I'm Back!!!

So, after almost precisely one year's hiatus, I am back on this blog. Life---in the form of such activities as travelling to Alaska, studying for and taking the GREs, driving across the country, interning in the regional theater, applying for grad school, and filing taxes for the first time ever (the past year actually sounds pretty adventurous when you say it all that way)---has gotten somewhat in the way of my making the kind of progress on my novel I had hoped or might have preferred. Still, all things considered those were some pretty cool ways of spending my time, and in the meantime the novel has been sitting patiently, awaiting a moment when I could turn to it once more.

And that moment has finally come! Over the past months since I moved to Princeton, I have had random brief flashes of inspiration about the novel, especially when I'm walking through town on garbage day... Recently my mind has been more and more free to range more deeply into the details of the story. A few weeks back I spent an evening working front of house (aka tearing tickets), which meant I spent a lot of time standing at the top of a flight of stairs waiting for people to show up. While I waited, I thought about the novel, and came up with some cool ideas for the opening moments (introducing the concept of "mindbending," which is my current placeholder term for the way inhabitants of Allyria can control certain substances with their minds, by propelling spitball equivalents at him during the pretest) and the overall structure (breaking the book up not into two sections, but into three---Allyria, Damask, and the Journey between the two). I think I came up with some other ideas, too, but they are currently stored in less accessible vaults in the bank of my memory.

And then over the past couple of weeks I have begun running again in order to get into shape for Running Camp, which I am very excited to announce I will be able to attend this year. This shall no doubt prove a huge boon to my novel brainstorming process, as running and brainstorming are symbiotic processes---the former making space and time in which little else can infringe upon the latter, which in turn takes one's mind off of the physical discomfort associated with the former, making it far more pleasurable. In fact, my brainstorming took off in earnest on today's run, to such an extent that I was finally inspired to post to this blog again after the aforementioned year's hiatus.

Today's brainwaves included:

* Some more specific ideas of ways to develop Will's unwillingness to have an impact on the outside world ("the only thing that Will found less appealing than jobs that required mindbending in order to reshape physical objects were jobs that required reshaping the actual social landscape...")

* An idea for Will's father's former occupation: a Seer. Which is kind of like a cross between a psychic and a psychologist---someone who is able to help people with their personal / emotional problems by virtue of his ability to connect with and delve into their minds. Which would horrify Will above all else when he found out about it, and make him very hesitant to employ his mindreading powers.

* A lightning bolt about what to do in Will's sessions with the Thinker! This was very exciting! I remembered that there is actually a portion of the story in which a part of Will learns things that another part of him doesn't know about. I was so intimidated by the prospect of writing "like a Thinker" that I have skirted around those sections and consequently haven' really planned what will happen in them. But they may be the perfect forum for introducing Yve, so that she doesn't just randomly appear once we get to Damask. She could be introduced in a veiled or symbolic sort of way, but this would get her into the story earlier.

* And then I also realized that I could have Will when inside the Thinker see the foolishness of his refusal (when outside the Thinker) to have an impact on the world. It's been bothering me a little to think of having a purely reluctant hero, because then why are we rooting for him if he's so utterly paralyzed. But if there is some part of him that seem beyond his reluctance and wants to act, but isn't able to communicate with the other part of himself that is still afraid, and has to wait for that part to learn and catch up---well, that could potentially be really cool.

Those are the main new ideas I got on today's run. But now the creative juices seem to be flowing again, so hopefully the update posts will continue in the days and weeks to come. Hey, this summer I might actually even have a chance to do some re-writing! We'll see. It's exciting to see that I am still able to explore and develop the ideas even after a year of not having much direct time to devote to thinking about the story and characters. Shows there is still something of interest there to work with.

And I do find myself bringing up certain ideas that I explore in the novel in conversation every once in a while. Like the idea that a society may have its own sort of overarching personality, or the idea of non-bartering in the Allyrian marketplace, or the question of whether to act and impact the world or withdraw and watch things play out, or the juxtaposition of a culture based on contentment with one founded on competition. So there are some topics the story gives the opportunity to explore that are things that people think and talk about.

So, anyway, more soon, I hope. Till then!


