When I hit Save last night, after falling asleep in front of my laptop in the den and waking reluctantly at 2:00 a.m., my progress meter indicated that I was very, very near the 75% complete mark. This woke me up fully in an instant; I mean the cobwebs of sleep just flew off my eyes and I sat gaping at the screen. Not that long ago it felt as if I was spinning my wheels around thirty (or so) percent done going nowhere fast, and the little pie graph displayed on the Dashboard of WriteWay Pro was showing far more red than green. Now that little pie graph is much more green than red, and the official mark is 74.6%. I attribute this steady progress to the writing schedule I mentioned in a previous post, and to my (sometimes forced) ability to maintain that schedule. I set my target complete date for September 30, 2012, but at this rate I’ll be done with the rough draft a lot sooner which means I’ll be able to start revising, rewriting, and editing a lot early than I anticipated… possibly, I might have a pretty polished draft done before NaNoWriMo in November. I have the first half of the novel out to some dear friends who are serving as test readers for me, and I provided them with a vehicle by which they could give me some feedback that I’ll use during my revision process; they’re not doing copy edits for me or anything like that, they’re just reading the content and reacting to the story. Hence, if they come back to me and say, “I like it, but…” it’s the “but” I’m after for revision. I’m not sure if this is the way you do it; I seem to have not received my Official Novelist Handbook from the union, so I’m pretty much inventing this as I go along (Aside: there is, in fact, no such thing as an Official Novelist Handbook, and I don’t belong to any unions… I made that shit up… it’s what I do).
So to recap: what’s worked for me here is setting a schedule and sticking to it… imagine that. For the next novel I’m even going to go the extra step of creating a formal outline and trying to get myself a bit more organized at the gate before I start running the marathon. My plan is to then write the bare bones story during NaNoWriMo and then flesh it out to meet my word count goal. I’m not a big fan of reducing my creative act to something as quotidian as a word count, but it’s the only useful measure of progress I’ve got at my disposal and I’m certainly open suggestions. There is a page count option in WriteWay Pro, but that’s equally absurd in my eyes; it’s the reducibility (not a real word kids, but the kind of word created by efficiency experts and quality management consultants) of a creative act that I find absurd, by the way, and I could probably wax philosophical about this topic for hours… but I won’t… not this time anyway — we’ll put that in the back pocket for another time. Anyway…
I decided to change the template of the blog in favor of one I felt made the site easier on the eyes. I like the previous template okay, but honestly I selected it because it was black and at the time I felt it gave the site a feel of mild bad-assery… it’s all a part of the nerd psychology: you try and find a way to make yourself appear as bad-ass as possible even though in the end you know full well that there’s no hope… no hope at all — you’re still at home writing your blog, and the beautiful, popular people are out copulating in night club parking lots. So then all that’s left is for one to embrace their nerd-istic tendencies and make the blog easier to read… yet another tendency of the nerd psychology: I have shitty eyes, and most likely anyone who would be interested in reading the blog probably does too, so you do the considerate thing… The “black, beat poet uniform” is back hanging in the closet, and now you get the more casual and (hopefully) eye-pleasing minimalist design.
The fact that I’m writing a novel came up in conversation a few days ago. Yes, I was totally bragging and making statements of unabashed puffery about how arduous the whole experience was, yet also how fun. The person with whom I was conversing asked me where I got my inspiration for the novel and I froze like a chicken who accidentally waltzed into a Chik-Fil-A. I know there’s authors out there who relish this question, and then there’s authors who dread this question… I belong to the latter group. The little voice inside my head said, “Well, dumb-ass, here’s your chance to practice for the day some fool actually decides you’re worth interviewing,” but I just couldn’t seem to think of a good way to answer the question. Saying, “I totally made the whole shit up,” just doesn’t sound as dramatic and romantic as many people (I think) believe writing a novel is. I’ve got no streets of Paris, or alleyways of London; no great, expansive roads of southwest America, or exotic Caribbean beaches with which to season my creative process. I sit in my den (which looks a lot like a storage closet) with my laptop on a TV tray, and I unravel my story from my imagination and the things that interest me: a whole bunch of fantasy bullshit. Panicked, I decided that the best way to answer the question, and still save face, was to make the answer as cryptic as possible. My answer: “I dreamed the story and started typing when I woke up… I haven’t been able to stop typing since, because the story has possessed me.” Start snickering now… Hey man: I’m a Fantasy writer, what the fuck do you expect? Best of all, it worked… my answer got me an “Oooo,” and what more can you ask for?
In a lot of ways, “What’s your inspiration?” is an invasive question, and often the answer is very personal. In hindsight, I probably could have been a lot more honest and said that mostly it was the stuff I read and watched that inspired me to craft my tale, and probably that would have been a perfectly acceptable answer. I’ll chalk this episode up to proto-authorly anxiety and just move on with life… better luck next time.
Anyhow, off for burgers and ice cream. Cheers!