Turns out it isn’t that exciting.

Museum Hallway

I mentioned at the start of Story 7 that I was going to try really hard to actually point out all the little steps along the way that lead up to a story. So far there has been a lot of nothing. I mentioned casually that I had the clacking of billiard balls and an old guy. That was last Thursday. Over the course of the weekend I’ve managed to flesh out a lot more of the story, and I have to tell you that the process really wasn’t that interesting.

I basically sat at my computer for large parts of Saturday and Sunday. And I typed here and there. I’ve been over this, but I’ll say it again because it keeps on proving true. Once you start making choices you have to let yourself follow those choices. That’s how I do it, anyway. I made a couple of choices: this old guy was going to be watching pool/billiards, not playing it. And he wasn’t watching anywhere particularly nice. In other words, he wasn’t in a red velvet billiard room in some eighteen-nineties mansion. He was in a pool hall. And he was sitting there, alone, watching pool. It all started flowing from there. I will mention that I also start drawing on anything and everything that’s stored in my head. In this case, for some reason, mainly the language I was using to describe everything I think, a thought I had a few years ago popped into my head.

I was at The Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York and, as always, I was completly overwhelmed in an hour. I had what I like to call “museum-head,” which is what happens when you spend too long in a museum and your head feels like it’s filled with cotton. And I started wondering what poeple who work in a museum must feel like. They have to have museum-head all the time. As chance would have it, I didn’t start pondering the dealers or collectors or curators or whatevers that would be in heaven in this place surrounded by the thing they love most. Instead I started thinking about the security guards. I mean, they’re basically Rent-A-Cops, they could just as easily have wound up in a mall somewhere, but no, they’re standing there in the middle of The Met. What’s it like when these guys go home from work? It might not be too crazy, but it’s certainly different. Anyway, I gave my old guy that job and a dead wife and not so great coping skills and the story started to come together.

Again, it’s not that interesting when I tell it like that…I’m learning that there’s also a very good reason that I opt to write a story about it instead.

Welcome to the world; may I take your order?

Computers greeting each other

I started buying ads on Google two days ago. Curiosity was a driving factor. Plus, the AdWords program is so scalable that I can put in five bucks a day and reach millions of customers. Yes. I know. I sound like a rep for Google but you have to admit it’s pretty awesome. I’m nobody. I’m tiny. But for five bucks a day my ad can reach anyone using the internet…provided they perform a search based on the key words I put in. I really can’t get over it. Plus Google has about seventy different ways to crunch the numbers for you, and the data they use, well it’s Google’s data. Every search ever done on Google gets used to tell me how effective my keywords are being. And I push a button and Google suggests a whole bunch of new keywords and offers ways to punch up my ads (apparently putting “www” in front of my website name is more effective for some reason, also).

Granted, it might not work for me. My product is a little hard to identify at the moment and most of the clicks I got on the first day were for people who were searching for “sex stories” and not just “stories.” So it takes some tweaking and then I’ll have to see how many readers that come in from these ads actually stick around…which is something that Google makes very easy to figure out. And if it does work, can you imagine that?

Mass media allowed for the creation of advertising as we know it. And I pretty much hate all ads. The only ones I like are basically thirty second movies where I can’t tell you what the product was. But maybe as the information flows faster and reaches more people and the connections become more intricate, maybe as the internet shores itself up and the data starts accumulating, maybe we’ll reach a point where if I want a funny book about vampire stock-car racers, I’ll be directed right to that with minimal effort. Products going exactly where they’re wanted and needed and customers finding exactly what they want in seconds. In other words, maybe advertising as we know it is dying. It’s only about seventy years old by my very vague and shaky estimates; I’m going with radio as the first format for advertising as I mean it. But if my three line ad with Google that costs nickels to run and sits quietly on the side of the screen until someone actually wants it actually works…well call me a nerd but I think that’s pretty neat.

Oh, and I’m nowhere with my story.

Was the Hare really so bad?