Initial Research & Brainstorming: The Epic Saga

After a couple of months of random travelling, various short writing projects, and a crazy amount of e-mail correspondence, not to mention the omnipresent and perilous temptations of such online distraction pits as The Facebook (dun dun duuun!), I have finally knuckled down on myself and imposed a strict writing schedule to jumpstart the revision process. At least, that's one way of looking at it... Another perspective is that my brain quite wisely insisted on a brief break from the many months of disciplined and at times desperate wordcount accumulation, and took that time to gather additional inspiration from a number of stimulating and inspiring activities, and finally signalled to me its readiness to continue working on the novel by gaining a renewed eagerness to start looking into such topics as string theory, wavefunction collapse, and ancient Greek culture.

In any event, a couple of weeks ago back up at the writing residency in Caldera I eased into the revision process by spending a couple sessions brainstorming on stumps and lake docks and other picturesque perches, and completing Brian Greene's book The Elegant Universe, which explains string theory with its many compactly curled dimensions. This awakened some new ideas in me regarding the ways that the Thinkers influence the people in their cities, and the role of the sweadies in Allyria, and some mysterious effects that water can have to keep this influence on a subconscious level (which I would have Will work to counteact in the end, encouraging the people to become conscious of it so they can better resist future attacks to their independence). I also contemplated Will's allegorical name and how it might be borne out in his character--in what way is he hesitant to act and exert his will, and how can he have this character trait without becoming contemptible to action-approving readers, and how can he overcome this hesitation and act to save his city in the end? I also got this crazy idea that people can control physical objects with their minds in various ways through some quirk of quantum physics. And thus that people leave a detectable trace of themselves on any object that they interact with... Ooh, and I thought up what it is that Yve wants Will to do--a nefarious plan that also requires the respective expertises of Denis and Kendra, thus giving them active roles in the story and narratorial reasons for having gone along with Will in the first place.

After that I read Fred Alan Wolf's book Parallel Universes, which argues against the wavefunction collapse theory put forth in the Copenhagen interpretation and instead puts forth the parallel worlds theory. I didn't find his theory particularly compelling--what I appreciated was the way he pointed out various absurdities in the wavefunction collapse model, which is the model I want to use. Those absurdities are just the sorts of details a science fiction novel can benefit from exploiting. Thinking about these absurdities gave me all sorts of crazy ideas about the world and people as a kind of network mirroring neural networks, and the physical world flickering in and out of existence in different configurations while soul particles remain constant. I also clarified the weird properties of water as being interference to the process of solidifying memories, and I worked out a model for the quantum interaction between mind and brain.

And THEN I read The World of Athens, a study of the ancient Athenian culture and environment. This book was incredibly useful for helping me to form much clearer ideas about the societies of Allyria and Damask, in addition to their geographical layout. I'm essentially setting the story in ancient Greece, except on this parallel universe (although not really in the Wolfian sense of the term) where there are these Thinkers and people can control things with their mind. I even found a mention of a little harbor that Athens once tried to take over which sounds eerily like Damask's attempted takeover of Allyria. So I now have some solid ideas about geography, climate, transportation, currency, government, city structure, job distribution, etc. And contemplation about the economic systems has sent me into deep examinations of the fundamental principles underlying the differences between the two cities, and the ways those differences can be manifested in the nature of the cities' Thinkers. I got some good names for things, too, and decided that the water that makes things subconscious does so because it passes through a Thinker's cave before washing through the city.

The periodic and incredibly helpful spurts of feedback I have been getting throughout this process as various people who requested the first draft of my novel finish it and send me their thoughts has proved quite useful, and I am greatly appreciative to all those who have taken the time to do so. Although there was so much in the first draft that I was already well aware needed work, it's great to get other people's perspectives, and see what jumps out at them, and what they don't even notice, and what they like and what doesn't make sense, and all of that. If I've sent you the draft and you haven't had a chance to read it yet, don't worry--I'm not in any rush, and if I finish the next draft before you get to the first one, lucky you! I'll send you that one and you won't have to worry about the first draft and all its underdevelopment. :-)

So, that's what I've been doing lately. I'm sorry to have kept from updating for so long, and then to drop this enormous and probably mostly incomprehensible summary into the gap, but I've been so caught up in actually doing the work that I haven't felt inclined to take the time out to record it here. I'll try to be better about that in the future--brief updates at the end of a day or two of work instead of unmanageable ramblings at the conclusion of a month. We'll see how that works out...

