Tag Archives: Novel

HANaNoWriMo.

I said I wouldn’t do NaNoWriMo this year. I wanted to do it last year, but was burned out from finishing the first draft of Meet the Larssons in October.  This year, I’m too busy at work, and the Siren has been called for grand jury duty in November which will turn everything upside down here at home. But I need a kick start for my writing, and I have what I think is the perfect idea for a NaNoWriMo novel.

So I’m making a half-assed commitment to make a half-assed effort at NaNoWriMo, with a goal of writing 25,000 words (instead of 50,000) of a new novel in the month of November. That would require less than a thousand words a day, but will be a respectable start to the new project.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year and care join me in my half-assed attempt, add me as a writing buddy on the NaNo website. My user name is the same as it is here, Unfocused Me, and my author ID number is 261488. You can also just click here to add me.

Spring Sunday Stats #9: Five Weeks To Go.

I realize it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, but I’m insanely busy at work, the last days of school have lept us hopping, and I’m staring at 40 like a deer in the frakking headlights.  In five weeks, I turn 40, and I’m trying to figure out whether I qualify for Social Security yet.

Meanwhile, did I mention that my dad is finally retiring at the end of the month?  He’s 72, and has worked 6 days a week since roughly the Kennedy administration.  You can bet I don’t complain about my hours too much when I’m talking to him.

I’m going to have to keep this short — the kids just got back from playing with the neighbors (from what I can tell, the younger boy from across the street hit Junior in the ass with a whiffle bat, which pissed him off, so he and Unfocused Girl took their sidewalk chalk and came home).  Next up, stats and the usual whining.

On Writing: Project Hometown now stands at 8,640 words, which means I’ve written 4,218 words in it since my last post.  I also submitted the revised and greatly reduced “Jimmies” (now down to around 3400 words from 5200) to a semi-pro online market.  The editor is posting some of her comments on slush submissions on Twitter, which is simultaneously fascinating and unnerving.

I have to admit that the outline I did for Project Hometown over the winter has been an enormous help, and is largely responsible for me being able to make any progress at all.  I want to recommend the Snowflake Method again to anyone who is interested in putting together a detailed story outline and character information before starting a new project.  After writing Meet the Larssons with nothing more than a few pages of notes I threw together just before I started and having so much trouble with the first draft and then the revisions, I’m very happy with the results from outlining first.  The extra work up front is really paying off for me now.

On Running: Pretty good day today.  The weather was ugly – gray, cool, drizzly – but not actually that bad for a long run.  I did 10 miles in 1:27:08, which is better than I’ve done through most of the spring, although not as good as last week.  I had two mid-week runs (one intervals, one not) on the treadmill at the gym over lunch, for a total of 18.86 miles for the week.  Not perfect — I’m shooting for 20+ per week — but considering what the last few weeks have been like, perfectly acceptable.

Last week my Sunday time for 10 miles was even better:  1:24:06, on a beautiful, sunny day, warm but not too warm.  I’m working on improving my stretching and easing back on the painkillers, which seems to be working.  The ITB pain in my hips that was bothering me all through March, April, and most of May hasn’t come back except for the occasional twinge, which is good.  My hamstrings are still incredibly tight, but I’m working on them.

Junior’s looking for me, so it’s time to go.

Spring Sunday Stats #8: Staring Over the Edge at 40.

It’s Memorial Day, in memory of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and others who have died for our country, including the 4300 Americans who have died in Iraq.

My father came in from NYC on Thursday and stayed until lunchtime today, his longest visit since I moved to Chicago for college in 1987.  We had a great time; the highlight of the weekend was the long afternoon at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  He’s retiring at the end of June, and I hope that this is just the first of many longer trips.

I had a very frustrating week (starting with the Sunday/Monday Frequest Flyer Fail), but seriously, what else is new?  The work piled on, and I seemed utterly unable to get anything actually accomplished, just felt like I was on a treadmill from hell.  Thankfully, it was a short week.  I worked at home on Friday, and managed to get a few open loops closed out before the weekend.  This post is late enough, so let’s go straight to the stats.

On Writing: Between work and my father’s visit, I wrote next to nothing, just 150 words in Project Hometown on the train home from work on Thursday.  I did write my piece of a viral story yesterday, maybe 200 words, which was fun.  I’m not sure if today counts as part of the past week, but since it’s a holiday, I’ll claim it; I wrote 362 words in Project Hometown this afternoon.  The total is now 4,422 words.  I think that’s far enough along to post a meter.

