I've finally done somthing about it. My new, low-volume blog FLOG will feature my answers to readers' (and writers'!) questions about manuscript formatting, both newly received and mined from my email archives. Come on over and argue with us.
I may get there later in the book, but for now I'm sticking with the absolute goals. In the middle of February I will spend a week traveling to places like Orlando and Milwaukee, and I plan to try to get far enough ahead by then that I don't have to worry about working full bore that week.
If you read between the lines of the previous two posts, you'll see that I was supposed to start writing the novel on Monday but didn't actually get underway until Tuesday. On Monday I ended up going back to a novelette I completed recently and extended it by a couple of pages. That's okay. I didn't quite catch up to where I was supposed to be on Tuesday, but yesterday I had a good run and not only caught up but gained a couple of pages. Finishing Chapter 1 put me on the middle of page 11. I read the chapter to Laura after her marathon-training run last night, and she said if she'd read it in a bookstore she would have had to buy the book and keep going.
This morning I bought a whole mess of 3x5 cards in different colors, tabbed 3x5 dividers, and a little 3x5 filing box. I'm making notes on characters, worldbuilding elements, and plot points, and filing everything by chapter. The terror of Chapter 1 is past, only to be replaced by the greater terror of Chapter 2.
Maybe a lot of writers are like this, but I find it almost impossible to maintain forward momentum on a project as big as a novel without breaking the process down into manageable chunks. If I tell myself I need to write a complete novel in three or four monthspanic! But if I tell myself I need to write three pages of a novel every day, well, that's seems pretty reasonable.
So I've created myself a calendar and given myself a set of rules. The calendar started on January 26, and the note for that day says "3." The note for January 27 says "6." The note for today says "9," and so on. The calendar extends all the way to May 15, the note for which says "330."
The rules are pretty simple. It's kind of like football, in fact. Every day I start at the line of scrimmage, which is wherever I left off the day before, and write at least until the cursor reaches the page with that day's number. It doesn't matter if I actually type anything on that page or not. As long as the cursor reaches that page through legal game play, I'm safe. That can either be accomplished by writing all the way to the end of a page naturally, or by reaching the end of a chapter and advancing automatically to the next page.
For bonus yardage and a bit of a kickstart, each new chapter starts halfway down the page. (You can see that this allows for things to start out easy on the first day. From halfway down page 1, it only takes a hair over a page and a half to get to 3.)
I just did a word count on the novel I (to all intents and purposes) started writing yesterday. Here's what WordPerfect told me:
Words: 1000 Sentences: 64Two perfect cubes. I'll bet that doesn't happen again for the remainder of the book.
So here at the WorkSpace, I've been writing a passage about a nanogoop-based painting that can fix itself if the image gets damaged. Here in the real world, there are some paintings with thick, ridged lines of textured paint on display in the hallway, and as I was walking to the kitchen for a glass of water just now I was tempted to grab one of the ridges and snap it offlike my protagonist had just done to his painting in my story. This is why I shouldn't be allowed near a keyboard. Or maybe near art.
Some questions for you other full-time writers out there. What are your work habits? How long a day do you write? Do you keep regular hours? Where do you work? How do you keep yourself going? What do you do when you get stuck?
I guess I'm not managing the transition well very yet, and I'm looking for some pointers.
I found myself applauding Timothy Egan's guest column "Typing Without a Clue" from Saturday's New York Times. Not that I, as the author of a "riveting memoir" unsold "after 10 years of toil," feel any bitterness on the topic:
The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?
I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate....
With a résumé full of failure, he now thinks he can join the profession of Mark Twain, George Orwell and Joan Didion....
Of the Six Fundamental Machines inscribed by the Builder in the Cornerstone of Time, the Wheel and Axle lends itself to perhaps the most stupendous domain of potential recomplications. Picture the sky as a giant clockwork mechanismeach planet a semiprecious stone set in the rim of its own great wheel, ticking about the axis of a star that is in turn a chip of diamond studding the rim of its own greater wheel, one that inscribes a unique but interdependent path about the center of gravity of a galaxy that is itself less than a cog on a still greater wheel that in concert with hundreds of billions of others drives the engine of the Universe. Fractal geometry on a scale to beggar the imagination.
Now zoom in again to picture yourself on the rim of your own planetary wheel, observing the progress of a friend on the rim of another wheel in the same system. Assuming different rates of travel, to watch that friend is sometimes to see an apparent reversal in his course. This loop of retrogression, as it's known, stems from the fact that you the observer are yourself a passenger on a body in motion.
All things in the Builder's creation serve not only their own functions as objects but also as lessons for his children. Thus does the Wheel and Axle teach us that to move forward is sometimes to appear, perhaps even to ourselves, to slide back.