Writing late

Today I wrote around 2,000 words on a small chapter. The biggest problem I am having lately is with my process. I’m wasting a lot of time throughout the day not writing. Then late at night, I sit down, put words to paper, write a decent amount of stuff and before I know it, the clock is telling me it is 2am and I am still wide awake.

Then I lie in bed, feeling my body shaking from exhaustion. I pull myself out of bed, my feet hitting the floor all wobbly like those of a newborn deer. I reach out for my phone and open the Notes app. There is where I sketch other scenes I want to work on later. Sometimes it is exchanges of dialog, sometimes it is just a note of something I remember that I want to get down before it is lost to exhaustion. This can go on for hours.

Tonight I got over 3,500 words down, excluding this blog post. I’m getting braver about what I write about, taking greater risks, cutting deeper and deeper to the marrow of the story. The solitude and quiet and cool night air help. Once I get the words down in the Scrivener document, anything left over gets jotted down in the notes and then the next day moved from my phone to the main document via Airdrop.

I’m not letting myself think about who is going to read this. It feels good to get the words down. The story is coming through, like big and small blogs of ink on a page, which expand outward, creating the mosaic of a story as I go. I’m beginning to feel a theme, and a plot of some kind come together too.

I’m going to try to rest now before the ideas come beating at the door of my brain, demanding to be heard.

Damn it, Brain!

This morning, I am dragging ass something fierce. I could have used another two hours of sleep. This morning has been brought to me by book brain. Yesterday I made a lot of progress on the book. By the time I went to bed, I had the first 1000 words written as well as a crap-ton of notes, themes, and other things I wanted to include. I probably shouldn’t have talked about it with my extremely supportive girlfriend on the phone last night, because that sorta stoked the fires more. The old writer brain was up until 1:30am, working through things. Taking notes on my phone.

It was glorious.

There is a lot that is going to be involved in this project. I have two ways to go. One of which is going to get me sued, so I can’t be all Sebastian Junger on this and go into journalist mode. Instead, I’ll have to write it as a fiction. Which is fine because nobody would believe half the stuff anyway.

The few people I have spoken with directly about this project are stoked so far. It seems like people want to know how the sausage is made. Higher Ed has left a sour taste in many people’s mouths.

I’m thinking of books like The Jungle, the Sun Also Rises, Drinking with Strangers, and even Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Books which are heavy on narration, yet cut deep and to the bone when it comes to disillusionment, pulling no punches, and exposing the subject. I like the voice of Krakauer’s books on ill-fated adventure which usually ends in tragedy. He is good at dotting his I’s and crossing his T’s. I find a lot of similarities in absurdity and redundancy at this place as I would with Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 too. I don’t know. Well, I do know. I don’t read a lot these days, which works against me sometimes, but it also helps in that I have a story that is mine to tell and won’t use what I’ve read as a crutch as much as my own experiences.

Anyway, there is a lot of ground to cover. 18 years before the mast. Four years before that as a student. A lot of it is details. Mostly my process is just going to be to spew everything onto the page in some kind of wordgasm and then try to construct a story from there. I guess that’s how a lot of things take form.

In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of freelance work to do. More to follow!

Work in progress

Today is a double post.  I realized this was an entry all on its own, and important enough to get its own entry.

My book

The chapter I finished last night started off in my little black notebook, written in my nearly indecipherable coded language, known as Clint’s handwriting in cursive.  The older I get, the worse it becomes too.  Most of the time I can’t read it, which means that my ideas and secrets are safe if I ever lose the notebooks.  It also means that as I transcribe the writing to electronic format, I can’t read much of what is there either.  Fortunately, it’s more of a mnemonic trigger.  If I start transcribing and then the writing takes over, generally I cover whatever I had written in the notebook.  To my surprise, this even includes specific words and details I will later decipher from reading the notebook again, just to make sure I caught everything.  It’s almost as if the story is there, and I am just uncovering it and bringing it back into the light.

The little black notebook is the perfect bridge from the brain to digital.  It’s an analog tool that acts as a capacitor of sorts, slowing down the impossible speed and clarity of the mind to something the computer can deal with.

Last night was a tricky piece involving a Rashomon method, where I tell the story one way and then from another character’s POV it is something else entirely.  I’m hoping I can pull it off.  It was a lot of fun to write.  I think it also worked well with the pacing, and rather than breadcrumb the reader into the big reveal moments, which are already highly telegraphed, I can just drop them in the middle of it, and they can enjoy the ride.  I think that will free up the story much better, rather than put all these Agatha Christie-esque A-HA! moments into the book.  This is only the first draft, so anything is still possible.

I have waffled on word counts.  Like many of my writer friends, I used to use them as a measure of progress.  I still keep an eye on them as a way to feel satisfied.  Anything under 800 words, and I feel lazy. So I try to increase that whenever I can.  But the numbers are arbitrary.  Yesterday, combined with the blogs, this blog, and the chapter, I probably wrote around 5,000 words.  Around ten years ago, I could write a 10,000 word short story in one day, then spend the next two weeks whittling it down to publishable size.

The word counts mean something, since they can show that I am just phoning it in and could be pushing myself further.  Much like the steps we count to stay in shape.  The important thing for me to get into the habit of is pushing myself until the words stop working, until I hit the point of exhaustion. That could be 500 words. Or it could be 10,000.  Right now, about an hour and a half is what I am back up to.  I’m letting the story tell me when it is done with me.

This morning in the shower, the story tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me it was still there.  It’s some changes to the chapter from last night.  Sometimes it would be nice to have a little privacy. Scared the hell out of me!