Well, a long post today, but I hope one that’s worthwhile for many of you.
First, I bit the leather strap and signed up for Dean’s POV online workshop this morning. Just in case any of you would like to join the same session, I signed up for Class 42, beginning on November 1.
They run for 6 weeks, with (usually) five homework assignments. I rarely turn those in, but I find them valuable for continued practice and study. Naturally, I’ll report back here with my assessment of the class. Really looking forward to this one.
To see why I’m excited about it, you can read the description here (scroll down to Point of View).
Now I think I know POV fairly well, and I’m certain I handle it well in my novels. But there’s always more to learn and I inevitably learn a LOT of collateral things from Dean during these workshops. Well worth the money if you don’t mind investing in your craft.
Not a lot else to report today other than roughly a b’jillion sparrows alighting in the yard on their way south in two big flocks.
But I was reminded early by a friend about the odd writing habits of famous writers. So let’s chat about that for a little while. (grin)
Topic: Odd Type Writers (a purloined title)
Like maybe Hemingway’s drinking is why he wrote so well.
Or he wrote standing up while in his underwear and with a drink in his hand.
Or that (as he allegedly told one aspirant) he wrote standing up while in his underwear because the gravitational pull on his ‘nads enabled him to access his masculine source.
Uh, okay, frankly, I’ve never known a man who was able to AVOID “accessing his masculine source.” Naked, in his underwear, or in any other state of dress. Just sayin’.
Or I do most of my writing on yellow legal pads while standing on my head on the sidewalk and spitting BBs at passing motorists. (I know. Ludicrous. But if I repeat it often enough and say it to one or more interviewers, someone out there will try it.)
It is true that Hemingway often wrote while standing up (but not in his underwear and not with a drink in his hand) because an old injury to his spine made sitting for long periods uncomfortable. He also kept a daily word count. (grin)
These sorts of myths proliferate in the writing community, and I even heard many of them when I was in college. From professors. Whom I was pre-trained to trust in all things.
Only my ability to think, my distaste of soundbites and my general aversion to blanket gullibility enabled me to see through the veneer of nonsense. Well, that and the fact that on my website it plainly states “Caution: professional fiction writer. I will lie to you. And you will enjoy it.” And I don’t want to be a hypocrite.
Oddly enough (or perhaps appropriately enough) most of these gems were started by the writers themselves when asked ridiculous questions.
When someone asked Harlan Ellison where he got ideas, finding himself in just the right mood he said, “From a little shop in Schenectady.”
Yeah. But you don’t hear of writers booking flights to Schenectady and racing up and down the streets looking for a sign that reads Ye Olde Idea Shoppe, right?
So why do so many of us buy into these other ridiculosities?
I don’t know.
Maybe because we want to think if we do something weird because we believe a famous writer did the same weird thing, we’ll invoke some sort of magic and lightning will strike.
A long time ago, another writer (Thanks, Bob C) sent me a list of “unusual work habits for writers” that he “picked up on Quora.” I quote some of them below. Please note that despite the title, most of these are not “habits” at all. The comments in parentheses are mine.
Truman Capote wrote lying down, as did Marcel Proust, Mark Twain and Woody Allen. (Anyone ever try this? I did, a very long time ago. It’s stupid.)
Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Philip Roth, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Jefferson, Fernando Pessoa and George Sand all wrote standing up. (Yep, I tried this one too. My feet and back were both aching within a half-hour. I’m betting it’s nonsense unless there’s some other valid reason that has nothing to do with the writing itself.)
Roth also walks half a mile for every page. (Really? Umm, why? Think maybe this is just a comment on his balancing walking for health with being sedentary?)
Roald Dahl wrote in a shed. (Been there, done that [re The Adobe Hovel], but I don’t know that it’s “odd” or qualifies as a “habit.” It’s just a good place to write.)
Umberto Eco has a converted church as his scriptorium. One floor has a computer, one has a typewriter, one in which he writes long-hand. (Nope, not buying it. Why switch back and forth? And if so, why stick a flight of stairs between one and the other?)
Haruki Murakami commutes into a city apartment in Tokyo where he writes. (Okay. <shrug> So?)
After the publication of Joe Gould’s Secret, Joseph Mitchell came to the office at the The New Yorker magazine almost every day for the next thirty-two years without filing another word. (How is this a writing habit?Seems more like a scamming habit. Or a visiting habit.)
Ray Bradbury wrote an early version on Fahrenheit 451 in nine days on a rented typewriter in the UCLA library basement. (This one is true, but it isn’t a habit. It was his only access to a typewriter at the time. And it wasn’t just “an early version.” And how is this either sensational or odd?)
Will Self uses a wall of Post-It notes to plan and structure his writing. (Not odd for someone who wants to outline or storyboard.)
