8 Days Left

Sunday, October 24, 2004

I’m starting this late with a headache. But I’m here and I’m typing. I’m in that wonderful place I mentioned briefly yesterday, where I have nothing to say about life. It’s wonderful because my hope is that it will prod my muse into talking about my story. That’s not completely true. I do have one thing to talk about: Doolies is at the airport waiting to go home now. I’m becoming repetitive by saying this, but we had a wonderful weekend and I miss her already. It’s getting more difficult for me to watch her leave when she visits. In another year and a half we won’t have to worry about this anymore, but between now and then is a long time and, if you’ll excuse my pathetic word choice, it sucks. I miss holding her, wrapping my arms around her warm body and finding the crevices for my head and hands, like the grasping arms of the stuffed monkey that holds on tight. As I said, there will come a day where I won’t need such thoughts, but that day seems so far away, especially when I’m sitting alone in the bucks.

It has been nice writing every day. I don’t have to worry about trying to guess what day it is when I save the file (I name all my files by date). I just add one to the last day. I am beginning to understand what Stephen King in his book On Writing was talking about when he wrote about writing everyday. He once told reporters that the only days he took off were New Years and Columbus day (or something silly like that), but he was lying. He never took a day off from writing (well, at least until he a car hit him. Then he took days off, but that wasn’t by choice). Writing for me is becoming cathartic and easier. It’s not easy in that I can say something of value. What is easier is just writing my thoughts, putting words on the paper and not having to worry about simple things, like how do I want to say that, or should I even say that? Writing without editing (or editing following my newfound rules) silences my inner critic and more directly links my brain to my fingers, in the way that my brain is linked to my throat when talking.

My head has been delicate today. I hate waking up with the beginnings of a headache. I know there’s not much I can do with it. The best I can hope for is to turn over and go back to sleep and try waking up again. Sometime it works, but more usual, I wake up with the same or worse headache. Thankfully, by the time I arrived at the bucks, my headache had receded to a mere murmur in the back of my brain. As long as I didn’t move my head too fast or stare at the screen for too long, the headache has agreed to keep its distance. The problem with headaches, besides hurting terribly and ruining perfectly good days, is that they’re also unreliable. We’ll see how long this one keeps its promise.

I’ve been reading more of the Nanowrimo forums as of late. While my initial reaction was that they were filled by talent-free hacks, I’ve been reading through some decent writing that has forced me to reevaluate my quick judgments. That’s something I’m not good at: quick judgments. I’m awful when I first meet people. My first reaction, whether negative or positive, can almost never be trusted. It’s not the always wrong reaction, which would be easy to fix by just reversing my initial thought—you know, dumb person becomes smart, ala the great episode where George Castanza of “Seinfeld” decided to spend the day doing the opposite of what he thought he should do. That was the episode where he received a job with the Yankees and bedded a girl, or at least that’s what I hazily remember. It was a great episode, either way. Getting back to me, I’m wrong about half the time with my initial reactions and I find myself missing out on potentially good acquaintances or opportunities by judging so quickly.

There are some good writers participating in the Nanowrimo. There are also many, many students—you can tell them by their livejournal websites—who aspire to write and have many years to find out that there are many better aspirations. But I enjoy reading forums; I like understanding a community and seeing how people interact. I’ll keep reading the forums and trying to find inspiration there. What harm can there be in that?

I’ve cleared my throat enough for one day. It’s time I continued the planning of the story. Over the last few days, I’ve been making large, drastic changes, and I have a feeling that by next week (remember, the start of November is only eight days away—I’m having trouble counting days. Am I supposed to include today? Should I include November 1? Math, the number-math not the theory math, was never a strong subject for me), I won’t recognize the story I started to plan a few days ago. The little girl has disappeared, and the pink sweater is threatening to follow. I’m rethinking the themes and trying to find some hooks and new characters to introduce.

There, I found my goal for today. I’m not moving terribly fast toward my goal, and the caffeine, while lessening my headache (just while drinking it, regrettably), isn’t doing much to accelerate my thinking or writing. Therefore, I’ll choose a ridiculous goal and see how far I can push it. I want to create characters today. I’ve read that it’s the characters that actually push a story forward. I don’t know very much about that, since my characters, with the exception of Kem from Termite, weren’t memorable for me (I won’t even bother to ask what you thought of any of them, if you even remember any characters). But from what other writers, both successful and hack, say, when they let their characters go, they’re always surprised where they—i.e., the characters—take them. Before I can let them go do their thing, however, I need to sketch them and understand who they are, or at least, what they are.

