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A Finished Product, Sort Of

February 22, 2010 Comments off

It was a productive weekend, on the writing front, and I’ve finished a draft of my short story. I am not pleased with it yet – it is over-written, too long, and it lacks a center – so there is much yet to be done. In a perfect world, I would let it rest for a week or two, then return to it with a fresh pair of eyes for a heavy re-write. That can’t be the case, though, since the deadline for the journal submission is March one. I’ll need to keep plugging away and rely on the trusted criticism of my wife and friend to get this thing into a submit-able form.

It does feel good, though, to have a completed work. I sat down two weeks ago with an idea and a character, and a story grew from there. There were days when I knew that the direction was off, or that the writing was less than stellar. On those days I almost just scrapped the whole piece and went back to the novel. But I stuck with it and forced myself to finish for finshing’s sake.

I ended up with a 20-page story, and a fully resolved little plot. It is not great – maybe not even good – but I have something to work with.  Even if the piece I submit to the journal next week is not what I want it to be, I’ll still have a story that I can come back to at some later date to continue revising and polishing.

Today, I hope to take out 10% – 15% of the words. I need to re-work the opening to make sure that it more fully sets the emotional state of the narrator, and I need to weed out the elements that don’t lead to the conclusion the story found. That should fill an hour easily.

It will be the first day of this experiment that I spend editing. As an English teacher I edit constantly, so I I’m hoping that I’m good at this.

We’ll see.

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.

Nocturne

January 29, 2010 Comments off

An hour a day didn’t seem like much when I cooked up this scheme. There are plenty of ways each day that I waste an hour, I told myself. I can watch Manchester United and Arsenal not score any goals for 60 minutes without even feeling the time pass. I can read 50 pages of “Twilight” (143 adverbs) in 60 minutes. Hell, I’ve spent an hour standing in front of the pantry convincing myself not to eat another spoonful of peanut butter with chocolate chips.

If I can waste hours that easily, I should have no trouble finding time to make this plan work. An hour a day is not that much time. Yet, here I sit at 1 a.m. having just wrapped up writing for the day. I didn’t sit down to write until after 11:30 p.m. The day disappeared on me. I worry that this will happen too often. I might lose a lot of sleep in the next 12 months.

But I wrote well tonight. An hour seemed like too much time when I booted up the laptop at 11:30, but it flew by. If I didn’t have to get up in five hours to teach, I’d still be going strong now. I have long thought that I was a nocturnal being, and tonight is further proof. My mind is focused, my ideas are clearer, and the words come more easily when I work late.

This is something that I’ll need to remember as I move forward. If I ever hit a wall, a simple change in schedule might be enough to get the creativity flowing again.

But for now, it’s late. I need to sleep. I will turn off this laptop. I will put my head on the pillow. I will re-write tonight’s last three pages  16 times as I try to nod off.

Categories: night, success, writing Tags: , ,

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.