Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nano Newbie, Not Looking Good

Fridge stocked? Nope. Laundry done? Ha. Toilet paper? Yes, I do have enough toilet paper. Otherwise, I'm diving into National Novel Writing Month with no expectations of success.

Here's my track record: I started a novel mid-August 2009. To date, I've written 78,900 words. I'm supposed to write 50K starting midnight tonight through midnight Nov. 30. About 7 pages a day. Like the saying goes, you do the math.

I really want to finish the novel I'm working on, then start its prequel. If I can accomplish one or both, WHOOO-HOOO! If not, I'll still be writing in December and January and February, etc. etc. etc.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Commit and It Shall Be

NaNoWriMo is days away. (Could the Office of Letters and Light be a little less dramatic with the "countdown" clock?) Okay, so it's exciting and anxiety inducing. But I'm committed. At the very least, I'll write SOME words each day in November. I give some a broad definition.

However, I do believe in commitment. It makes up for many missed opportunities, mistakes, false starts and general distractions. Distractions, or more specifically, obligations, keep me away from the book I'm writing. NaNoWriMo will help me finish it.

W.H. Murray wrote about commitment:
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation),
there is one elementary truth
the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
that the moment one definitely commits oneself,
then providence moves too.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Finding the Creative Cow

No sacred cow exists of creativity. Just sit your butt down if you wanna write (or create). Or maybe, lie down, get drowsy and let your subconscious take over. It happens, you know, those moments of incredible, diamond-sharp revelations, right when you're sleepy.

Keith Richards talks about it in his new book Life. He was interviewed by Terry Gross about how he came up with the song Satisfaction. He sleeps with a tape recorder by his bed to capture the goodies. He doesn't even remember having taped the hook for the song. He woke the next morning, and there it was along with 40 minutes of snoring. Love it.

I've met others who mention something similar. I have writing tools handy by the bedsheets, and occasionally, I'll get an idea that's gotta go on the paper ASAP. But, frankly, I do best by showing up. Let me have the time, and it'll flow. I plot and it helps, but I've got to give it space.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Not a Foothold

Blogging is not a foothold on my life. Neither is tweeting or commenting or emailing or poking or friending. This is a place to experiment and spread a few words around. Take it or leave it. This is a free radical writing exercise. Maybe it'll cause cancer. Maybe prevent it.

Nonetheless, I'm not blogging to make YOU happy. Really, I'm not writing this blog to make ME happy. I place some confidence in the philosophy, I think, therefore I am, which was Descartes' view that because we think, that's proof enough we exist. But writing doesn't make it so, does it? Does the act of writing prove the action of thought and therefore make our existence real?

Footholds are the values I try to live by. The ideas and people I adhere to and trust. Not an exercise in self-awareness. Not this sentence and the period that stops it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Friendly Perks of Writing

My fall break is over. I wrote. Progress was made. I'm beginning to near the end of my first draft manuscript. It feels momentous. I've been working on writing a novel since August 2009. Not long, according to some writers I've befriended in the process.

The folks I've met becoming a fiction writer (not simply a journalist) have been pretty cool. They laugh a lot and think big thoughts and offer gentle advice. It's true, writers need to stick together. A third of the equation that keeps me writing is the inspiration they provide; of course, the other parts are the creative outlet and a love of the written word.

I wasn't always a reader. I could be a better one. Becoming a better writer takes patience, practice and education. Learning to become a better reader? Not sure how to accomplish that goal. I read at a moderate pace. I have to say the words in my head often as I go. I give the author generous latitude. It generally pays off. And my life is enriched.

Monday, October 18, 2010

NaNoWriMo Insanity

About this NaNoWriMo thingamabobber. I write, sure. Do I write like an idiot? No. I have to stop and think. Will I need to write like an idiot to write 50,000 words in a month? Perhaps.

My first drafts are getting better. I wrote today, and pulled off about two pages, if you count the verbage I added to my novel in sections where I thought could use the umph. But besides this blog, I've got to ruminate. That's sounds bad. I do ruminate over this blog, but not nearly the same way I'm thinking about characterization and motivation and dialogue in the novel I'm writing.

I also like to reread. It makes me happy to know I've gotten so much finished, and "Wow, is that working or what?" The real test will come. The rejections are being photocopied now. I'll just savior this limbo I'm in, and maybe, just maybe, write like a fool in November.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On Being a Maniac

Philip Roth is making the circuit. His new book is Nemesis. For the record, I haven't read him although he's on the list. The NYT Book Review critic offered her mea culpa on Roth's work. NPR interviewed him. He's been writing for 55 years and isn't stopping. He writes nearly every day - seven, eight, often more, hours each session. He calls it maniacal, admittedly, as if it were evil-doing.

You have to have a little of that trait to do this. Having read some about his work, I gather he's taken huge dumps of criticism, yet still he writes. He says he can't do anything else. It's like a pathology. Makes you sick in the head.

I kinda like that feeling. It's like doing something subversive when you're really not. There's nothing illegal about it (at least, not in this country). Take a step back, because it would be horrible to live without free access to information and ideas. We still ban books (sad, but true), but we find ways to weasel them into the public realm. Thankfully.

