Category Archives: Writing

21K! Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book.

I wrote 2300 words today to get 21,000 words into Meet the Larssons.  Scrivener tells me that’s 94 printed pages (only 57 pages if it were set like a mass market paperback, but still), which makes it almost 20 pages of fiction more than I have ever written before on one project.

I can feel myself getting impatient with the project, though.  I’m not even close to done, I’m really still at the beginning of the story, which is frustrating.  Not the beginning, I guess, but I’m definitely still in the set up.  The problem is I can see where the story is going, it’s just a question of having another (approximately) 200-250 hours to go before the first draft is finished, when I can only devote 1-2 hours at a time, maybe 3 on a relatively uncommitted weekend day or holiday.  At best, I’m going to have the first draft finished by summer, and that’s only if I can maintain this pace without significant interruption by work (HA!) or personal obligations.

I’m hoping that my impatience doesn’t get in the way of the writing.  The first time I sit down and can’t hammer out 750-900 words an hour on this novel is going to be a real test for me, and a sure sign that the honeymoon is over.  So far, I can’t complain that the words aren’t coming, only that I can’t type them any faster.

Also, I’d like the novel not to suck.

And, while I’m at it, a pony.

The Coldest Weekend of the Year

One good thing about the coldest weekend of the year:  I’m getting a lot of writing done, at least today.  Yesterday was Junior’s Batman-themed birthday party, and the ten four-year-old boys (plus the three members of the League of Older Sisters) wore us all out, so I didn’t get anything done on the novel yesterday.  Today, though, I had to skip my run (it was -5 degrees at 8:30am, and while I may be crazy, I’m not stupid), so I’ve written around 1800 words on Meet the Larssons, plus a couple of posts here.

10K & TKD

All in all, a pretty good weekend. Mrs. Unfocused, the Princess, and I had our first Family Tae Kwon Do class at the YMCA. Junior was signed up for it but got nervous and freaked out; he watched for a while, then the Mrs. took him to the child care center. He says that next week he won’t be shy about it, and did shake the instructor’s hand very nicely when we ran into him later on. Because TKD is 9:15-10:15, and the Princess has a swimming class at 11:30, we will be spending every Saturday morning at the Y; the Mrs. and I can each grab a workout while the kids are in childcare after TKD, and I can take Junior to Starbucks while the Mrs. takes Princess to swim class.

If a plan ends with me getting coffee, I’m all for it.

On top of that, I got a 10-mile run in this morning. I ordered some new cold weather running gear a few weeks ago, and tried some of it out today, and it all met expectations. I’m still slow, but at least I’m not a corpsicle.

I have to come up with a new nickname for the Princess on this blog, because if there’s one word that does not describe my daughter, it’s Princess. I used it in my first post for lack of the imagination to think of anything better, but she does not now, nor has she ever, given a good goddamn about princesses, or Barbie, anything similar. She is a nice, bright kid who’s interested in science, ancient Egypt, and animals. And Harry Potter. And Batman (although not as much as Junior). And Star Wars. And various other things.

Right. Unfocused Girl it is. That was easy.

To top it all off, I finished my 5,000 words for the week in the novel. That means I’ve got 10,000 words written (10,024, to be exact), which is the same length as my senior thesis in college. The Mrs. picked out a new laptop for me to work on at home (the old Pismo was on life support, unfortunately), and it came this week: a new MacBook running Leopard. I spent another forty bucks to buy Scrivener, a nice app for writers that provides a real assist in organization.

Yes, I know. I get five thousand words into a novel that, in all likelihood, no one will ever read, and all of the sudden I need a new computer and special software, when writing the first 5,000 words in OpenOffice (free) on my old work laptop ($1 when they switched me to a new one) worked perfectly well. If you’re thinking that’s a little ridiculous, you’re right. But I needed the new laptop anyway — they can make me use a Windows machine at the office, but I’ll be damned if I’ll use one for personal work at home (literally damned, because that’s my definition of hell).

As for Scrivener, hey, it was $40 — not exactly a fortune. It is very useful, too, including half a dozen easy to use features that I will probably actually remember to use. I note that productivity maven Merlin Mann uses Scrivener. He’s very productive, you know, so the software has to be useful.

So now I’m blogging away on my new MacBook, and it has been a pretty good weekend. The only problem is that it is now 12:43am on Monday morning, and I’m still messing around on the computer when I should really go to bed. That’s the problem with new toys.

Rockin’ Saturday Night!