I've got a couple more books stacked up for research--another ancient culture book (a set of primary sources of law codes and letter and such that should be very inspiring), a book on neurobiology, and another on consciousness. I want to go find some more books on ancient Greece, specifically on architecture and some other little details. And I'd love to find more information on that specific little harbor town Athens attacked. I also sat next to a fascinating woman on the plane home from San Diego (a biologist interested in biomimicry and cooperative systems) who gave me a whole list of fabulous recommendations, including The Quark and the Jaguar by Murray Gell-Mann, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, Cheating Monkeys, Citizen Bees, by Lee Allan Dugatkin, Unto Others by Sober and Wilson, and Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. And Doug recommended a book to me as well--Saint Julian by Walter Wangerin. If anyone else has any ideas for me to look into, send them my way!

My goal for myself is to spend at least ten hours a week on research and ten on brainstorming, and hopefully I'll be ready to write the second draft by the endof the summer. I actually have no idea how the timeline to reaching that state of readiness will look,and mostly I'm just going to ty to stay open to following the process wherever it leads, but I'm the kind of person (a J) who likes to have a plan, even if I know I'm going to adjust that plan accordingly as time goes on. Anyway, mainly, right now my enthusiasm for working on the novel is very strong, and the hardest thing has been making myself stop my novel work to make sure I get to the other things I need to be doing, like sleeping, eating, and researching graduate programs to apply to. I think that's a pretty good sign, don't you?


Collecting Questions

Well, the biggest update on the novel-writing front, as anybody on my list of Supercool Awesome Wonderful Glorious People is well aware of thanks to an e-mail of probably unnecessary length, is that I have decided to open my current draft to the eyes of anybody who is interested in seeing it in its current and still very rough state. If you don’t happen to be on that list, but would like an incredibly detailed explanation of this decision, ask me and I’ll send you the e-mail. I will try very hard not to reproduce it here and cause potential mental short-circuiting in the minds of the aforementioned S.A.W.G.P.s by causing them to read through it twice.

As a brief summary for posterity’s sake (SAWGPs, skip to the next paragraph, now, I urge you!!!), basically I realized how much more thought and effort and above all time is going to be required to get the novel into the kind of state I wanted it to be in before I showed people. But I was feeling guilty that I kept promising to show it to people and then putting off the date when I would do so, and I was putting a little unnecessary pressure on myself to do some quick fixes to make it readable rather than just allowing the revision process to flow naturally. So I decided to offer people the option of reading what I have now if they really wanted to, with the caveat that it’s quite rough and I will have a more polished draft available for reading in a couple of months, and the expectation that not a lot of people would have the courage to request the current draft, especially after reading the rambling monstrosity that was the mere e-mail extending the offer.

Within twenty-four hours of the sending of that e-mail offer, I am shocked at the fact that I have already received two or three times the number of requests for the current draft than I ever expected to get. This was pretty amazing, and incredibly encouraging, to me. Also perplexing. I don’t think you guys realize quite what you’re getting yourselves into. But I really do greatly appreciate your interest and openness. Collectively and individually, you rock my extra-planetary solar system.

Also, if you got the e-mail but decided not to request the current draft and are feeling guilty about that fact now that you’re reading this blog post, please don’t. Not only am I understanding of whatever factors went into your decision not to do so, but I am also selfishly glad that there are some of you still out there, because I would love to have some people see the next, more polished draft with totally fresh eyes, unbiased by having read the first draft. So, people are necessary and exceedingly helpful at all points in the process, and I am mainly grateful for your support and thoughts and above all your presence in my life.

So, what have I been doing with my writing time the past week that has revealed to me how much work the revision process is going to entail? Well, at the end of last week I finished, for the moment at least, the exploration of my antagonist’s background, character, and personal history, which ended up being about 6000 words long and also helped me a lot with clarifying things about the different cities and their philosophies, and some of the themes that I want to deal with through the story.

After finishing that, I dove headlong into the novel itself, starting at page one and reading through, changing things that I didn’t like as they jumped out at me. The first chapter is actually the most clear and polished, because I rewrote it about six times before I finally moved on to the rest of the story, which I then dashed through rapidly to meet the various word deadlines I had set for myself. Nevertheless, I proceeded to further fix up minor hiccups in sentence structure and random details, for about a day, until I realized that that might not be the best way to approach the revision process, as there were still sweeping issues of plot and theme that needed to be addressed.

