Daily creative anguish, just for you!
Monday, October 31, 21:05 – 0 words (0) – Ugh, let’s do this again.
So there we are, eleven years later and still without much of a plan. From 2001 to 2010, I was a devoted National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) participant — writing a 50,000+ words novel in a blistering haze every November. That habit didn’t survive the lifestyle changes of becoming a parent, but eleven years later, well, why not try it again? I haven’t written any fiction in a while, and I’ll be fun (they said).
My plan, as laughable as it is, is entirely inside my head at the moment. In order to get back into the habit of writing fiction, I’m taking it easy this year — I’m aiming for a short (50-60,000 words) comic novel about a domain of professional interest. While “Write What You Know” is rotten advice for the kind of Science Fiction novels I used to write, it’s pretty good for those just wanting to produce a first draft without getting into an endless bog of research and world-building. I have a rough synopsis in mind, although the later plot beats are sketchier than the first. Oh well — we’ll find out as we go.
Something new this year: I’m writing in English. A combination of comfort and subject matter: My topic is technical and very geeky, so English is going to spare me from endless research breaks to look up the proper translation that no one ever uses in reality. Alas, English is 15% more compact than French, so it means I’ll have to go faster if I’m to be done in time. I’m also writing live on the web — you can read the results, day by day.
Tuesday, November 1, 21:45 – 2,760 words (+2,760) – Let’s go!
Oooof, that was laborious. There was a lot of procrastination before sitting down to write (why did I decide to retemplate my entire site all of a sudden? By the end of this month, the entire house will be cleaned and decluttered.), and I had a momentary flash of panic as I was getting closer and closer to the actual act of writing… but we’re finally underway with the prologue and first chapter I’ve been ruminating on for the past few days. I’m definitely rusty, but I’m taking slightly more time to churn out prose that’s not strictly utilitarian. Choosing to do some character building through song is not the most obvious choice (and it’s clearly slower to write rhymes) but it’s more fun than I expected. I’m only up to half of Chapter One so far — hopefully I get the introduction wrapped up tomorrow and then we go on to the fun and games.
Wednesday, November 2, 23:59 – 4,365 words (+1,605) – Still introducing
A bit more procrastination today — although, if you’re counting milestones, this is the first day in my NaNoWriMo history where I started writing after the kid went to bed. I’m still in the last two-third of the first chapter, which is really not bad news at all: I was worried I didn’t have enough plot to go around but if I’m still introducing at this point, I’m not so worried now about crossing the 50,000-words threshold. I also had another song to write today, which also slowed me down. (One last one to go!) But otherwise, not too bad — two more characters introduced, the prose is not terrible and some upcoming things are clarifying. I even made productive use of procrastination, emptying the dishwasher while working out a few lines of lyrics. (I also knocked down 2,500 words of movie reviews between 17:00 and 21:00, so my day was quite a bit better than merely meeting the daily NaNoWriMo threshold of ~1666 words. I also did groceries and fine-tuned some more of my new web site design so it’s not as if I dawdled through the evening.) Tomorrow, we should get out of the first chapter and into some hard-hitting information systems development action. To keep me honest, I sent the novel’s URL to a few friends and colleagues during the day: even if they never look at it, it’s one more push to produce daily.
Thursday, November 3, 23:59 – 6,940 words (+2,575) – Almost done introducing
I’m still in my introductory chapter, but relatively pleased at the result so far — although my word count feels far too high — I suspect that the word counter in WordPress is counting HTML code as words, which means a significant overcount. I’ll check it out tomorrow. Otherwise, I’m settling into an interesting routine — critical writing before 9pm (1544 words today!), creative writing from 9pm to midnight, and a little bit of productive procrastination along the way. (Such as, tonight, balancing my budget for October rather than working on web design.) I stopped myself at midnight (enough sleep is crucial for productive writing), at the beginning of the last of the novel’s musical numbers. Once again, I can feel the pieces slowly falling into place as I go on, which is the big sugar high of creative writing.