My mother-in-law offered to babysit last night, which was very generous, but we didn’t have any really good ideas for what to do. Ultimately, we decided to spend several hours at the Starbucks around the corner with our laptops. I wrote another 1500 words for my novel, and the Mrs. worked on her website. It was very pleasant. I know it’s pretentious as hell, but it worked. We didn’t have to put the kids to bed, I didn’t even buy web access, so my distractions were limited to coffee and the pumpkin loaf. Mrs. Unfocused gets distracted easily at home, too, because there’s always something that needs doing even if the kids are in bed.

So yes, we brought our laptops to the coffee house ( apologies to Scalzi), but we weren’t trying to be hip — just trying to get some things done, which we did. I’d like to have 5000 words written in the novel before I go back to work on Monday, which shouldn’t be impossible, although I have a response to a motion that I really need to finish, and I’ve completely stopped working on my article (which I really need to go back to soon). Now we’re talking about trying to do a Starbucks night once a week, at least when we don’t have other weekend plans.

The weather today is crazy warm — I just checked, and it’s 59 degrees. I went for an 8-mile run late this morning, wearing SHORTS. I’m going to try to get another couple of outdoor runs in before the weather turns bad again later this week. Shorts in Chicago in January — if that’s the future of our out-of-kilter climate, then there is clearly going to be an upside to global warming.

Weekend Assignment #197: Surviving the Writers’ Guild strike.

Karen Funk Blocher at Outpost Mavarin is taking over John Scalzi’s old beat and giving out “Weekend Assignments” for bloggers. This week it’s Weekend Assignment #197: Now that the WGA strike has had lots of time to affect the prime time television schedules, how is it affecting you as a viewer? What shows do you miss most, aside from reruns?

My response:

It hasn’t affected me at all. I know this sounds really snobbish, but I don’t watch any series television. I occasionally watch the news, and now that the primaries are in full swing I’ll watch MSNBC and CNN more in the evening, but that’s it. I’m working my way through my brother-in-law’s DVDs of the first season of Battlestar Galactica, which is fantastic, but it has taken me three months just to get halfway through the set. My kids mostly watch DVDs (we were watching shows from the second season of the original Scooby-Doo cartoons earlier this evening) or children’s shows that are always reruns anyway — they’re not old enough for series TV.

My wife and I gave up series television a couple of years ago. I remember when we knocked it down to just a few series — House, Desperate Housewives, one or two others — because our Tivo was getting too full. Then we dropped everything but House and — for my wife only — that show that was about Saturday Night Live (not the Tina Fey show, the Aaron Sorkin one). Then I got too busy to bother with House, and my wife’s show was canceled, and we were done.

It wasn’t that we didn’t enjoy the shows when we watched them — we did. It was just that something had to go, and I really couldn’t give up any more sleep. The thing is, once I made the decision to stop watching a particular show, it was really, really easy to stop giving a rat’s ass about it. And once you make that decision about one show, it’s even easier to stop caring about the next one. Deciding to give up the last show was probably the hardest, because I knew that I was entering the realm of the crazy no-TV people, who didn’t understand cultural references and couldn’t carry on a simple conversation at lunch, but who was I kidding? I was barely watching it anyway, so the only conversation about television I could participate in would be the one about how backed up we all are with stuff on our Tivos. Now the only shows backlogged on the Tivo are Thomas the Tank Engine and Super Why. And I’m one of those people who drift off when the conversation turns to TV series (the way I always drifted off when the conversation turned to sports, or golf, or cars).

What do we do instead? In 2007, I worked. Most nights, if I wasn’t on the road or stuck late at the office, I came home, helped get the kids to bed, had dinner if I missed dinner with the kids, and then worked until 11 or 12. If I didn’t have to work, the Mrs. and I might talk or go to bed comparatively early, or read, or just mess around on the Net. On weekends, if we watched anything at all, we would watch one of our backlogged Netflix movies (I think we’re responsible for a measurable percentage of their stock price, because it takes us months to watch a movie). Series television? Who has time?

One thing, though: starting Sunday night, presumably because of the continuing WGA strike, NBC is bringing back American Gladiators, with Muhammad Ali’s daughter and Hulk Hogan as regulars. That I might watch.

On Holidays: in which the Christmas plague visits our home

From The Parents’ Dictionary:

The Christmas Plague: any of the many viruses or bacteria that infect a household right before Christmas. See also: Hanukkah Hack, Valentine’s Day Virus, Independence Day Illness, etc.

Mrs. Unfocused, who is singing a tricky piece in church tomorrow, has taken a vow of silence for the day — last night, her speaking voice started sounding rough. This morning, it hardly sounded at all. She got through her rehearsal, but wants to conserve what she has until the concert is over.

Junior woke up this morning with a truly horrendous sounding cough. It isn’t croup, yet, but I have a feeling that he and I may be taking a trip to the emergency room tonight. He’s just about four years old, so croup is still something to worry about for another year or so. I think that the Unfocused Princess stopped getting it once she turned five.

