Tag Archives: novel

November already?

I always get edgy in November because of NaNoWriMo.

Even though I’ve made a promise to myself not to start any major initiatives for a little while, even though I’m committed to short-fiction for the foreseeable future, even though I don’t really want to start a book right now… November just makes me want to write a novel anyway. I got through about 20,000 words last year around mid-November, but then never quite caught up again. The aborted draft is sitting somewhere, waiting for me to return. This time, an old friend has been poking and asking me to give him another chance.

Years ago, I tried to make a comic unsuccessfully – I’ve always had terrible luck retaining the attention (or interest, I can’t tell which) of any artists. Some day, I’ll be able to just pay someone to draw for me. Until then, I’ll just mutter wistfully about ideas that float by and wave farewell when they round the bend downstream, never to return. Anyway, those early, aborted ideas have been a fertile breeding ground for other ideas that linger long after the comic itself has faded, and this is one of them.

It’s vaguely autobiographical, which makes me leery, but I think I can keep enough distance from it to allow it to be its own thing, and let the character breathe, and be, on his own. It’s the kind of book that I’d love to read, but seldom see on shelves, perhaps because books like these are unmarketable or because, well, maybe it’s a dead genre after the sixties did a thorough job of exploring it (albeit mostly in non-fiction and traditional literature, not in speculative fiction or dark fantasy.)

Regardless, the idea – and maybe even the will – is there, it’s strong, and getting through 50,000 words would give me a solid boost of confidence. Not that I need very many more boosts, I’m on a fairly decent streak right now, but NaNoWriMo is one of those elusive animals that hunters go after every season. I’ve missed a few years since the project initiated more than a decade ago, but most years I toss my hat into the ring. I’ve tried. Many times, often loosing steam or missing too many days of writing, and the closest I got was about 30,000 words.

Maybe the current burst of creative instinct is what I need to get moving on this. Perhaps this is what I’ve been missing in the past. And if I’m entirely honest with myself, it’ll be a way for me to avoid getting sucked back into Warcraft again, with the new expansion coming out. But then, I’m going to have to put a hard stop to most of my other projects. Once again, I find myself marooned on an island of uncertainty. I think I’m leaning at a steep angle toward diving in, but the next couple of weeks might change my mind yet.

If you’re going for it – I wish us all the best of luck! It’s a tough climb, but someone needs to finish it, and it might as well be you and me.

Too Many Pots

Or maybe too many stoves.

With our brand new son in daycare, the days have become pretty hectic, and after a dormant period of easy maintenance, my work really took off last month with a number of high-profile projects, alongside some training… it’s been a mouthful. Did I just go from cutlery, to stoves, to food? Ah, well.

Regardless, I was able to squeeze in the time and finish the second half of my writing for that contract work I mentioned last time. It was similar in that there was a hard word limit and structure that I had to conform to, but it kept it focused again, I couldn’t meander on and had to remain on point. I really think contract writing is good for me, it’s teaching me to look at what I’m writing and examine it.

I recently organized my documents to better manage the short fiction side of things, and know what I should be working on and where. I think that’s a broader conversation I need to have, about how structure – not just in writing, but in organizing the things around the writing process itself – has been helping me… but probably later. Anyway, I came across a story I’d finished some time ago, but always felt strange about it, it felt a bit exploitative and I thought I could do better.

So, I took it out and began to read it and it surprised me how much I overwrote. I don’t know if it’s just a reaction from this really strict writing I just did, but I think in the last year or two I’ve really changed focus to examining what I’m writing and why it belongs in a story. That I like it isn’t enough, if I want to sell it. There’s pleasure in indulgent writing, I enjoy writing in a way that lets me sprawl, that lets me really stretch and let the words pour out faster than I can type… but it isn’t conducive to fiction, and it really isn’t good for trying to write anything that you want to sell.

For the last week, I’ve been picking this story apart, thread by thread, and I wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to rewrite it entirely. But there are good bones in there, scenes that make me flinch in the sudden light or scenes that vibrate like bass strings in the dark.

Telling myself that I don’t have time, or that I’m too tired, or whatever else isn’t really an option anymore. I’ve been outlining new story ideas and setting them aside after a few hundred words and all of them are clamoring for attention. Some of them might even be good! And I can never keep the call of a novel at bay for long. Sadly, it’ll have to go unheeded till I’m at a place where I can be confident that isn’t going to just sit in my hard drive for all of eternity like my last book. I want to be good enough to write a book.

For now, these six to eight thousand word stories are where my focus is, and I’m building a structure around it, so that no matter how much food I’m eating while cooking on multiple pots in various kitchens, I can still sit down and write a couple of thousand words a day. It’s been a good year so far, I want it to continue.

Old Things Make New

A long time, in a lifetime far-far away (or maybe just 10 years ago, a few neighborhoods away) I wrote a book.

It was a good book, if messy, broken, flawed and confused. I sent it to a few agents but the overwhelming silence buried my enthusiasm for the book, as much as I loved it, and I set it to one side. Since then, I have written. Plays, short-stories, scripts and other things that have all received some small measure of success. But then came the drought.

Three years ago, all confidence evaporated, all ideas seemed gray and every word I wrote was like ash in my mouth.

But all things end, and so did this drought, and when I recovered, it was with two minds. The one was the young man who wrote a book a long time ago, eager to see his work find an audience. Another was an older man with different interests and skills and outlooks eager to work on new material. There was no way to reconcile the differences, it was bi-polar. The old book became an anchor to the past, an albatross of failure that threw a long shadow over the future.

So, I came to a solution, after some counseling with my wife – I would fix the old story as much as necessary in a short amount of time, and then I would move on. Good or bad, fail or succeed, I would move on. Two months, I said, to change anything, fix anything, and on May 1 I opened the file, cracked my fingers, and I worked on the opening chapter.

And then woke up the next morning, and I worked on it again. And then again. And again.

There is a level of anxiety about beginnings that is perhaps unique to my own process, wherein the beginning guides the rest of the material. It has to be strong, it has to be compelling, it has to be the sort of thing that sketches out a universe that I am interested in quickly, and while that’s easy to do in a short-story with its focused scope of attention and time, I find it difficult to do in a book. The scale is too large, too many themes and textures and undertones, and I always feel like I’m missing something.

Somewhere around the fourth revision, I decided, that maybe I should just write the first chapter like any other chapter. Forget the text book definitions of first line, first paragraph, first page – just write it like chapter 27 instead. And so I did.

I’m so far behind schedule now, that I’ll have to made a mad dash to catch up. But at least I’m past the first turn.