Day Thirteen: duhn duhn DUHN

Well, it finally happened. I’m hitting a wall. My word count has dropped and I’m struggling to get anything down on the page. But, you know what? I’m delighted. I thought my first two weeks were going a bit *too* well. And while I struggle now, I still get writing done, I still discover things about my characters, and details of my evolving plot. I understand  the theory of new project excitement, leading to boredom, leading to starting a new project (I am a crafter, as well, and have many “UFOs”). I get bogged down in wanting to do research rightnow, but I resist.

My writing book  companion this week has been The Architecture of the Novel, by Jane Vandenburgh. Her very first chapters spoke to exactly what I am accomplishing: getting to know my story by writing. it. I very nervously went on to her chapter on plot, but it continues to speak to the Seat Of Pants In Seat Of Chair logic I believe in.

One research path I followed this week (after my writing session) was Ruin Porn. This post has one thing to say, and while I may not agree with everything in it (History is a Bitch, in my opinion, and there’s not much you can do to stop the march of time. Rail at the government, rail at corporate policy, but get a new model of success for urban areas. One that doesn’t involve R.P.’s polar but equal opposite, Hope Porn), it does give me new things to think about and new blogs to explore on the subject of urban renewal for my beloved hometown.

After I finish writing for the day.

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Day Eight: word counts.

Here’s my M.O. Wait until the house is empty and I’ve taken a shower (I get my best ideas while shampooing. What’s up with that?) Get my iPod Touch going with some inspirational music (downloaded Charleston Chasers, Vol. 1 this morning…perfect!) Light a candle (didn’t do that today…had enough of candles after a 9-hour power outtage last night). Launch into the next scene. Write for about 5-10 minutes, then suddenly need to move. Today it was doing my youngest’s laundry (he put on his last clean pair of pants this morning). While moving, think about where I want/need to go next in my writing.

I’m working on a novel, BTW. One that’s been in my head about 20 years. In 2008, after a wonderful creative break at a luxury scrapbooking getaway called Creative Escape ❤ — on the plane ride home, actually…soon after I fell ill with a week-long head cold, if that had anything to do with my creative state on the plane, and I think it did! — I had a breakthrough in theme and character for this long overworked idea, and things started to slide into place. I had a two year-old, however, so I could only work on it in bits and pieces. But it was never far from my mind.

I try to keep track of my writing time each day, and I’m average 45 minutes to an hour (once I subtract my breaks for movement). Like I mentioned in Day Six, I wish I could write longer, but my youngest’s schedule must prevail. Today I added up not only what I’ve written in the past 9 days (Monday-Friday last week, and Monday-Thursday this week, so far: 7,500 words) but also what I wrote in a jag after our 2010 Florida vacation (see the first entry for this blog: April 2010), and I have a total of 12,000 words so far. That’s pretty amazing, considering I did 10,000 (which — sadly — I am mostly throwing out) when I worked on this novel for NaNo in 2005, and back then I typed it all in. Handwriting is considerably slower, but I prefer it.

One more morning writing session and I will take a break for the weekend. I may start typing up my work so far — I only did day one to see what a handwritten page equals in actual word count (about 200 per page…less than I thought).

Day Six: get. out. of. the. house.

That’s my attitude in the morning. To my kids (adding, “get. on. the. bus!”) as well as my husband. Hubs left early for tennis practice (yes, some days he leaves at 6 a.m. to play tennis…because it’s free at that time) and I did a happy dance before the kids came down for breakfast. Whoo-hoo! I almost have the house to myself! Don’t let the door…you know.

I started writing at 8:30a. and finished up just before 10a. It wasn’t non-stop, but all told I wrote for a full hour today. It went a lot smoother than yesterday, probably because I still had my coffee buzz on. I get the Jelly Roll Morton station on Pandora and let it fly. Six pages later, I had the scene I’ve been holding off writing for a while, because I just didn’t know the specifics of the situation. Until I hit flow state and it just came to me, rolling off the screen of my mind like watching a movie.

Now I’m realistic, I know this is a first draft and I’ll probably re-write this scene at least three times before I get it right, but I was happy to hit flow and get through it.

Days like today, I wish I could write longer, but the reality of a half-day elementary school child has to enter my conscience by 10a or I could be in trouble with said child (he does *not* like it when I’m late at pick up).

I wanted to keep yesterday’s entry short, so I didn’t write what I had notes on for Monday, but here it is: I went to Borders on Sunday. I think it was the last day of their “Last 3 Days” promotion going on. Prices were at 90% off, but the shelves were mostly empty. There was an indoor cherry-picker there working on disconnecting the light fixtures in the center of the store. The children’s section was completely empty. My usual “first haunts” — the craft and writing sections — had computer books propped up face-forward on the shelves.

