Approach Alarm

Since the clock ticked over to 2013 work has progressed more slowly than intended, but the end is drawing near. We are at about 75% of the original goal for the first draft.

As the project’s one-year anniversary whizzes into the rear view mirror, I want to thank everyone who has supported my work on the novel these past 13 months. Truly, without your help I could not have come this far and my life situation (as, in turn, that of my wife and daughter) would be quite different right now. I have promised you all some bonuses, and I want both to confirm that these are on their way and to put out a request for details.

Anyone who is due some cookies or brownies, please let me know which you’re up for and if you have any special dietary concerns. If you can’t do gluten, we will use brand new pans, untouched by wheat. If you can’t do sugar, let us know if you have a preferred alternative.

Thank you again for all of your help. It has meant so much to us over the past year. Let us know what you need and we will see to it that things happen that way.

We will let you know when the actual end date is in sight. Right now it is just over the horizon.

War Zone

Good grief. Is it really a month since my last update? Well, progress continues. Even when I’m not in the mood or I feel stuck, I have made a point of writing every day. Sometimes it’s as little as a sentence or two; sometimes it’s several pages. At this point it’s less about the flow than about keeping the pipes from freezing. Result: I’m moving slowly, but chapter six is past the midpoint.

This is where the story picks up. To now it’s been exposition; we’ve met the characters, gotten a feel for the scene, and had a taste of the mysteries and perils at play. Here is where it starts to gel; the stakes are defined, people begin to make decisions, and we start to explore just what’s going on in this picture.

As part of that process I find myself dumping exposition through dialog with a new character, to bring the story to date into focus and give it a jumping-off point. When I came to the scene, I didn’t realize what was happening; I just had it in my head as a turning point where the characters began to accept a call to action. In retrospect this scene is what the story needs to build its own momentum.

I’m amazed when I touch, and then pass, these far-off milestones. As ever, things don’t always happen exactly the way that I envisioned them — but then my vision is always a little hazy in the particulars. It’s intimidating to approach these moments — plot points, character points — that I have planned for so long. As with so many of my plans, some part of me never thought they were real; I figured I would roll them around in my head forever. I would keep laying them out on notebook pages, drawing lines, filling in blanks. Now the story has washed up and begun to absorb them.

Another thought, while I’m here: I spend ages laboring over my word choices. Each word has its own nuance, each phrase its rhythm, and I beat myself up a little when they don’t flow the way I want. As I write it, then, each page, each conversation seems to go on forever. If you look at my notebook, it’s all scribbles and arrows and notes in the margin. Then when I read the printed page, it’s just… there. The words come and they go, and none of that work really shows. I feel like if I want to get any meaning across I’ll have to resort to all-caps or novelty typefaces.

Maybe that subtlety is a strength. I don’t know. It could mean hidden layers for readers to uncover the third or fourth time through, or it could just mean that the story isn’t communicating anything. I’m trying not to be too obvious, but I do intend my points to come across.

It’s a puzzlement. We’ll see how it hangs together when there’s more to go over.

Floating in the Dark

And there’s chapter five, at last. I think it came together pretty well in the end, and accomplished all that I wanted. It just had to take its own strange route to get there.

So we’ve passed another checkpoint, and I can tie off that train of thought for now. Now I’m right where I want to be — but of course a new chapter means a new beginning. Oy! Well, we’ll see how quickly I can get into the swing of this one.

Final chapter 5 wordcloud:

Chapter 5

Better a Better Time

Chapter five is still in progress, if you can believe it. Every time I think it’s wrapping up, it finds a new tangent to explore. I think that’s actually one of the things that has been slowing me down. There are the practical issues, sure — moving house, a less ideal working space, increased demands on my time — but I could work around those if I wanted. The real problem is that when I don’t know what I’m doing I go into heavy procrastination. The more frustrated I feel, the more detached I become and the harder it is for me to get into the right headspace. That struggle frustrates me all the more, and eventually I throw my hands up.

The solution there is to just notice the cycle, lean back, let it drain away, and actively try to place myself where I need to be. It will slip, many times — but meanwhile I will scrabble out a little text. And the more I do it, the easier it is to cling.

I think I’m also impatient. This chapter is sort of an intermission from the main story, and I left that on a cliffhanger just when I was getting into the material that I really want to write about. I don’t like the nonlinear approach, but the linear one is bogging me down. I need to chill and appreciate where I am and what I’m doing. This stuff is interesting and important too, and it will tie in later. Write in the moment.

While we’re here: revised word cloud.

Chapter 5

Erupted into teeth

Continuing from the previous post, word clouds for the first five chapters hint at the change in focus as the story progresses.

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5

So, work continues — albeit slowly. After a few big gaps I’m going to have to recalculate my timetable for this book and set new goals for myself. That’s a problem that I need to deal with; something gets in the way of a project, plans don’t work out, and so I shrug and meander and limply toy with the idea of picking it back up again. But shit happens; I need to just adapt. It’s time to get serious again.

On that note, big thanks to Kyle Maurer for his support. It’s all a-comin’! Don’t you fret.

Just like Finland

So we’re at 25,000 words. That comes out to 100 standard pages. As usual the real page count differs depending on where you’re reading it.

Progress has been slow, this chapter. It’s not entirely a creative problem; it’s more the consequence of practical demands: moving house, attending to the changing needs of my family. I have much on my mind, and scant time to act on any of it.

Still, the daily updates continue. Right now I’m in the middle of a flashback, which is providing me the chance to explore a couple of characters and the basis of their relationship. Though to me it may feel like meandering, every time I wind up on one of these tangents I return with something crucial that I would not have found otherwise. In retrospect the book wouldn’t be what it is without these regular side steps. So though I may feel lost, I am gaining faith in the material as a guide.