Sunday, January 29, 2012

Getting from Here to There...and 130 Pages

Today I had to write one of "those bits" of the of those bits where there is anger and suspicion and judgment.  It is strange when you take characters you like and pit them against each other.  I feel like I am trapped between warring friends...reluctant to take sides. 

I realized today that I am nearly half way through my first draft!  (Insert applause here.)  I have finally hit the part of the book where things starting happening faster...where things start to take on a life of their own.  I have had to try to keep pace with my brain.  I have had to draw maps, make family trees, create time lines...all in an effort to keep up with momentum I feel building.

This map is neither Here nor There...this is simply an old map I found, but I thought it had character so here it is.

I have contemplated creating a few different pages here...perhaps a character page, or maybe an image of one of the hand-drawn maps I have created (quite unlike the Neither Here-nor-There Map which I randomly inserted above merely for effect)...  I find myself wanting to make the world I am creating as real for those who gather here as it is in my own mind.

The further I get into my book, the more real it becomes.  I realize that I am less than a year away from giving everyone access to this thing that has been rattling around in my head.  This excites me and terrifies me.  But, before I can get carried away in that possibility, I make myself return to reality... 

My reality, right now, is the cool breeze that comes in through the open window and rifles my pages, the smell of hot tea which tends to go cold before I remember to drink it, and the purr of a languid cat who bats at my pencil as it scratches across the page.

Today, I made it to 130 pages.  I hope to write a bit longer before I tuck it all away for the day.  I know there will be more fights ahead, more betrayal, and abandonment.  I know what lies ahead and (to be quite honest) there are parts I am not eager to write...but this is how we get from Here to There. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Losing a Pet, Drying Tears, and 118 Pages

I am currently stuck at the bottom of page 118...not because of lack of ideas, but due to a great loss in our family.  Last night, around 8:00 p.m., our neighbor came by to tell us that there was a kitten in the road.  Our kitten. 

RIP Wise Juno (July 2011 - January 22, 2012)

This story began last summer, when a good-natured stray cat adopted us.  Or rather...a pregnant stray cat adopted us.  She was so sweet and so affectionate (and she also looked quite a lot like our beloved Maddie cat which we last two Januarys ago of old age...a ripe, old 18 years!), and we could not bear to see her almost skeletal frame.  We immediately started feeding her...and taking her ice water to fend off the heat...and fashioning a bed for her.  When my son first laid eyes on this "stranger cat" (his term for a "stray cat") he was mesmerized by her very green eyes, and (since we were planting collard greens at the time) he proudly dubbed her "Collard Green Eyes" which (thankfully) was shortened to Collie. 

In the record breaking heat of last summer, three of her kittens survived (we did not find where she had hidden the kittens until the next day).  We were blessed with three little black and white bundles of fur and energy: Coco (fluffy and sweet), Ringo (the risk taker), and Juno (the wise one, with a skunk-like face).  Last night, we lost Juno.  My kids were inconsolable.  There were many tears in our house.  Lots of "big questions" from little souls who were not quite ready to wrestle with them, and yet they must.

Ironically, I was at the part of my book where death loomed just pages away for a certain character.  But, in the midst of the tears and howls of heartbreaking pain, I could not bring myself to sit down and write.  There were tears to be dried, and a cat funeral to arrange.  So, my character was spared for another day.

Sometimes, there is enough death for one day.   

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sisyphus, Hemingway, and 115 Pages

For several days I have felt like Sisyphus. 

Again with the hills!
I have pushed my rock up the hill...then watched it roll back down.  I have reclaimed my rock and began again, and again, and again.  I keep repeating the unceasing task of finishing this novel. 

The past several days, I have stuggled to eke out a page, a paragraph...hell, even a decent sentence...worthy of the story that I have in my head.  To compensate for the lack of output, I have sketched out maps, staged future scenes, and made notes of impending action. 

Then FINALLY, last night, the words came...they poured onto the page.  I felt giddy and relieved and eager to keep working.  But I heeded the advice of Hemingway:  “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you’re rewriting a novel you will never be stuck.”  I stopped.  I scrawled the date to indicate what I had accomplished for the day, and I went to bed.

Today I hope to write over my lunch hour, and also to write tonight...when the children are asleep and the house is quiet.  I will make a cup of tea, perhaps light a candle, and I will take out my newly sharpened pencils and tuck my feet under me as I settle down to see what happens.  Perhaps the Muse will come, or perhaps I will pick up my rock again.  Either way, I will continue. 

July looms on the horizon...closer than I can dare imagine in this harsh light of winter, but there all the same; it waits for me.   

Friday, January 13, 2012

Procrastination, Picking at Scabs, and 113 Pages

More mapping, more notes, more plotting...and two more pages.  It is slow progress, but progress nonetheless.  Today it is a herculean effort to sit down and focus and try to extricate the ideas from my head and somehow get them on paper well enough that later, when I rewrite and edit, perhaps they will be close to what I can see in my head.

My head...feels a bit like black hole.  I fear that the ideas that I have in my head will be sucked away if I don't get them safely on the page NOW...

This is very similar to the black hole in my brain.
(Source: NASA/o CXC/MIT/F.K. Baganoff et al.) some days I write frantically.  I scribble the words late at night and hope that it all still makes sense in the morning.

