No, it’s not getting any better

I’ve got precious little going on inside my head right now, so I’ll just touch briefly on what I thought this story was going to be. The original idea was simple: I would write a fairy tale-ish story, and set it in some far away time, and then plow ahead without doing a single bit of research or all that much thinking as far as the setting went. In retrospect, I was shooting for something very, “The Princess Bride,” like.

Let this be a lesson to you…and me. Just because a book has a bright, airy, chatty feel, does not mean that said book was easy to write. Not that I wasn’t impressed by William Goldman before, but my respect has waxed anew. Yes, I had a fever all weekend, and yes I couldn’t get a grip on my story, and yes I have all sorts of other excuses, but in the end I think that I just stupidly mistook “silly” for “easy.” Not the smartest move.

Also, I’m coming to learn that I’m far better off carving a story out of a character rather than an idea. “The Rags,” was the same crap. I get an interesting idea for how I could write a story, and then I get into it and I realize much too late that I have no mojo whatsoever. The idea alone isn’t enough to sustain me. I can’t sit down and say, “Okay, be silly,” or, “Be dramatic,” or, “Be interesting.” It just doesn’t work. I’m much better off toying with a character, then slowly inserting them into a situation and seeing how they react, how the situation reacts, how things play out, backing up if need be, coming in from a different perspective if need be, and building a story out of that. If it turns out silly, great. If it turns out sad, great. If it turns out romantic or scary or a mix of all of them, great. But I don’t get to decide that at the outset.

Boy do I ever not get to decide that at the outset.

Stunned

You can paint me amazed at just how out of control this week’s story has become. It’s nothing short of a complete f#$%ng train wreck. Right now. And I really doubt that rewrites are going to salvage this one.

The main problem is that I’ve come down with my fortieth cold/flu/fever thing for the month of March. I had one heading into my last story, “Knots,” but it cleared up enough to let me get cracking and put out an actual story. For this week my cold does not seem to be lifting at the appropriate time so I’m essentially writing a 3,000 word fever dream. Nothing makes sense, I have no idea what the setting is, characters will literally disappear from scenes as I can’t seem to keep my concentration straight, and, to top things off, I didn’t really have a very good idea for a story to begin with.

I mean, I really can’t get a grip on this story.  When I get feverish and sick it becomes crazy hard for me to understand when my brain is joking and when it’s throwing out interesting new ideas.  This thought actually ran through my head earlier today: “What if I changed all the characters into talking hippopotamuses?  Would that help?”  And I can’t tell if that’s the fever talking or the author of, “Mindy and Barkley,” talking.

I realize a lot of you think that I shouldn’t sit here and bash a story before it’s done (it really might get fixed by Thursday mind you, but the odds are not overwhelmingly in favor of that) but I’ve always seen the blog aspect of this project as more of a documentary type thing. I write a whole bunch of stories and you get to watch behind the scenes at what happens. And currently behind the scenes what is happening is that I hate this story and would hit it very very very hard over the head with a bat and leave it in a field somewhere if that were in any way possible.

Leave the bat; take the cannolis.

Right.

Did Steinbeck ever have Thursdays like this?

I still have nothing for next week’s story, and now that it’s Thursday night the situation has passed over into the land of quite worrisome for me.

Nothing.

I thought I had something a few days ago about a fairytale land and a romance between some peasant dude and a girl of some sort, but that didn’t exactly materialize.  If you couldn’t tell.  Also I haven’t had a smart-ass character in awhile, so I was thinking of working one of those in, but that isn’t exactly a story, it’s just me wanting to write a smart-ass character.

It’s going to be difficult this weekend to figure out whether I should get out and try to find some inspiration in the city, or stay at home and sweat out a paragraph or two to build on as the weekend progresses.   Both options suck.  Going out is fun and can produce great results, but then you’ve got that much less time to get through your work when you finally sit down, while staying in and chaining yourself to your desk sucks for more obvious reasons.

Anyway, don’t be surprised if there’s some sort of smart-ass peasant-type romance thing coming your way next week.

Make that three times…

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I came across more people shooting things with cameras on my way out of the subway this evening.  That’s a block north of me and yesterday I saw cameras a block south of me so I don’t think this was the same project.