Friday, November 4, 23:33 – 8,821 words (+1,881) – Good news and mild
I took it easy today — churned in the minimal number of words, wrapped it up well before my midnight deadline and didn’t worry too much. It’s the weekend! Not that I’m all that satisfied with the result: I wrapped up Chapter One with one big joke (one that came to me overnight, so there was an advantage in not writing the entire song yesterday) and began chapter two with some necessary exposition. There’s an action sequence planned for tomorrow (or rather– as much of an action sequence as you can have with coders), and the plot will become a bit clearer along the way. Still, a day’s writing is a day’s writing, and I’m closer to the end! The good news of the day, however, are better than I thought: I copied the novel-so-far from WordPress to Word to find out how far off the word counter was from my usual word-processor, and it turns out that WordPress, far from over-counting the HTML tags, slightly under-counts (by something like .5%) compared to Word. Which means that the word totals you see here are the right ones — and I seem to be hitting my daily targets rather easily.
Saturday, November 5, 23:17 – 10,078 words (+1,257) – Not much, but some
I could have done more today, but decided not to push myself. I spent the day running around, had some connectivity problems (the unfortunate aside of writing online) and wanted to keep myself some time to watch a film I’d been looking forward to, so I put down much of the essential build-up for Chapter 2’s main sequence and called it a day. Much more in store for tomorrow — which should take me beyond Chapter 2 and well into Chapter 3.
Sunday, November 6, 21:22 – 14,196 words (+4,118) – Now that’s more like it
Today took a while to get started, but once I got into it (after the last of the wintering work outside the house, and some domestic chores.) I was able to finish Chapter 2 and begin Chapter 3 (which is largely self-contained). Plot pieces were moved for the next few chapters, a rather satisfactory rant was completed and more characterization was thrown in. More than anything else, though: I beat the daily minimum average twice over, which is excellent news at this stage. This is how writing days should go! I could go on… but I’m taking a movie break.
Monday, November 7, 23:52 – 16,165 words (+1,969) – A fine day
There’s some irony in describing this day as merely a fine day as the day’s writing included a character going around a hotel room and noting all the way in which it was a fine hotel room — not too good, not too bad. Much of the day’s writing wasn’t particularly exciting — merely setup for the next two days’ worth of plot. Still, those were nearly two thousand words done, and a necessary stepping stone to the next phase. Of note: I wrote in two chunks (with a movie in-between), which proved to be a good idea, as I mulled the next few steps while watching the film. As I complete the first week of writing, I seem to be on-track to finish by the end of the month with a decent short novel — both in word-count and in density of plot, I’m where I wanted to be.
Tuesday, November 8, 23:35 – 18,477 words (+2,312) – One major plot point down
Today was a tricky one. I did have all the advantages on my side (early start, clear idea of where I was going, few distractions), but I still had to make my way past a crucial scene and end up at one of the key plot points of the novel. It turned out… okay. There are one or two paragraphs I like, and I finally made my way past one plot hump. It’s time for a break, though: Tomorrow is going to shift in a different gear, and I need to figure out how I’m going to manage a shift in perspective. (or, rather, how I’m going to manipulate my viewpoint character so he can see the action, as I have apparently limited myself myself to a single viewpoint character at a few showy exceptions.) It does strike me that I have stopped right at a cliffhanger point, which should make my daily readers (if there are any) shivering with anticipation at what’s next. Much like the American midterm elections haven’t resolved much at this point.
Wednesday, November 9, 23:59 – 20,470 (+1,933) – Less funny, less wordy
Still in the tricky zone (which may be a constant for the rest of the novel, considering what’s lined up.) Today did not turn out as I had anticipated, but that’s OK — my intention was to subvert the codes of mystery crime fiction. I’ve done that… but the question is whether I’ve done so in a way that will be entertaining to read. I’ve once again left my web readers (if there are any) on a big cliffhanger — I stop writing before midnight, so that seemed an appropriate point. Tomorrow should see me get out of Chapter 3 and into pivotal Chapter 4, where things will change completely. I’m once again wondering if I’ve got enough plot to make it to 50,000 words: It may go either way once I get into the still-fuzzy second half of the novel, but my tendency so far is to stretch plot points on more words than I had anticipated.
