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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reading Out of Focus...

The month of November was, without a doubt, one of the most rewarding and active in all of my writing career. This may or may not include my dissertation in 1998. Needless to say, something was going to give out, and, to all certainty, it was my reading. I've got four books to read the rest of the year and I probably won't get to the end of the list. I am sure there's no sin in that--I often have books that I forward to the new years' list. But keeping in mind that I will only be reading "Classics" next year, it will be another year or so before I can get to these four or five books. It's okay. I am resigned to this.

The bursts of writing still occur, but I decided to take off a couple of days after completing NaNoWriMo, and I believe it has been worth it to rest. I think my wife is more excited about the novel than I am, really. Of course the draft needs vast revision/editing, but all in all grammar and mechanics should not cause a problem during this time. I find it difficult to believe it, when I see the printed draft on my desk at work and at home, that I actually did this; that the first ever conception of a character and a plot finally came to fruition after so many years (at least 15 years, that is). The other day I reviewed all of my files, drafts of short stories, novels and other writings I have kept over the years, published and unpublished, and was happy to see that now the process of bursting them open and let everything come out is more palpable to me. This also applies to the non-fiction. I began a short essay when my father died three years ago which is now beginning to look like another possibility. There are so many things I want to tell.

Teaching has been tough in the last couple of weeks. Trying to teach MLA standards to a bunch of high school aged girls seems like an impossible task at times. They all seem so busy with other things... media trends, television shows, the Internet has become an extension of their social life, as more and more of them interact and share "space" where there is, in reality, no space at all. Often times they act like automatons, digesting whatever they see online or television as if it were the gospel of success. It's discouraging, but as long as I have one willing student, I will make some endeavour.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

NaNoWriMo, post iii


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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Writer... for the first time.

This is the first time in my life that I truly feel like a writer. It's strange to actually come to realize this; I have two degrees in English from highly competitive schools. When I signed up to do NaNoWriMo, the thing that came to mind were all those false starts, plot outlines never taken up again, etc. I remember listening to an interview in the Micheal Feldman show on NPR once--I can't remember who the writer was--but the person being interviewed said that the first draft is always terrible, that there was nothing anyone could do about that. All that one can do is keep on writing. I remembered this but it seems it never really sank in... until now. For NaNoWriMo I went back to my roots, to the first ever plot/draft/story I ever tried writing. I took the plot and revamped it, gave the protagonist a new name, and thought of new outlines. Going with the NaNoWriMo rules, I didn't begin to write until November 1st, but once I did the torrents came and flooded my imagination with ideas, new twists, etc. I am loving this process... and I just broke 40,000 words today!

For a long time I struggled with the feeling that I was a "poser" when it came to writing. I mean, I wrote almost everyday, filling Moleskine after Moleskine notebook, posting what I thought was not even halfway decent on my personal website, and feeling that if I went to write at Starbucks I would just be committing the worst sin of "poserhood." Not now, though. I have been writing at a cafe close to home and I can't even seem to keep track of time as words accumulate on the screen and page. The storyline is so clear in my mind, I can almost feel the warm sun while walking around Oxford (half the novel takes place there).

As a young English major in an undergraduate program full of some of the finest young writers in the country, I felt out of place for four years. Later, at Georgetown University for my Masters Degree, I was competing with the best of the best in theory and criticism. Needless to say, I never fitted in. I love my memories and years as a student, but they left me with insecurities about calling myself a writer. I remember reading Ernest Hemingway's "A Movable Feast," thinking what a wonderful thing it would be to simply realize that one is a writer. Today, while I was writing at the cafe, a young woman entered. She was very beautiful, and obviously waiting for someone (she kept calling on her cell phone). From time to time I would look up and see her reading the paper. Then I remember the passage from "A Movable Feast:"

"A girl came in the cafe and sat by herself at a table near the window. She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin, and her hair was black as a crow's wing and cut sharply and diagonally across her cheek.
I looked at her and she disturbed me and made me very excited. I wished I could put her in the story, or anywhere, but she had placed herself so she could watch the street and the entry and I knew she was waiting for someone. So I went on writing.
The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it. I ordered another rum St. James and I watched the girl whenever I looked up, or when I sharpened the pencil with a pencil sharpener with the shavings curling into the saucer under my drink.
I've seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again, I thought. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil."

There are some obvious differences, of course. I was in no way interested in the young woman, and I even went out of my way to display my wedding band by scratching my face whenever I knew she was looking at me. I had no interest in making her "belong to me." I was drinking coffee and not rum St. James. I was using my computer, although I did have my Moleskine close at hand. But the fact that I remember this fine passage from "A Movable Feast" while in the act of writing, and made the connection to it made me incredibly happy for some reason or another. And so I concluded today's work with 3,000+ words and over 40,000 total. I am a happy man.... finally a writer!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Crossing the Border to the Other Side...

By border I am not referring to the line between countries, nor, am I making a statement about divisions. I just crossed the 25,000 words line for my novel, and I can't believe it has taken me this far into the plot. It worked out almost perfectly--the word count--dividing the novel in two parts exactly where it should be.

I hate to think that I have neglected this blog. I am presently reading "The Gunter Grass Reader," and although I have enjoyed his short stories, his speeches seem disconnected with the overall flow of the book. It's difficult to get into his short fiction, although an essay about his writing of "The Tin Drum" is excellent. I will include some quotes from it here in my next post.

I want to thank everyone for their encouraging words. I am half-way through. I'll try to make the second half just as exciting.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Frightening... really.

The fact that characters take on a life of their own and begin to make decisions while you are just typing away trying to get to 50,000 words in one month is starting to freak me out. It was touch and go before I reached the 5,000 mark. Since, I have noticed the characters' ability to just do when I get stuck--they move the plot along. I decided to change a scene today so I re-wrote it (which I shouldn't have done) worried over the fact that I could lose it if I didn't put it down on paper. It turned out better, but I might have lost 1,300 words in the process since I have to delete the older scene and replace it with the new one. We'll see.

I am reading The Gunter Grass Reader, as an introduction to this great German writer/thinker. I find his style too experimental for my taste, yet insightful with many psychological and philosophical underlying themes. I still have four more books to read in order to complete my list for the year. With nanowrimo I am starting to believe it would be impossible to finish my reading list. At any rate, thanks for all the encouragement. If you are doing nanowrimo, and would like another buddy, my id is jcr3008.

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