I’ve been sitting on “Jimmies,” and need to get it out.  I also had an idea for a new short story last week — a time travel story I like much better than the last time travel idea I had — and may take a shot at that sometime soon as well.

On Running: 20.5 miles for the week, best in months.  I dealt with my frustration by running early Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, even though I was exhausted.  Not long runs, just 3.75 miles each, but that got me 11.25 miles during the week, plus 9.25 miles on Sunday at a respectable 1:19:32, or 8:35 min/mile.  A great long run, much better than the last few weeks.

This weekend, I registered for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago this October, a 10.5 mile race with a handful of obstacles thrown in to make it interesting (climbing over a wall, running up and down the stairs at Soldier Field, scrambling over parked taxis, etc.).  This is the third year the race has been held in Chicago; I’ve registered each time, but both of the last two years have had to blow it off for work.

This year I was confronted with something new:  For the first time, when confronted with the question “Age on race day” I had to answer “40.”  In seven weeks, I’ll be in a whole new age group.    So long, 35-39!  Luckily, Mike is doing the Urbanathlon too, so if I collapse on the course someone will notice and call the Siren.

I also signed up for the World Wide Half Marathon, part of the World Wide Festival of Races, also in October.  This is a virtual race series — everyone runs on the same weekend, but separately – which started with the Half Marathon in 2006 as an idea spread through the Phedippidations podcast.  It’s a lot of fun.

What I haven’t done yet is register for one of the nearby half marathons in June. Gotta get off my ass and deal with that.

That’s enough of this. I’m going to watch Lego Cake or Death again.  We’ve watched it about 10 times this weekend with the kids.

Spring Sunday Stats #6: Feeling Flabby.

I’m back with the first Sunday Stats post in a while.  Before we get to the main part of the post, which is all about me (like so many things), let me take this opportunity to wish the Siren and my mother, Unfocused Ma, a very happy Mother’s Day.

The Siren, the kids, and I just got back from a nice Mother’s Day brunch with the Siren’s mother and brother.  I actually made an appearance at their church this morning, because the kids’ choir had a performance.  Junior has pretty emphatically gotten over the stage fright he suffered from in his younger days, and, like Unfocused Girl, gives signs of having inherited at least some of the Siren’s musical talent.

On to the stats:

On Writing: I made the decision a couple of weeks ago to put Meet the Larssons on the back burner for a while.  I’m not trunking it, but I need some distance from it.  I was getting bogged down in the rewrite, and I was starting to bore myself.

Instead, I started writing Project Hometown, the novel I outlined over the winter.  I’m 3,192 words into it; not great for a couple of weeks worth of work, but not terrible.  The real problem is that I fell out of the habit of writing every day, and my authorial muscles have atrophied.  As I said in my previous post, I have become an undisciplined wretch.  I’m slowly starting to get back into the groove, and since I did so much work on the front end I’m optimistic that as I get back into the habit of writing, the story itself should come more easily than MTL did.

On Running: 10 miles this morning, in 1:33:16.  Like last week, today’s run was slow and painful.  My legs have felt terrible for the last couple of weeks:  my hamstrings are tight, the tendons alongside my hips are sore, I occasionally have bizarre pains in my knees just from crossing my legs.  I’m not entirely sure what the problem is, since I kept up my running pretty well through the winter and crummy first half of spring thanks to the treadmill, but I have some ideas based what’s changed in my exercise habits over the past year.  I think the primary issue is that I’m lifting weights much less frequently, and doing fewer exercises when I do; in particular, I almost never do any real strength training for my legs. Running works some of the muscles, but ignores others, leading to significant muscle imbalances; if I did more strength training for my legs, they’d probably hurt less.

I’m also, for a variety of reasons, more pressed for time than I was a year ago, and find myself skipping the post-run stretching as often as not.  Today, for example, I had to rush to get showered and dressed as soon as I finished my run in order to get to the church in time for the kids’ concert.  I didn’t stretch at all, and by the time I got out of the car in the church parking lot, I was so stiff I had to limp all the way in.  The stiffness worked itself out, but that kind of negligence is going to cost me, and probably already has.