It really hit home, that my home-away-from-home would soon be gone. I took dd with me, and she later told me (while I was putting her to bed) that she “needed a moment” just thinking about it. She was crying. I felt bad I ever took her there that day, but I told her it helped make Borders’ closing a reality for me.

I worked at 2 Borders stores, one near Detroit and one out near the legendary Store #1 when I moved west just before getting married. It was part-time in addition to my new full-time job at the publishing house. The publisher actually bragged that he had “stolen” me away from Borders (he always was a bit of a dork).

I fell in love with Borders long before I worked there; in 1989 I was recently returned from a trip to Ireland, where I was overwhelmed by the “European”-style super-bookstore layout, and delighted to find a new bookstore of my dreams right here in Novi, MI — the first Borders I ever went in to.

Borders folks, bookstore geeks in general, are my kind of people, and I am sad that so many old friends are losing their livelihood in a job that can’t be replaced. Good luck to all of them.

Day Five: in and out of flow

That’s right…there’s no Day Four. Don’t look for it. I was blindsided by my Monthly Migraine (TMI?) over the weekend, and flattened by 5 days of taking care of a sick child.

I *did* write on Friday, the “yooesh” (the “usual”…iCarly fans, anyone?). More importantly, I typed up what I wrote on Day One and got an accurate word count for The Yooesh…I’m averaging about 212 handwritten words on a page of college-ruled notepaper. Less than what I get on a typewritten, 1.5-lined page (250). So I decided to write 5 pages per day. Today I actually got in six, but it was pure quantity, not quality.

I’m expanding a scene I’ve written before — my protagonist’s first visit to a new apartment — but somehow managed to completely flip the building around and bring in new, confusing details that I’m not sure I’ll be keeping. After half a page, I stood up to walk around…it was not going right and I needed a break already, after just 5 minutes of writing! I read what I’d written previously on this scene, and realized I did not put in as much detail as I thought, so I let go and let the writing flow.

I had a note from last Friday for the blog: “saved knitting stuff = saved writing books.” I was going to talk about one of my favorite handicrafts and how I learned in 1992 (the time my story takes place, BTW) but then put all my new hobby purchases (needles, enough Rowan yarn for a complicated sweater, patterns, etc.) away for 12 years. At one point the whole box was in my garage (not the best place to store wool!) for about 6 of those years. Yikes.

Same thing, although more off and on and never in the garage, with my writing books. I have a small (3-shelf) bookshelf packed with various titles on writing, creativity, journaling, etc. The one I tried working with before, The Weekend Novelist, has disappeared; a bummer, since my most recent favorite writing book, Chapter After Chapter, recommends working with it. That’s the only missing book from my collection that seems to have been given away at some point…probably because I tried the process, and didn’t get a novel out of it.

The only thing that got a novel out of me — albeit a very short one! — was National Novel Writing Month. I “won” only one year out of 3 tries, and that is my “under the bed” novel — I have no desire to edit or work with it *at all.* It did teach me that I could do it…1,670 words a day for 30 days…and it got a lot of junk out of my head about what a novel “could” or “should” be (it was not the novel I’m working on now…I worked on this story the first year I did NaNo…and discovered a fantastic new character, but only got in 10,000 words instead of the 50,000 I needed…I was cheating anyway, working on “old” material).

So far I have not dreaded sitting down at my desk, not even on Friday, when the ghost of my migraine was trying to get in my head. I did write for well over an hour today and got in 2 extra pages, so I have reason to look forward to tomorrow. Again.

Day Three: just a little wrench in plans.

My daughter threw up at midnight last night; finally a reason to be happy that my husband suffers from insomnia. I was out cold and my daughter didn’t even attempt to come in and wake me…she saw the light on downstairs and went to get her dad, lying on the couch playing with his smartphone (aka The Binky).  The deal was done so all he needed to do was clean up, which he did admirably. Best of all, I got my beauty sleep. Seems kind of odd to be celebrating such a turn of events, but daughter is slowly recovering (and the doctor visit yesterday shows no signs of strep from the cultures taken) so we’re just letting things take their course. Fingers crossed that it isn’t mono — there is a rare outside chance of that, but we need to wait a couple of more days. Let’s hope for continued improvement!