I began compiling a list of the questions I need to really take some time to ponder and answer before I will know enough about the story to make the bigger structural changes. A lot of these I had just been storing in my head, and others I had jotted down in various places. As I brought them together, I organized them (finally, it’s the J’s turn to take a crack at this writing process) into various major categories: Things to Ponder, Things to Research, Things to Incorporate, and Things to Revise. Within these major categories I further divided things into sub-categories: Environment, Society, Thinkers, Characters, Plot, Ideas, Themes, and Prose.

Examples of the types of questions I was collecting (a random selection):

  • City layout—Allyria/Damask. What are differences? What are important parts of society? What things are near each other? Relative sizes. (Environment)
  • What is the social structure of the society like—jobs, economy, etc. What would the social, technological, and historical ramifications of the Thinker-ized reality be? (Society)
  • With isolated cities, what are the relationships of language/economy/etc.? How much do cities share? What are the differences between Damask and Allyria, and how are they manifested? (Society)
  • What does the Test want/believe, and how does it express these things? How does it approach the process of assigning Positions? How much does it know about people? Does it relate to them differently? How does it find out what they would be best suited for? (Thinkers)
  • Denis—what is his background/character? Flaws? What does he want? How does he contribute? How does he grow? What is important in his relationship with Will, how does the way he thinks affect the way Will thinks? (Characters)
  • Why does Will’s position as a garbage collector allow him to do what he does? What is important about the things he learns, the interactions he has, and the position it places him in? (Plot)

And on and on… Four pages and ninety-seven bullet points later (Yeah, if you were looking around for some bullet points yesterday and couldn’t find any, that’s where they all went. I may have used up the nation-wide quota single-handedly yesterday. My apologies…), I had still only scratched the surface of the need for further exploration. But it was a very helpful process, because it clarified for me all the blanks I need to fill in for myself in my own understanding of the world of the novel so that I can do what I need to in terms of restructuring and adding to the story.

I really think that’s the next step for me. I wrote the first draft running on the vaporous fuel of intuition and desperation, which was great and brought some fascinating things to the surface that I never would have achieved by structure and analytical thought. But now I think it’s time to think things through and back up what is happening with a more solid understanding of the nature of the places and people I am writing about.

So my current plan is, first of all, to read through my current draft in search of other questions in need of further contemplation and add them to my already-lengthy list (trying as I do so not to be thinking too hard about the fact that I actually sent this draft out to people and they might be reading it, so that I am not compelled to send them all daily apologies and revisions). Then I will take some time to just brainstorm, explore, imagine, and research, doing my best to answer the questions I have posed for myself and gain a really deep understanding of what is going on in this world I’ve created, and why.

Once I’ve answered most of those questions in sufficient detail, then I plan to take a look at the structure of the novel to see how things need to flow, what order things should happen in, where various revelations should occur, what scenes should happen and which ones are unnecessary, etc. After I’ve got that all worked out, I will turn to the more nitpicky details of detail and sentence structure. That’s the plan at the moment, at least.

I’m feeling quite good about the prospects of this process. It’s encouraging to me that I can see what needs to happen, and feel confident about doing it all. There’s a lot to be done, but I’ve really been able to mentally break it down step by step and see a clear path to getting it all done, rather than simply staring at this huge chunk of rough writing and wondering what to do next. I am also very excited about each of the steps, and feel confident that I will be able to achieve them as necessary.

I consider all of this clarity and confidence to be an amazing blessing, which doesn’t come of my own power at all but which I am incredibly thankful for. My only regret is that I can’t just sit down and proceed through it all without interruption until it’s done, because there is life to live and people to interact with and places to go. Of course all of these things are incredible blessings as well, and I know I would go insane within about eight hours if I was working only on the novel and nothing else, so it’s all for the best. That is just to express the eager excitement with which I am currently able to approach the revision process. Which is wonderful.


Delving Into My Villain

Well, after all my eagerness to start this blog, I haven't done much in the way of posting updates lately. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, I haven't been able to devote as much time to novel revisions as I would have liked to of late, having an assortment of other obligations and tasks to attend to that severely curtailed my normal writing hours. And then secondly, on the few occasions that I have been doing some revision work and intended to post a brief summary description thereof on this site at the conclusion of my work time, my computer has been acting up and taking a million years to do anything on the internet, preventing me from posting the desired updates.