Thursday, November 10, 23:24 – 22,190 words (+1,720) – Ignore the rules and rewrite
The somewhat underwhelming word count today belies a somewhat unusual writing session. The ethos of NaNoWriMo discourage rewriting — the goal is that every single word written should be one more toward the ultimate goal of 50,000. Rewrites can be done later. But after reflecting on yesterday’s work, I was struck by a few problems: It was boring, humorless, it left one main character unused and it didn’t properly explain one crucial element. So, rather than have the long investigative sequence all take place in the protagonist’s head and laptop, I went back to what I had written yesterday and rewrote it as so to include a second character. This allowed for more dynamism, more action-driven moments, a better discussion of issues at play, a few lines of snarky dialogue, and led more smoothly to the conclusion of the chapter I was driving toward. After that was corrected, I completed Chapter 3 and wrote a few lines of Chapter 4. I’m reasonably prouder of the revised result. Now I’m stopping well before midnight, because I need some sleep, and I need to think about what comes next because in a day or two the plot is going to get much, much wilder.
Friday, November 11, 23:59+1:42 – 26,003 words (+3,813) – Method writing on an unexpected day
This was not the day I planned to have. Veterans’ Day is a day off for me, and the NaNoWriMo tradition is to make a double-sized word count on November 11. It did not start very well — I slept most of the morning, had to go get my flu shot, did some review writing, did groceries with my daughter, etc. I began writing well after my usual 21:00 starting time, and confronted a situation very much like my protagonist: a tough piece of writing that was nevertheless essential to the rest. I make no apologies for a bit of method writing, with my protagonist procrastinating and then diving deep into it, working well into the morning (we’re now a quarter to two…) before pulling it off. Today’s four thousand words are pure exposition, but I hope they’re reasonably entertaining exposition, taking readers deep into a programming fugue with a few stylistic fillips along the way. Tomorrow should be far more action-driven, as the plot gets going again.
Saturday, November 12 – 23:59 – 28,481 words (+2,478) – Whee! HERE. WE. GO.
This is it — the mid-point turn. The pivot during which the genre of the novel changes — still funny, but a lot more science-fictiony. Not that it should be a surprise to those who remember the prologue. Still, this is it: the idea on which the novel spins, the one that had me laughing for a straight thirty seconds last summer when I put together the pieces of the premise. It wasn’t a good day for writing (I started slightly later than nine) due to more Saturday errands-running, but it didn’t matter so much considering that I had a rather good idea of where I was going. Now, the trick is to sustain what happens after that plot turn, even despite an increasingly nebulous idea of where this is all going. I just hope I manage to cross the 50,000-words threshold…
Sunday, November 13 – 23:51 – 30,255 (+1,774) – Dull writing, exciting planning
The highlight today isn’t so much in the writing than in the planning. Going to sleep after yesterday’s session, my mind inevitably turned to plotting, especially to that void at the end of my fuzzy third-act plotting. Sure, I could simply plow ahead and deliver on my first intentions, but then I’d risk falling short of 50,000 words and deliver an underwhelming conclusion. But as I thought about one nagging question at the heart of my world-building, I pulled at an interesting possibility, and that blossomed into an entire conclusion that very much fits into the theme of the book — complete with a possible chapter title. Boom, 50,000 words guaranteed: Sometimes, inspiration works like that, exploding from weeks of seemingly-useless groundwork. Plus, I figured how to insert that horror scene I had been wanting to include, but couldn’t square with the rest of the story — improbably enough, “steampunk zombies” is the answer. I had a fleeting moment of panic this morning when I woke up, remembered the steampunk zombies thing, remembered that I had resolved the third act, but didn’t actually remember what I had imagined. Fortunately, one chapter-title mnemonic later (“The Sword and the Shield”), it all came back in a tumble. Compared to that excitement, the rest of the day was more tepid (although I did get two nice notes from serial readers — much appreciated). Thanks to various factors, I was unable to write during the day, so I started late, fiddled with an editing pass of the last chapter, and had the conscious feeling of spinning my wheels as I delivered more exposition (and a bit of characterization) that would pay off later on, especially now that I know precisely where it’s going. I delivered the bare minimum (not even a cliffhanger for the serial readers) and stopped there: tomorrow should be more fun. Steampunk zombies may even make an entirely justified appearance.