 Tortoise

I told you that I would fill you in this time on every little detail of the process in the hopes that I’d capture the exact moment when the mush in my brain became a story.  So here goes.

It occurred to me today that it might be fun to write a murder mystery.  Then it occurred to me that I’d never done that, didn’t know how to do that, and didn’t have the tiniest bit of a storyline to go with.  I do think it would be fun, but…well that third reason is a bit of a sticky wicket.  Just having the genre of Murder-Mystery in mind doesn’t really mean I could write one.  But that’s what is in my head.

Then, on the train ride home, there was this little guy…pretty meek, pretty old, seemed very nice.  I only caught a glimpse of him as he was walking the other way but it was enough.  When I got to my train I decided to put a hat on him.  Sort of one of those old time straw hats but not really.  Then I heard billiard balls clacking together.

And that’s what I’ve got.  I’m most excited about the billiard balls because that’s a very tangible image for me.  That sound they make when they hit.  I could see something coming out of that.  But right now my brain is moving about as fast as the little guy in the picture at the top of this post so I think I’ll just go scribble in my journal.

Ignoring Captain Hook’s Crocodile

Banana Peel

I talked some big game earlier about getting right on this and trying to finish this story early and so on and such. Unfortunately I’ve got Season One of House, M.D. at home and I can’t seem to stop watching it. Maybe I should write a story about a guy with a cane. Who’s coarse and teaches important lessons with unorthodox methods and thank god I finished “Three Lessons” before this show arrived in the mail or I’d have to wonder where Epp’s storyline came from. So, anyway, I can’t stop watching this House show.

Which is fine since it’s only Tuesday. Right? Maybe? At this point I’ve lost all reference points. I’m pulling stories out of nowhere in five, four, three days. I might possibly be writing a book in serial format. And it appears I’m getting really cocky. This is not good. Or maybe I’m scared.

See with all those other magic tricks where stories came out of nowhere, there was actually a somewhere. It was tiny, but it was there. A man with glasses at a wedding became, “Second Choice,” which then became “Three Lessons,” and a boy with dirty hair became, “Black Eyed Susan,” and a sock that turned pink became, “The Rags.” And, yes, those were all tiny little details. But they were…I don’t know…strong isn’t the right word. Powerful is more like it. They spoke to me. I’d get a flash of that kid with dirty hair (turns out it was sandy but whatever) or the guy at the wedding with glasses and I could hear distant voices and get a whiff or two of emotion. Like I was hiding in a closet while listening to a cocktail party. And as I tugged and tugged at those little details they finally popped open and I had stories.

But do you see the difference here? No detail. Nothing.

Should I be worried?

Pulling A Rabbit Out of My Head

Thinking Man

 

When I started this project I hoped for…well I hoped for a lot of things. But one thing I hoped for was that I would shed some light on the whole writing process by using these daily entries. I’ve been looking over old posts and I can’t tell if I’ve been doing that or not.

I’m most certainly getting across the anxiety of a deadline fast approaching, or at least I’m writing about it a lot. And I’m getting across how at some point at the beginning of every story there is nothing. It’s just that I’m not sure I’m filling in the gaps between “nothing” and “something.” You’d think that with one entry a day (okay, I skip the weekends now but all that means is that whatever I was going to say gets smooshed into one entry on Sunday night) I’d have a few posts about nothing, then !KAPOW! there’ d be this inspirational post where sunlight bursts through the clouds and birds flutter around and then I’d move on to the posts about how my deadline is approaching. But I’m not sure that’s happening. And I’m not even sure it’s possible for that to happen.

That moment, the sunlight through the clouds moment, is awful difficult to capture. Because it isn’t a moment, it’s a long slow fleshing out of a story. And it happens in little bits in pieces as I’m walking down the sidewalk so that I don’t even notice it happening anymore. I’ll leave my apartment in the morning with not so much of my story worked out, and when I get home much much more of my story is worked out. It’s…well it’s kind of weird now that I think about it.

