It’s Hallowe’en. It was supposed to be cloudy today, but the morning light is beautiful.
I have an office in the basement of my house, with three windows at ground level, situated in such a way that a great deal of daylight floods in. Three walls are covered by books. My work area contains three computers—this one on which I’m writing a Distal Muse entry, my main writing computer (which is attached to the internet in no way), and my old 386, which had been my writing computer for years. The only reason I replaced it was because my old HP printer died and all the new ones use USB ports instead of the massive pin-register cables. It made less sense to spend the money on an adaptor which might or might not have worked. Besides, it was time. I needed some more sophisticated word processing options than good old WordPerfect 5.0 offered–though for straight composition, I still think it was unbeatable. I use WP 10 now and it has more bells and whistles, but also a couple of things I don’t like. It is not really any better for writing than 5.0, but 5.0–or even 7.0–would not run the new printer.
I am not a software geek. All I know is when something doesn’t work.
But things work well enough and I can be productive, if occasionally annoyed. I recently had to change internet software. I am now a fan of Firefox.
Also in my office I have a futon which serves mainly as a couch, a drafting table (now cluttered) and an old but very decent stereo, on which just now Mendelssohn is playing (Von Karajan, complete symphonies). It is a cozy space. If I had a coffeemaker down here I would never have to go back upstairs while working, which I intend to make so once I have sold some new novels and divested myself of the Day Job.
This is an ongoing struggle.
I’ve been working toward being a full-time fiction writer for about 25 years now. It would seem that I either should have achieved it or given up. I admit the problems are daunting. Not knowing what to write next that would facilitate success is a biggie. Which is why, when students ask, I tell them they might as well write what they want, what they love, because it has the same chance of success (or better, since the writing will probably be more sincere) as whoring by writing to demand. Perhaps that’s harsh. But I’ve done four franchise novels and they gave me no more freedom than my own work.
I am currently working on a historical murder mystery. I finally (I think) have a good handle on it and am proceeding on the (I hope) final draft.
But I am also wasting time doing this.
Which means I am not sure what sentence comes next and I’m trying to distract my interior critic. To do this, I usually write in the morning, before I am fully awake. This works fine for first draft. Not so good for rewrites, when that critical faculty is indispensible. Last night, I came home from work with a clear notion of what to do next, came down here, and did it. This morning I look at what I did and, behold, it is not so bad. So I’m fiddling. Technical term, that. Noodling with a sentence here, a word there, a paragraph or two. Cutting and hacking occasionally. And pacing a lot.
And doing something other than what I should be doing.
Frederik Pohl wrote in his autobiography, The Way The Future Was, that some young student wanted to watch him work. He said the poor fellow was bored to tears because for the most part all he saw was Pohl staring at his typewriter. Long stretches of Nothing Happening.
(Sorry….just slipped over to the other computer to write a new sentence–see? it works. Sometimes.)
The hardest thing for me, with a novel, is to know where to start. Often I end up junking the first chapter, sometimes the first two chapters. On the last novel I finished, this wasn’t entirely necessary, but I had to write two brand new chapters to precede the original chapter one. Asimov, in one of his essays on fiction writing, said that if the story is going nowhere fast, likely as not you started it in the wrong place. I have found this to be true more often than not. Sometimes, though, you have picked the wrong main character. Far less often, the setting is wrong. Most depressing is when you simply have a bad idea for a story.
This novel–called The Spanish Bride–is not a bad idea. In fact, I have an entire draft done and two of my readers like the general idea. What I’m trying to do now is find the right form.
And in so doing, I find myself distracted, and doing other things. Like this.
Just to let you know.