Thursday, June 10, 2010

Keeping Up and Leaping Ahead

I have been pushing my way through a new draft of a book since the end of March, and it's felt as if I have been moving very slowly. Most of the time, it's like I am making no progress at all. "You ran headlong through your last book," I tell myself. "Why can't you keep up the same pace here? Why are you writing at a snail's pace now?"

One of the things for which I use this blog is to keep track of my progress in my projects, and whenever I've written a good chunk or finished a chapter, I try to post my word count. That means that for this draft, and for my prior book, and for the book before that even, I have decent data that I can look at whenever I want to analyze my writing methods (which, I am ashamed to admit, is more often than I will actually admit). Anyway, kids, it turns out that I am actually writing this draft a bit more quickly than I wrote the first draft of my last book, and I need to back off from my self-flagellation.

Mighty Reader asks me why I think I'm making poor progress compared to last book, when in fact I am not. My answer is that I don't know. Probably writing is just hard, you know? Every book feels like an ill-fated attempt to push an ocean overland, and this one is no different. But the good news is that I am, in fact, doing pretty well here. So yay, me!

In other news, I've been a bit less than healthy of late and so I went to see my doctor this morning. No brain tumor, which is a shame because brain tumors are sort of sexy. But nothing to worry about and I'm taking a second day off from work, which is nice for me. After having god knows how much blood drawn (and thanks, Miss Phlebotomist, for blowing the vein in my left arm and then finally making the draw from the other one after I suggested we try a different arm) I sat down in a coffee shop for a restorative double-short and a lemon bar and, to my utter surprise, the first 400 or so words of my next book--which is to be the story of an Antarctic expedition that goes awry--came to me so I scribbled them down into my notebook and now I have to find a place to keep that page until sometime next year, when I'll actually sit down to write up a draft of the Antarctica book (title still pending). Hey, I know: I'll write it down here so I can find it a year from now. It's a bit rough, but here goes:

Chapter One

Tom had lost the compass, but that was not important in a land where every direction was north, where the landscape was the same no matter where he looked. He couldn't see the camp, nor could he see the ocean, so he walked with no real purpose across the ice, circling through and over bits of wood and metal and oilcloth and filth. A light wind pushed against him from some direction and he kept the hood of his parka closed over his face as much as possible, open just enough for him to peer out with his right eye. His left eye remained swollen shut and Tom wondered if he'd been blinded in it.

The circle he walked widened into a loose spiral and he stumbled ever farther from the shack where Farraday had imprisoned him earlier in the day. There was something to his left rising black from the ice and snow, at a distance impossible to estimate. The ice floe was the same greasy dull white as the sky and Tom was unsure if he saw the horizon. The dark shape to his left could be a quarter mile away or it could be a dozen miles off. But it was something other than ice and snow and so he moved toward it, dragging his heavy boots and wondering what had happened to his pipe and pouch. Likely Farraday had taken them when he'd relieved Tom of his flask, his bible, his ration of blubber, his knife, pistol, diary, and whatever else could be dug out of Tom's pockets.

The dark shape came into focus and Tom saw that it was the hulk of the
Lady Tilton, lying broken backed on her side, her masts and arms like felled trees. Rubbish and abandoned equipment was strewn from the ship's open hatches away across the ice. Tom's gaze followed this trail of detritus and he thought perhaps he saw the dark line of the sea beating against the edge of the ice, and the moving black shapes of men, tiny and desperate in the distant gray haze. His crew. And Farraday with them. Tom knew they were not searching for him; he was the least useful man on the expedition. He did not matter. He stumbled forward, past the shattered hull of the ship, toward the men, maybe half a mile away.

Still rough, but I'll deal with that.


  1. I love this excerpt! This is exciting that you have a bit down of your new book. And after that is the novella, right? I finally got an idea for the novella I'll write for our compilation, and I'm excited about it, but won't let myself start it until I've at least got Cinders out there.

    This line is a fantastic description:The ice floe was the same greasy dull white as the sky and Tom was unsure if he saw the horizon.

    And what's all this about you not being healthy? I'm getting a bit concerned...

  2. Michelle: Yeah, this is after the novella, which is going to be--I think--a detective story. I have too many ideas right now.

    My doctor thinks I have a sleep disorder. Just because I don't sleep. Like that makes sense.

  3. So how many drunken brawls, murders, stars afire and eels will be in this one?

    Sleep disorders are nothing to fool around with. They can be worse than heart attacks.

  4. I seem I'm not the only one with the random tragically ill, literary genius daydreams.

    Glad you're feeling better sir.

  5. Anne: The Antarctica book will have no murders (well...not really, but there will be deaths, alas), little talk of the stars, and no eels.

    I don't believe the "sleep disorder" diagnosis, frankly.

    Mayowa: Last night I read about Chekhov's death at a young age (he had tuberculosis), and I am certain that I'd rather live a long life than be a literary genius.