress (NIP). I call it number three, but I’ve rewritten and rearranged the first five pages about one billion times, and do the same for the first fifty pages at least six million times.

Fast writer, aren’t I?

I suspect those numbers are exaggerations for effect, although it seems like they’re true. I know of some days when I undid when I did he previous day. Makes me think of the novel blues.

I woke up this morning with a gleam in my eye.

Had a masterpiece in my head, I will not tell a lie.

Rushed to the keyboard, to get it all down,

then the muses abandoned me, made me feel like a clown.

Oh, yeah, I have the stumbling through the story, struggling novelist blues.

And if you wrote like me, you’d probably be sufferin’ them too.

Come on, sing along as you write.

As with everything writing, I remain mostly passionate and hopeful, depending upon the hour, day of the week, which way the wind is blowing, and other important portends such as a crow cawing from the top of a tree.

Got my coffee. Time to continue writing like crazy.

Didn’t Finish

I didn’t finish writing the first draft of It Begins. (BTW, I’ve come to despise that title, even for a working doc. It was always meant to be short-termed. I keep waiting for the real thing to pop up.)

Disgust, anger, irritation, and frustration all stopped me from finishing the first draft. This wasn’t working, it wasn’t what I’d envisioned (or anywhere near it) and more, it wasn’t satisfying, winning a prolonged grrrrr from deep in my throat.

WTH and WTF? I kept trying to write around the issue. What was it disturbing me? Didn’t like that beginning, so I added shit. Didn’t like that, so I took it away again. Rearranged chapters. Deleted story lines.

None hit the magic g-spot. Exasperation hounded me like a hungry cat. Finally, and at last, as I was in the bathroom, a huge freakin’ epiphany struck.

First, I want to note that a much of my best epiphanies arrive in the morning while I’m doing my washing, shaving, and dressing. I think that’s because the tedium of routine permits my brain to enter a prolonged idle. The stream of thought calms and new items percolate in.

The second strike of intrigue came as I walked, thought, and then started writing. The epiphany showed me that I was pursuing the wrong tack. But as I reviewed what I’d written in the first takes compared to what I thought that I was writing about, it seemed that my subconscious (through the vessels called muses) was pursuing the correct direction while my conscious mind slaved in the wrong direction.

I’d been thinking that I needed clarity. That’s what I’d been hunting, not a problem with the writing, but clarity about the story that I was trying to tell. Now it feels like clarity has been found.

Hope so, but you know, like many things, a victory is achieved on one day, but the same work is required on another. Which was what I think all my writing efforts demonstrated: I knew something was off, and tried writing through it to a solution. In a roundabout way, that’s what happened as the effort helped my thought process. Guess that’s what fiction writing is about, in the end.

Once my clarify was delivered, I felt like I was suddenly shifting into a new, unknown writing gear. Not surprising, right? That’s what happens when you overcome an obstacle.

Done writing like crazy for the day. Off to other adventures. Cheers

Moving Targets

Quick updates on the writing and submitting fronts.

  1. I’d originally hoped to complete It Begins by January 15th. I’d begun it on November first. Writing had progressed to the point that I really thought I had a chance to finish it by the end of 2019. Now, though, I think it’s more realistic to believe that I’ll finish it by the end of January. Fingers crossed.
  2. More dismaying, I had a target of three hundred pages for the first draft. I’m on page 292, and I can see that it’ll be more than three hundred pages. I’m hopeful that I’ll finish it with less than three hundred fifty pages. I can then edit it down.
  3. I responded to the agents who requested more material on the last novel, April Showers 1921. After I finished editing it in October, I’d submitted it to agents. I’ve had some response but, knowing how long it is before one says yes or no, I decided to submit to more agents. I kicked it out to ten more. I have good feelings about several of the agents, but I tend to be an optimist.

Those are the main things. For background, the completion target of January 15th was simply a spur of the moment decision, a whim to provide focus, grab my attention, and stimulate my discipline. It seems to be working.

