Today is great because…

Michael Chabon publishes excerpt of abandoned novel

Posted: November 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration, Today, writing | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off

When people ask me who my favorite author is, I give them a simple answer: Chabon. I’m getting more and more comfortable with my uncomfortable love for Michael Chabon. I often feel the need to answer with the name of some long-dead great-of-the-greats author, like Melville or Tolstoy, or some obscure dude/lady you‘ve never heard of and that I’ve hardly read. Because the best authors are DEAD, not alive and still writing! It’s kind of like how the best albums of any musician were those recorded before you ever heard of them–Springsteen, Bright Eye, Meatloaf…name anyone, it doesn’t matter. If it happened before you, it was greatness. Classics don’t live in the modern age; classics live in history. **

Chabon is good stuff and he is happening now! Now!

fountain city in McSweeney'sA few years ago, after reading all the available Chabon that I knew of at the time–The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonderboys and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, my Chabon love was in full force and I was itching for more. I started reading his website. It was a homemade html and image map layout that, I think, Chabon created and maintained himself. It was amateurish (sorry MC, it‘s true), but wonderful in its effort and, even more, in the hidden nuggets of writing that he made available: blog posts, old essays and speeches, including a guide to the pronunciation of the name Chabon (hint: it’s not Che as in Guevara, but Shea as in stadium). He also told of a mysterious, mythical abandoned novel called Fountain City. I dreamed of the wonderful things it would contain. I wanted it. *^

So I was super excited to see today that the first 4 chapters of Fountain City will be published in the next issue of McSweeney’s. Even if Chabon couldn’t get the whole thing together enough to publish as a novel. I promise you right now that I will buy this and love those 4 chapters just like I would have back in 2003.

**This is all a silly way of thinking that I probably picked up by going to English classes in college and having too many discussions about music.

*^I apparently overlooked the fact that the first chapter was available even back then!!!

10,000 strong: NaNoWriMo thoughts

Posted: November 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: writing | Comments Off
These characters are not in my novel
Oh! Your pectorals
Oh! Your knee-armpit

I hit 10,000 words this morning in my NaNoWriMo novel after a 3,000 word Sunday and a 1,000 word morning today. I had a bit of catching up to do and I was finally able to do it. I’m still about a day behind in word count. I love the pressure!!

But it really took me a while to cut loose and just spray words out. I was hesitant even though that’s the only way to make it to 50,000 in one month. It goes against everything I ever thought I believed in. I’m focusing less on sentences now and more on telling a story. It’s a pleasant change from my typical writing style, which is to maintain control and refine throughout the whole process.

A first draft is the discovery phase and I’m still discovering.

The next 10,000 are going to be sooo easy. I’m going to slaughter you, words 10,001-19,999. Get ready!

NANOWRIMO Preparation

Posted: October 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration, writing | Comments Off

National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow. And I’m ready for it. I’ve been brainstorming, planning, thinking about characters–all the things necessary to write a novel. I went in last year with only vague plans. I didn’t complete the month-long 50,000 word challenge. I didn’t want that to happen again this year. I’m not going to discuss anything about my plans for the novel. But I thought I’d share how I’m prepping for the next 30 days of non-stop writing. I’m hoping these things–along with my pent up excitement–will help me easily get to 50,000 words by November 30.

  1. Blocking time-sucking websites (Facebook, twitter, etc)
    Like most people (probably ALL people) I have trouble managing my internet usage. I waste far too much time waiting for new Facebook posts, Twitter comments or new emails. So I installed the Firefox add-on LeechBlock.  It lets me block access to sites that are notorious time wasters. I set it so that I can only spend 10 minutes on Facebook every day. After that, it’s blocked out. It’s surprising how fast those 10 minutes go. So far, every time the blocked warning comes up I think to myself, “But I have so much more Facebooking left to do.” But really that’s not true. 10 minutes/day is enough.
    Check it out here:
  2. Finding a less distracting text editor
    I only have Microsoft Works on my computer, which has rotating advertising and a side menu that won’t close. I hate it and it’s distracting. So I downloaded Q10. It’s a super simple, text only editor. Black background, green text. Think of editing text on a computer built in 1983. That’s basically what it looks like. (You can change colors if you like.) But there are absolutely no distractions. No toolbar or menu options. Even better you can set a countdown word counter. Or you can do time challenges–set the clock to 30 minutes and it’ll tell you how many words you’ve written after the clock runs out. Simple motivation. It also let’s you add sound effects so it sounds like I’m writing with a typewriter. It was cool at first, but got annoying fast.  And it’s free.
    Find it here:

I should have done both of these things months ago!

American Spaces

Posted: October 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: writing | Comments Off

Setting really effects me. It’s one thing that has the ability to instantly transform my mood. Walking into a new space, like a cafe, restaurant or someone’s home can make me feel calm, depressed, welcome.  Last weekend my roommate and I reorganized our living space. It feels fresh, new and inviting. There had always been great spaces, but none of them ever felt quite right. None were as comfortably homey as they should by.  Worst of all, there was an amazing, but unused, fireplace hidden behind a living room couch. It was totally wasted and is now the show piece of the room and makes sitting on the couch feel extra cozy.

freedom-jonathan-franzenI’ve been reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen the past few days, just like a lot of Oprah watchers and other American readers have been. Whatever your take on the publicity that book is getting, Franzen is a top notch writer.  His language is precise, sentences are tightly crafted and pacing is moving with ease through what could otherwise be bogs of character history and psychological defect. But the thing that I notice missing is any time spent describing physical settings. There’s always the precursory physical character descriptions or “it was an old house”, but space get almost no more attention than that. There’s no  play-by-play of vacation home floor plan or description of what the lighting is like in the restaurant where Patty has dinner with her daughter. What I”m getting at is that other than very brief, surface level descriptions, Franzen ignores the significance of space on characters and action.  I’m pretty sure you wont find anything even hinting at a variation of “it was a dark stormy night.” Yet the novel works and I have perfectly clear images of all the spaces that I’ve been led through so far. The wonder in reading fiction is that I get led through a story, but my own mind gets to imagine the details. To this, Freedom has been a success.

I’m writing about this simply because it’s something I noticed and because I’m taking it as a lesson to myself. Setting effects the way I interpret the actions of the people around me. It sets me up and gives me warning signs of what I can expect to encounter.  But in fiction, over-reliance on setting to impart meaning can be distracting at worst and at best, misleading (I can see where there would be great applications of using setting to mislead a reader’s interpretation of the action, specifically to build drama). It’s necessary to help readers understand the space they’re reading about, but it isn’t always necessary for that space to have significance beyond being a home for characters to live out their dramas.