Experiment: A Cure for the New Chapter OH-GOD-NO-DON'T-MAKE-MEs?

Finished Chapter 6 yesterday. It's not the most inspired chunk of the manuscript thus far, but it's done, and at this stage in the game, "done" is the whole point. I'm going forward at all costs, and what's most interesting, I've discovered, is that with every new chapter I put to bed I am suddenly overwhelmed with strong and interesting ideas and situations to fix chapters that are behind me ... for instance, yesterday I figured out fixes for Chapters 1, 2, and 5 while printing out Chapter 6! So I've made notes on index cards with all those thoughts, and will continue forward into Chapter 7 as if all that information has already made it into the book, and then when I start DRAFT 2 I will do the actual creating of those new scenes and bits of information.

Of course, I was very excited about all of this and was thrilled about generating forward momentum into Chapter 7 earlier today as I made notes over a cup of coffee. Then I got to the office and the usual fears and procrastinations and negotiations with myself attendant with starting new chapters set in strong. I surfed and I emailed and I surfed some more, and finally I decided one more new working rule ...


From now on, when I can't seem to make myself stop avoiding sitting down to begin a new chapter, I will turn off the email, turn of the browser, and choose the item on my GTD task list that I have been most procrastinating and most dread doing and force myself to undertake it, in hopes that this horrible thing I really don't want to do will make sitting down and writing seem a much better deal.

In this case, the things I most don't want to do are clean out the microwave and mini-fridge that were included in my lease of this space. They are FILTHY -- really really really filthy, last-call-at-the-bar-women's-bathroom-filthy--but man would it be handy to bring leftovers to work and not only cool but also nuke them ... I've been avoiding this task since I rented this space March 1st, so today I attempt cleaning the microwave. Hopefully that will send me RUNNING back to my keyboard, and the threat of undertaking similar actions with the mini-fridge--tell me, really, how the hell do you end up with moldy cigarette stubs inside a refrigerator?--will keep me from acting similarly stupid about working in the near future ...


Monthly Check-in: May


Write 500 words (min) each day.


ANALYSIS: I lost 1 day accompanying Husband to doctor’s appointment (“Just like old people,” Mom says). I lost 5 more days to general malaise and some actual sick, though 2 of those 4 lost days I worked on the book by shoring up my notes, so that’s something. Lost 1 more day due to architect meeting, but heck, I’m counting that “research,” so there. All this said, my average daily word count for the month of May was in the 800+ range, so though I lost a lot of days, I got more words down than I could have.


Complete 2 novel chapters each month


ANALYSIS: I was supposed to finish Chapters 5 and 6 this month. However, schedule was a little bit messed up from the get-go, as I was still finishing up half of last month’s Chapter 4. So I didn’t start Chapter 5 until the second week of the month, and had my usual ARGH WHAT IS GOING ON HERE trouble with it just long enough to force Chapter 6 off the schedule entirely. Plus the loss of 7 working days just did not help at all. Ultimately, this month I was lucky to finish Chapters 4 and 5 … thankfully I managed high enough daily word counts (mostly hovering in the 1000 range) to do even that.

Workshop 1 project/month

UPDATE: Informed Wednesday Writing Group that I would not be workshopping again until the first draft of the novel is complete. Meltdowns ensued. Aftershocks still rippling through. High drama, none of it intended, all of it too much for me to want to deal with, really, but there you go. Hopefully equilibrium will quickly be restored.

Submit current stories/essays for publication

“Darlene” went out to The Journal, Frostproof, Gettysburg, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, and Hobart.

Meanwhile, Glimmer Train, Open City, and First Intensity all turned “Darlene” down.

* * *

All in all, a pretty crappy month for work—I got very distracted by life, which led to institution of NEW RULE:


This has actually been very successful in the few weeks since I enacted this change. I get to work unencumbered by all distractions in the early part of the morning, which means I’m more focused and also more energized, so much so that I often surpass or even double my daily word count minimums (thus my pulling May together by month's end). Most days, by the time I get to the web post-work, I’m so locked in to work-mind that I barely want to surf—I’m getting through my emails and my blog time much much more efficiently now, and have a lot more time for non-writing office work (research, office-nesting, brainstorming, reading for friends).


A few months back I made my feelings about Foer-the-person very clear here.

Not long after, the new book dropped, and I bought it, figuring it was no longer fair to keep ripping into the guy unless I actually read his work. To be honest, I dreaded reading the book, and let it sit on my bedside table for almost a month before I steeled myself sufficiently. However, eventually I did reach for it, and I have to say, I thought it was great from the very first page. I loved this nine-year-old and I willingly followed him all over the boroughs on New York as he battled his own inner demons and went searching for the lock to fit a mysterious key. I loved his friends, too, and his relatives, and not only did I laugh out loud at many passages, I also cried a great deal, too. So JSF got points on both those counts. Lots has been said in not very nice ways about the “gimmicks” in these pages (photographs, sketches, pages of number-strings) but I, for one, found them not gimmicky in the least (and let me be the first to say that I am always always reading with my gimmick-radar on, which is why I refuse to read 99% of everything that has any relationship to McSweeneys). I found all those photos and sketches and numbers to be completely character- and experience-revelatory. Ultimately, I liked this book so much that, finding myself with an hour to kill during errands last week, I chose to drive myself to the nearest bookstore and read the last 100 pages leaned up against a bookshelf with a store copy in hand, because I just didn’t want to wait until I got home. And I cried at the end, sitting on that bookstore floor while people stepped over and around me, so there you go. I said I’d withhold judgment until I’d read the new book. I read the new book, I liked the new book. The guy can write, and I wish him the best future career. That said, I also wish he’d keep his clapper shut.

Anyway, since I like books and I like marriage, and Nicole Krauss is married to JSF, and her new book dropped around the same time his did, I ordered both her new book and her first. I’m halfway through the first novel now and Jeesh, this woman’s imagination and her extraordinary, aching, precise prose are breathtaking in the extreme. I’m reading this book slowly because I don’t want to finish too fast, so yeah, I think she's pretty good, if not better than her husband, too.