There was a man standing on the landing of the stairs leading out of the subway so his head was just barely popping out above ground.  He had his hands in his jacket pocket and was leaning up casually against the wall while us normal people walked by and someone up at the top of the stairs shot him with a camera.  Fairly common place, the guy was nondescript, the camera man was backed up against some scaffolding so as to not get in peoples’ way, it was all very humdrum except that the guy working the camera seemed compelled to motivate his actor by screaming, “Don’t look at me, Gary, don’t look at me!  You’re just another pervert standing on the stairs of the subway!  You’re a pervert, Gary, a pervert!”

I love this city.

Merry Christmas, Bailey Savings and Loan

They’re filming something of some sort on the street below mine.  This is a common occurance here in Manhattan.  Your street gets taken over by trailers and food tables and lengths of cable and people with hurried looks on their faces and multiple communication devices strapped to their belts.  After the first few times you see it you sort of lose interest.  Whatever movie or ad or show is being shot is probably filming inside a building nearby or the shot they’re doing is going to take thirty seconds and look remarkably like someone pointing a camera at some people doing something that makes zero sense to you.  Granted, if there was a big actor or something nearby, that’d be fun, but that’s pretty rare.  Usually I just see the trailers set up as portable dressing rooms and the table of coffee and sandwiches.  Except for two times.

Once, maybe five years ago, I stepped out of my apartment and into a parade.  This wasn’t too surprising, the apartment I was in at the time had a lot of parades go by.  But then the parade stopped, everyone went back to the beginning of the block, and it started all over again.  The second time the parade went by I noticed that everything with a date on it was telling me that it was the early nineties.  I finally figured out they were filming a parade scene for Law and Order.

The second time I was walking home and was four blocks from my street.  It was winter and very cold, dark and windy, but it was perfectly clear out.  Then I was three blocks from my street.  Then two.  Then it was snowing.  Then I was at my street and it was clear again.  Freakhog bizarre. They made it snow on the street south of mine.  I probably walked back and forth a dozen times that night just to experience that, “Now it’s snowing, now it’s not,” feeling over and over.   Then, naturally, that night it snowed like crazy as one of those wonderful New York blizzards blew through causing the movie that was filming to have to postpone everything as their film and cameras and lights were geared up to shoot fake snow…the real snow was useless to them.

Also there was one time when it was snowing and I was drunk and I ran into every convienance store on my way home and shouted out the title of this post before running on.

I’m nowhere with next week’s story.

Stupid Monday

As I’ve said before, I’m a little sick of these stories where nothing happens.  Not that they’re about nothing, mind you, but I’d like to try something with a little more plot this time.  Of course I’ve got Matthew and Epp on the horizon, so maybe I should shut up and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Who knows.  What I do know is that I’ve got nothing for this next story whatsoever and I really really really don’t want to have to claw something out of nothing like I’ve had to do a few times in the past.  It’s painful.  And it takes a lot of me chaining myself to my desk and ordering take out.

Basically, I’m desperately hoping for some sort of solid plot device I can hang this story on because I’d like to enjoy my weekend.

And I know this doesn’t make a lot of sense but it’s Monday night and writing on Monday night is something  I’ve become ideologically opposed to over the course of this project.  So there.

Fly, monkeys, fly

It’s time for my periodic request for free advertising that I told myself I’d do after every story but quite often forget about. Yes, that’s right, M.P.R.F.F.A.T.I.T.M.I.D.A.E.S.B.Q.O.F.A. is upon us again. Oh, it seems like just yesterday that the last one was here.

If you like what you’re reading, if you dig free content, if you enjoy my stories, please go tell a friend. It’s that easy. Surely we’ve got something here that somebody you know will like. We’ve got mad scientists, true love, sarcastic computers, sympathetic hit-men, dancing t-shirts, angry blobs, touching loss, the New York of my twenties, and some other stuff. Not to mention the ever engaging world of Matthew and Epp.

So go. E-mail away the links to your favorite stories. You won’t be missing anything. I’m not going to do a thing but sit here and play solitaire while your gone. Honest.

