Archive for February 2014

Writing instead of writing

February 14, 2014

Listen, I’m not going to sit here and toot my own horn…much. I mean, the whole purpose for me to have a blog in the first place was to work on honing my writing so that I could make a run at something more ambitious, something you’d want to get as a gift and read in places other than the bathroom. And by run, I mean a drunken snail’s pace toward an unknown finish line.  And that’s exactly where I’m at.

Over the past four months, I’ve been working on the first draft of my first book. It sounds…not really impressive, I know. Four months? What, am I writing a review of some game or movie I encountered a couple dozen years ago? Something to get someone’s attention somewhere so they’ll ask me to agonize over writing something monthly, or worse, weekly? Yeah, not so much.

Understand that when I say I’ve been working on the first draft of this creation, I mean that I spent about two weeks last November crushing out the requisite 50k words for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated), and then slapped a few sentences together every other week or so until the story had the rough shape of what I wanted from it.

About a month ago, I got a wild hair (read: got bored) and decided to start an epilogue and prologue to my unfinished story. I thought it was a fun romp and it gave one of the characters a vehicle for venturing onward, if The Lazy and I can ever come to an agreement that means I’ll ever attempt to slog my way through writing another book. It did not, however turn out as I had planned.

Here’s the thing about creating something, from my admittedly limited perspective: it’s kind of like mad science. In my case, being the socially eclectic kind of person I am, I started slapping pieces and parts of life together from things I’ve seen, experienced directly or vicariously or simply wanted to try. What was born out of that process was rather like hooking Dr. Frankenstein up with Jim Carrey’s green alter-ego in The Mask. You may think it would be great to create something with the torso of Dwayne Johnson, the head of Peter Griffin from Family Guy and the arms of Verne Troyer, because hey, Human Tyrannosaur. Who wouldn’t like that? My proofreader, that’s who.

In the first email exchange we had after I sent her my first draft, I actually read the first few paragraphs and had to abandon the email for a few days. When someone starts outlining all of the things you feared were wrong with your project, the tendency is to protect your creation, to crawl into a hole and pout about not being able to create perfection on your first try, even though you knew there were issues that would need addressing. Well, at least that’s how an immature person like me reacts. I got over my pouting fit after a few days and realized that she simply wants to help me perfect what I’ve already done. And I honestly should feel good that I knew the problems she outlined existed before she addressed them to me directly.

Don’t get me wrong, she likes the clay I’m working with. She’d just like for me to give it some more definition and color than when it came out of the bag. That is how clay arrives, right? Bags? I can’t imagine ordering clay and having it arrive in a cardboard box full of packing foam bits. Regardless, she has given me some very valid points to ponder, as well as constant encouragement about the entire process.

Apparently, completing the first draft is supposed to be the most difficult part. And it really helps to have someone review my progress who has no vested interest in it other than to see me succeed and possibly be a note in the thanks or dedication section of the (hopefully) published end result. Still, I find myself doing more talking about what I’m going to do to make the story more enjoyable, coherent and cohesive than actually writing it.

I know it’s ridiculous, but I think I love the idea of this story more than actually doing the work to make it happen. That’s The Lazy talking, I know, but he can be very persuasive. Sometimes, however, his wiles fail to work their seductive magic on me. There are those moments when I stomp upstairs to my office and face two desks: one for gaming and one for writing. My mouth pouring out the idea that I plan on doing nothing that seems like work, I sit down and find that I can’t enjoy anything that is supposed to distract me from writing. So I wander the house, or visit this blog, wondering what the problem is when the problem is clearly me and my tendency to think that I’ve got all the time in the world to complete this project. Those are the times I reluctantly slide over to the writing desk and start taking those raw chunks of story and massage them into some semblance of a cohesive and enjoyable story.

Next week, Achebeyo and I are off to dive with sharks and bask in weather not summoned by ice-loving shut-ins. I hate trying to type on a tablet, but if I want to keep the new ideas that spawned as a result of my proofreader’s comments I’ll need to stay on task or risk losing these new ideas to the sun, the sea and late-night karaoke. But really, could you blame me if I take another break? Says The Lazy. I really need to evict that guy from my head.

Tending the cobwebs

February 5, 2014

Wow. This place. I had almost forgotten it existed. I mean, I knew it was here, silently mocking me with goals I had set for myself and deliberately avoided for various reasons that only make sense to another lazy person. But yeah, this place…

Originally, I started this blog as a way to exercise my fat, lazy grey matter in an effort to motivate myself enough to write something serious. Now don’t get your feathers all in a soggy bunch, bloggers. What many of you do in your personal spaces far exceeds anything I could pump out if I had a team of non-lazy assistants constantly nagging me to get my fingers in gear and type something. You’re informed, you’re witty and you make me laugh and think.

When I say I wanted to motivate myself to write something serious, I meant any one of the numerous writing projects I start and then hide in a pile of old clothes that don’t fit me and hope that something seeps onto the pages I’ve abandoned from the wardrobe items I’ve abandoned. You know, misery loving company and all. Enter NaNoWriMo last year.

For those who aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, where you sign up and have the entire month of November to procrastinate writing an entire book. Fifty thousand words is the goal, and for those who write every day, it’s an easily achievable goal. For me, it was a lesson in how motivated I can get in the first and last week of the contest. But the end result was the same as everyone else who “won” last year: I put at least 50k words down on digital paper, skating in on the deadline with about 4 hours to spare.

The experience taught me many things, not the least of which is I write better when I’ve got white noise pumped into my brain pan, and that I really can write effectively when I just sit down and do it. Interestingly enough, The Lazy just reminded me that I then spent the following two months “editing” my unfinished book. Editing in this case means pouring over the first few pages a dozen times, changing character names and correcting grammatical errors I happened to spot. It was a way to not complete the project in its entirety. I’m nothing if not lazily predictable.

After several weeks of goading by friends, Achebeyo and one of my writing buddies, I got back to it like a child to volunteer-housework. I knew that my characters were sitting in their places, rolling their eyes every time I sat down and started “editing” again. I also knew it wouldn’t be long before the entire thread of where I wanted to take my story would fray and snap and I’d be left with angry characters doing nothing but ranting about how bad everything in their lives sucked. You know, a reflection of my own fears and frustrations.

A few weeks ago, the house was empty, except for me and Princess Pukatronic (the cat). When I went upstairs to immerse myself in distractions, nothing worked. I tried logging into online games I love to play, but the idea of lighting some digital representation of a douchebag in his parents’ basement up with electricity from the fingertips of my favorite game-toon just wasn’t holding water like it usually does. The unfinished story was glaring at me with undisguised contempt. I caved to its baleful attentions.

In two days, and roughly 6-8 hours of solid writing, I did what all of my inner voices said I couldn’t do: I finished the story. Granted, there are elements that need to be revisited, and things that need to be shored up or shaved down, but I think the basic first draft has a good handle on what I want to do, not only with this book, but (gasp) future books. I know, I may want to see a doctor and find out what happened.

Right now, the project is in the capable hands of one of my mentors for proofreading and notes. She’s admitted that she’s taking it slowly, so I’m not certain when I’ll get it back. For the moment, I’m keeping myself occupied by imagining all the book signings I’ll be forced to endure, and what I’ll say to people who actually think my story resonates with them. I’m pretty sure it’ll go something like this:

Them: You know, this book really changed my life. I now know what I need to do with myself.

Me: When you figure that out, can you come back and tell me so I have an idea for what I need to do??

Thanks to anyone who stuck around to see if I’d ever toss letters into this space again. I honestly appreciate it…even if I don’t show up enough to remind you.


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