Monday, September 29, 2008

600 Words

The bet ended today. Sadly, John beat me. Not by much, though, which I like.

Other things I like:
- This is a new personal best for me - it opens up a whole new standard for what I'm capable of.
- I not only reached my goal of 50 pages, I smashed right through it.
- I'm now ahead of schedule on my thesis.
- Tomorrow I get to go to my thesis meeting with Juan and tell him that I didn't write 50 pages like I planned, I wrote almost 80.
- I hit the point, a few days ago, where I was worn out and low on inspiration and really feeling like I'd reached my limit, and I pushed myself through it.

Without the bet, I'd have almost 30 fewer pages than I do right now. I may not have won, but all-in-all, it was worth one dinner.

Cheers, John.

The Last Push

We're closing in on the contest deadline, and I can feel the stitch in my side. Just a couple more hours and then we're across the finish line.

In the mean time, I'm busy getting prepped for the CWC meeting tonight. While they're getting most of the fruits of the past two weeks, I'm leaving a bit out due to its roughness and the need to work on it more before it sees the light of day.

As I've been furiously typing out the second part of my thesis, I've made a significant change to my organizational strategy. It makes more sense to me than my first idea, and I'm hoping it makes more sense to other people, too. I'll also be curious to get people's thoughts on how the whole thing fits together, and how well the second part holds true to the themes of the first (though "1st & 2nd parts" is arbitrary since they're being blended together and inter-cut).

Now I've got one of the biggest hurdles of the thesis jumped - the draft of the fiction. Now I get to celebrate by sleeping in tomorrow and having chocolate. Mmm... chocolate.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No, I Haven't Forgotten

Deb just gave me a little nudge about my word count - namely, it didn't go up yesterday.

Yes, I know. I know I'm in a word count race, and I know that one whole day without progress is bad.

Bottom line: conscious decision 'cause I needed time to regroup. I started off with about four story ideas to work through. By yesterday I'd finished off the three that I knew what I wanted to do with and was left with the last story, which I was less clear on. Since I don't like to just write without having some idea of where I'm going, I decided not to force myself to do so. I figured it'd be smarter to step back, recharge a little, and do some brainstorming for new stories.

This is a marathon, after all, not just a dead sprint. Burn out is worse than a day of rest. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Word count will go up tonight, though. Can't let John get too far ahead.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Marvelous Progress

My biggest goal this semester is to get my thesis over and done with. Since everyone else I've known has spent two semesters on theirs, my goal is certainly ambitious. I'm within 20 pages or so of finishing a full draft of the fiction portion of said thesis. That's exciting. I've been juggling stories and working on four simultaneously this past week. Until yesterday, when I finished one. This morning, I finished another. I'm feeling more and more like my thesis goal is actually achievable.

The bet with John is going well. He's talking big, last night he put up a post talking about leads. He's had one on me for the past couple of days, but I'm closing fast. I went from being 5,000 words behind to being 1,000 (current: 12, 023 vs. 11,010) and that's taking into account the fact that he's continued to make progress. My plan today is to finish closing the gap and to trade spots with him as the leader.

I hesitated in announcing this plan, as it's basically giving John advance warning, but what's the fun of a bet without some posturing?

Monday, September 22, 2008

John Pulls Ahead, For Now

I just got an e-mail from Deb about our going to see Neil. Yay! Neil!

She added a P.S.
"It looks like John's kicking your butt. Step it up, girl!"

If you've noticed, John just powered through about 5,000 words this weekend, putting him at about 10,000 overall and well beyond my 5,267 noted at the time of this posting. Deb is concerned.

I reassured her. He's got a good lead, 5,000 words in one weekend is nothing to sneeze at. So, props to John for that. However, I'm not quaking in my boots just yet. See, while John was typing like a madman this weekend, I was grading Composition papers. That made it impossible to add to the thesis at the same time. I expected that he'd get a lead on me, though I admit to be impressed at just how much of a lead he managed.

I've got a plan, though. I'm going to be closing that distance real quick.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Push/Juggling

So, after I've talked with Juan during our last meeting, and after he's said that it's important I keep bringing him pages, I make the bet with John. Then I tell Juan, "So, I'm going to write the next fifty pages of my thesis in two weeks and thus knock out a full draft of the fiction portion of it."

Then Juan looks at me with what can only be called an expression of skepticism. He said something to the effect of, "Well... that'd be good." The part he didn't say was, "If you can really pull it off." Oh ye of little faith.

