Yesterday (Sunday), I posted that I was going to finish my novel in 4 days. I knew from the get-go that it was a totally insane idea, but I didn’t realize how troubling it would actually be to try and pull off. Shortly after I posted that, I had to go help show a couple of apartments, and when I got back, I promptly slept for 4 hours. I woke up, wrote a little, then slept for 2 more hours. I woke up, wrote some more, walked about 5 miles, had lunch, then slept for 7 hours. It wasn’t inherent laziness — though I am inherently lazy — it was that every time I sat down to write, I looked at the task ahead of me and became exhausted at simply the thought.
Writing quickly became a dreaded thing, and even though I managed 2,000 words a day, I felt as if I wasn’t getting anywhere — which is ridiculous, because I almost never manage 2,000 words a day! I also felt that my writing was suffering for it. I was sucking every word out of every sentence that I possibly could (and that means adding words, if that wasn’t clear). I was driving for word count, not quality.
It was a fun exercise, and got me from 8,000 words to 12,000 (which is a 50% increase, for those who suck at math). If I can keep up 2,000 words a day, I’ll finish in two weeks, and that ain’t half bad. Maybe someday I’ll be to the point where I can write 8,000 words a day and have them all be excellence personified, but for now I’d rather write slowly and write well and appreciate the achievement of writing 2k/day, instead of seeing that as only 1/4 of a day’s work and becoming depressed about it.
I realized something today. One night last week or maybe before, I went on a writing binge. Over the night, about 6-8 hours, I spent 4h and 12m writing. During that 4:12, I wrote exactly 5,114 words (I keep a very specific writing journal). It averages out to 1,200 words per hour (I almost wrote minute, ha!).
And I thought at the time, “Hey, that means if I actually wrote full-time, y’know 8 hours a day, I could have my novel done in less than a week.” But then I thought “Hmm, yeah that would be interesting,” and proceeded to munch down mini-raviolis and drink lots of coffee while simultaneously trying to fall asleep.
In the form of lipstick on my neck
of blond hair on my shirt
In the form of words I should have kept
of words I should have learned
In the form of beer still on my breath
of ways I could have swerved
In the form of ink put on my chest
of violence, hate and blood
In the form of men I’ve laid to rest
of tears and prison mud
In the form of days I’ve eaten dust
of times I’ve prayed to god
In the form of chains I finally left
of aching hearts that yearned
In the form of words she always kept
of words I never earned
In the form of love that starts again
of lessons finally learned
“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues
that in some way will be translated back into your work.”
James Lee Burke
“Everything is a rejection of you, not your product,
or your script, or a cosmetic. It’s you.”
“I submit all my plays to the National Theatre for rejection.
To assure myself I am seeing clearly.”
On Sunday, June 5, I got my first rejection letter (email) in what is probably close to, or possibly exceeding, 3 years. I think the last rejection letter I got was from a low C-level movie production company that I’d sent a really horrible movie treatment to. I was 16 and quite retarded. To be clear, I’ve never had an acceptance letter – so this isn’t the end of some amazing three-year streak for me or anything. I just haven’t submitted anything to anyone in 3 years.
I can hear the angel dying,
as she sings her awful tune
Somewhere higher than this mountain,
there’s a god I’m climbing to
And he’s staring at the angel,
and he tries to mourn for her
But he can’t because the devil
ground up all his tears to burn
And I curse him as I clamber
higher up the mountain fold
If I reach him, I will kill him
for the angel’s life he stole
And the whisper of the winter
coming down on me like rain
As I climb, I climb forever,
still I climb to just remain
But I know that somewhere yonder,
I’ll find o’er this mountain top
A higher slope and there I’ll falter,
and the angel’s song won’t stop
For about a month now, I’ve been outlining a script with the working title The Long Road. The story is set in a small Northern California town, and focuses on police corruption and murder. However, I’ve recently gotten back into the world of novel writing, and as it will be at least a couple years before I can get the script produced (either by myself or others), I’ve decided to take a crack at this story in novel form. It may completely fall apart in this manner, or it may truly thrive.
Either way, I’m setting pen to paper (figuratively) and trying my hand. The outline is almost done. After a few cups of coffee and a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats sans milk, I’m close to the second turning point, which will lead into the third act. This will be the first novel I’ve ever thoroughly outlined (second novel written), though the outline was somewhat accidental in that I didn’t intend for it to be a novel. I’m hoping this will streamline the writing process, or at least prevent writer’s block from delaying me.
As I said in parenthesis above, this will be the second novel I’ve written. The first I wrote when I was about 14 years old. That was a fantasy epic that, while cliche, was actually well-written in my opinion. Unfortunately, I lost it to a computer crash about a year after I finished it. Don’t blame me for not backing it up – I was 14! But you win and lose, and ultimately I’m not really sad that I lost the novel (about 2 years’ work). It would be nice to have still, but mostly as a memory and less as something to work on. The story was kind of a lame version of every fantasy book I’d read or movie I’d watched (mainly The Lord of the Rings and Eragon which were two big inspirations at the time).
On the topic of outlining, is that common among novel writers? I know many of you prefer to “just write,” but how far do you get before you have to map out where you’re going? Or do you start cold with an outline (detailed or rough?) and wait till it’s finished to set down the first word of your book? As a side-note (you’ll find lots of side-notes in my posts, as well as lots of parentheses), when I talk of novels I’m also referring to novellas, novellettes, any work of literary prose really.
See his footsteps fading
where he made them
the thund’ring din
There is stranger triumph
gained in trying
His steely gaze
a fight to lose
For against that mountain
he had a purpose
To fall in glory
and in failing win
His name will never
But by that thing
he never moved.
Michael Traven, 2011