(Unfortunately, poor Habakkuk (my laptop--I have found, in the course of my experience with a variety of finicky computers, that the machines tend to respond well to personal attention, especially in the form of being given a name, preferably Biblical) is suffering from a malfunctioning fan, causing him to overheat when I am too demanding of his capacities. It's difficult getting this issue addressed, since I rely on having my laptop to pursue my writing, but I will need to do so sometime soon, lest I risk losing all the work I have completed thus far.)

In any event, I have spent the vast majority of the maybe five or six hours I have found time to devote to my revision in the past week working on a single project, which is not directly manifesting itself within the body of the novel, but will nevertheless prove quite valuable in the process of developing the story. That project, as the title of this post indicates, has been to delve deep into the inner workings of my villain, exploring her history and motivations in order to better understand why she is doing all the villainous things she is currently doing.

Because while I have long had at least a general idea of the kind of conspiracies she is at the head of, and while details about the nature of those conspiracies have developed a great deal during the process of writing my first draft, I still have, or had, until several days ago, a rather fuzzy picture of the circumstances that had driven her to take those conspiratorial steps, or the desires she hoped to satisfy in doing so. Which made for a rather flat characterization, and hazy details of how the various circumstances were tied together and what the situation within her dominion truly was.

I've also been struggling with making her at the same time truly evil, and truly sympathetic. Truly sympathetic is actually a bit easier for me--it just requires developing enough about her history, and building it all off of a warped enough foundation, to make everything she is doing understandable, if not forgivable. The harder part for me has been to really push her into the realm of unconscionable evildoing, because I have a mental tendency to shy away from the unpleasant which makes me a generally optimistic person but not the most well-rounded fiction writer, since it means my protagonists tend to lack realistic flaws and my antagonists tend to be unnecessarily subdued.

So, I've been writing her history, starting with her early infancy (which is where, naturally, it all began) and following the logical progression from her environment and personality to each subsequent action she takes, in order to arrive at the place we find her at the beginning of the novel. In the process, I have tried to push myself to my limits with respect to the destructive depravity of her outlook and behaviors. I am on a pretty good track towards what serves as the novel's present, and have written about 1600 words on the subject, few to none of which will probably actually go in the novel. But it will give me a much clearer picture of the forces my protagonist has to fight against, and will thus make the struggle much more specific and hopefully compelling and entertaining.

It's also given me a chance to develop the details of some of the social commentary that seems to be emerging within the contrast between the home city of the hero and the home city of the villain, which in certain ways and for specific reasons embody the character traits that make these people who they are. So, that has been interesting, and will also be helpful in the revision process.

I considered including the background I have been working on, or at least excerpts from it, onto this blog or my Public Consumption one, but in the end I think I've decided that it would spoil too much of the plot for anyone who is planning to read the story, so I'll refrain from doing so at this point. Maybe at some future time I'll post it, or publish it as a short story prequel, or something...

I have to admit I've been a little antsy to actually start changing words in the manuscript itself, but I want to make sure I have a good foundation of planning and understanding before I do so, so that the changes that I make are well-thought-out and meaningful. The one thing I did do, to my great delight, is excise the frightful butchery story (sorry, Robby...), leaving a note to myself to replace it with something more suitable when I have the chance.

For those of you awaiting the chance to actually read a draft, thank you for your patience. My hope is to have one ready for you by March 10th, but at my current rate of progress (time elapsed: two weeks; tangible progress: none) I'm not sure whether that's going to happen. If not, surely the ten days I've been graciously bestowed with at a writing residency in Oregon in mid-March will allow me the chance to push through to a position of readiness, and I will hopefully at the very latest have something to send you by March 28th.


Spacing Out The Revelations: Preparatory Work

Well, I have now whiled away much of today's writing time setting up this blog, but I'm excited to have it, so I think it was worthwhile time spent. I have not done much revising in the past week since I returned from New York, instead spending my days unpacking, doing laundry, and catching up on e-mail and correspondence after all the itineracy I have engaged in during the past month and a half, and my evenings spending time with some of my good friends in the area, who I have missed while I have been away.