Anyway, my point here is that this time, this time I’m really going to try to pinpoint when things come together. Even if that means (and this is something I’m not fond of doing but I’ll give it a whirl for this one) talking about specifics in my story before I’ve finished the story (really, I don’t like doing that…I feel it steals the mojo. So if this story has no mojo then you’ll know why. Or I might just decide to ignore my pledge here and write this story the same way I have the past six.)

I promise.

Right now, though, I’ve got nothing.

Man or Superman?

Fast Fingers

I began to wonder over the weekend whether or not I’m some sort of new breed of “Super Writer.”  I’m not talking about the quality of my work, mind you, nor am I really only talking about myself.  I’m referring more to the current generation of writers out there.

We, on the whole, have more practice using keyboards to input data than any generation ever.  Now, I’ve never done an actual comparison, but I’m certain that typing is much much faster than writing things out longhand.  Especially, in my case, if one wants to actually read what is being written at some future point in time.  But what struck me this weekend was how much more there was to it than just typing.  It’s all the practice we get for our typing that got me thinking.  As a lifelong video-gamer I’ve come to approach the use of a joystick containing seventeen or eighteen buttons as perfectly normal.  It’s mind-boggling when I stop and think about it.  And I’m pretty good at pressing those buttons in a specified pattern at a very fast speed.  That is, after all, what playing video games really is.  And that is, after all, what typing really is.  One is good practice for the other.  I’m told surgeons consider playing video games to be good for the finger dexterity.  And that’s not all.

There’s also texting.  Never before has a generation used the written word to do so much of their chatting.  I text constantly.  I’m a bit of a freak about it, actually.  I basically regard my phone as a texting device that occasionally rings for reasons I no  longer understand.  And, again, this is marvelous practice for typing.  For finger dexterity.  For whatever you want to call it.

But it wasn’t until I realized this next fact that I began to really think on this: I’m pretty sure I can text faster than I can think.  What’s more, I can text without looking at my phone.  And not just small words.  I, because I’m a nerd, tested myself this weekend and found I could write fairly large sentences without even glancing at the keypad.   And I should mention that I use an old flip-phone.  Just your standard phone keypad, no larger keyboards come into play for my texting.  It’s freakish.

People talk about the tremendous amount of written word that is being produced by the world today, be it tons of new books each year or millions of blogs and webpages, and I think there are a lot of factors at play.  But I never see anyone talk about the speed at which we actually write this stuff.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that our generation may have the fastest fingers in the history of the world.

Six Stories Finished

Kids Diving

Some things are getting easier, some are getting harder.

It seems perfectly normal now that I’ll go ahead and start putting together a story tomorrow. I know that used to seem strange to me but now it doesn’t register. It has completely normalized. A story is always coming due. I get that now and thinking ahead to how many are left or looking back to how many have gone doesn’t take up a lot of my day. It’s just walkin’ time. Plain and simple.

On the other hand the routine is starting to get to me in a different way. All of these stories have come down to the wire, some a lot more than others, and I’ve gained confidence in my ability to meet my deadline. The problem comes from the fact that confidence is great but it doesn’t mean I should blow off trying to put anything together until I only have three days left. But since for the past few stories I have only started real typing, at most, the Sunday before the due date (Wednesday night is technically the deadline, I just set the stories up to post automatically on Thursday while I’m at work) I’ve got it into my head that this is perfectly normal and I should keep doing that. Which is stupid. I should get as much done each day as possible, if not for the sake of my mental well-being during those last three days, than at least for the story’s sake so that it has as much time as possible to gel and get reworked in my head and on paper before I post it.

But the tendency is to continue to do things the same way if it’s working. I think maybe I’ll do something drastic and force myself to start actual writing on Saturday or something. I don’t know. I just met another deadline. For today I’m taking it easy.

Call me What’s-His-Face.

 scissors

My first draft for this week is done.  That is a very good feeling.  I haven’t been done with my story this early in awhile.  I think since the last time I visited with Matthew and Epp.