Monday, November 14 – 23:52 – 33,154 words (+2,899) – A fair update
I didn’t have as much time as I had hoped for today (and other non-novel things suffered for it), but I still churned a fair update. More exposition, but also a little bit of plot progression, and what’s likely to be a chapter closure (with a bit of a cliffhanger for my serial readers). The steampunk zombies are just about to make their entrance, and I have a plan for tomorrow. The story is about to get a lot more complicated.
Tuesday, November 15 – 23:59 – 36,358 words (+3,204) – A wild ride
Nothing quite went as I expected today — grand plans to advance on several fronts were dashed by this and that other obstacles, even as things went much better than expected on the writing front. I expected to grind out a workman-like two thousand words to advance the plot, and ended up producing more than three thousand word of fairly intense writing, with a sustained action scene and some mind-blowing speculation to wrap it all off (plus a cliffhanger for my serial readers). Specific challenges today included inserting a gory zombie-horror sequence in the middle of a comic novel, and still making it funny mostly through narration — and having a fourth wall break so extreme that I had to step in to make it go away. I had planned for something like this, but it turned out better than I expected. Most of those last thousand words were written because I couldn’t stop and wait until tomorrow — I had to get the words out, wrap up the sequence and get it done. Now that it is done, it was essential to stop for the day, update the word-count and think hard about how I’m going to sequence the next events in the novel. As we’re in the last 30% of mandatory words, the focus is going to shift to not necessarily setting up the plot to sustain the narrative, but find the ideal way through which all the setup will land on a satisfying conclusion. There are still two more grand movements to come in the story, and the breaks between late-evening writing sessions is all about planning the next few steps.
Wednesday, November 16 – 22:52 – 37,225 words (+867) – Not a big day
Not much done today — After yesterday, I still need some time to think about where to send things next. I did advance things a bit today, but arrived at an ideal break point (and cliffhanger) to stop and figure our how the next few steps are going to be sequenced for impact. I’m marginally farther along than I was yesterday, but not quite there yet. At least this gives me time to work on one or two other projects I’ve neglected during novel-writing time. Don’t worry — it picks up again tomorrow.
Thursday, November 17 – 23:59 – 38,385 words (+1,160) – Another not-big day
Another day spent spinning my wheels. Well, not really: I dropped roughly 750 words of heady heavy-duty exposition to set up the third act of the novel, but I’m still having a bit of trouble synchronizing all of the moving pieces on the way to the conclusion. Hence the slow pace — I’m trying to make sure everything is going to resolve itself in the best way. I’m also, quite frankly, once again, concerned that I may not have 12,000 words of plot left in the tank at the pace I’m going. It’s not that big of a problem — I’ve got a few days to figure it out, and I suppose that if I get into too much trouble I can bring back some of the ideas I discarded along the way — but I’m clearly not going as fast as I could. Compounding the problem is that I have to work on something else in addition to the novel, and I’m unable to give either the full attention they need. But that could be resolved this weekend.
Friday, November 18 – 23:56 – 39,683 words (+1,298) – Back. On. Track.
