Wednesday, February 29, 2012

100,000 The Hard Way (and Ramblings on the Past Couple of Weeks)

I realize it's been a while since I last weighed in on my progress, but the past week-and-a-half have been filled with all manner of unexpected twists and turns. I apologize in advance if this post isn't perfect prose, but hey, you can't complain about the price, right?

Most importantly, my apartment flooded a couple of weeks ago after a careless individual (or individuals) didn't notice the water level rising in my bathroom after using the facilities. Most of my time the past week-and-a-half has been spent trying to get in touch with various employees of the insurance company, as well as the drying/reconstruction company that is doing the extensive work required to get my place back to "normal."

It's been a constant pain in my ass and a huge inconvenience to myself and my neighbors below me. Thank God for insurance, or else I would be even more pissed off than I already am (if that's possible).

If I was in the "old blog" frame of mind, I'm sure I could find a lesson somewhere in all of this, but for now, I'm just waiting for my home office to dry out and for the workers to replace the carpeting. That alone would be a minor miracle, but will probably take another week or two.

Also, as I neared the end of "Part II" of my novel, I came down with a wicked case of writer's block with regard to the story for "Part III." I had developed a couple of ideas that I didn't really like, and languished for days putting off finishing the Part II "epilogue," if you will, because I didn't have anything ready to go. I'll go into "writer's block" more in-depth in a future post, but for now, know that it's a pretty helpless feeling, like being stuck in an unfamiliar town without a map or GPS.

It was a trying time for me, depressed about the flood, worried about Part III, and just feeling all-around shitty.

So, I did what I used to do in such situations; I started watching documentary series on Netflix and reading some non-fiction about topics that interested me.

I was already working my way through David McCulloch's excellent book 1776, about the first year of the Revolutionary War, when I noticed that the History Channel did a whole series about the Revolutionary War that happened to be on Netflix. For a couple of days, I tore through both the book and the series, for some reason obsessed with that time period, and the way that Washington and his underdog band of misfit officers and soldiers were able to overcome loss after loss to finally, decisively strike the British at a few incredibly important points in the war: the Seige of Boston. Crossing the Delaware to strike the German mercenaries at Trenton. Fighting a guerilla war in the Carolina back country.  And most importantly, securing a major victory after a long siege at Yorktown.

As I watched, I wondered why I was "wasting my time" on something so fascinating but ultimately "useless;" after all, if I wasn't writing, that was another "wasted" day that would come back to haunt me later, right? I kept kicking myself, so forhexed with the "act of writing" and churning out pages (since, let's be honest, that's how words get on the page...err...screen) that I lost sight of the larger forest.

Of course, after completing the doc series and the book, it finally hit me; since I was interested in that time period, and had some flexibility to play around with, why not just run with it as Part III of the book? Within an hour, I crafted a (I think) pretty good third act for this saga, which already has spurred thoughts of what "Part IV" will be like in the next book (What? You thought I was stopping after the first one?).

Working in a creative field, it's not always clear where to get inspiration. In fact, it's far closer to "never clear."I guess because the first two parts of the book came to me fairly easily, I just assumed that the third part would, as well.

The pressure of the external factor of the flood got me more than a bit down for a few days, so I decompressed a bit, and, to be perfectly blunt, felt more than a little weak about doing so.

But by decompressing, I was able to come up with a pretty kick-ass idea that is entertaining, well thought-out and plotted, and should be fun to write.

In the face of unpleasantness, and feeling a lot of pressure, sometimes it's most important to get back into a frame of mind of just feeling good, so that those feelings can rattle around in your head, ferment a bit, and age into something potentially great. Though I was kicking myself for "slacking" for a few days, those days were crucial to getting me back to a place where I want to write a story that I'm excited about, around all of the distractions and problems.

And this week, I've kicked ass, turning in 12,000 words in three days. That's "a bit low" for me now, but considering the circumstances, I'm pretty happy with the results. I have a story that works and is interesting and fun for me to write, and that makes me think about it in my time away from the computer. As a writer, that's pretty much all you can ask for.

Not only that, but I can feel my writing improving by the day; I'm certain that this third story is going to be better than the first two, which is perfectly fine, since I can always go back and make the first two that much better during editing.

For now, though, I'm happy to announce that I've surmounted the 100,000 word mark. I have no idea how long this book will ultimately end up being, though smart money is on somewhere between 140,000-150,000 words. Somewhat poetically, Word doesn't even keep a running count at the bottom after you pass 100,000; you have to run a manual check anytime you want to see how many you have.

In some ways, that's good; it will allow me to get back to writing "the story" instead of dutifully counting the words at the bottom like a robot...or a really, really smart...chimp...of some sort.

After a couple more weeks? The editing starts.

And THAT, my friends, is when the real fun begins...

Words: 100,054
Pages: 350 3/4

D.J. Gelner covers the Rams beat for insideSTL.com, and is an aspiring author.  Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) or facebook (here).  E-mail him at djssuperblog@gmail.com.  You can also listen to his podcast (Bottle and Cans) here.

8 comments:

  1. "Anonymous left a comment:

    Sometimes, toilets overflow. It doesn't necessarily have to be anyone's fault, and it's not something that is always immediately noticed. It isn't anything to end friendships over. You'll feel better if you decide to be forgiving rather than demanding answers and making people feel nervous to talk to you.

    It's a toilet.

    Sincerely,
    Someone Who Wasn't Even There"

    To the safely anonymous commenter that thinks that they know the details of my life better than I do:

    You would do well to stop accepting one-sided stories at face value. You don't reference the (no exaggeration) tens of thousands of dollars in water damage caused by the culprit. Nor do you discuss that I can't even live in my place for a month as they have to recarpet and refinish a fairly large area of it, and the productive time out of my day that will be wasted the next month or so as I have to be around to let in the contractors.

    I don't want to get into the specifics in a public forum, but forgive me if I think that this is more than "a toilet." I'm happy to enlighten you further via facebook message, since your handle on the situation is clearly clouded by an agenda and flimsy, at best.

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  2. I've been following your blog for a few weeks now, and find your progress inspiring. Like you, I've quite my crap job (government in my case) and am trying my hand at writing. You seem to be writing a massive book, where I'm focusing on several smaller works. I'm looking forward to reading your work and keeping track of your success. Good luck!

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  3. Quite my crap job? Glad I'm trying to be a writer...

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  4. Thanks for the comment, Jason. That's great to hear that you're trying to make a go of it. I think writing smaller works is definitely one way to go, it just so happened that the first idea I'm working with lends itself better to the longer format. There's no one way to success in this brave new world of indie publishing; we're all figuring it out as we go along!

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  7. That's awful. Really sorry that this was what your experience was like. Why didn't the person notice the water? I guess everyone has bad days every once in a while. Thank God for insurance right?

    Speaking of insurance, I work for an excellent insurance company in Massachusetts. We're one of the leading providers of car insurance in Leominster MA and the surrounding towns, and if you happen to live in our area I would recommend taking a look at our website and requesting a complimentary quote or assessment. Whether you’re in need of home, business, life, or car insurance we have the team to meet your needs.

    Just my two cents!

    - Gwen

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