That being said there are any number of things that I’m not feeling so good about.  For starters I still don’t have a title.  If you’re reading this at a later date then I’ve already come up with a title and changed the category to follow suit, but right now the category is still labeled: “Untitled 6.”  And that’s kind of scary.  Now, normally it isn’t wildly scary not to have a title, you can always come up with something, it’s just that the title I thought I was going to use was pretty straightforward, and I can’t in good conscience use it because this story is still a little all over the place right now.  I was going to call it “Three Lessons.”  Not the sexiest of titles, but since this story comes after “Second Choice” I thought it fit nicely…fun with counting.  And the story was supposed to revolve around Epp teaching, you guessed it, three lessons to various people.  Only that simple structure sort of imploded and I don’t know what’s going on now. 

Basically I think something needs to be cut.  There’s too much going on and I think one of the story-lines has to go, only I can’t figure out which.  One is an obvious candidate, but the more I think about it the more it seems to me that nothing can be cut, not because I’m wildly in love with all of it, but because of logistics.  That is to say there sort of need to be a few people in each of these scenes or these conversations and actions wouldn’t really work out the way they do, they’d resolve a lot easier.  I don’t know.  Sometimes, when you see a movie or read a book, you wonder why a certain character had to be there in the first place, and it seems like it would have been super easy to just cut them out entirely.  What I’m here to say is that oftentimes what you’re missing is that it makes perfect sense to remove that character right up until you actually do, at which point you realize that things just don’t work without them.  They were sort of “load-bearing” characters. 

Rewrites should be fun.

Everything must jumble.

puzzle pieces

Strange things are afoot here.  I’ve got the story all set.  I know I do.  I can see every last little part and I can see how it all fits together…but for some reason it isn’t all fitting together.  I don’t know if I’m missing something very integral or what.  Or sometimes it all seems to work out so well in your head, but then when you sit down and start typing the scenes don’t fit together.  They look nice when situated close to each other, but the transitions aren’t there.  And that can get tricky because you’ve got to build bridges of some sort to get you from A to B, only sometimes the bridge can be very stubborn and refuse to connect to B unless B changes in some little way. 

On the other hand I might just be full of that wonderful “doubt” stuff I’m always talking about.  This story covers a lot of ground.  Not that you should expect anything less when Matthew and Epp get together.  But there’s a genuine fear here that I’ve overstepped some sort of boundary and this is becoming rambling and nonsensical.  In other words, it might not be that I can’t fit the pieces together, it might be that there are too many pieces to begin with and I should trim some.  But I like all the pieces.  And they all seem necessary.  So…so it’s just back to work for me.  Hopefully answers will come from the story itself.  They always seem to.

On a first name basis with Jesus

Jesus

Man.  I don’t know what I just did.  I was trying to put in a new plug-in so that the most popular posts would show up on the sidebar.  But something went a little wrong and then something else went a little wrong and before I knew it I was wading with reckless abandon into the inner-workings of this website.  It was probably stuff you learn in your second class of Website-Building 101, but I didn’t know what I was doing and at one point I finally drew back and discovered that I had completely destroyed everything.  Everything was gone.  Everything I had written was gone and the website was gone and going to this address just gave an error message. 

That’s where the title of this post comes from.  I said his name a lot.  Not in a very calm voice, either.  I probably sound at-ease talking about it now but another indication of how completely freaked out I was is that I went out and bought a pack of cigarettes.  I didn’t smoke one.  But I bought them. 

Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details of my miraculous escape, but it looks like I got everything back and up and running so I’m going to wipe my hands of this and take away the valuable lesson that you should always back up your work…even if you don’t have the slightest idea how to back up a Squirrelly Data Board or whatever it was that Jesus and I did.  He’s a cagey one, that Jesus. 

And, of course, that killed quite a few hours that I was supposed to have spent writing this week’s story, which is moving along but I’d really be a  lot more comfortable with a few more scenes done by tonight.  And also there appear to be question marks EVERYwhere throughout the old posts.  I’m going to stop thinking about this and go into denial for a little while.