Time, time, time.  That’s what it always comes down to.  As it is, I’ve stripped away as many distractions as I can.  I read less than I used to, and I watch almost no television.  I suppose I could drop Facebook and Twitter, but keeping up social contacts, even over the interwebs, feels like it’s worth doing.  I want to spend more time with my family, not less; I still need to work for a living, and I don’t get enough sleep as it is.

I don’t think there’s really an answer here, just a constant rebalancing of competing priorities.  I can live with that if I keep reminding myself that it’s a long race, and if I can keep from hitting the wall or blowing out a knee, I’ll get to the finish line eventually.  Not a particularly deep thought — I have a t-shirt that says “Life is a marathon, not a sprint” which sums it up nicely — but then, I’m not a particularly deep person, so a personal philosophy that fits on a t-shirt is probably about right for me.

Spring (again, HAH!) Sunday Stats #3: We Are the Aliens.

Oh, look, another week has gone by and I’m still in this hole.  It’s a very nice, comfortable hole, with many fine features to recommend it, but it remains a hole.  I keep digging, which is probably not the best way to get out.  For every deadline I get through, two more get closer and more pressing.  There’s a ladder, but it just leads to another hole.

One of the people I work with — a senior partner who’s been out of law school twice as long as I have — says that working at a big law firm is like being in a pie eating contest where the grand prize is more pie.

All of this pissing and moaning is by way of excuse, again, for my failure to blog all week, and my inability to comment on your blogs in at least that long.  Rest assured, I’ve been talking about you on Twitter and Facebook, which I manage to keep up with on my phone.

Also, I was sick on Tuesday night and Wednesday. And then I had insomnia on Wednesday night.  And Thursday night was Unfocused Girl’s science fair.

So let’s just go to my pathetic stats, shall we?

On Writing: I started the week getting a few pages edited, but that was it; I was at 311 last Sunday, now I’m at 320.  I hit Write or Die once this past week, 233 words on a little short story that probably isn’t going anywhere, but it’s been fun.  That’s it, though.

I also accepted an invitation to write a chapter for a book in my area of practice, with the first draft due in July.  It’s a great opportunity, professionally speaking, but I’m going to have to work hard to make progress on my fiction-writing around the research and writing for the chapter, since that will all have to be done outside of work as well.

On Running: Before today, the only running I did this week was to catch my train.  The Shamrock Shuffle-on-ice wore me out, and then I got sick.  It was just a little cold, but it left me completely screwed up — I got too much sleep on Tuesday night and then had a nap on Wednesday, then too much coffee to restart after the nap, then insomnia Wednesday night.  All in all, I didn’t have much leftover for running.  I ran 8.88 miles this morning in 1:15:00, all at home on the treadmill because it was hailing, for crying out loud; as I write this, it’s snowing.  I did watch the first 2/3 of The Dark Knight, finally.  So far, so good, I think; I loved the car chase on Lower Wacker Drive.  If you’re stuck on a treadmill, I heartily recommend watching action movies with car chases and explosions — these are especially good for interval training.

On the iPod will not appear this Sunday.  I’m planning to make this part of a mid-week post, or maybe a stand-alone item.  It doesn’t really fit with the Sunday stats, and getting all the links right takes too long after I’ve written a 600-800 word post.

Random moment with the kids:  Junior and Unfocused Girl woke up a little early this morning, surprising considering we were out pretty late last night at a wine tasting party (all parents and affiliated children from Unfocused Girl’s new school).  The kids have both been on astronaut kicks lately, since their visit to the Soref Planetarium in Milwaukee over spring break, and Unfocused Girl has been saying she wants to go to Mars and look for alien bacteria.  When I went into their room this morning, Junior, who is interested in somewhat more complex forms of alien life, was explaining to Unfocused Girl that Martian astronauts actually come to Earth in the night looking for alien life here.  I asked him what alien life the Martians find here, and he said, “Us! Human beings are the aliens to the Martians!”  This was like one of those moments when you can see your kid growing up before your eyes; he’s starting to understand how different people, or tentacled things, can have different points of view.

Then at breakfast he said the word “poop,” or variations thereof, so many times that I had to order him to keep the poop away from meals.

Shocking Myself.

