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Thursday
April 17, 2014
6:54pm EDT


Rated: 13+ | Book | Other | #1851669
Come watch what happens when someone gives up and writes their first novel.
  In 1994, I quit studying business in order to follow what seemed, at that time, the only field that truly interested me: creative writing.

Almost twenty years later, In October 2011, at the age of forty, after years of procrastination and fear, I threw in the towel and started writing a novel.

This blog will follow my thoughts and processes as I move from a rough draft of 120,000 words to submission to publishing houses, and, hopefully, beyond.

Why would I do any of this? Please read.
March 28, 2012 at 11:56pm
March 28, 2012 at 11:56pm
Sugary sweet is not so good.
The going is slow and painful, but there are times--beautiful, golden moments--where I feel godlike, and wish I could remain there always.

Then, there are other times, like now. I have just realized that, in order to do justice to this novel, I am going to have to swallow my pride and dive into all that j-pop that surrounded me in my first years in Japan. I have, tonight, revisited three Morning Musume songs. I seriously hope this does me no long-term damage. Must balance with Sepultura and Rize.
March 24, 2012 at 6:26pm
March 24, 2012 at 6:26pm
A quick update
I got a new computer! An E-Machine desktop. BIG screen, so I can do some serious editing and revising now, without being hunched over and squinting at my laptop (which, to be fair, I love, and got me through the last five years of writing).

Everything is going well, except for one hitch: I load the yWriter software onto the new computer, and it runs fine but when I load the novel, all the information seems to be there until I load a scene--it comes up blank, and then automatically saves as an empty scene! Argh.

So, as a stop gap until I figure out the software problem, I am loading scenes and chapters onto Google Docs and editing there. It's working out well.

The actual process of revising the first chapter is both invigorating in terms of opening new ideas and solidifying hunches, but also SLOW--too slow. I have until the end of next month to finish the first draft. Before the, I hope to start positing chapters for review.

There's that little voice in my head, again, saying the writing is no good. I am no good at long narratives. must.not.listen
March 14, 2012 at 9:44pm
March 14, 2012 at 9:44pm
Procrastination sounds good.
Things are crawling snail's pace. Trying to incorporate some short stories into the novel, and that's taking a long time--and then, once it's added, I have to wonder if the tone matches the rest of the novel, or am I going to have to spend huge amounts of time getting it just right.....

Argh.

I know I set myself to finish shaping this sucker by the end of March. Halfway through now, and not halfway through the shaping.

Argh.

Don't want to do this. Procrastination sounds good. More Call of Duty would be fun. Good night.
March 10, 2012 at 5:56pm
March 10, 2012 at 5:56pm
The lie you tell yourself.
Yesterday, between teaching lessons at the job I hate, I worked on combining scenes into a narrative structure. The going was slow. By the end of the day, I was depressed. I walked out, hating my job, dreading the thought of returning the next day, and scared I might have to do this for another year.

That's when I realized I'd been lying to myself.

I want to believe that this novel means nothing to me. It is my first novel, and I know that, because of my lack of experience and skill in composing long narratives, it will suck. Because I am an unknown writer with no connections, it will in all likelihood not sell--at least, not enough to make a living from. The scenes are not jelling the way I would love them to. Logically, I know all of this, and am distancing myself from the work already, treating it, mentally, as a project that just needs finishing before such-and-such deadline. My previous metaphor was giving birth so I could abandon it by the roadside.

It is, I am convince, the only way this nit-picky, obsessive-compulsive manic-depressive will finish this ogdamnd story!

BUT, there's that little worm eating my brain, leaving behind it's excremental whisperings: "It could be big. It could be famous. It could get you out of this job and out of the terrible situation you are in. It could save you. Yes, it could." And that just depresses me further, because I know the odds. I know the craft. I know a good novel when I read it. This isn't one of them.

God, this battle with yourself, that every writer must go through, I guess--this constant fight to trick yourself into believing one way or the other, just to get to the end of the story, while at the same time knowing you are tricking yourself--it's taking its toll. Combined with the stresses and depressions of my normal life--which are not insignificant by the way, and are doing nothing for the creative process or helping keep me productive--the stress and depression caused by this stage of the writing is affecting me physically, I think. I have nerve pains in my hands and a tension in my abdomen that won't go away. I sleep little, and have low energy.

I've got to get more done today. I have scheduled an hour where I have no lessons, but have told the wife I do, just to get me out of the house and into a work space. I have to do this. I have until the end of the month to get this hulking block of clay into something resembling a mountain. After that, when I start editing, I can sculpt the details.

Argh argh argh. Argh argh argh.
March 8, 2012 at 7:39pm
March 8, 2012 at 7:39pm
A minor breakthrough, and understanding the time constraints
Had a minor breakthrough in terms of speed. Riding the train home the other night, I set up the timeline as a series of consecutive chapters arranged at six-month intervals. Now, I am able to shunt various scenes into their respective chronological slots. Yes, it sounds horribly sterile, but it has been helping. I'd been struggling to first shunt the scenes into approximate places relative to one another, and that required a lot of mental juggling.

I may change the order, though. I am not sure whether to arrange this novel chronologically or in terms of emotional resonance: both depend on memory, and this idea is picking at me recently.

Why the hurry? I must work fast, or not at all.

Consider this morning, before this blog entry: from 6 to 9 a.m., I woke up son, put away futons, arranged the living room so we could all eat breakfast there, put away laundry, hung laundry, ate breakfast, did the dishes, got son off to school, answered emails from work, took out the garbage, did some student reports, vacuumed, wrote a letter to the wife, sent some essay topics to a student, shaved, and hung more laundry. I am busy. This afternoon, I hope to have a couple of hours to work on integrating scenes into some kind of narrative.