But today I did actually get into the novel for a bit before I get swept up and away in the idea for this blog. So here's what I was doing. Basically, I was continuing the process I began just before I left for New York, which consisted of making a list of all of the events in the novel, and a list of all of the revelations that need to occur sometime before the end of the book. The problem is that a large number of these revelations currently occur in a single explanatory monologue the villainess delivers to the protagonist towards the very end of the novel, and that just doesn't seem to be the done thing these days, unless you're Ayn Rand, you know? So I need to find a way to intersperse those amongst the action, I suppose... In preparation for doing that, I am making the aforementioned lists, so that I can choose a point in the plot at which each of the revelations will occur, so that they will be spaced out throughout the novel instead of clustered together in a single expository speech at the very end. Fun stuff!

I also started going through the first draft and converting it into a chart, with plot developments justified to the left margin and revelations justified to the right, which was a helpful but very detailed and time-consuming process which I'm not sure I'll complete at this point. But it was an interesting exercise, and may come in handy sometime later...

Revisions For Draft Two

Here's the list of revisions I would like to make to draft one before I will consider draft two complete and ready to send out to the below-listed Supercool Fabulous Wonderful People. In case you were curious. A lot of it is probably pretty cryptic. *shrug*

Smooth out structure:
What else needs to happen? What happens that doesn’t need to?
Are things happening in the right order?
* Progress of motivations—show Will wanting to keep his life normal, obstacles preventing that
* Progression of Will’s ability:
who he can read, what he can learn/sense/understand
dealing with the ethics of reading people’s minds—should he, when, need he ask, etc.
* Awareness of evil forces:
When/how are we introduced to villainess?
How much does Will know at each point, scene by scene? (Spread out revelations)
How does Will find things out? (Keep it active)
* Roles/development of: Mikal, old man, Denis’ sisters, Denis, Kendra, Charle, Darius

* Description of Allyria, Will and Kendra, etc. in beginning
* The Test
More conflict with mother/others about his placement
Show how the rest of the Waste Collection station works
More relationship with Denis; twin connection stories
Will getting to know the people on his route
* Remove horrific butcher story!!!
* Change marketplace cluster to buying/selling
Find new place for The Game
* Will notices new economic trend(s) in garbage
* Will’s mother’s story—is it too easy if they already know She’s at the Temple?
Add Mikal arguing; Mikal helping
Add someone (old man? Lila? Temple?) to teach Will about physics
* Conversations with the Temple
* Change fistfight to mind battle
* Explain Charle at end of mind battle, begin to get a glimpse of evil of woman
* Will realizes selfishness of Damask before he gets to the Temple
Events of ending: Use pilotting, Let Denis and Kendra be more specific/helpful in the end
* Final image?

Give characters flaws
More details/descriptions of people/places
Add more of Will’s connection to his father, gradually growing
Show more of Will understanding people, learning/growing before Temple
More explanation of economic system (children, value)
Hints that there is something wrong that will need to be fixed; that a wider world is present and
impinging on the idyll that is Allyria; show how great Allyria is
Economic impacts/shifts
Introduction to the villainess earlier—through communications with father? Mother? Views of her from somebody’s perspective aside from Will? Special chapter sections? Stories?
Does every effect have a cause, and vice versa?

Fix bolded words/Name for villainess, father
Iron out especially awkward/embarrassing prose
Polish titles

Catching Up: My Progress Thus Far

So, unfortunately I did not have the foresight to start this blog when I was actually starting the writing process. It would have been great to have a record of the process by which I reached the point I am at today. Alas, it is often difficult to tell until partway into a experience that it is one worthy of observation, and thus the primordial beginnings of so many fascinating processes are likely lost forever, buried deep beneath the stately dunes left behind by the ever descending sands of time.

Anyway, here is a brief timeline of the novel's progress thus far, to catch this blog up to speed.

Spring 2001-- My junior year of high school, I am given an assignment in Coach Dorman's AP American Lit class to write a short story. I have an idea involving an intelligent young garbage collector who saves the world by uncovering an evil conspiracy. My mother's distrust in the compilation of personal data in the Information Age is a main source of inspiration. I come up with the idea of a Test that people take to determine what position in society they are best suited for. I realize that this idea is actually probably better suited to a novel than a short story. Coach gives me permission to write the first chapter and turn that in to satisfy the assignment. After several re-writes I get a great start, but do not continue with the writing process beyond the first chapter at this time.

