Sunday, May 15

Personalized license plates

I have thought, at times, that were I to personalize a license plate, it would read "DARTHJOJO." Never mind that it is far too long. Never mind that I do not own a car. It's awesome. There is a Star Wars reference. There is a touch of whimsy in the association of a Sith lord's honorary and the name "JoJo." It is a name with personal significance as I frequently employ it as a screen name.

Not that I would ever do so. Never mind the aforementioned objections. I have imagined the possibility that these were not obstacles and have still decided that I could not personalize a license plate on my car. The line of thinking proceeds in this manner:

(1) A personalized license plate is more memorable and easier to remember.

(2a) Were my car to be stolen, it would be easier to identify and the odds that it would be returned to me and the thieves captured would be increased.

(2b) Were I to use my car in a bank robbery, it would be easier to identify and the odds that I would be found and captured would be increased.

(3) I find it more likely and/or prefer to believe that it is more likely that I will commit a bank robbery and escape in my own car than that my car will be stolen.

Tuesday, May 10

A first novel: End of the first draft

Single-spaced pages with one-inch margins? One-hundred and forty-four.
Words? One-hundred six-thousand and nine-hundred eighty-two.
Named characters? Forty-five.

Those are the sums of the complete first draft. It took me four full months and a few days more to write all that. A fair amount of some import changed in that time. There were five Lochilangor children then. Now there are four. It remains in the first person, but it is in the moment now and no longer a story retold years later. I thought in January to write only a thousand words every weekday and to spend the weekends revising what I had wrote. When I realized that my goal for this first draft was to write everything and not to write it well, I increased my daily words to two thousand and no longer expected to take breaks.

Are these changes for the better? Except for the increase in writing pace, I don't know. I think so, but I may very well come and change them back later after further consideration.

Now it is time for a break. The next few weeks are going to be busy ones as we move out of Bozeman, visit my family in Minnesota and fly back to Africa to see the kids in Kenya and see something new in Malawi. There will not be so much time to focus on the language of my novel then, but there will be time for thought and reflection. I have experimented with my characters. I have tried different personalities and directions for them. Now it's time to make decisions as to which are the best. I know the sections with which I struggled, and I know the research I need to do to reduce those struggles. I need to find the parts of which I am most proud and develop from them. I need to find the parts of which I am disappointed and change them. I have enjoyed tasting all the opportunities of what this novel could be, and now I need to decide what it will be.

It will still be time for writing. There are two short stories, "As The Spirit Moves You" and "The Happy Housekeeper," to complete. There are new stories to write and submit to the next volume of Machine of Death.

It will be good times, and in a month I will be ready for another round.

Monday, May 2

A first novel: Push to the end

I have struggled with writing these past weeks. There are legitimate reasons. I need to complete a grant application this Friday, and there is still so much that needs to be done. I have spent the past three weekends out of Bozeman and away from my computer. In other words, I've been busy. It's an excuse, a lame and popular one. If I was dedicated, I could find an hour or two to write my two-thousand words, or fewer if I really were that busy. It wouldn't be hard.

But, of course, there are complications. The haphazard beginnings to my writing have come back to me. I have a list of events, I know what happens, yes, but the characters are too thin and flat, when they're not contradicting themselves, to support those endings. Motivation comes from my whim. The central thread of the story has been lost between sections. There are common characters between the parts, but the conflicts are entirely new and have little resemblance between them. I know how bad it is now, and it's hard to finish when I can imagine how much of it will change in the coming months. It doesn't seem worth my while.

However, having made these mistakes and trying out others that would have been far worse, I know how to correct them. I know what needs to change in the next draft to make it stronger over all. I know the research I need to do and what would make better foundations for the characters to develop from, but I am not going to make those changes now. Now I just want to finish this first draft. No matter how miserable it may be now, no matter how little of it will survive into the final piece, I just want it all together. I want to try a few more ideas to see if there is any merit whatsoever to them. It will be a whole, and I can understand that. I can work out from that. I can improve that.

Single-spaced pages with one-inch margins? One-hundred and thirty-two.
Words? Ninety-eight thousand and seven.
Named characters? Forty-five.

Sunday, May 1

"Open Eyes, Full Heart"

Troy kissed with his eyes open. There were times, like when Charlotte said it was creepy and when Keiko refused to kiss him in the light, that he tried to stop. He closed his eyes but missed things. He liked to watch the lines around her mouth tighten and her eyelids relax. They, like the warmth of her lips, made the kiss special. He couldn't help himself.

Then Troy met Maria. She kept her eyes open, too, and they would watch each other's eyes trace the arc of their cheeks and the figure of their faces and enjoy their majestic being.


I like the arc of this. Character has a peccadillo. Said peccadillo is off putting. Character finds another who finds another who shares and/or appreciates said peccadillo. They find happiness.

What I do not like is the final line. It reads like something of a hallucinatory epiphany more appropriate to Cynthia Ozick or Flannery O'Connor. Not that I have anything against them, especially O'Connor whom I hold in the highest esteem, but it's not for me. "...their majestic being" is too much and doesn't ring true to me.