Maybe I will drink a beer tonight if I finish the following tasks: take old vacuum to electronics shop, buy a picture from for son's award, buy yellow garbage bags, prepare pyjamas, set up coffee pot for tomorrow morning, do the ironing, and send another student report--oh, and teach two private lessons.
March 5, 2012 at 8:05am
March 5, 2012 at 8:05am
Plodding Along
Slow day on the novel front today. Hours taken up with catching up on a few incidentals I let slide during the four months of drafting the novel: son's English education, retirement funding, and a broken tooth.

Last day teaching one of my night classes at a local company, which means I will have two free hours each week. I had planned on hiding the fact from my family so I could leave "for work" as usual, take the netbook to a family restaurant, load up on coffee, and write, write, write. Unfortunately, I volunteered the information when it came up that son would be having wrestling practice on that night, so I could take him. Well, they switched the night soon after that. Foiled again!

I did manage to get all the scenes for the first chapter integrated into something resembling a narrative scheme, and most of the scenes for the third chapter collected into one file. This is going slower than I would hope. Perhaps it is better to go slow at the beginning, to make sure of having a solid foundation, or perhaps I am just kidding myself.

Thank God I am not hoping to make any money from this. There is the faintest of fantasy's running around my mind that some publisher will pick up this book, love it, market the sh!t out of it, and make me millions, so I can stop this job, pay off my student loan debt, pay for son's university, invest the rest, and write for the rest of my days. BUT I know all the biographies of ever writer I ever respected, and that never, ever happened to them, so ... fantasies are nice, but I don't want them in my head right now. I want to finish this goddamn thing and get it out of my head, maybe work on another one soon after that--give birth to this baby, and just leave it by the roadside so I can be on my way, a little lighter and a lot faster, though hounded by regrets.
March 3, 2012 at 7:06am
March 3, 2012 at 7:06am
A good start
Teasing some structure out of this mess helped me get the start solid, and from that find a new thread to pull through the rest of the story--an interesting thread, one that I hadn't considered before, but now that it is there in front of me, makes me wonder I never did think of it before.

Feels like this process is going too slow, though. I've given myself until the end of March to get the novel into something like a coherent story.

Why the rush?

Many reasons. I will start writing my second textbook in May, so I'd like to get the bulk of the novel finished before then. Also, I need to set a deadline, otherwise I will procrastinate endlessly--Call of Duty online is just too fun for me. Another reason is simply that if I don't push myself to reach that "good enough, it's past deadline" point and stop writing, then I will never, ever stop working on this thing. God, I hate that about myself, but I will revise something to death, mostly because I have no taste.
March 2, 2012 at 4:47am
March 2, 2012 at 4:47am
Finding the shape
Today I spent the day trying to give some shape to the mass of words I've written. This amounted to drawing up the following charts:

1) Novel structure
2) Development of idea of relationicity through character development
3) Integration into culture
4) Colors

Of course, these are lain over the already developed time line, though I had to spend about half an hour today just trying to figure out exactly when the first scene took place, and what happened before that and when--and I am no good at math.

Basically, I find myself resembling the character Roy Neary of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, after his encounter with aliens, when he's sitting at the dinner table and starts sculpting something out of the mashed potatoes. "This is something," he says, not sure what he is sculpting. "This is important." I have a big wad of mashed potatoes on my plate, and I am just trying to sculpt it into some shape--while I have more and more difficulty focusing on everything else around me. This novel, and trying to find the shape of it, is all I can think about, even though I taught five lessons and went to a school graduation ceremony for my students--during the whole ceremony, as I smiled, my mind was obsessing over finding a shape for this story.

If I can find the shape, I can find the true, interesting story.

Decided to change the main character's wife's sister into a brother.

More development of idea of Signfier--Society--Signification as model of Father--Wife--Son relationship/relationicity.

Nixing characters trip to U.S. post 9/11. Will be related through some ancillary characters.

Because some conversation about "natural law" today, against homosexual marriage, pissed me off, I am hoping to include some denunciation of the idea into the novel--somewhere.

Main character has, I decided, scorned another woman, and she is going to try to get revenge.

When did Lehman Brothers collapse?
March 1, 2012 at 12:57am
March 1, 2012 at 12:57am
The tools
Start with the fundamentals.

I hate the work of writing. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

Let me repeat: I hate writing.

I hate sitting down and getting those words out of my head, because no matter how brilliant they are floating around in my skull (and they are brilliant), they always fall dead on the screen.

So, what did it take for me to get 120,000 words out of my head? It wasn't alcohol. Tried that before, and it didn't work. I will detail the tools in a moment, but the main thing that pushed me was the fact that I am deathly afraid my current employment is all I will be known for. I need people to read my ideas and just once say, "Whoa."

Now, the tools:

1 Acer Netbook
Ywriter Software by Spacejock
Self-set deadline for five months

"Wait, what about the idea for the story?" someone might say.

I've got lots of those. What I don't usually have is focus and the drive to finish a story.

The netbook got me away from the small, dark room I had been writing in for the past few years. Needed to write on the train, at work between lessons, and at any opportunity. Netbook did that, and did it wonderfully.

Ywriter software helped, and is helping tremendously. If you don't know it, check it out. My thoughts don't work narratively, so I needed something to organize my ideas AFTER I got them out. This software lets me enter scenes, with titles and descriptions, which I can then reorganize however I'd like later.

Also, with the deadline and estimated word count, the Ywriter software set me a daily word count. Through this I found I really did like meeting and then exceeding the daily goal. It was a little thing, but it helped.

At first, the daily word count gave me a goal. Watching that total word count creep up to merely 1 or 2% after a week of writing--didn't work for me. But watching the daily word count decrease did give me a sense of accomplishment.

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