We're rounding out the first week of the bet and I'm standing at 14 typed pages, plus two hand-written ones I did today when I was kicked out of the office because Amanda needed it to conference with a student.

The jist: I'm writing like a fiend because I know the only alternative is to come up short on my CWC submission. My honor is at stake here, yet again. Honor which I'm adamant about defending. I know I talk big sometimes, but I try to back it up. Ergo: motivation.

I've come up with an attack plan that's working well so far. In the past I've tended to stick primarily with either drafting longhand or on the computer - that way all the stuff is in one place at a time. However, since I'm back in the swing of the semester, this strategy wasn't going to work. If I had to rely on only writing on my home computer, it just wasn't going to work. Luckily, as I mentioned the other day, I've gotten a few new ideas for stories. This gave me a way to both split up my work and keep it on one notebook/computer at a time. Depending on where I am, I can work on a different story.

For the big push I'm relying on the interweb, Google notebook, especially, to give me one "place" to keep things. At home I've got it all together on a Word document, but then I get to campus and have a few minutes, so I add to Google notebook and then copy/paste when I get home. Then, since I wasn't in the office and thus not in front of a computer, for an hour this morning, I pulled out a notebook and wrote the first part of another story I had in my mind about a little boy who walks to Nevada.

In the midst of all this, I have to keep up with my reading for the thesis, so guess what I'm doing at the dog park?

There's a saying about how if you want to get something accomplished you give it to a busy person. There's truth in that. I am accomplishing oodles.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Terms

The terms of the bet have been decided and agreed upon:

Both participants must post a running page count on their respective blog.
Deadline: 5:00 p.m. Monday, September 29th.
He/She with the highest word count wins.
Loser buys winner dinner at place of winner's choice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's On, Like Butter on Toast

Because he's begun lifting heavy objects, John seems to think he can out-write me in the next two weeks. So, now we have another bet.

My problem is that I can't decide what the terms should be. Namely, what's the pay off for the winner if one of us *cough* John *cough* doesn't make it to the page count?

When it comes to bet penalties there are different schools of thought. I lean away from the mean or terrible and emphasize the benefit of the winner over the pain of the loser.

Thus far I've had thoughts about the loser baking a batch of cookies for the winner, car washing, or the loser buying the winner a milkshake. However, I'm feeling the need for more ideas, so I'm going to ask for a little audience participation here. What do you think? What's a good penalty for losing the bet?

Ah, Deadline, Maker of Momentum

In order to fulfill my goal of getting the thesis over and done with by the end of the semester, I pretty much have to have it all written and revised by November 14. This means I need to have the fiction part written, the research done for the theoretical preface, and the theoretical preface written. All-in-all, we're talking at least one hundred pages.

Not just one hundred pages written out, either. One hundred pages that have been written, edited, distributed to my thesis committee, and revised in response to their feedback.

All this, in two months. Most folks I know are taking two semesters to work out their thesis. But, that's why I wrote stories ahead of time, right? Right. Now it's crunch time. Juan wants pages every time we meet, and I'm quickly running out of material I wrote over the summer. The cool thing, though, is that where for a while I had stalled out on ideas for stories, all of a sudden, I'm prolific. I've got the first page/paragraph of three added into the thesis to work on, and I'm thinking I might toss in a flash I wrote out completely the other day. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, that flash fits right in with one of the new ones...

Oh yeah, and I'm due for 50 more pages for the CWC in two weeks, without having made any noteable progress at all after I did that spurt of 15 pages. Thus, I'm thinking I'll switch my CWC project back to thesis and kill the proverbial two birds, etc.

Of course, this means I have even more pages to write to get the thesis up to a 50 page sub. than I would have to do the same for the novel, but that also means I'll be that much closer to getting my MA when I want to.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Campus Newspaper Survey

I found a short survey in my campus mailbox today, distributed by English Club for a feature in the university newspaper. They're collecting faculty responses, and some of the questions are straight-forward, like what's your name and position with the university?

Others, though, prove problematic:

#2: What's your favorite book of all time?
Of all time? I can say what my favorite book is today, or what it was yesterday, and maybe they'll be the same book, but maybe they won't. So, "of all time?" Impossible.

#5: What was your greatest writing success and how did you accomplish it?
This one, especially, stumps me. What counts as success, what counts as greatest? Does having people like Oracle enough to occasionally nag me about finishing it count?