Today’s not-so-impressive total is misleading, because I finally committed to an ending sequence, and reviewed the past two day’s worth of material to lead up to it. It all clicked last night, as I clarified the high-level order of my last two big plot movements and finally had the sense that I could make it past 50,000 words. I’m also far more confident that the closing sequence of the novel will help tie the whole novel as a unit rather than a series of episode shifting steadily from one mode to another. There are still a few details to be worked out, but far fewer than yesterday, and today’s writing reflected that. Most of the new words were inserted in-between passages already written. I closed Chapter 6, started Chapter 7, and made existing writing punchier, dialogue-driven and with a few more character moments — all good things that come from a light rewrite with a more focused idea of what’s coming up. Once again, going against the cardinal commandments of NaNoWiMo pays off!
Saturday, November 19 – 23:59 – 41,255 words (+1,572) – A straight-ahead day
While I didn’t quite met the daily quota today, I’m relatively happy with today’s batch of words: it was relatively smooth going in the small amount of time I had for the day, with some straightforward action nibbling steadily at the new ending drafted the previous day. At the rate I’m writing, there’s little doubt I’ll make it past 50,000 words, and if I had to guess it looks as if I’ll be done with everything by next weekend.
Sunday, November 20 – 23:33 – 43,668 words (+2,413) – Steady as it goes
A no-fuss, straight-ahead, moving-forward kind of day. I went back on some of yesterday’s writing to make it slightly more interesting and funnier (and save one bit of spectacle for the next chapter, otherwise it would feel like a rethread), then continued on the way to a little bit more plot. I’m stopping some time before midnight because I think I’ve delivered an underwhelming climax to the current sequence — I think there’s a way to make it better, but I’m going to benefit from thinking about it for another day before going any further.
Monday, November 21 – 23:20 – 47,733 words (+4,065) – Best day so far
Today was a great day, writing wise. I had everything required for a great writing session (time, focus, quiet) and made the most out of it. I started with what’s become a bit of a regrettable tendency this year — re-writing the previous day’s section in an effort to make it punchier, funnier, more entertaining. But, also as per tendency, it was worth it. Then I continued the story, which was a bit of a victory lap at this point — there’s another section to go, but a good chunk of the main conflicts could and were tied up today. This led to fairly easy writing (if more on the expositionary side, although I threw in what I think is a pretty good high-level meeting scene in there). Parts of today’s writing were even wistful — making me worry about the shifting tones of the story, although I think that’s a deserved tonal register at that point in the story. We’ll see if it coheres at the re-write. In the meantime, I’m preparing one more big high-energy sequence for tomorrow and maybe the following day — and accordingly left my serial readers with one big cliffhanger. I have two or three days’ worth of writing left before I call it a wrap.
Tuesday, November 22 – 21:00 – 47,733 words (0) – Progress postponed to tomorrow
The irony is palpable: Historically, my zero-words days were cases of force majeure, unavoidable emergencies or national catastrophes. Tonight, though? I have a headache, I’m tired, I just want to go to sleep and I feel no urgency to beat myself up over it. On the other side of the scale, I’ve got a novel incredibly close to the finishing line, almost above 50,000 words, and a comfortable advance virtually ensuring that I will complete it before the end of the month. Furthermore, the next bit of writing I have to do is the last straight line, a complex and spectacular action scene that’s going to take some finesse to complete. So, yeah, good-night world: I’ll cross the first finishing line tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 23 – 23:44 – 49,116 words (+1,383) – So close!
Things were decent today — the underwhelming word count (almost 50,000!) more due to starting late and needing to put all of the right pieces in order before detonating the fuse. At least starting late had one advantage — I managed to resolve another non-novel problem that had been bothering me, so that’s one less thing to worry about. This close to the end, I’m torn between two opposite feelings: Getting it done and going on to something else (because the “something else” has been piling up this month), or spending more time in the pure bliss of creation. That probably explains the slower pace — why finish it today when I’m having so much fun?
Thursday, November 24 – 23:59 – 50,950 words (+1,834) – One milestone completed!