The page count was a more practical matter. I tend to write long books (or books that turn into a series of books). April Showers 1921 is six hundred pages and one hundred eighty thousand words. Incomplete States, the series that I completed at the end of 2018, is five novels and four hundred twenty-eight thousand words. I felt like I needed to write something smaller.

It was another excellent day of writing like crazy. Let me give credit to the muses; I couldn’t do it without them.

About the only detail that marred it was that I had to work at a counter in the coffee shop, sitting on a stool. I don’t like sitting on stools. Nothing personal against stools, but I can’t get comfortable on them. Due to that, I ended up standing for most of the writing session. Now my dogs are barking (an expression that I’ve always enjoyed).

Time to call it a day. One, there are other things to do. Two, the coffee cup is empty. Three, I’m very hungry.

Primed

Yesterday was a particularly intense writing day. I added twelve pages (and edited multiple sections), shunning other activities to stay in the tube. Ran out of coffee; butt went completely numb. A friend later said, “I saw you at the coffee shop writing. You were so intense, I think you were scaring people. I sure as heck didn’t want to disturb you.”

Yes, twelve new pages are a lot for me to accomplish in one day. My sessions generally top out at five to six. More, though, after ‘finishing’ writing for the day, the muses continued feeding me pieces of story, scene, and characters. Getting in here today, words fill my pathways, ready to find the page, a fantastic feeling.

I’ll write today but not tomorrow (damn coffee shop is closed for some holiday, can you believe it?), and then resume Thursday. I thought, hopefully I won’t lose momentum, and then shrugged that off. Momentum comes and go. Long as I keep putting my ass in a chair and turning on the computer in front of me, progression will continue, not always as a deluge or a storm, but at least at a gentle trickle.

I started this project on November first. I’m at two hundred fifty pages (71,000 words). My goal is to limit it to a three-hundred page draft, and I think that’s within reach. Of course, I have to laugh at myself (and my muses), as sequels (and tangents) have leaped into my imagination stream.

Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Cheers

A Few More Drips

I’d been experiencing such great writing mojo. It was wondrous, the sort of writing experiences sought by authors everywhere. The writing flowed freely. Editing and revisions tailored the passages into cleaner, more reader-friendly (and story-advancing) prose.

Then, Wednesday came.

There wasn’t any indication Wednesday would be the day that the mojo didn’t come, but Wednesday was the day the mojo took off. Maybe the rain chased the mojo away, or perhaps they had a dental appointment.

I asked the muses where the mojo had gone. The muses shrugged, palms out in classic “I don’t know” non-verbals. “Who knows how the mojo works,” they said. “Mojo has a mind of its own.”

Their response surprised me; I thought the muses supplied the mojo, a position that amused them. “As if,” they said.

I struggled through Wednesday. Writing a short chapter (about a thousand words) consumed hours. Carving and shaping it sucked another thirty minutes. Even then, I was like, geez, that needs work.

Then, of course, I walked away.

The next day, the mojo showed up late but still, good to have them (don’t know the mojo’s gender, to be honest). Fixed that Wednesday chapter and then pushed on. With mojo encouraging the muses (or is it the other way), the writing time flew. Words poured out.

Beautiful. Off I went, walking, writing in my head as I went, pursuing chores, then back home for lunch and household tasks. All the while, the mojo stayed. The muses kept whispering more.

Quietly (avoiding attracting the cats, scaring off the muses, or alarming the mojo), I opened my computer and added another page. Off for more holiday running around with my spouse. The mojo remained, and the muses kept whispering, “Add this. Write that.”

Back home, more was added.

Then, showering this morning, more scenes dripped in. “Hurry,” the muses said, “let’s go write.”

“Come on,” the mojo said. “You gonna write or what?”