BTW, I recommend the Roth interview over the written version. His voice conveys his infliction.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Shot of Something in My Coffee

Write, and be thwarted. Negativity follows writers, especially fiction writers, like an unshakeable head cold. Even (or should it be, especially) in the places where encouragement should be found. The NYT Book Review published this lead on a review, a good review, over the weekend:

"Just because something happened to you doesn't make it interesting. Anyone one who has suffered through an overly indulgent blog post or cocktail-party anecdote is familiar with this thought . . . "

Turn away now from my overly indulgent rant. God bless you, writers. Every last stinking, ego-maniacal, selfish one of you. The act of sharing is a thankless risk. The world doesn't need you, you know. The world needs more fissionable material and automatic handguns and racial rhetoric and toxic assets. We definitely need more religion and morals and pornography. And please, at least a score more talking heads and idiotic threads of user comments. So, writers, put your pens and keyboards away now. It's pointless.

Unless, big exception coming, there's room for something else. There might be room in the world for the small story you have inside. Whether it's insufferable or not. It could be one is and the next isn't. Write it. From it tumbles all sorts of possibilities. Personal fulfillment. Connection with people. Turning nuance into meaning. Transferring love. The creativity, and the crap, are worth it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Library Privileges

BTW, my library is loaner friendly. Better a book gets read than sit on a shelf. But unlike a traditional library, my books can be taken on perpetual loan. In fact, it's yours once it passes hands. I won't keep track or bemoan its absence. Once I've read it (if I've read it), I'm done. I don't reread. Too many other books to discover.

A few I won't lend out. Right now, those pertain to the book I am writing. So they stay close. But I don't catalog, like some music collectors do, organizing by artist or album or alphabet. I cram them where I can. Unload when I can.

A neighbor wrote recently she moved four times in the last three months. The books and papers were the kicker.  To make her last move, she went paperless. She feels free. I'd feel naked.

PS--I won't mail a book either. I loan only in person.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Gifts

Books are a good perk of being a new fiction writer. I know right away when someone is a reader because the conversation about my latest adventure immediately turns to what they are reading, which I like. Then they lend or unload. My office is crammed.

I've accumulated more books in a year from friends and acquaintances than in my entire life. I bookmark about two at a time. I'm a comprehensive reader but not a quick one. I've also become picky. If I don't get into a book by halfway (yes, I give the author the benefit), then I put it aside and start another. I'm alternating between classics, popular commercial fiction and my genre. (BTW, my genre is, right now, romance, but I'll post about that later).

A famous writer recently blogged that she doesn't read nearly enough, but once she described why, I forgave her. When you "make it," writers are in production mode. She is a monk when writing the draft manuscript. Two to three hours of sleep, writing every day, never showering, etc. Sounds like fun.

But I want to read. It expands me. I'll never complain about a book handed over. It's like a secret, and I'll honor it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ten-Minute Abs

The goal here is simply to write. Ten minutes is my limit. If my brain can spin out a few phrases worth reading in ten minutes, I'm happy and can move on. It's one way I hope to establish a "practice."

That's the word a creative writing teacher used when she asked about my process. "Do you have a practice?" she asked. I'm thinking, lawyer, doctor? Do writer's have a practice? She meant, of course, my schedule for writing, my habits for butt-in-seat.

I do have a practice, but it needs practice. (Excuse me, a distraction: child w/devil horns and black Halloween costume walks in.) I write at least every other day, for varying periods of time. If I have a space longer than an hour, that's significant. (Hold on: "Can I use a pillow case for candy?" Of course.) With limited time and many commitments, I take what comes.

But one habit I try to practice is not to make writing a big event. I write when I have a spare moment, a thought worth scribbling. In that way, it is always there, waiting for me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Write = Yes, Edit = No

A postscript to my first entry. I lament about my process, not the writing. I think, like some new writers, the urge to edit while writing is super strong. Spreading out the story uncritically is a near impossibility. The advice is to not look back -- ARE YOU KIDDING?

So, to take a lesson from therapy (not that I'm in it now), compartmentalize. That's what I'll do. I am to sit the entire month of November and just write. NOT edit. Editing is the no voice inside. The voice that says, "Hey, what the hell are you doing? Have you totally lost your mind? That reads like sh*t."

Writing is yes. Glitter lotion slathered all over. Pour out an entire jar of honey and let it drip. Everywhere. It's like going to the grocery story with a full bank account after a fast.

The question is: Am I hungry?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Symptoms of NaNoWriMo

The gut gurgles. The mind cramps. The butt hurts. Add a headache, eye strain and missed meals. I'm thinking that's how National Novel Writing Month is going to unfold for me. I'm approaching it as an oncoming illness. I'm supposed to regurgitate, right? Learn to write unhindered, do it semi-unconsciously, a blur of fingers and mind flashes. Splatter words on a page. Not look back. Not clean up. Hunker down on the screen.

In my case, it will involve an ink pen on paper. Gasp, an old-school illness. I'm having my doubts. I'm no good with a backache. It'll be like the flu, red-eyed, feverish and a nice finish of body aches. And in the end, total exhaustion. And, possibly, a novel. That's the medicine.

This is where I'll chronicle it. So, I'm double damning myself. Write 50,000 words and journal about it at the same time. I need a Tylenol.