As expected, I’m getting hammered this week at work (most of which would have happened even if I’d worked more over the weekend), so the only “writing” I’ve been doing is re-reading Meet the Larssons on the train and marking up the manuscript as I go.  I’m not doing heavy editing at this point — I’ve given up on that for now, I want to get the structure right before I do any more at that level of detail — but I’m making edits as I spot them.  What is surprising me, now that I’m not looking to rewrite entire scenes as I got but just to outline new scenes and try to see where old scenes might fit, is that now that I’ve hit the second half of the draft, it isn’t entirely godawful.  There are pages and pages of prose that aren’t all crap.  There are plenty that are, but not all of them.

I mean, it probably is all crap, when measured against some artificial, commercial, “would people not related to you pay money to read this” kind of standard that editors and agents, with their “experience” and “real-world” understanding of the so-called “market,” would use.  But I’m reading it and not totally repulsed, now that I’m allowing myself to enjoy it.

This is new.  This is good.

Spring Sunday Stats #1: Cooler By The Lake.

I took a couple of mental health days this weekend and got very little done for work, and even left the Blackberry off (mostly).  I’ll pay for it this week, because things are still crazy at work, but it was worth it.

I’m wiped out from the weekend — lots of time outside, playing with the kids — so let’s go straight to the stats.

On Writing: I did more on the revision of Meet the Larssons on Friday on the train, and then in a solid 90-minute block on Saturday afternoon. I’m continuing the manuscript slog to a point; where a scene is still usable, I’ll mark it up as I go, but I’m not writing new scenes at this point, just making notes and moving on.  The goal is to get through the rest of the manuscript so that I can see what is salvageable, what needs to be moved, and what needs to be written from scratch.

Tonight I’ve started looking for a new place to submit “Jimmies.”  I want to have some idea where I’m sending it next before I start revising it based on the last rejection.

Also, on Saturday I tried Write or Die for the first time, and had a wonderful time.  As the sidebar widget says, I wrote 305 words in 10 minutes, and only had to listen to the horrible penalty sound one time for pausing (and that was a deliberate test).  Highly recommended.

On Running: A beautiful, sunny day for a run. I did 10 miles in a leisurely 90 minutes, my first outdoor 10-miler in God knows how long, in shorts and a sleeveless top, no less.  The temperature dropped 10-15 degrees as I approached the lakefront, though, and by the time I got to Lake Shore Drive I was glad to turn around.

On the iPod: During my run today, I listened to an Episode 27 of XFM’s series “Writers on Writing,” an interview with Amy Tan.  It was interesting enough, I guess, but was almost entirely a discussion of Tan’s childhood and how it related to the characters in The Joy Luck Club.  The show itself seems to be misnamed, however, since there was no discussion at all about writing.  This was the first episode I’ve tried; I also downloaded Episode 7, with cyberpunk author William Gibson, and will listen to that next to give it another shot.  Also on the iPod this week:  Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Show 25 (The Dyer Outlook); NPR Planet Money # 20 (Not So Toxic?); I Should Be Writing #113 (Paul Malmont and Brett Savory interviews); Escape Pod #191 (“This Is How It Feels,” by Ian Creasey); and Phedippidations #178 (All in Stride).  So there you have it: I get longer runs, you get more links to podcasty goodness.

Itchy Fingers and Rejection.

I came out of the AWP conference pretty jazzed about Meet the Larssons and Project Hometown.  I jotted down half a dozen good ideas to incorporate into the revision of MTL, and at least that many ideas for Hometown.  Since the end of the conference, however, I haven’t done anything on either project.

Some of that was because I wanted to spend some time with the Siren and the kids, and some of was about being a little burned out after three days thinking about almost nothing but writing.  But some of it, I have to admit, was about screwing around on Twitter and Facebook and other places on the internet (or, as our kids call it, “teh stoopid internet,” because it conks out so often).  Tonight it was a combination of screwing around with a new toy and doing real bill-paying work.

But tomorrow, as we all know, is another day.  After the kids go to bed, I plan to get at least an hour in on Meet the Larssons.  As for Project Hometown, I think I’m ready to start the scene-by-scene spreadsheet in the Snowflake Method of outlining. I’ll try to get going on that over the weekend.

During the conference, I met people who had been working on their novels for years, so I don’t think I’m going to beat myself up too much for taking a few extra days off.  But my fingers are starting to itch from lack of output, and tweets, status updates, and blog posts aren’t going to cut it much longer.