So many marshmallows

I’m not sure what’s going on with this story.  I thought I had a nice rich platform to build on but I’m having a hard time finding any center here.  Sorry for the writer’s-speak but that’s really where I’m at.  Also, one of my biggest fears as a writer is that I’ll start repeating myself.  It’s a tough fear to live with as far as things go.  I write a preposterous amount of words and characters and to lose sleep over the idea that two characters from separate works share a similar storyline is a silly thing to do, but it’s not like it’s a conscious choice.  It’s just one of the things I worry about.

So this story has me nervous, because it’s a lot like “You’re Allowed to Order Takeout” and it’s a lot like, “Continental Drift,” and I’m a little worried that I’m stuck in a rut of plotless character-study works.  Two wasn’t bad, but now it’s getting silly.  Of course you may not feel this way, you might see these stories as radically different, and there was a Matthew and Epp story in there but, well like I said, this isn’t a conscious choice, it’s just me worrying.

And, on top of everything else, I’ve been sick with a head cold.  I’ve mentioned before how when I get a cold my brain shuts off and drifts in a marshmallow cloud.  Rewriting alone is almost impossible as by the time I’ve reached the end of a paragraph I’ve completely lost track of what the opening sentence said.  This sucks. The last time this happened before a deadline I waved off and opted to wait out my cold and finish the story later.  I’m not going to do that this time.   This time you get to see what my writing looks like when I can’t concentrate.   Should be fun.

Uh….welcome?

I think I’ve talked on here about the amazing amount of data I get from the Google Analytics program.  I can tell what town people are visiting from, how long they stay, which state contains the most readers, stuff like that.  On the other hand, it’s all just data, and there are always tons of different ways to read data and, in the end, you never actually know what’s going on, you can only decide how you’re going to interpret the data.  In other words if a visitor stays on “Black Eyed Susan” for thirteen minutes, then they could be reading that story…or they could have arrived at that story and then really really really had to go to the bathroom, gotten up, left their computer on and their browser open to that page, and forgotten about it entirely.

So recently I started receiving a lot of direct hits to the site.   A direct hit means that the visitor didn’t come via another site or get sent here by a search engine.  They opened up their browser and typed “josephdevon.com” into the address bar in their browser…in Bahrain.  Or Turkey.  Or Japan.  Or Estonia.  Lots of direct hits from lots of different places.  That’s been the newest thing.

To give you a clearer idea of what I mean, I’ll tell you this: in the nine months from the start of this project up until last Wednesday I had received 34 direct visits from 16 different countries, excluding stats from the United States.  In the four days between then and now I have received 198 direct visits from 36 different countries.

It’s weird.  And I have no idea what’s going on.  My gut says that this is a fluke or that search engine visitors are accidentally being classified as direct visitors or it’s some sort of program scanning my site or something.  But who knows?  So if you’re from Singapore or Bahrain and you’re reading this, clue me in.  I’m lost.

And hopefully you’re not a robot.

This Old Story

When I started this project I was hoping that these daily blog posts would shed some light on the writing process.  I’m pretty sure that hasn’t happened.  It most certainly hasn’t happened the way I thought it was going to.  I foresaw coming on here after writing each day and walking step by step through some choices I had made or explaining why I set a scene in a certain area or things like that.  I don’t think I’ve written a blog post like that yet.  (Have I?)

The thing I’m realizing (again) is that you can either talk about a story, or you can tell the story, but it’s difficult to do both.  It might even be more than difficult, it might be impossible.  I have no idea what it is that I do here, or why I have this annoying innate urge to tell stories, nor do I know why you all have an innate urge to read stories.  I don’t think about it too much but I’ve become certain over the past decade and a half of writing that some sort of purpose is being served here.  I don’t care to narrow it down more than that and maybe all sorts of things are happening, entertainment and catharsis and empathy and the passing of knowledge and the sharing of ideas and so forth.  Or maybe we’re all just really bored.

What I do know is that the more I talk about a story, the less I write a story.  Which makes it very difficult for me to blog about writing, which is something I probably should have seen coming.  It’s almost like there isn’t a “how.”  There’s just “do.”  I don’t know, maybe I should have written more recaps over the course of this project, those were doable, once the story is done then I can talk about it some, but the stories started coming awful awful fast and those recaps kind of died out.

Anyway, no real point here. I’m just procrastinating on a Sunday afternoon and looking back over the course of this project and trying to figure out what it is that I’ve done here.