October 2006-- Towards the end of my first month of life in Seattle with a large portion of each day devoted to writing, I am still in search of a project that really sparks my excitement. After several weeks of random writing exercises that don't go much of anywhere, followed by 80 pages of a screenplay adaptation of Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl, for which my enthusiasm is suddenly somewhat diminished by the realization that such an adaptation has already been written and is in production, I am scanning the list of project ideas I have been compiling over the past half-dozen years. I am most excited about a collaborative novel on an entirely different subject that I am working on with the same Coach Dorman, but he is caught up in the beginning of the teaching semester and unable to contribute at the moment. I suddenly remember my garbage collector idea, and realize that it is a similar enough project to the collaborative novel to spark my interest. I spend the next several weeks brainstorming plot developments and developing characters, writing some potential scene sketches but not much in the way of actual content.

October 31 (Halloween)-- I am dressed, naturally, as the Dream State of Sleep, and have spent the morning walking through West Seattle to buy a knitting friend of mine some skeins of yarn for her birthday. Inspired by a particularly golden sunset, I take my notebook over to a bench in a nearby park and write out a potential opening scene to the novel. (I have decided that I want to start with a single scene of my protagonist as a child, the day his father suddenly disappears, before flashing forward to the day he is assigned the position of Waste Collector.) I realize that I am perched on the eve of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) which has held my intrigued interest ever since a friend of mine participated in it during our freshman year of college. I resolve to participate, beginning the writing process in earnest the following morning.

November 1-- Opening day of NaNoWriMo. I register on their website, and begin by typing in the opening scene I wrote the precious afternoon (technically cheating, as the goal of the event is to write 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th, and these were actually written on October 31st). I spend the next several days revising this opening section, trying a number of different ideas before finally settling on one I could be content with.

November 8 (2,730 words)-- I realize that my painstaking revision of the first chapter has set me far behind on my word count. I resolve to move on, coming back to revise the beginning further once I have reached 50,000 words. I am forced to revise my daily word quota from 1,667 to 2,000 words per day to catch up.

November 16 (15,195 words)-- After some fits and starts over the past several days, I have made some serious progress towards my wordcount, although I am still behind my projected goal, and I am more than halfway through the month and not yet halfway to 50,000 words. But with a newly revised daily quota of 2,500 words, a successful completion of NaNoWriMo remains possible.

November 17 (16,973 words)-- The day of the fateful butchery story (click here for a detailed discussion and reprinting of the gruesome tale). On my first of ten days home in San Diego for Thanksgiving, my attempt to complete my daily word quota descends into a graphic blood and gore fest, for reasons unclear even to me. The experience is so harrowing, I am unable to write another word for the duration of my stay in San Diego.

November 30 (20,123 words)-- I finally regroup, writing 3,150 words in a single day. It is not enough. I am a NaNoWriMo washout. However, I do not let this fact dishearten me. Instead, I create my own personal revised deadline of December 18th, the date I return to San Diego for Christmas, by which I intend to achieve 50,000 words--do or die.

December 14 (41,000 words)-- I have struggled valiantly over the past two weeks, and am just slightly behind but well within reach towards achieving 50,000 words by my revised December 18th deadline. A strong push through the weekend should get me there. And then, as I sit with my aunt and uncle at 11pm watching the final episode of Survivor and making/wrapping Christmas presents, the violent windstorm raging through the Seattle area that evening knocks first one tree, then a second, across the powerlines between us and the nearest power plant. We will not regain power for six days. Temperatures will drop into the 20's, and we will spend our days huddled by the gas fireplace for warmth, cooking hot dogs and toast over the fire and trying to keep the boys warm and entertained, and the house somewhat organized so we don't trip and injure ourselves during the exceedingly dark nights. In the midst of this adventure, each evening I make my way to a local coffee shop to plug in my laptop and type away, struggling against all adversity towards my 50,000 words.

December 18 (47,050 words)-- I am very, very close. I allow myself a rest, although one more evening's push could propel me to 50,000. I will get there within the next several days, I vow.

