Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Bullets

So, where did this week go? I can't believe it's already Friday. That means it's a good day for bullets, I think.

  • I need to take a course in setting realistic goals. When I decided to abandon the novel I was trying to write that just wasn't getting written and sat down and outlined the first novel in my small-Southern-college-town series, I came up with 12 chapters and an elaborate list of characters, some of whom are definitely going to have to wait for other books in the series if they're eager to be noticed. I'm someone who writes my first drafts long-hand and then works on second drafts by getting them into electronic form. After that, the real editing begins. Here's what I thought: "12 chapters? I can write one chapter a week. I'll have the first draft done in 12 weeks. 12 more weeks until the second draft is done, and then I can start sending it out to select friends and family members to review." Need I say that this plan, if I can only stop beating myself up over the fact that it will never come to fruition (and, why, oh why did I recently have to read that little tidbit somewhere that Janet Evanovich claims to spend 8 hours a day writing? 8 hours a day? And she isn't exactly writing War and Peace), is one that is well-suited for causing people to be rolling around on the floor, clutching their stomachs in pain from laughing so hard? Six weeks into writing my novel, and I'm not even done with Chapter Three yet. (Granted, I spend time on blog posts and ghost stories, too, but still...)
  • Remember how I put an ILL request on a book for the mystery book discussion group back in January and surmised the book must be traveling by sloth express? I didn't. I completely forgot about that until the sloth arrived last week and dropped off the book at my local library. That sloth must have been on uppers. I really didn't think he'd make it much before Christmas. Still, a good reminder that ILL is not the way to go if I need a book for a book discussion group.
  • For once, I got all enamored over something I read in a book (living a local, sustainable, grow-and-make-my-own food sort of existence a la Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I read last year) and decided to give it a go without disastrous results. Granted, I was smart enough this time to start small. I did not move Bob and me out to a farm and start raising my own chickens to butcher and sheep to shear, so I could spin my own yarn and start knitting all our clothes while I was at it, which is usually the way I tend to tackle such projects. However, I did start with something that seemed slightly daunting: making cheese. For the right setting, I have a friend who lives on a farm, and, knowing she'd already tried to make it once, I asked if she'd like to try again with me. No, we didn't milk cows to get the milk, but we did visit a local dairy to get it and then went back to the old farm house to try our hand at making fresh mozzarella. Was it as difficult as I thought it would be? No, once we realized we just needed to keep heating it and to wear rubber gloves while kneading it. Was it as delicious as the fresh mozzarella I used to get at the Italian deli across the street from my ex-boyfriend's apartment? Nowhere near. Still, it was an excellent "old college try," and I'm hopeful it will get better each time I try again, which yes, I do plan to do (but don't hold me to it).
  • For the first time in nearly two years, we have TV. When we moved here, we had some very unpleasant run-ins with the Direct TV installers who told us we did not have a direct line of sight for the satellite dish. We refuse to support the cable monopoly, so we just decided to go without, and I really didn't miss it much at all. Then, I went and spent nearly 2 weeks at my brother-in-law's watching TV. I really, really wanted to be able to watch all those cool nature shows again. Bob decided he really, really wanted to be able to watch sports again. Bob called Direct TV once more, relayed all our woes from our last experience, and by the time he got off the phone, we'd gotten a great deal, as well as a free HD-DVR receiver. The very nice installer had no problem getting it all set up for us. Okay, last time we got Direct TV, it was because I'd spent a week in Maine watching the Food Network and really wanted to watch it at home. How much did I watch it once we got Direct TV? Oh, about once every six months. Since hooking up the TV this time, how often have I watched a nature show? Not once. However, if you want to know how long it takes someone who has been nearly two years without a DVR to get back into the habit of taping hours of movies and shows she will never have time to watch, the answer is about two seconds.
  • Each of these bullet points is practically full-blog-length. Brevity is not one of my strong points, is it?


ZoesMom said...

I think almost 3 chapters in 6 weeks is really good progress! Just revise your schedule and you'll feel a lot better. Trust me, I revise schedules all the time so I know it works. :-)

I am really impressed by the cheese making.

Stefanie said...

I think Janet's 8-hour writing day uses creative accounting. I'll bet she includes the couple hours she stares off into space or out the window. And I bet she counts responding to email and talking to her editor on the phone as well. As long as it gets done at your writing desk, it counts. ;)

Your Direct TV story made me laugh. We have an old TV at my house and have refused to buy a digital converter. We are happily looking forward to no longer having a signal.

Anne Camille said...

Made your own cheese? Impressive! It sounds like it's only a small notch down on the scale that has grow own sheep/make own clothes as the upper limit, though.

Zoe's Mom is right; 3 chapters in 6 wks is good progress, especially if you are only doing this a few hours a day. Keep plugging away at it.

I have no idea how to operate a DVR, just started subscribing to NetFlix, and have to have husband or son get the movie to start playing for me. I would be much better off if I didn't have a tv. Haven't had one on while on vacation all week and it's been heavenly, although I might tonight just to catch a glimpse of French news, which I probably won't be able to understand because there is no "slow down" button on the audio. (Obviously, I couldn't unplug from the internet, but only late at night back at the hotel.)

Anonymous said...

Emily, I think that I am going to give up scheduling for good, but first I want to make you feel better.

It takes me on average about 6 years to write a novel, that includes a couple of years of floundering and sometimes dropping another novel and usually reconceiving the book several times.

Life happens while writing. I've been raising kids and while I don't know what else you've been doing, I am sure that writing isn't the only thing.

I don't believe anyone writes 8 hours a day. Someone might have 8 hours of "writing," which includes research, reading, thinking, making notes, making coffee, talking on the phone, checking email, paying a bill, throwing the laundry on, eating snacks, making snacks... It wouldn't be possible to actually type or handwrite that long. Your brain would wear out.

I can write about 4 hours a day. Less on early drafts, more on late drafts. Any more than that and the next day I'm fried. Plus I get very bad-tempered if I write up to the time I'm getting my kids. There has to be some chill time before hand.

I've been thinking--this time it's going to be faster, easier, 2 years max because this time I've got it covered. And every time I have had to re-write yet again, and again, and the chapters took longer. Revising my schedule got to be shocking and upsetting.

I think I would like from now on not to be shocked or upset, because that just delays the revision. ;)

litlove said...

That's excellent progress! If I write a chapter in three months I'm happy! And very impressed by the cheese-making, too.

Rebecca H. said...

I think you're making excellent progress with your writing too -- good job! And there's nothing wrong with getting ambitious, right? As long as you're willing to revise the schedule later and don't beat yourself up too much about mot meeting those goals, of course. But if you hadn't started with big goals, you might not have gotten as much written as you have now, right?

Emily Barton said...

ZM, busy revising as I type this...

Stef, so all those hours I sit at my desk reading blogs certainly count, right? And I guarantee you won't miss TV once you lose the signal.

Lilian, thank you SO much for the encouragement. It's nice to know how a *real* novelist works and to know I'm not as far off the mark as I think I am.

Litlove, yes, but your sort of writing means all kinds of reading and research. I'm just drawing on life experiences. However, it's still nice to know you think I'm making "excellent" progress and that the cheese-making is impressive (it really wasn't so hard. Just sounds like it would be).

Dorr, you're so right. Starting out with big goals seems to ultimately work in my favor.