This is something my husband says frequently: “You’re so quiet.” He always follows that up with the observation that I must be thinking about whatever story I’m working on at the time. Apparently, he’s decided that just as an athlete gets his game face on–remember Michael Phelps’s sneer at Le Clos and how he zones out before a race?–I’ve got my writer’s face, the one that clues him in to the fact that I might not say anything for, well . . . hours.
The smoke pouring out of my ears might also be a giveaway.
I have always done this, quite possibly because I have spent so much time in my head. I remember a time when our family went on this cross-country camping trip and I spent hours saying nothing. I remember staring out the window–man, Independence Pass is high–and recall how much this bothered my dad, who couldn’t understand why I wasn’t saying anything. I just, you know . . . I had nothing to say. But I am sure that I was spinning some story. I did it all the time as a kid, especially when doing my chores of which there seemed to be a ton (though not even close to some of the farm kids I’ve known; those kids work hard and because it’s expected and everyone does it, no one complains). Nothing makes the time pass faster than a good story, even if it’s only a daydream. I won’t say that I looked forward to endless hours in the heat doing this and that, but I do recall being eager to get back into whatever story I was telling myself at the time.
This is what I’ve been doing nigh on these several weeks: telling myself a thread of the story that I have not until now. It’s been all-consuming because while I thought I knew a lot, there is always more to learn (and that is the danger of research: you can trick yourself into thinking all those hours spent reading counts as writing). There is a LOT to learn, though I’ve got enough just about. Sometimes the information seems to fall out like pennies . . . that little tick-tick you hear as I walk past.
I also think that I am still uncertain enough of my own abilities that I wonder if I will ever finish this book. That’s where endless research can become avoidance. I do know that I’ve approached my computer with a certain amount of dread. In fact, these past few weeks I’ve been working somewhere else that isn’t my desk. Like everything else–as with being here for the time being–I’ll have to get over this.
I’ve also been using a new program, Scrivener, on the iPad just to see how I like it because one thing I do have trouble with, especially since my stories tend to be long and convoluted and what looks like a great idea one day is simply walking to the action the next time I see it (remind me to tell you about that), is keeping track. The iOS app isn’t as easy as a full-on computer screen–possibly one more reason I’ve got to get back to the desktop eventually–because you can’t split screens to see your notes on the cork board. The program’s useful, though, enough that I’ll likely use it for drafts at least. I’m still too nervous to try it with a manuscript.
Then again, I’m having my moments here.
What I’ve also discovered in the actual outlining–you know, telling myself the story–is that the entire storyline I had developed for one character over so many thousands of words has to die.
Which just slays me.
Yes, yes, I know the story will be “better” once I do that. But gee whiz.
Anyway…the word count in terms of where I am in the outline and what I’ve managed isn’t too bad, especially since I’ve been traveling quite a bit. Leaving today, in fact, for a much-needed long weekend of Wisconsin R&R. So it’s been a tussle between getting to the gym/pool before I get on the bloody plane or simply sucking it up and working instead.
I’m going to work. I don’t work quite as well in airports and on planes, and since we’ll be seeing friends and I want to drink up as much of that good Wisconsin air as I can, I’m not sure how much time I’ll make for this. But I got to finish this damn outline and get back to the actual book-book even though, yes, yes, the outline IS the book. But it’s really not. You just don’t know what a book will be until it’s done.
Remind me also to tell you about starting at the end and working back…which I also have had to do with this outline because I really haven’t understood this one character’s story and don’t know HOW something ends up the way it does. If I don’t get it, neither will you.
Oh, I apologize ahead of time about the columns below. I’m doing this on the iPad and judging spacing is a little tough.
WRITING OUT LOUD
Stay Dead (started 5/05; Days 1-4, false start; *Day 85: begin outline for remainder of book and new character)
Day 1: 1000 Day 23-26: 9450 Day 51-52: 4500
Day 2: 1200 Day 27: (novella) 2000 Day 53-57: 6000
Day 3: 1800 Day 28: 2500 Day 58-61: 10,200
Day 4: 1350 Day 29-32: 8850 Day 62-67: 11,250
Day 5: 1000 Day 33: 3400 Day 68-74: 16,110
Day 6: 2000 LONDON HAITUS: 13 days
Day 7-10: ~4500 Day 34: 3000 Day 75-79: 11,900
Day 11-12: ~5000 Day 35-39: 9,800 Day 80-84: 13,000
Day 13: 1600 Day 40-43: 10,500 *Day 85-92: 14,000
Day 14: 2300 Day 44: 2000 *Day 93-108: 13,200
Day 15-17: 4450 Day 45-47: 6000
Day 18-19: 4500 Day 48: 4000
Day 20-22: 5220 Day 49-50: 3500
Blog Post: 1060
What I’m Watching: Oh, gosh, a lot of movies, I think and all sorts. Football, of course, but not as much. Just no time.
What I’m Reading: Tons of source material, mainly: stuff about southern chain gangs, black prisoners during Reconstruction, coal mining in general (good thing I’ve visited a ton of mines), railroad lines and maps, certain locals…because, yes, one of the characters (the one for whom I hadn’t quite figured out a story) comes from Alabama. She gets the hell out, though not the way she’s wanted. (A touch autobiographical? Only slightly, though, yes, this place has gotten under my skin.)
What I’m Listening to: Cold Moon Over Babylon. Not bad. I also finished another book but can’t remember what it was for the life of me–which just goes to show what a tremendous impact it had.