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.


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