I received another couple of rejection slips recently, by the way, for TTB and “Mr. President.”  “Jimmies” is now the only story I have out there.  I think both of those stories need to be trunked for a while, to give them (or me) time to get some distance.  I also want to consider getting back to “Jamie’s Story,” which I stopped working on last month and has lingered, unfinished, more or less in the gloom ever since.  What can I say?  It’s a tough business.

Winter Sunday Stats #6: Breaking Through 200 Two Times.

As you all know, it has been a pretty eventful week.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time dwelling on it since I’ve already posted about it, but — just in case you’ve been living under a rock or something — I’ll give it a quick mention:  I posted my two-hundredth entry on this blog on Thursday.  Not too shabby, I should think.

There was that big thing in Washington, too, but that’s over and wasn’t about me.

On to the stats:

On Writing:  The writing stat for the week is 62, which is the number of pages of Meet the Larssons I have revised since last week’s post.  I have revised 204 pages so far, which is the second milestone “200” I broke through this week.  I just hope I can get through page 300 before blog post #300.

The price of burning through 62 pages of revisions is that I didn’t do anything on the outline for Project Hometown or to finish the draft of “Jamie’s Story.”  I’m going to be traveling most of this week for work (someplace warm!), but I may have a little time to write in the evenings.  If I do, I’ll probably work on “Jamie’s Story,” although I may just bring pages of MTL to mark up.

On Running: Today wasn’t bad.  It was 4 degrees (F) when I started my run at 11am (it’s up to 7 as I write this), so once again I was on the treadmill.  I ran 7.37 miles in an hour even (8:08 m/m), which is pretty good.  I got a couple of short runs in during the week, including my first hill workout in over a month.  I didn’t make 20 miles for the week, but I’m definitely getting back into running shape.

The only hitch is that my knee did something odd and painful last night.  I’m not even sure what I was doing — possibly standing up from putting in the DVD for family movie night (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, if you’re wondering) — but nothing memorable.  The pain lasted a little while, fading over about 15 minutes, and felt like it was possibly a pulled tendon or ligament on the inside of the leg, just below the joint.  It didn’t bother me during my run this morning, but it felt very stiff when I was done.  Stretching helped, and I’ll ice it tonight.  But the long plane ride tomorrow makes me a little nervous.

On the iPod: I liked Scott Sigler’s Earthcore so much I downloaded his next book, Ancestor, this week and started listening to it, and I’m already sucked in.  Scott’s entertained me enough already for free, so when I get back from my trip I’m going to pick up copies of Infected and Contagious at the bookstore.  I also listened to I Should Be Writing #109 (interview with Scott Sigler — these new media types are everywhere when they’ve got a new book out), Writing Excuses, Season 2, Episode 15 (Knowing When to Begin), and Phedippidations #170 (Thoughts from the Road).  I also downloaded a boatload of 80s music the other night, because I was in a discussion with the Siren about a Facebook quiz about the 1980s and realized I didn’t have “I’ll Melt With You” in iTunes.  As it turns out, the 80s music is excellent to write to, because it’s so familiar it doesn’t require any processing power.

Things are getting a little chaotic here.  We’re all in the basement right now.  Unfocused Girl is playing some kind of game on the Warriors website — it looks like a variation on original Adventure — and cackling like a madwoman.  Junior suddenly decided that his old train table — which we stood on end and moved against the wall months ago because he wasn’t playing with his Thomas trains anymore — was the most precious thing in the world, and got hysterical at the thought that we might give it away (in reality, the Siren just planned to break it down and put it in the crawl space until he was really done with it); he’s only just calmed down.  Time to wrap this up.

Revising Meet the Larssons: Three Pages.

The revision of the chapter formerly known as Chapter 14 — 21 pages (through page 172) — took me about an hour, all in, a sure sign that I’m doing it wrong.  Still, I expected it to be easier than the previous chapter, because the events in it still fit the revised plotline; all I really needed to do was line edit and make some relatively minor revisions for character development and add a little foreshadowing.  Still, I never expected this:

Pages 167, 168, and 169 of Meet the Larssons

Pages 167, 168, and 169 of Meet the Larssons

Your eyes do not deceive you.  That’s three consecutive pages with no edits.

I really needed an easy chapter, because the Manuscript Slog has been brutal so far.  Being able to make measurable progress quickly is very encouraging, even though I know that in another chapter or two, I’ll get bogged down again.