Hubs also took youngest to school today…lil guy has twice been confused by a crowded bus and new bus hub where he has to listen for his “stop.” I promised to drive him in today, but with our overnight developments, hubs didn’t want to leave daughter alone and just dropped lil guy off on his way to work.

Which meant (a) I did not have to jump in the shower (although I should, immediately after breakfast) and (b) I had a chance (and grabbed it!) to crawl back into bed (this 5:30a wake-up time is for the birds, not me). Bad, bad writer.

Still — got my writing in. With both kids home, at 2p in the afternoon. It wasn’t smooth, it wasn’t un-interrupted (daughter suddenly wanted to take a shower…coughing up a lung…in my bathroom…three feet from my writing desk; lil guy wanted to switch online games he was playing…downstairs). I almost wimped out at the bottom of page two, and again about halfway through page 3 (of my 4-page a day goal), but plugged on through and almost — almost — didn’t want to stop there. I am taking Ernest Hemingway’s advice, and quitting in the middle of the action, so that I have somewhere to start the next day.

If I can keep up the 4-page goal in under an hour each day, I may just increase that goal. Do you have daily writing goals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Keep on keepin’ on.

Day Two surprise

Despite my daughter staying home from school today — yes, only the second day of school and I’m dealing with a sick child — I was able to get in a 45-minute writing session and meet my goal: 4 written pages, roughly 1,000 words (I still have to test that out by typing up what I’ve written so far).

I had a surprise in store…researching something that came up, a detail that just offered itself to me…swastikas, or rather, sauvastika: the mirror-image of the hated Nazi symbol, its right angles forming counter-clockwise Ls (the sauvastika). Apparently the Nazis subjugated the good-luck version (backwards Ls) and the counter-clockwise one meant the opposite:

“Some cultures in the past had differentiated between the clockwise swastika and the counter-clockwise sauvastika. In these cultures the swastika symbolized health and life while the sauvastika took on a mystical meaning of bad-luck or misfortune.”
(From about.com)

My characters encounter a sauvastika in the tiles on the floor of a foyer in an old apartment building (circa 1920s). I had a similar experience in Chicago, in the foyer of my sister’s apartment at the time. I can’t tell you if it was right- or left-facing, but I can tell you I had a very visceral reaction to seeing that symbol under my feet (mainly, “why haven’t they replaced this floor in the last 70 years?!”)

I came across a booth at the Ann Arbor Antiques Market two years ago that featured nothing but swastikas/sauvastikas…not just on Nazi paraphernalia (which was sparse, and hidden) but on Native American baskets and rugs (presumed Navajo) and American patchwork quilts. The man who owned the booth was well-versed on the reaction to such a symbol, and readily offered a deeper history of it as one of good luck. He insisted the counter-clockwise symbol (where the right angles form recognizable Ls) meant something along the lines of “Life, Love,” etc. However, being that this symbol is over 3,000 years old (predating the Egyptian ankh…and our alphabet), I’m going to have to decide which direction this symbol faces in my plot’s apartment building. It may mean a whole lot of difference between good and bad things having happened there.

My daughter is lying on the couch, (I think…if she were “laying” she’d have to be setting something else down, right? Like, laying eggs?! Oh, Grammar…you annoying bitch) making noises in her sleep as if she were battling evil. I just took her temperature — 102. Ugh. Which means no school tomorrow, either, but I know I can make my writing goal anyway.

And maybe find another surprise to research later.

I love writing.

Day One down

Today was the first day of school, and officially the first day of my “writing life.” Okay, first HALF day, since my youngest only does mornings. I was surprised by two things: my ritual for getting ready included reading over prior material (which was fresher than I remembered), and my goal (1,000 words…4 sheets of notebook paper, handwritten) only took me a half an hour. I sat there, stunned, then let myself accept that I had reached my goal quickly. Like getting into the pool, I’m okay with inching my way into this.

My only panic moment came as I sat there, pen poised, just before getting started. “Really?!” I thought. “Writer’s block already?!” Then I realized I just hadn’t decided on a scene yet. I had read through my (2!) outlines, each with conflicting paths, and choose to go with yet another restaurant scene (my protagonist is a waitress).

One of the delightful things I discovered in previous written scenes was that her BFF is a neat freak. It was fun to put in little references and habits of his that would drive a non-neat freak crazy.

I’m off to bed early; I was up at 5:30 a.m. to shower before my daughter got up to do the same. Unfortunately, she has a wicked case of laryngitis; she may not be going to school tomorrow…we’ll see how this affects my writing schedule…luckily she is 100% behind me on this writer-thing…it’s my husband I haven’t informed yet!