And here we are — 50,000 words in the bank, novel not quite completed. Best of all, though, is that today’s writing, albeit a bit difficult (writing action scenes can be a bit of a challenge), did flow smoothly after a slow start. I stopped on a cliffhanger in the middle of the last action sequence in the book, so there’s a good change that the main body of the novel will be done by tomorrow, and the epilogue completed the following day. Add two more days for rough first-cut polishing and I should be free of this year’s NaNoWriMo by early next week. As you can guess with my musing on whether I’d make it above the suggested threshold, I’m reasonably happy that I’m above 50K… but I’ll be happier once it’s going to be completed.
Friday, November 25 – 23:48 – 52,368 words (+1,418) – Nearly done
Another slow but steady day — started late, ended a bit before my deadline on a nice little cliffhanger. Most of the day’s writing was spent deep in the weeds of a climactic action scene — nothing too wild, although I hope that the comic narration adds a bit to something we’ve seen a few times before. The scene comes across nicely, exploiting the mayhem inherent in an area I often daydreamed about including in an action scene. There isn’t much left to the novel — one last showdown, a cool-down sequence, and an epilogue that’s probably going to be very, very short. In other words, I’m finishing this tomorrow. Add another day for a quick read-through and tweaks for consistency, one final day for typo-correction and I’m going to be able to wrap this up for good by Monday… if it all goes well.
Saturday, November 26 – 23:59 – 53,666 words (+1,298) – …and that’s all he wrote
Fireworks, confetti, trophies: I’m done with Novel #10. Wrote a quick conclusion and a serviceable epilogue, and that’s it for this year. I’m not completely done with it yet: I have two more read-through to do tomorrow and Monday before I call it in — one quick touch-up to adjust what I now know after writing the entire thing (punching up a few characters in anticipation of their later actions, putting in some foreshadowing, streamlining some passages), and one final pass in Antidote for spelling and grammar. I’ll be updating this log a few more times to discuss the feeling of getting back into fiction after eleven years, the specifics of writing a novel online, what really worked for me, and a few notes for editing later on. I may even give you a preview of the project I currently have in mind for next year. For now, though, I’m feeling free to get a few games on Steam while the Autumn sale is still on, watch a few movies with undivided attention, and get back to a few unfinished projects what were either put on hold or slowed down while I was in writing mode.
Sunday, November 27 – 23:13 – 54,089 (+423) – Thoughts upon reviewing
So — I spent a few hours quickly reading through the novel, adjusting a few things and making sure it was generally intelligible. Added a few more jokes, streamlined some moments, but didn’t appreciably change anything. Anyone waiting for a complete story to read can now go ahead: the novel is now stable and feature-complete, with the only further change I’ve got in mind being grammar-checking.
Which now gives me the luxury of commenting upon a complete novel, and how we got there.
I think the result is okay, especially for something written in twenty-six days with a very vague plan that got vaguer as it went on. It’s got a few chuckles and action sequences and science-fictional ideas. It’s not stylistically inept, even though my idea of style is throwing jokes along the way. I do repeat a few past themes of previous novels, but that should be chalked up to the comfort level I needed to get back into NaNoWriMo after eleven years (idem for the basic plot, which is an easy variation on NaNoWriMo favourite “a slimmer version of you saves the world.”) It should be reasonably entertaining for its target audience, although I’m not sure what that target audience is. Ultimately, it will be up to the readers to decide whether they enjoy it or not — authors propose, readers dispose and that’s that. As evidenced by how the novel is (and will remain, at least for a few weeks) freely available on the web, it’s clear I’m not doing this for lucrative publication anyway.
