Blood on green

A Trifle

What have we here? A dog? A mouse. And a cat.

Boring. I ruffle the fur of the too little dog. He pants. Shuffles away. The cat. Where did it go?

And what was that other thing? I feel it behind me. I thought it was a mouse. Now I realize there’s something else in the room.

I feel its shadow enveloping me. Extending past me by a good ten feet.

It hasn’t stepped on me yet. Good.

I’m afraid to turn around. Instead I break for it. Run within the shadow’s path. Think better of it. Run out into the light. The thing doesn’t seem to react. Perhaps it’s unawares. Perhaps I’m not worth paying attention to.

It occurs to me to stop making noise. I slow. No abrupt changes. I gradually soften my footsteps. Slow. Sloooowwww. Stop.

Turn around. No. Don’t.

Turn around. Take a look at the beast behind you.

And I do. There it is. A mouse after all. But larger than an elephant. Its back is to me. That disgusting tail laid out across the parquet floor.

I look up. To find its face. And what do I see?

The cat. Broken in the jaws of the mouse. Matted fur. Blood soaked. Limp. Dead. I hope.

A part of me wants to see the mouse drop the cat. Still alive. To the floor. Where it would bat it around. Torture it in the way that cat has tortured the things it kills. Eventually.

I think this. Wish for it. Until the mouse turns my way and I see myself, prey, reflected in the creature’s eyes.

Is writing mirrored text as difficult as we think it is?

When I was in elementary school I played around with reading upside down and reading text in the mirror. I also struggled at writing with my left hand, and even labored at writing mirrored text with my right. However, I assumed that writing mirrored text with my left hand was impossible, so I didn’t even try. Until today.

I bumped into an acquaintance in the grocery store who mentioned in passing that he was able to do the impossible, so I took the challenge. You will find a scan of my attempt and its mirror image at the end of this post.

I was surprised to find that I can, in fact, write mirrored text with my left hand. My handwriting’s a mess. And the paragraph appears to have been written by a dyslexic. But I can read it, and perhaps you are able to as well. Who knew.

However, the biggest surprise for me was that writing mirrored text with my left hand is easier than writing mirrored text with my right, and even easier than writing regular text with my left. Now, I’m wondering if other people have a similar experience to mine.

Give it a try. Start out by imagining you are writing with your right hand while using your left. Let me know how it goes.

Mirror Text as Written with Left Hand


Word Count is Easy

Word count is easy. Making the words count is another story.

This week began with another disruption to my normal routine. A friend called to ask a favor. Could I cat-sit while she and her husband took off for the week?

Sure. I like their cat. Sometimes the cat likes me. I spent much of the week going back and forth between their house and mine.

When I was at theirs I sat in front of the TV with the cat. I was hungry for re-runs. Sex and the City. Crime Scene anything. Perry Mason. The Glades. My only access to TV at home is through Hulu over a not-so-high-speed connection, playing Angry Birds while I wait for the show to buffer.

All this back and forth and couch potato time cut into my writing hours.

The resourceful person that I am, I challenged myself to write my 18 pages per day in 3 hours instead of 4. I made myself get up and walk around on my breaks, the key to avoiding those aches and pains.

I wrote those pages in 3 hours. And without any obvious harm to my health or my sanity. No aching back. No zombie like state. No need to sleep an entire day to recover. Cool.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been putting out the words and keeping the pace for a month now.

Next week I’ll continue the word count press, but turn my focus to getting the most from the words. Wish me luck.

Well, Not Every Friday

In my first blog post, I pronounced I would be posting each week. Last Friday, I blew it off. Ouch. Why? I took a trip away from home and decided to devote my attention to where I was and who I was with. I still feel the sting of failure a week later.

When I write a post I think and think and think. Then I write and write and write. Finally, I whittle the numerous pages down to 250 words, or so, that I don’t feel horrible about making public.

Why do I put myself through this? To become a better writer. And to support the progress of my next draft. To tell the truth, I enjoy the process. The trick is to make sure that the novel continues to take first priority.

I maintain a long list of expectations for those 250 words. Among them are:

  • make an immediate connection with the reader
  • write from a feeling place
  • write dense prose that feels light
  • show what’s motivating me
  • show the action I’m taking to get to where I want to be
  • show how that’s working out for me
  • weave the messy and the orderly together
  • use the blog to contribute to the progress of my novel
  • convey my specific experience, as I experience it
  • make the weekly deadline
  • and have fun with it

The most difficult part for me is to accept that I won’t be able to meet all of my expectations in the amount of time I’ve allotted; I still need to work on the craft.

So, here I am, being humble and courageous and doing the best I can.

See you next week!

The Process

Holy crap! I wrote 200 pages in two weeks.

My friends are asking me why I haven’t finished my novel yet. They offer up a variety of opinions and suggestions. Among them: I have a psychological block I need to deal with; The story is all there, inside me. Let it out; If I don’t finish it soon, the world view will have shifted, rendering my story obsolete. Are any or all of these perspectives valid? I don’t know.

What I’m dealing with
Each scene in the novel must meet a long list of requirements. My mind is unable to access them at the speed I write or to retain them for any length of time. So, a big part of preparing for the next draft is to build superhighways in my brain to every detail of every scene.

The process
In each writing session, I explore the requirements for a specific section, chapter or scene. Each session starts with a 20 minute burst of guided word count followed by at least a 10 minute break. I complete six bursts a day, five days a week.

So, what? A ton of pages that won’t show up in the novel
The various aspects of the story are easier to draw upon and weave together, as I’d hoped. Only a small percentage of what I’ve written in the last two weeks will find its way into the manuscript. That’s okay.

Can I sustain this pace without messing up the rest of my life? Will this process lead me to a fantastic next draft? Within my lifetime? Remains to be seen.

The Challenge

Welcome to my first blog entry. I’ll be posting updates each week on Friday.

Jazz performances can be divided into three categories: improv, scored and―my favorite―the coming together of the two, which is what you find at a typical jazz jam. This melding requires the technical skill to perform the rhythm, volume, speed and emotion the music and the context require. And, to do these all at once, live.

Musicians who accomplish this feat have internalized the essence of a work. This allows them to stray from the score without breaking the audience’s connection to the underlying melody. This is the level of proficiency I aspire to in the performance of writing the next draft of my current novel-in-progress.

I hope to become so in tune with the multifold elements of the story that I will be able to sit down on the first day, start writing at page one, continue to page two and then three and so on, until I reach the last word of the final page. I want to go back to read it later and be thrilled to see that it holds together and it says everything I meant to say. This blog chronicles my journey to that end. Come along with me and see how I do.