Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blogs are hard for us procrastinators

Even if I was to ever get a regular readership (or even one reader) on here, what shot do I have of keeping them reading if the entries come quarterly at best?

I don't like writing entries, to be honest. It's work, just like all writing is, mainly because I can't just slop it down and leave it there with typos and first-draft terribleness for all to see like many bloggers do. That's not condemning them or claiming superiority. In fact, I wish I could just slap it down and be done with it; be better for my sanity. But I always have to revise, move bits around, edit, and tinker as if I were actually readying a short story for submission.

Bah, enough rambling. Let's give an update for "Robbie Singh." I finished the first draft down at the Barnes & Noble Cafe (a.k.a. Starbucks) in Roseville on May 29, 2006. I must say I felt just as pretentious down there brandishing my laptop and a serious "writer's face" as other people look to me: making a spectacle of simple computing with caffeinated accompaniment. I take solace in the fact that I made eye contact with nary a person for my whole time down there. I only went there the last two days of composition, since the library on base was closed for Memorial Day and I simply can't write in the house. I hear Irina and the kids and either feel guilty for not helping her with them or guilty that I'm writing instead of spending precious time with them while they're young and not teenagers. If I ever support myself financially through writing, I'm going to have to rent an office somewhere.

So after finishing the first draft, I followed the advice of every writer on planet Earth and put it out of sight/mind for as long as I could. In my impatient case, it was a little less than two weeks, which I felt was sufficient. The first complete read-through wasn't as bad as I anticipated, with minimal cringing. I don't go back to read any of my stuff til it's finished (other than to fact check or something), so I hadn't seen any of the beginning since early February. So, after that reading, I dove into the detailed revision on June 8. It's a painstaking process where many of the pages contain either 1) more cross-outs, word changes, and text-relocating arrows than actual typeface, or 2) a big angry slash across the entire page, under the equally angry word "DELETE," "REWRITE," or "WEAK." Gee, that's encouraging advice, isn't it? Considering I actually looked forward to this phase (probably because it wasn't first-draft writing), I found these annotations irritating when I started my current second-draft "re-type." Hmm... "WEAK." Well, that's specific. Nice of me to include what exact elements needed strengthening. God forbid I scribble a couple of notes or suggestions of how to improve the nebulous "weak" attribute of the prose. "DELETE" is easy enough to understand, but how about that favorite of mine: "REWRITE." Oh, goody. While wearing my revision cap and brandishing the "not-good-enough" wand, I deemed this section needing a complete overhaul. It makes me want to go back and slap myself. Not because the note isn't true as all hell, but because I write those instructions for improvement so lightly, so carefree, like I'm slashing up someone else's work. I fail to realize that it will be ME, only a couple of weeks later, who will have to labor for hours picking sections apart and reconstructing them again. Is this making any sense? Whatever, it does to me. :)

I'm almost done with Part 1 of the re-type. My original plan was to incorporate the pen and ink changes into my first draft files on the laptop via highlight, delete, alter slightly, move text, etc. But I've now determined that starting with wholly blank files and retyping from scratch is the way to go. Which means my beginning, with Robbie walking to work, started as five pages of highly edited bunk, but was later stripped to less than one. Wow. Tough to accept that kind of loss of effort, but undoubtedly only because I'm a beginner. I've heard of some writers throwing out hundreds of pages because the novel "wasn't working." HA! I make you this personal guarantee right now: I will NEVER throw out that kind of effort, I don't care how many kinds of fucked up it is. I will re-tool and re-work it until my eyes bleed and the universe unravels and the sun collapses in on us. I think a writer that would throw out that quantity of blood-sweat-n-tears, even in first-draft form, does it just so he can mention it at cocktail parties. "Sure, it was 200,000 words, but it just wasn't my best work. Best to scrap it and start over." Nice job there, Mr. Martyr Dostoevsky. Next time try a fuckin' outline.

Anyway, I got about 15,000 retyped of a probable 75-80k word final count. Then it goes out to my Mom, Dad, couple co-workers, Tara, Zach, Tom, Barb, their kids, Greg, Granny, and any other advance readers who think they can be honest enough to help me.

That's enough for now. Gotta get some work in tonight.


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