Where the novel may falter for some is in the big swerve in the middle of it, as we go from comic contemporary material to a sharp turn into Science Fiction — it also comes with more seriousness of intent in the plotting. I’d like to think that the comic narration can do a lot to smooth out the transition (and so does a very intentional prologue) — writers such as Carl Hiaasen (not that I’m comparing myself to him) have perfected the art of tacking deathly-serious topics with lighthearted narration, and I realized very late in the novel that this was my approach as well. No everyone is likely to take the curve smoothly (Reality is a crutch for those who can’t handle Sciece Fiction, after all), but in the end if it doesn’t work it’s on me.
Writing on-line was a bit different from my usual dependence on MS Word — the WordPress block editor is now quite good, but there’s something about the stack of technologies involved that makes it just a bit slower, just a bit more inconvenient than working on a desktop-native application. The additional micro-second delays often threw me off, and that’s saying nothing of the editor not recognizing CTRL-DEL and CTRL-INS as cut/paste. I also grew conscious of just how much work the Word typo-correcting features do — I often left behind misspellings because WordPress wasn’t fixing those for me along the way. On the other hand — boom, instant publication the moment I hit “Update” (yes, there were auto-saves). I got far too involved in leaving cliffhanger endings for non-existent serial readers at one point, but that’s the least of the games I was playing with myself as an author.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, as documented above. While the results of me going back to re-write segments were unambiguously better, they still betrayed far too much improvisation. In writing novels so far (this being my tenth), I veer between what NaNoWriMo participants call “planters and pansters” — writing according to plan versus writing by the seat of one’s pants. I’ve done everything from 24,000-word outlines for a 100,000 word novel to starting with a character and a rough idea of what I wanted to do, and every project seems to call for a different approach. Overall, though, I do prefer a fair bit of planning and outlining.
Given the day-to-day rewrites and re-planning, it’s no exaggeration to say that I did a lot of work in-between stopping writing for the day and falling asleep: My idle “thinking time” when planning/writing a novel is submerged by plotting, and that also holds true for the months before actually writing the novel — I may not have had much of an outline, but I did have a plan in mind, honed over several months’ worth of long walks, commuting and minutes before I went to sleep. After completing the novel yesterday, I’m left with a big unpleasant void of contemplation that I’ll probably fill with next year’s project (described tomorrow.)
Monday, November 28 – 21:34 – 54,127 words (+38) – The End
That’s it — all done. I spent today’s writing block in Antidote, making grammar and spelling corrections… so don’t expect any more changes to the text unless I get a really good idea –or I get paid for it.
So what do we have? Well, a novel for one thing. While I write a lot, most of what I write tends to be reviews of other material, so there’s an undeniable thrill in being able to create something wholly original for once, to put something new in the universe.That was what I had been missing for eleven years: The thrill of creation, the deep scratch of itching artistic impulses. The story did not exist four weeks ago, but now it does, and everyone with web access can read it.
It may not be all that good, but it’s clearly mine, and that’s a point worth digging into. If you know writers, the highest possible compliment you can pay them after reading a test of theirs (as I’ve done a few times) is to say “Only you could have written this.” A very specific blend of influences, personalty, knowledge and life experience have led to this novel, and I do feel (independent of quality) as if no one else in the world could have written it exactly like that. There’s a time-binding aspect to it as well: It reflects my pet obsessions and (laughable) wisdom as of November 2022, and I think that it’s going to be a fascinating piece to read in ten or twenty years (or for my kid to discover a generation from now.) Having gone through a number of obsessions and deep-dive in specific subjects over the years, I lament that I never got to write a book about those obsessions when I was in the middle of them — considering that I’ve forgotten half of what I once knew in those areas. A lot of interesting novels didn’t get written in the last eleven years, and I’ll try not to repeat that mistake again.
So what’s next? Well, it struck me sometime in November that a project I once thought impossible to write (a hundred-year family saga set in Hollywood, informed by my current expertise in movie history) could actually be a feasible project if it got chunked over several Novembers. So stay tuned for, maybe, Part 1 (1920-1939) of that saga next November 1st. I make no promises, but I need something on which to park my brain during idle times, and that seems as interesting a project as anything else.
Until then… let’s stay creative.