Tuesday, June 29, 2010

840 words

Not a great day, but having not great days is part of the process. I'm grateful that I was able to just add sentences.

I am getting a little concerned about my stamina. It seems forever since I went for more than an hour.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The warm weather writing chair

Good start to my restart today. 800 words. About 1 hour of solid invention. Finished off with a good place to take it up again tomorrow.

Felt like old times especially because I'm back in the chair that I wrote the first novel in -- a cheap outdoor glider on our screened porch. Hard to believe it was 3 years ago that I was doing the same thing. I'm not sure what will happen if the timing is such that I'm writing a first draft in the winter.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yet another fresh start

I'm back from my extended stay overseas and am just about back on a normal sleep schedule. Tomorrow is a Monday and as good a day as I'll get to recommit.

To what, exactly, isn't clear, but I'm going back to basics. Put the butt in the chair and pick up the pen and sit there until my time is up. No other expectations matter.

That said, I expect to spend the first-thing-in-the-morning energy drafting new material for the second novel. Meanwhile, the first novel is back in play. I think it needs to be revised some more. I'm going to give that the energy of later in the day for the time being, at least until I have a better sense of what work needs to be done.

Afternoons are devoted to getting back to paying work, which I gave myself a leave from during the last six months abroad.

It wasn't a successful trip in most ways. I thought it would be a writer's retreat where I got the second novel written, but that's not how it worked out, and I'm just going to have to let that go and not let the "ought to"s and the "should have"s keep me from JUST ADDING SENTENCES.

I really am back to the beginning.

Monday, June 7, 2010

On excerpting novels to make short fiction

I ought to have remembered my previous theorizing about the difficulty -- and often unsuitability -- of excerpting novels to produce something that can pass as a short story. I worked through this just about a year ago when Lorrie Moore had what I thought was a very flat "story" in The New Yorker, only to discover later that it was an excerpt of her forthcoming novel in which context it made a lot more sense.

If I had been thinking of that I might have been more generous or patient with Jeffrey Euginides' recent work in the The New Yorker. He's one of my favorites. Or his second novel Middlesex is, anyway. He's not exactly the most prolific writer, and I eagerly await his next novel. In the meantime, he had a piece of short fiction in The New Yorker recently, which I read and was so disappointed by. That's it? What a lame ending.

It turns out I was mistakenly assuming it was a short story (I wish The New Yorker would account for this and just put add the words "excerpt from a novel in progress" at the start. Because they feel the work should stand on its own? It's the 21st century. People expect a little context.) The novel is apparently forthcoming. Eugenides discusses it and film adaptation and other stuff on The New Yorker book blog.

So the lame ending is presumably the end of a chapter and makes more sense read that way. I wonder if it's even the end of an episode in a longer chapter. In any case, I take it as further support for my theory. Maybe this will be an annual event -- a weirdly flat short "fiction" in The New Yorker in June and a long-awaited novel later in the summer. Maybe we can predict who it will be in 2011. Who else has been missing from the scene for several years? Maybe it will be Harper Lee.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The spayed computer

I've written before about how easily distracted from my work I am by email and internet and how I ought to have a second computer that isn't connected. There's an interesting note about that strategy from Johathan Lethem on the Pen America site, and the New Yorker book blog summarizes it:

In an e-mail correspondence posted on PEN American's Web site that's been running this week, Jonathan Lethem tells David Gates his secret for writing fiction: an Internet-less laptop. "I’ve set up a second computer, devoid of internet, for my fiction-writing," Lethem explains. "You should imagine my computer set-up guy’s consternation when I insisted he drag the Internet function out of the thing entirely. 'I can just hide it from you,' he said. 'No,' I told him, 'I don’t want to know it’s in there somewhere.'"

I've decided I'm actually going to do it. (In my case, this is more about the revision process, which I do in a word processor, than the drafting, which I do long-hand.) I now have a computer to spare that will work for this -- one I replaced because it was operating too slowly and because I wanted more memory for photos on the extended trip I'm on. When I get home, the new one will be my connected computer, and I'm going to spay the old laptop to use for the revision work.