Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Forward and backward: Writing in 2014

Writing in 2014: I have mostly worked on the new one, the work-in-progress called Antosha in Prague. It's a good novel, I think. A lot of fun to write and to read (hopefully). It's a collection of Chekhovesque stories about a fictional character named Antosha Chekhonte, who is loosely based on the Russian writer/playwright Anton Chekhov. You've heard of him. This is the list of story titles (with progress status) so far:

"The Connoisseur" (written)
"Defending His Dissertation" (written)
"Under the Limbs of the Silver Birches" (written)
"Setting a Broken Bone" (written)
"The Suitor" (written)
"Ivan Ivanovna" (written)
"The Father of the Family" (in progress)
"To My Hands Alone" (written)
"Dressing for the Opera" (written)
"Olivier Salad" (hypothetical)
"Bela" (hypothetical)
"The Storm" (outlined)
"Antosha in Prague" (written)
"Caspian Terns" (hypothetical)
"It's a long time since I drank champagne" (outlined)
"A White Sparrow" (outlined, half written)

I think I've got about 56,000 words of the first draft written now. If things continue to go the way they've been going (a vague statement, that), the completed first draft will be about 85,000 words long. So I'm a good way into the manuscript. A couple more months of work, to be sure, maybe as many as four or six months before the draft is written. I don't seem to be in a hurry.

Also this year I did some work on a novel called Go Home, Miss America. That novel is out on submission now to a couple of wee publishers. In the spring or summer of 2015 I will begin another revision to a novel called Mona in the Desert. I have a lot of notes for that revision. It will be a job of work, I think. There is a slender possibility that there will be time left at the end of 2015 for me to start in earnest on a new novel, which will probably be the one called Nowhere But North. That work may be delayed until 2016.

Last night I read Browning's poem "An Epistle," and now of course I want to write a long novel based on it. I won't, but still.


  1. Oh, how I envy your commitment and your productivity. Envy, though, is a deadly sin. So forgive me. In any case, there is this . . . May the blessings of the New Year continue to nurture your commitment and productivity.

    1. Thanks, and I hope your 2015 (and beyond) is peaceful and healthy. I don't think about all the writing as being productive, because it turns out that writing fiction is my primary way of processing experience, so it's just what I do to see what I think. One of the decisions I need to make in 2015 is to stop pursuing publication for my older novels, and to just focus on the new stuff. A guy I know literally buried his first six manuscripts and walked away from them forever. I am tempted by that idea. I think it's actually a pretty good idea for a number of reasons.

    2. Bury or destroy nothing! Remember . . . Kafka wanted his writing destroyed, and aren't we fortunate that he was ignored.

    3. Well, posterity and I owe each other nothing. I am also no Kafka. More importantly, the older novels are distractions and I find that the grappling I did with ideas in those books now strikes me as naive and clumsy. I just write better books these days so I'm willing to abandon the old as more-or-less student works, if you see what I mean. To lose them represents no real loss to anyone.

  2. Scott, do you work by outline most of the time? Just curious, as I tend to be wayward and instinctive, but it's wasteful and demands cuts. You've gotten a lot done!

    1. The amount of outlining I do has decreased for each book. I assume this is because I'm slowly internalizing my personal rules for structure and storytelling and don't need to plan things I can now do instinctively. Nowadays what I tend to do is make notes for things I want to include, scribble down loose ideas and things I assume I'll forget otherwise. I still need to have a good idea for the ending, or the final image of the book, and I just sort of improvise my way toward that ending, referring to my notes as I go along. The way these stories are being written is that I get an idea and I scribble out a very quick paragraph or two about the primary action or the important image I want to get, and then I sit down and improvise my way through a story that envelopes that action/image. The amount of time I spend on revisions is going up for each new book, but I like revising so that's sort of an accidental bonus!

      My first books were very heavily and carefully outlined. I think they're more constrained than what I write now, less fun to write at the time, probably less creative and less rich reading experiences. So I tell myself. Writing is certainly more interesting the way I do it now.

      Also, I have posted a photo for you. See latest entry! Happy New Year!

    2. More specific answer: my outline for the planned story "The Storm" is written on a 3x5 card (both sides). I have an inkling that this story will be about 8,000 words when drafted. So my outlines are pretty skimpy.

  3. I'm so happy you are still working on projects! I seem to have given up the idea of working on projects these days, but I think breaks are good. I hope I get to read Mona in the Desert at some point!