The Princess and I are fine. But for how long? (Key the creepy music)

I still have hope that everyone will feel better by Christmas Eve. Last year at Christmas, the Mrs. was still recovering from a godawful sinus infection/flu/pneumonia that hung on for a couple of months, including two rounds of antibiotics. Two years ago, the Princess woke up at 4am on Christmas Eve day with a raging ear infection — she and I spent the morning at the Children’s Memorial Hospital urgent care clinic. Three years ago — who can remember three years ago? Probably the fish had the sniffles.

I did manage to write the introduction to the professional article I’m working on. It’s one of the two writing projects I have committed myself to completing before NaNoWriMo starts on November 1 (and yes, one of these days I’ll post without referring to NaNo), and it is probably the easier of the two, since it’s based on a speech I gave over the summer on a subject I know pretty well. I have most of the research done and outlined in my speech materials, so writing the article is mostly filling in around the dry case descriptions in my outline (and livening up the descriptions). I got the writing done by getting up a little before anyone else did, and then by ignoring the kids while they made a mess in the back room while the Mrs. was at rehearsal (easier said than done).

Time to make some lunch for the Princess and the Plague victims. Here’s hoping the Christmas Plague passes over your house this year.

Update at 2:05pm:

Perhaps I spoke too soon. My nose has started to clog, and I’ve got a funny tickle at the back of my throat …

On Commitment: in which I waste my morning signing up for something that doesn’t start for almost a year

This morning I made myself late for work by signing up for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which starts next November 1. Each November since 1999, a group of people register for NaNoWriMo and attempt to write a 50,000 word draft of a novel between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. According to the website, last year more than 100,000 people registered, and more than 15,000 people actually completed the 50,000 words (and yes, NaNoWriMo counts every word — I’m told they have special machines that sort the words into piles nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc., and then the words themselves are counted by a team of accountants from PriceWaterhouse).

2008 will be my first year for NaNoWriMo. If there are any Wrimos who have good advice for a newbie, please leave it in the comments.

About Me: in which I begin yet another project with no clear way to finish

Husband (married my college sweetheart years ago).

Father (two great kids).

Lawyer (that’s what it says on the business cards).

Runner (when I can get my sorry butt out of bed early enough, or break out of work long enough to head for the gym).

Writer? Not lately.

It has been a long time since I wrote anything for pleasure. I write all the time for clients — briefs, memos, complaints, settlement agreements, nastygrams (wait — I’m going to see if anyone has registered nastygram.com … it is, and it’s a porn site, as I should have expected — when I say nastygram, I mean an aggressive, snarky letter to opposing counsel), etc. But nothing that I felt compelled to write for my own reasons. Nothing, frankly, that I didn’t know in advance that I would get paid for.

When I was in high school, I was the first one of my friends to get a rejection slip. I probably have a dozen or more in a box somewhere, from Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I collected a few more while I was in college, although I slowed down my fiction output and focused on acting and my column for the student newspaper.

I wrote a little more during law school: 75 pages of a coming of age novel (with, I must say, a really good mugging scene, but nothing much else worth salvaging), and a few humor pieces for the law school newspaper at my first law school.

No, I didn’t get kicked out. I transferred. The future Mrs. Unfocused was still living in Chicago, and I wanted to come back before she found someone more focused.

That was it, though. I’ve jotted down some story ideas since, and somewhere in the study there’s a spiral notebook with 20 handwritten pages of a comic science fiction story (or novel) that I started maybe four years ago, but otherwise, nothing.

Between the age of 11 and the beginning of law school, the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer or journalist. Even as I started law school, I thought I would keep writing and end up with that as my real career.

I surprised myself (and everyone who knew me, except, I think, my mother) by actually enjoying law school. I got to spend three years reading about other people’s problems and arguing with a bunch of really smart people — what’s not to like? I also found — again, to general disbelief — that I liked, and continue to like, being a lawyer. I like solving problems, and I like a job where there are winners and losers. Not every day, not all the time, but far more often than not.

So I like my career, and I’ve had some success with it — nothing that’s made the papers, but I’m doing alright.

But.

It’s time to start writing again. I need to put words on a page for no better reason than that I want to put them there, that it pleases me to do it. This blog is my way of getting started.

It is 10.5 months until the start of the next NaNoWriMo — by November 1, 2008, I want to be in a mental space where I am ready to participate. Before then, I plan to write one professional article that I have been thinking about but putting off for months, and to complete the first draft of one of the short stories I have notes on. In the meantime, I plan to use this blog to push my self to write something — anything — a few times a week, to practice writing in my non-lawyer voice again.

That’s it for now. More tomorrow.