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Posts Tagged ‘deadlines’

I have just survived a 2k day. By “survived” I mean that I haven’t gotten anything done except showering, buying some sponges at the corner CVS, walking some bills to the mailbox, feeding myself leftovers from last night’s dinner, and writing two thousand words. And by writing two thousand words, I mean two thousand words starting from the beginning. Again. Hopefully for the last time, because I think I’ve finally found the appropriate shape for this story. I have, at least, realized that the source of external tension wasn’t driving the story, which meant it was growing all sorts of weird limbs that refused to work together.

I’m hoping that this story is about 20 pages, double-spaced–maybe 22. About six thousand words, although for a first draft I’m guessing it’ll be closer to 7k.

The amount of material I’ve written for this so far, divided between seven word documents, is 27 single-spaced pages, or 15,246 words. Not all unique words, granted–I copy and paste passages sometimes. But holy cow, right? I haven’t even finished a first draft yet.

This is why I need deadlines. I am spending too long searching for this story.

Those figures don’t include the various forays I’ve made into first person perspective from my MC’s teenage daughter–who doesn’t exist in the version of the story I’m currently writing. Earlier this summer I struggled over whether to write it from her point of view, or from his. While both potential stories lead up to the same event (skunks!!), they are “about” very different things–they are different stories.

The daughter’s act is primarily one of witnessing, and what she does internally with what she sees. Where she comes from begins to make sense of who she might become, what she expects for her future. It’s not quite explicit for her yet–things are just starting to click into place–so it needs to be in first person. The reader can see all she sees, and–by juxtaposing this against what she thinks–can also see what she doesn’t, can put together the things she can’t yet.

From her father’s perspective–even though, in this case, he’s not her father–the story is one of decisions.

I decided to go with the father. But now and then the daughter’s voice keeps coming back, and I think I may have to–someday–write both. For now, I write a couple of paragraphs to placate her, and go back to her father, who is giving me trouble enough.

Wish me luck.

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a deadline.

It’s all over but the grading. Which must be done by Thursday.

As for this story I’ve been poking at all summer: the deadline for that is on Wednesday the 11th. Because it is absolutely ridiculous that I’ve been working on it since May–it and little else save for scraps here and there–and have only gotten this far.

I am posting this here in the hopes that someone will hold me accountable. I think–I think, I think–I have the shape for this story now. I also think I know why the main character has the hobby that he does, apart from the fact that I stole it from a real person I knew and gave it to him. The metaphorical why, the story’s mattering. (So many writers say they don’t know the “meaning” of a story til after they write it; it’s a surprise. That seems good and right to me, but it’s not most often how it goes for me.)

I dash off notes in fits of realization and come back to them later, and they blink up at me, stupidly, from the paper. (In this case, neon yellow paper.) Here’s hoping they eventually give birth to something that breathes.

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I wrote 1876 words today.

I am pretty impressed with myself. This may be an insignificant word count for some, but for me, in a month that is not November, it is something I can feel good about.

Somewhere around word number 1723, however, it occurred to me that I am trying to jam two stories into the space of one. I will think about this, but I will not let it stop me.

(I am afraid that it will stop me of its own accord, but if that happens, it happens. I will not panic about deadlines and the fact that my students turn in 19 essays to me on Monday. Nope.)

~~~

Today I also finished The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy. It deserves some ruminating over. Having taught an essay of his for two semesters, I can definitely recognize his philosophy in his writing; but I don’t entirely know what to make of the ending.

The main character is really wacky–bouts of amnesia, uncertainty of his own identity, a nervous twitch in his knee, hearing “ravenous particles” in the air–and you are put so much in his head amid all that wackiness that it strikes you as weird that people treat him as normal. I enjoyed this, because I am writing about wacky characters right now. (In fact, I’m concerned that my current main character isn’t quite wacky enough, or that his wackiness needs to be more obvious. Something else to think about.)

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While I delay grading midterm portfolios, I thought I ought to plug Hot Metal Bridge, which is accepting submissions for four more days.

We like publishing Awesome Stories (and poetry and other things, of course–but I’m on the fiction end), so naturally we like having Awesome Stories submitted to us. If you have anything of the sort lying around, do send it our way.

Submission Guidelines etc.

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That I am a procrastinator, and always have been, and probably always will be, is not shocking news to the world. If, by some miracle of God, I were ever to become a canonized saint, I would be the patron saint of procrastinators.

The Internet, whom I like to think of as my friend, is actually the enabler of my weaknesses. (See: this blog post, written while I have approximately one hour to read six or seven student essays, pick one, and build a workshop around it.)

I actually like the feeling of getting things done. I like the idea of sitting down for a day of work and crossing bunches of stuff off my to-do list. I love lists. I need lists. If I don’t have a tangible, written list, I keep a list in my head, or try to, and that eventually drives me crazy. So, written lists. I like Gmail’s task feature.

I love planning out how and when and for how long I’m going to do things. Give me a free day, and I will map it out with things to do, to accomplish. Give me the morning of the free day, and I will sit around in my pajamas. Give me the afternoon of the free day, I will poke around on Facebook and Twitter and follow all their rabbit trails. Give me the evening of the free day, I will read a book. And give me the day after, and I berate myself for having gotten nothing done.

Give me a deadline, and I will get things done. In the few days before a thing is due. This is, sadly, how the majority of my work gets done.

The crazy thing is, despite my procrastination, and despite my general lack of organization (lists aside), I am also a perfectionist. This really is *not* a happy combination, in terms of my stress levels. But I suppose that perfectionism is what keeps the negative effects of my procrastination in check.

And now that I have procrastinated by reflecting on my procrastination, I must return to my students’ essays. I’m not sure what it is, but I swear that this is the second or third time I’ve found one of them using the word “perspicacity.” I don’t like it when I have to look up a word a student uses. Have they ever heard of astute or shrewd? Simpler words, but I like them better.

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I am up for workshop on March 23rd; but what I didn’t realize was that I had to be up a second time, since I was only doing a half workshop. We have to submit 40-50 pages during the course of the semester; for a half-workshop it’s 20-30.

So I’ve signed up for March 2nd as well. Which means that my stuff has to be posted by February 23rd. (The date I am giving my book report.) Which means, approximately: panicpanicpanicpanic.

What I am hoping it also means is that this story I’ve been struggling with will have more motivation to let me write it. (Although possibly it, the story, does not care at all whether or not I’m humiliated in class.) I have, I think, solved the point of view problems, and the solution–which came to me suddenly and unlooked for–was simply to extend the ending to encompass Other Things. I don’t know whether or not Character B will realize he was lied to, but the reader certainly shall.

This extension also will help the story be about what it’s actually about, which is what I’m still figuring out. Because a story’s “aboutness,” while a different thing than what happens in it, is not separable from plot or character and what happens therein. Or else it wouldn’t be a story; it would be a moral, or a sermon, or an intelligent saying.

~~~

Speaking of fiction, for those who write it and are under a certain age, the Kenyon Review is having a contest. Submissions are open February 1-28. I haven’t poked around much myself yet to see what types of stories have won in the past, but it’s being judged by Louise Erdrich, author of Love Medicine. Worth checking out.

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