The caffeine is fighting my headache and losing. My word count is hovering around 550 (before editing, of course), but I’m going to keep going. I don’t think anything interesting will come out of this typing but I made myself a promise to keep pushing through, even when nothing is coming. I’m good at the pushing—particularly if I’m pushing with no concerns for what pops out on the other end. I finished my coffee. We’ll see if there’s enough caffeine entering my bloodstream to keep me going toward finishing this musing.

I’m leaning toward naming the narrator Lenny, after my illustrious demon friend. I want there to be one exaggeration for each character, something I can point to and say, that’s so-and-so, you know, the guy with the limp. I’m hoping to come up with something better than a limp, of course. But I want to start working with something. Before I get to that, let me introduce more of the lineup. Lenny is involved with a woman, Karen, a tall, curly haired brunette. She is outgoing and. Yeah, that’s not working well. Nothing is working well, but I’m going to keep pushing. Bathwater and baby, that’s how it goes—I’m just swimming through the bathwater looking for the baby. My god, even my poorly wrought analogies are poorly wrought. Wow. Keep pushing, we’re at 790 words (again, before editing—I’m much better at going back through these musings and adding junk than thinking up the junk in the first place. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Original ideas, like the ones I was trying to describe yesterday, are hard to come up with. Filling crap in-between ideas, regardless of how original they are, are not difficult. It’s just not terribly productive either).

What makes Karen special? Why is she dating Lenny? Who cares? Talk some about Lenny’s job. Does he like it? What defines him? His love of something can define him. It’s not going to be his love of his job or his love of Karen. He’ll discover Karen later in the book, when she threatens or does leave him. I don’t predict a sane outcome for Lenny. He’s not going to do well with the sweater or the magic. Lenny will need friends. We’ll start at work. A Tamer character would be interesting. What exactly is a Tamer character? Do I even know how to create characters? I’m becoming pretty scared about my story now. Looking back at my poorly designed previous stories, none of them had more than two characters. Originally, the Termite was supposed to have four characters, but I couldn’t do it. I tried and tried, but ended up killing (okay, more like deleting than killing) the second two characters and leaving myself with two. My other stories were similar. Even in Grelko, my only multi-character story, none of the characters were fully developed.

Argh. My headache and doubts are filling up these pages with babble. What I need is more dreaming, more ceiling staring and sleepy mutters into my voice-recording phone. For reasons that I wish I could understand and fix, I am not good at developing ideas by writing. I want my characters to show themselves on the page. I want them to make choices and surprise me. I want, as I’ve read many times before, a character to change the plot and flow of the story in such a drastic way that I can’t believe it’s the same character that I had originally written. These are all wants and desires. I’m thinking their going to find themselves unfulfilled at the end of November, but I’m hoping to be surprised.

This has not turned out like I hoped, and I had high hopes on this headachy Sunday evening. I sit down with limited expectations but unlimited expectations. When I end up, like I usually do, at the end of these entries having said little and moved my story nowhere, I become discouraged. Don’t worry: this won’t stop me from continuing writing. It’ll just leave me disappointed, looking back on another wasted day where I could have written something of value but instead consternated for 2,000 words. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to starting Nanowrimo is because my consternations will not count toward my daily writing goal. I’ll instead have to write prose, create characters, and grant them breathe. Either that, or give up, and we know that I’m not going to give up. Particularly since Chuck would enjoy nothing more than basking in my failure. He has already proposed writing a script to compare our daily word counts. I’ll, of course, accede to his wishes, mostly because I know I’m a faster typist and at the least I’ll write more words in a day than he will. Well, hopefully. While I do type fast, seeing as I have a real job, I actually have less time to write than him. This is a great way to waste words: trash talk Chuck. I should have thought about doing this many hours ago.

I won’t bother writing another paragraph about not coming up with any original ideas or direction for my story. I’m close to fulfilling my 2,000 word count and I’ll leave it at that. Any words that I’m missing I’m going to capture by editing in a few words here and there. I’m not proud of my content, but I am proud of my quantity. That’s what it’s about for the next month and nine days: quantity. I’ll worry about actually saying something of value when I get done with this. I thank you if you’ve made it this far. I don’t expect it, and in all likelihood, the only people who will make it this far are those who scroll to the end to see if I am planning to say anything of value. For those that do (after searching for “Doolies,” of course), I’m sorry to say that yet again I failed to say anything of value. But, boy oh boy, did I type a lot of words.

Word count: 1,957; time: 50 minutes; Caffeination: Tall mocha + Tea at Dim Sum; word count after editing: 2,092; editing time: 12 minutes (cut short because this bucks closes at 7pm on Sundays).