Obviously, I could just pick an answer and get on with my life, but I'm pre-occupied with the questions. It's all about wording.

Tell me, if you were answering the survey, what would you fill in for those two?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Speaking the Same Language

In my Composition classes we've been talking about cultural issues, like language and culture clash. We've been talking about using MLA because writing is a conversation and MLA is the language we use. It's all about being able to speak the same language, only then can we have a conversation.

Today I had a meeting with Juan for my thesis. I feel like we're not speaking the same language yet. His definition of magical realism is a pretty hard-core, Gabriel Garcia Marquez one. Magical realism means "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings." Okay, I can appreciate that.

However, I also find it problematic to use only that definition. Why? Because of the "magic" part. You look cross-culturally and the common denominator of what magic is, is a description of seeming. Things that seem to be magical, are. It is belief in the magic that makes it real. Magic becomes a description of reality. With me so far?

So, then I start thinking of a less literal description of magical realism - manipulation of our accepted perception of reality. A broader umbrella. Beneath that umbrella falls Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried because the whole book is a conversation about what reality is and how reality and truth are not always synonymous. How things seem becomes more important than how things are. Again, we're back to describing reality.

In my mind, it's all inter-connected and magical realism is a first-cousin to metafiction and ways of story-telling. I briefly mentioned Tim O'Brien as a magical realist author to Juan, and got a very skeptical reaction. I couldn't articulate my thoughts at the moment, so I dropped it.

Bottom line: right now we're not quite speaking the same language. I've got to figure out how to articulate it in a way that's clear before I can make progress on my theoretical defense portion. I've got to figure out how I translate Tim O'Brien into Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Music Thing-y

Today I found a new way of getting music, Spiral Frog. I've been scarfing down lots of music, and tonight has had a disctinctive Elton John and Reckless Kelly theme. It doesn't immediately seem like the two should go together, does it? But, I promise you, they do.

So, I'd like to offer you some lyrics ('cause they're sad and lovely), since there's been much talk of cowboys (or, at least cowboying-up) and of striving on the blogs:

"My first love was a wicked twisted road
I hit the million mark at seventeen years old
I never saw the rainbow much less a pot of gold
yeah my first love was a wicked twisted road

My first love was a castle in the sky
never thought I'd make it 'till I had the guts to try
and I sat up in my tower while the whole world passed me by
yeah my first love was a castle in the sky..."

-Reckless Kelly, "Wicked Twisted Road"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure

After proposing a new challenge every month, I find myself out of ideas. I'm so wrapped up in current writing projects that all I can think of challenge-wise is page count, and that's not at all interesting.

Rather, what is an infinitely more interesting idea is to have an entirely different type of challenge this go 'round. I hereby challenge you to come up with your own challenge for this month. Think of something bold, daring, innovative, and/or uncomfortable to try this month. Then, post your personal challenge in the comments. It's just not fun unless you're accountable.

So, what do you challenge yourself to do this month? What brave feat are you going to attempt?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Messy It Up - The Necessity of Chaos

When I got my CWC critique of the first part of the bar novel, the main common thread in people's comments was to make it messier. Bottom line: it's not complicated enough yet.

The second issue was relating to the protagonist. As anyone knows, if the reader isn't hooked into your main character, you're in trouble.

Now, the cool thing is that if you put the two issues together, they create a solution. Complications build character, and character is how you get complications. They feed off of each other. So, when I solve one problem, it'll lead to the solution to the other. After mulling it over for a while, I've come up with an idea of how to complicate Jess's life. I'm excited about this idea not only for the sake of dealing with the issues I've already mentioned, but also for getting around my stall-out with the sections of the novel when Jess is away from the bar.

It's not even lunch time yet, and I've already come up with ideas on how to tackle the three biggest struggles I'm having with this novel. I'm awesome :)

Yeah, yeah, just let me allow myself a touch of ego, okay? It's the only thing keeping me going right now.

End of August Run-Down

I started off so well with that bet with John - fifteen pages in a week, I was rocking and rolling. Then I stalled out, lost momentum, and haven't really added to those fifteen. I credit part of my stall to the fact that I have a harder time writing the parts where Jess isn't at the bar, which is the next part to write, but I have to admit that difficulty is only a fraction of the reason I petered out. Mostly, I got lazy.

Shame on me.

How did you fare this month? Better than me?