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Words Per Minute

February 4, 2010 Comments off

It must mean something that I am far more excited each day to write my novel than I am to write for this blog. It’s a bit of a stretch coming up with pithy commentary each day, especially after I’ve already cramped my phalanges with an hour of storytelling.

I planned to write this blog because I thought it would help me get the most out of the writing process, though, so I do not want to abandon this piece of the effort. The point of this blog is metacognition. I’ve waited too long to start writing. I have had stories in my head for years and have always found a way to put off writing them. Having found the motivation to finally begin, I feel like I need to expedite my growth as a writer by publicly sharing what the writing process does and means to me.

So this is what I’ve got for today:

All in all it was a good one.  I only wrote 500 words or so, but I crafted a fun scene and got through some tough dialogue.

I sat down to write this novel with no outline, but with a very good sense of the overall plot arch in my head. I knew the main characters (though not their names), I knew the general structure the story would follow, and I knew the key points of conflict and climax. I chose not to write a rigid outline, because I wanted the narrative to develop organically and to get a real sense of who I am as a writer. That paid off for the first time a few hours ago.

That was when I found that the story has taken an exciting turn. I reached a point in the plot I had not foreseen – a point that makes perfect sense and helps develop all three of my main characters while at the same time defining the conflicts between them. It’s also a point of increased action – fast-paced and intense – one of those parts of a book that as a reader I fly through and re-read to be sure I got it all.  It was an un-planned scene, and it was fun to write.

It was an interesting day as a storyteller. My greatest frustration was that I couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with the ideas in my head.  I know that that can’t continue every day, but if I had never started this project, today would never have happened.

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Web of Procrastination

February 1, 2010 1 comment

On Saturday night, I wrote for an hour, and came up with four words. Four. That’s not even a tweet.

I tried. Really, I tried. I added a few sentences to the novel I’ve begun, and they were such tripe that all I could do was delete them. I couldn’t think while I stared at the screen, so I closed the file, and opened a blank document. I titled it (it’s a short story that I want to submit to a literary journal), and stared again. I knew the direction I wanted the plot to go, but I couldn’t find a hook that would make the premise plausible.

Ultimately, I spent the hour on the Internet, digging around on Google maps of Northern Italy and reading about the intricacies of the Columbus, Ohio city council. By the end of my 60 minutes, I had found a plausible way to present my short story, and the plot started to blossom in my head.

Lesson: 60 minutes of writing does not necessarily equal 60 minutes of typing.

But there’s a caveat. When I sat down to write today, the inspiration didn’t immediately flow. I almost threw it in again – I got so far as to open Firefox and start typing in the url. I stopped myself. I didn’t want to allow myself to get in a rut of distraction and non-productivity. The end result: I got passed the linguistic morass that was slowing me up, and hammered out a good 650 words. Another day down, another 1/150th of a novel written.

525,600

January 26, 2010 3 comments

I saw “Rent” too many years ago, but I can still remember the first time I heard the song “Seasons of Love.” It’s a great song, if a little thick on the Broadway schmaltz. I like it best because, thanks to its lyrics, I now always know exactly how many minutes are in a year.

That matters to me today, because I’m starting a bit of an intimidating journey. It’s a journey that I’ve been planning for a few months, that I should have started long ago. It will be lonely and painful and unheralded. It might not be rewarding. It won’t be lucrative. It will be worth it.

I hope.

The journey will take exactly 525,600 minutes. It starts in the dark, in the back office of a journalism classroom in central Michigan, a week after the biggest snowstorm in decades. I hope that it will continue on into a dark warehouse in Sarnia, Ontario; a farmer’s market in Lansing, Michigan; a ferry-boat in Genoa, Italy.

The plan is simple: I will write every day for one hour. I will blog about the experience here. I will try to get published, but I will focus on the craft – not the business.

I started today. I found an empty computer lab on the second floor of DeWitt High School, I turned off my cell phone, I set an on-line stopwatch to count down from 1:00:00, and I wrote. The results: 764 words, 2.5 pages, and the prologue to a novel that has been in my head for three years.

I was excited for today. I wanted to be able to call myself a writer. I wanted to see if I had what it takes to get all these thoughts on the page. I do. Or, at least, I did today. The excitement melted, turned to nervousness as the computer booted up, boiled into a flurry of words, and has reduced down to a simmering apprehension now. What will I think tomorrow when I look back at what I wrote? What if my great idea is crap on the page? What if all the planning and excitement is emptiness? Why do I sound like a self-loathing, angst-ridden beatnik when I’m only 85 minutes into this process?

Those are rookie fears on opening day, and I need to get past them. I wouldn’t have started this process if I didn’t think it would be a valuable addition to my life.

Besides, I’ve read the first half of “Twilight.” I’ve seen five adverbs in one sentence of a best seller. If that can get published, then so can I.

I have 525,515 minutes to make it happen.