Yes, I was gonna write. At page two hundred, with a goal of keeping it less than three hundred pages (which looks promising), I believe it can be completed by the middle of January. Earlier is possible (as is a shorter novel) as, tying ends together, I revise the page count down.

Got my coffee. The muses and mojo are present. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

 

Coffee House Rules

My home office is a comfortable place. Got a big desk, chair, books, all that stuff, with easy access to the kitchen and coffee.

You’d think it’d be ideal for writing. Cats, spouse, neighbors, and generalities seem to conspire against it working. If I had to name one as the greatest offense, the cats would take the spot. They’re like, “Hey, I hear him typing. I better go put a stop to that by getting on his lap or the keyboard.” (This is called an interflooftion.) Just doesn’t work for me.

So I like coffee houses for my writing endeavors. I abandoned my previous favorite (management changes, and they treated former employees (who are family) like garbage, so I’m gone). The search was on, causing me to remind myself what I was looking for. Also, people ask me, “What are you looking for in a coffee shop for your writing?” or “Why do you go there?”

So — no order, really, but numbered for convenience.

  1. Tables with chairs and access to outlets.
  2. Good coffee.
  3. Some space.
  4. Decent prices.
  5. Location – must be in Ashland, OR.
  6. General ambiance.

A nice staff also helps but I must say, in fourteen years of frequenting Ashland’s coffee houses, I’ve not encountered a nice (code for friendly and engaging) staff.

These are subjective things. (Right? Most things are.)  I settled on Noble’s after trying a few places. Noble’s has all of the above (plus excellent scones and muffins (although I try not to indulge, right?) except their coffee costs one dollar more. After deciding on the place, though, I then had to pay attention to its ebb and flow, cause, you know, those tables, chairs, outlets, and space aren’t unlimited.

As with most places, you either must arrive early (typically before 8:30) to beat the morning rush. The next break generally arrives at ten. With Noble’s, I found the best time to arrive for my writing is 11:30 AM. The place empties. Most tables (with outlets) are available, so I have a choice of places. There’s then a forty-minute lull before they experience a lunch rush. I can settle in and write for a few hours. It’s great.

The start time pushes back my time, so I need to adjust either ends. Of course, this is winter; things will be different in other times of the year.

It probably won’t surprise you, but I ran into friends everywhere I went in to have coffee and write. (“Oh, you’re writing here now?”)

Alright now. Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Fun, Fun, Fun

My writing sessions continue as entertaining and productive sessions. The book in progress is booking along (sorry for the pun — no, I’m not) as the characters grow and the story expands.

Didn’t go to the Boulevard today (see yesterday’s post, “Unbelievable”. As recap, Allison’s father, who owns the property, had Allison and her husband (Josh) managing the property for him, and fired them yesterday (Merry Christmas!). Baristas walked out in solidarity, and I went, too. Yeah, I know, I don’t know all of the story; I’ve witnessed how hard Allison and Josh work, though.

Anyway, had to find a new writing spot today. The first was too crowded. I made the second work. I’m at a breakfast bar on a high stool. Not comfortable. I alternate between standing and sitting, but the writing must be done. I’m thankful that our small town (population less than twenty thousand) has about ten coffee houses (which is down from when we first moved here, and two of them are Starbucks, which is a last resort).

Best, the muses didn’t care where I was. (“What? You’re not at the Boulevard? Well, screw you, mister,” they didn’t say.) They crowded in and began their thing before I’d taken off my coat.

I have ten main characters. I don’t know who the final primary protagonist will be. Several candidates are slugging it out. Meanwhile, each character apparently has their own muse. So, today, when settling in to write, these muses were all clamoring for me to write ‘their’ character’s story.

That’s what writing like crazy is all about — getting it down without prejudice, sorting it out as needed later, and editing and revising to improve it sanity — I mean, flow — and story-telling.

Good day of writing like crazy. Off to the movies now, to see Knives Out. I’ve been looking forward to it, and today is five dollar Tuesday.

Hard to beat that.

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