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.

Caves All the Way Out

There we go. I seem to have broken that hump, and now the prose can flow.

This character is always harder for me, possibly because his thoughts and motivations are so much more pronounced. It’s easier for me to hint than to state, and there is so much here to be coy about — yet without some kind of exposition I’ll never get anywhere.

I guess I don’t have to worry much about subtlety. Something I have noticed — even when I feel like I’m screaming and hammering a point to death, others tend not to pick up on the signs. For many years I wondered how everyone around me could be so dim. It’s only lately that I realized I might actually be that obscure.

Crimson and Ivory

Often I despair of this project, particularly as I start a new chapter. Though I sit here, days pass when hardly a word goes down. I read what I’ve written, and it seems so forced. Clearly I’m on the wrong track, but I don’t know if I can change direction.

Then something shifts. I change a few words, add a few sentences at the start, and it all makes sense. It flows. It could use another draft, like anything — maybe some expansion — but it works. Then the momentum kicks in. It’s working, so it just keeps working, building, growing.

And the changes are so small. It’s the tiniest details that trip me; the wrong syntax, or the right thoughts in the wrong order. I get flustered. I give up. I need to quit that.

This chapter isn’t the one that I wanted to write; it’s the one that the book has presented to me. There will be a place for that chapter, but right now this demands to exist. I think I moved that chapter up, anyway. Originally it was to come much later in the book; it was only while mapping out the book on a napkin, in a sleazy diner at Coney Island, that it wound up so early in the list.

It seems the more that I plan this book the more that it defies me. It was a cordial relationship so long as we kept ambling toward some vague goals together. I should know better than to exert my will over these things. I know that I’m not in control here; I just get it in my head that I need to be professional, or responsible. And then there’s this power struggle, and I come away frustrated.

The book will always win. Got to get that into my head. Just go with it. It has its reasons.

My wife and I want to express the most profound gratitude to Ryan Newman for his support of this project. Thanks also to everyone who has been following along and encouraging our progress.

Soap Bubbles

Trying to make up for lost time over the weekend. I’m at the end of chapter four; it just keeps going beyond where I expected. Before I got to them, I knew the general series of events I wanted to cover in these last two chapters. I just wasn’t sure what would fit where, and what might go between. As it happened, everything got pushed back. The chapter two conclusion wound up in the middle of chapter three; most of the exposition that I planned for chapter three got delayed into chapter four. As a result, this chapter is fairly well packed with event. The subject can and does change from one page to the next, and yet somehow it all winds together.

There’s only one box left to check. Perhaps tomorrow we will see how that comes about. Then, on to chapter five. I’m looking forward to that one. It will be… different.

Thanks again for all your support. So far we have received nothing but positive feedback on this project. As it happens we are incurring a few unusual expenses over the next few weeks, as we move to New England to better raise our daughter. Inspirational as it may be, Brooklyn is no place for children.

If you feel like contributing, we have made it easy for you.

Twenty Thousand

We’re past the 20,000 word mark. That’s about 80 pages, by standard measurements. (In Word format I’m up to 78; in my Moleskine… that comes to 62 pages, counting back and front.) I’m not quite done with chapter four, though I have reached a milestone in its content. From here it’s all smooth until chapter five, and I have something interesting planned there. After the last two chapters it will be a nice change of pace.

I’m going to be away for the weekend, and I may not bring my notebook. I’ll have other things to think about, and I don’t want to lose or damage my work to date. Sure I’ve been typing this out every night, but the hard copy is the real thing. I can always retype it if I want, but I’ll never have the original back again.

So, phew. One more chapter or so and we should reach 100 pages — a fact that will quite probably cause my brain to melt. So that should be fun.

Bucket Seats

Oh, I see where this chapter is going. That’s good. I was hoping it would get around to all of this.

It’s odd how helpless one feels in the face of the creative process. You want things to happen, but the process has its own ideas and methods that it only sometimes deigns to share with its host. It will take your suggestions into advisement, and maybe — just maybe, when it’s done with its own little circles of contemplation — it will quietly stumble upon them. And then very likely it will pretend that they were all part of its plan.

Part of the skill in a creative field is to learn which battles to pursue. Few of them are worth the energy; just let the damned muse have her way. Little does she realize that it’s your ideas which inspire her.

The gratitude continues, with big thanks to Mr. Brandon Sheffield — whose enthusiasm I can credit with inching me toward actual production on this novel, and whose support does not abate.

A Growing Horror

This week has been eventful; until last night I barely feel that I got any rest. My writing has suffered a bit. For a few days I barely wrote, and what I did write I hated. It just wasn’t working — and the structure was all out of whack. Every few paragraphs I would realize that I had forgotten to establish something, or to include a passage that I had wanted, or had just paced things poorly and needed more breathing room — meaning my moleskine is a maze of brackets and arrows, threatening to confuse my ever more constant inline corrections.

Then I got some rest, and I took a day off. Today I went for a stroll, and several mental blocks Tetrised into place. The linear writing is back on track, which is lovely; more significantly, my notes have begun to click. I now understand the nature and logic of some key story elements, and I now know how to approach a few difficult chapters.

The horrible secret has become that much more horrible. Which is to say, it has become that much more relatable. I dread to explain it all to my wife. Perhaps I had best let that element reveal itself in the writing.

Thanks to everyone who has been following the process, and to everyone who has donated. You have done wonders already. For anyone who missed the post about the reward scheme we have in place, go check it out. It’s kind of neat, we think.

Progress will probably speed up for the next few days.

Center of the World

There’s chapter three down. That means another period of grasping while I get a feel for the next block — though as I expect the next chapter to pick up almost immediately, that may be ameliorated by the continuity. We shall see.

Another productive evening.

The Internal Coquette

We’re at 15000 words. Chapter three still has some life, though. As I said, the estimate is very rough. I find it interesting how the scenes and the dialog keep dancing around the connections that I want to make, often flirting openly: “Almost, but not yet! You’ve got to work for it!” In the interim, scenes grow and characters play through their own natural forces. It’s all for the best. It’s the tease that keeps me going.

Since the start of this chapter I have been listening to WBGO, 88.3 FM. I have my reasons. It’s been a while since I have listened to jazz, or to the radio. If you’re going to do it, might as well do it in the middle of the night.