December 21 (50,000 words!!!)-- (Note: That is about 100 manuscript pages, about 125 published paperback pages.) At long last, I have made it. This is the goal I set more than six weeks ago, and I have finally achieved it. But my story is not yet complete. My protagonist still has to venture outside the city in which he has lived his entire life, seek out his vanished parents, discover the evil figure behind all the suspicious developments that have been affecting his home and his people, and find a way to resolve the problem and save the way of life he has come to know and love. But that won't take long, surely! I allow myself several days of respite from writing to celebrate Christmas with my family, setting a new deadline: finish the story before I return to Seattle on January 20th.

December 28 (52,000 words)-- Now in Maui, I return to my story, beginning the process of drawing my protagonist on the winding path towards the novel's resolution. In 2,000 words I manage to get him halfway onto the boat that will begin him on his journey. I realize this is going to take much longer than I originally anticipated.

January 2-9, 2007 (55,000 words)-- I take a weeklong break to spend quality time with my sister, watching America's Next Top Model and creating a rockin' music video to Sashamon's hit song, Necta.

January 15 (67,000 words)-- After a week of solitude and intense writing, I have one more scene, the final confrontation, between myself and completion of the first draft of my novel.

January 24 (71,564 words)-- I finish the first draft of my novel!!! I have returned to Seattle, and have several days before I depart for a ten-day trip to New York. During these few days, I take some time to compile a list of revisions I want to make in the second draft. Although I initially hoped to be able to send out a draft to my family and friends who had so kindly offered to read one (see previous entry), I realized that a great deal of revision needed to occur before it would be helpful to me to have other people look at it, and relatively pleasant for them to do so. It would be the second draft that I would send out. After a ten-day writing hiatus during my travels to New York, I would begin the process of revision. Having, by now, found that goals and deadlines are quite helpful to me in my process, even if I do not always meet the ones I initially set, I resolve to complete these revisions and send out a draft by March 10th, when I will depart for a week-long stint in Mississippi helping out with post-Katrina rebuilding. And that brings us up to the current moment.

Why I Started This Blog

So, as if I don't have enough blogs already, I've decided to start up one more. This blog will be devoted to the daily steps of my process towards writing a novel. I got the inspiration to do this as I was thinking about how excited I am to reach the point in the revision process when the novel is ready to show to people, because I just can't wait to get some of the fabulous, brilliant people in my life involved in this process.

I have already begun to compile a list of the generous people who have expressed a willingness to read through a draft whenever I'm ready to send one out. Here, by the way, is that list as it currently stands, so I can thank and honor those brave souls, and so you can make sure you're on it if you want to be, and aren't if you don't. These are people who have specifically, overtly stated their interest in reading the next draft of my novel (usually multiple times, in order to convince me they are being sincere and not merely polite). If you would like to be added to this list, or removed from it, please let me know and I will happily do so. Here 'tis.

Supercool Awesome Wonderful Glorious People:
Ben Tresman
Robby Noble
Janel Averill
Tom Dorman
Shannon Singer
Jennifer Snodgrass
Thomas Edwards
Allie Edwards
Toby Osborne
Nati Amos
Fred Browne
Chris Dewar
TJ Rakitan
Amy Wong
Kate Fox
Margaret Edwards
Jackie Goldfinger
Sarah Smith
John Hansen
Pam Hosmer
Christy Zatkin
Erin Denny
Wilder Nutting-Heath
Turhan Sarwar

Yay! You guys rock my solar system!

Anyway, the point is, I was thinking how excited I am to get other people's input and have some of the people I most value in life being a part of this process. And I was thinking it would be nice, once people have read the novel, if they could check up on the changes I work on after they read it so they can see where I'm heading, and also so that they can give some input on my revisions if they have any, e.g. "Hey, you're cutting the butchery scene? That's my favorite scene!" (Note: I don't care what anybody says (Coach...), I am sanitizing my novel of that freaking butchery scene ASAP.)

And then I thought, hey, when not start now, so that any of the people I know who are crazy enough not only to be willing to read my next draft, but to be interested in the revision process before I even reach the point where it is ready to be seen by eyes other than my own, can be updated on the process to whatever extent they desire. I also thought it'd be cool to have a record of the process, mostly for my own sake, but heck, who knows, perhaps even for posterity one day... A girl can dream, can't she?

So, anyway, basically my plan is, for each day I do some work on my novel, I'll post a brief summary of what I did here. Should be interesting... I hope you enjoy it! Or avoid it. Because seriously, if you're not enjoying it, what are you doing coming back here? :-)