Other days, I pause with my pencil in mid-air and stare blankly at the last sentence I wrote.  Waiting. The reason for the procrastination is that I know the road a certain character is traveling, and I know that writing will bring him one page closer to his demise.  For other characters, there is a particularly pivotal scene that I need to get down, and I need to turn it over in my mind different ways and examine it before I know how to best present it.  Then there are awkward days...days that I have to write about emotions, with all the sticky, messy, well-worn baggage that comes with it.  It can be unpleasant having to share a character's betrayal or abandonment or stirs up things we would prefer to leave buried.  Some may call it cathartic, but it never seems to feel that way to me.  For me, it is more like picking at scabs. 

As I start writing today, I am at 113 pages.  On this particular day, 01-13-2012, that seems appropriate.  I should be about a third of the way through the first draft of the book, and yet there is still so much to do!  Which leads to me to my recent realization...the story will have to encompass more than one book.

This is all just the beginning.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Tangle of Trees, Philosophical Musings, and 113 Pages

I finally have my lunch hour back!  Now I can write more, which is good because last night only produced two pages.  I actually did more work on the story than that...but I realized that I needed to go back and add a scene and a few snippets, so I had to backtrack and make notes of that.  Then I got a huge epiphany about a key scene that is coming up, so I had to jot those ideas down so I wouldn't forget them.  So it was actually more productive than the page count would indicate.

I find myself going back and forth.  When I have a rough writing day, I wonder what the hell I am doing trying to write a book.  When the words flow and everything "clicks," everything seems possible and within reach.  Sometimes these feelings follow quickly on the heels of the other.  It feels a bit bi-polar.

I think that the book is affecting me more than I initially realized.  Last night I kept dreaming that I was trying to make it up this hill.  At first I was on a bicycle trying to pedal up the steep incline and failing miserably.  So, being a clever girl, I ditched the bike and tried to proceed on foot.  However, gnarly trees then erupted from the earth, their branches thick and knotted, intertwining and barring my passage.

My tangle of trees.

As I struggled to claw my way through the tangled limbs, I kept hoping that someone would come and meet me half-way.  Perhaps offer assistance.  No one did.

Maybe that is why I am documenting this--to see if anyone will meet me half-way.  Or perhaps it is so someone traveling behind me might avoid some of the snares that I encounter...maybe I am meant to be the one to stop along the way, retrace my steps, and venture back to meet another traveller.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pencils, Pictures, and 111 Pages

Well, I had to make last night another "late writing night."  I have been trying to write over my lunch hour so that the writing does not take too much time away from my family.  (I have an over-abundance of "Mom Guilt" so I constantly worry about this.)  But the past three work days, I have had to work through lunch to make up for taking off work early one day last week to take my son to the doctor.  However, today is my last "lost lunch," and I am eager to get back on track. 

Last night was productive, though.  A new character is making himself known.  Apparently, his name is Thaddeus--an older gentleman.  I am not sure how prominent of a character he will end up being, yet; however, I have a feeling that he will be pivotal. 

I also had to map out the region in which my story takes place.  Many of the characters live in a common area (in a valley), and I needed to be able to plot scenes.  I can't very well have characters running through woods if I can't see where they are going, now can I?  (To be honest, all this mapping is making be feel rather Tolkienesque.  Is that a word?) 

Enough already.  Focus, you silly redhead!

I really want to stick to my minimum of one hour per day.  I will let you in on a just-now-recognized goal...apparently I have had a subconscious "draft due-by date" of July.  I know, I know!  What am I thinking?  Well, it seems that I want to have the first draft completed before I turn forty.  I had no idea that this ambition was brewing in the back of my brain until I blurted it out to my friend, Angela.  But I did blurt it out, and now it is "out there," and it seems that I am making it even more real by talking about it here.  Nothing like a little public pressure to make yourself stick to a goal!

Also, since I am a visual person, I thought I would post a picture of where I write when I am at home (as opposed to when I write at my table in the break room at lunch, or at a stop light, or in the van while waiting for the school bus...):

My "writing spot."

You may notice that I write in pencil.  If you didn't notice, just believe me when I say that I do.  Therefore, I decided it would be a good idea to mount a nice, old fashioned pencil sharpener on one of my book shelves.  (This may have something to do with the fact that I burned up the motors on two of the fancy-pants electric models, and it was getting rather expensive to replace them!)  For those that give a flip, here is a photo of that as well:

My nice, sturdy pencil sharpener.

And yes, if you are super observant (as I so rarely am), you will notice that the calendar above the pencil sharpener proclaims it to be March of 1946.  Don't panic; it is still 2012.  The calendar was from my (much loved and much missed) great-grandmother's store, so I keep it as a reminder of her.  It also reminds me that time only stands still once you are in the grave, so I better do my living now!

Oh, before I go...yes, I got my hour in.  This makes my page count 111!

Monday, January 9, 2012

108 Handwritten Pages and Counting

First, I should probably get you up to speed.  I am 108 handwritten pages into my novel.  I have to squeeze my writing time in between a full time job, a family, and, well, life in general.  I write on my lunch hour.  I write when everyone else is asleep.  I jot down bits and snippets on the back of napkins and envelopes.  I am one of "those" people. 

My goal is to write for at least an hour a day.  I estimate that I can get about three handwritten pages out of it.  I don't type it out on the computer because I can steal more writing time this way.  At some point, when I am further along, or perhaps even finished with my first draft, I will type it all out (revising along the way). 

I want to have the book available on Kindle within the year.  The blog title only mentions one year because, quite honestly, "Sometime Under One Year Until my Book is Available on Kindle" is a bit cumbersome to type and doesn't sound nearly as appealing (albeit more truthful).

So, here is where I will mark my progress, vent my frustration, and (hopefully!) garner some encouragement.  You will find out more about the books subject matter.  I might include rough ideas, character names, and snippets.  I will also keep you updated on when it is finally available!