Elmore Leonard writes on yellow legal pads. (Is this odd? Yellow legal pads were the original laptop. Like card catalogues in libraries were the first Google.)
Michel Faber corrected the first manuscript of The Crimson Petal and the White with house paint because he couldn’t afford Tipp-Ex. (Maybe, but neither odd nor a habit. More of a necessity, eh?)
Gustav Hasford was a serial hoarder of very overdue library books, and had 10,000 of them in storage lockers. (Wouldn’t want his library fine, but again, not a writing habit.)
Don DeLillo types each paragraph onto its own sheet of paper, so that he might concentrate better. (Now that’s odd, if true, but I don’t buy it. And even if he did, with apologies to trees, so what?)
Gay Talese would pin pages of his writing to a wall and examine them from the other side of the room with binoculars. (Nope, not buying it. All the binocs would do is make them appear to be within arms’ length so, you know, a lot of wasted effort there.)
Jonathan Safran Foer has a collection of blank sheets of paper. (So do I. It’s called a “ream.” And again, not a writing habit.)
Cormac McCarthy said that his perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. (Nope, not buying it as written.)
Ethan Canin copied John Cheever paragraphs out to learn what made the man’s writing tick. (I’ve done this and I don’t find it odd at all. It isn’t a writing habit, but probably a very good learning habit.)
Anthony Trollope required of himself two hundred and fifty words every quarter of an hour. (GREAT habit [1000 words per hour, 17 words per minute]. Ever heard this one anywhere else? But I see nothing odd about it.)
J.G. Ballard, a fan of discipline in writing, prepared very long outlines, and aimed for 1,000 words a day. (<shrug> Okay. But not a writing habit. More of an outlining habit. Or maybe obsession.)
Walter Benjamin advocated delaying writing an idea as long as possible, so that it would be more maturely developed. (I’ve heard something similar about the guy who wrote Texas and Hawaii and all those. Wonder how many ideas they lost?)
Richard Ford and his wife shot a book by Alice Hoffman, after she had given his book Independence Day an unfavorable review. (This is not a writing habit. It is, however, a tad unbalanced if true.)
If you’re interested in such things, whether for inspiration or laughs, I recommend a book titled Odd Type Writers by Celia Blue Johnson (Perigee, 2013).
Check out Kevin J. Anderson’s website. Some good stuff there. I especially recommend checking out his Categories, like the Short Story Category (Hint: it isn’t all about short stories) and the Novels Category (nope, it isn’t all about novels) and the Process Category. You get the idea. Take some time. Browse. And remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Keep what feels right to you and pitch the rest.
Dean’s post caused me to check out KJ Anderson.
The Writing Day
I rolled out around 3:30 and spent an hour on catching up with overnight events (emails, etc.). Then outside to read a few newsletters, catch up on Facebook and so on.
I grabbed a quick breakfast (just toasted English muffins with some sort of cream spread), then put on a load of laundry around 6:30.
Incredibly, with most email and other Internet things behind me, I started writing at around 8 this morning. The novel has entered a stage where I can hardly wait to get back to it each time.
Around 9 I folded and put away laundry, then changed from sweats into day clothes.
Around 10 I came back out to write some of this and look over my reverse outline to see where to go next.
That is, which characters to feature in the next chapter. This book is one of those in which the POV changes every two or three chapters to different characters in different scenes around the world. And one scene that’s decidedly off the world.
Well, I reached the end of a chapter and it feels like the end of the day, though the word count is a bit low. A lot of cycling today (a result of splicing together some of the parts I shifted yesterday). But I’m good with where it is. I already know where I’m starting in the morning.
By the way, for anyone who thinks this novel is moving along quickly at 31200 words in “only” 11 days, please realize that’s only a mean average of writing a little over 2800 words per day. In other words, it’s not all that much.
Fiction Words: 2406
Nonfiction Words: 1660 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4066
Writing of The Consensus
Day 1…… 1833 words. Total words to date…… 1833
Day 2…… 2304 words. Total words to date…… 4137
Day 3…… 2465 words. Total words to date…… 6602
Day 4…… 4418 words. Total words to date…… 11020
Day 5…… 2701 words. Total words to date…… 13721
Day 6…… 3010 words. Total words to date…… 16731
Day 7…… 2775 words. Total words to date…… 19506
Day 8…… 1716 words. Total words to date…… 21222
Day 9…… 3499 words. Total words to date…… 24721
Day 10… 4993 words. Total words to date…… 28814
Day 11… 2406 words. Total words to date…… 31220
Total fiction words for the month……… 59785
Total fiction words for the year………… 645303
Total nonfiction words for the month… 20640
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 235980
Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 881283