Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In Absentia

I've been away. I have an odd feeling that I've been cheating on you. I've been out with the boys, away on business, withdrawn, distant, distracted, inattentive, all of which comes under the umbrella of the truth that I've been trying to put my head into my novel, which sometimes feels like an oven. And there are some other things. Lots going on.

"A page a day is a book a year," is what I've been trying to achieve, though I've fallen short of that goal. I like to think of myself as the kind of writer who is only thinking about his work during his day, everything pointing in some way to his return to it the next morning of productive writing. The reality is that this novel is only one of the plates spinning above my head these days. Nonetheless, I am still slogging away, and as I've mentioned before, when more of the big pieces to the story's big puzzle begin to come together to reveal what the story is, I will begin serializing the work online.

The Big Picture

I'm closing in on my first 100 pages, many of which I admit will likely find their way to the recycle bin. Nonetheless, for my relative inexperience with such large pieces, it feels like I'm approaching a milestone. Sure, there's likely 300 to 400 more pages to go -- the scope of the story could demand a good 500 or more pages of manuscript -- though who can know what length it will ultimately find? Still, I'm slowly getting there, and I'm happy to be at least 1/5 of the way to wherever "there" will be. AoaN came in around 320 and the experience showed me that 100 pages of properly formatted manuscript equals roughly 80 pages of printed book.

But then, talk like that is a little embarrassing. Why am I so obsessed about size and length? The answer could be because the size intimidates me. Or simply that I am so dead set on completion. When the journey is a struggle, and writing always is for me, one wants to know exactly what one is up against and how far they've come. Most distant runners know how far they must run each day, many know how many miles they've run in the previous months. Not knowing what one can expect from endeavor, or better, not thinking one knows, is impossible for me to sustain over long periods of time. So like Mark Twain, who was known for having written word counts in the margin of his manuscripts, I rely upon my own hashmarks along the way.

The Details

One of the elements of this new story that slows me a bit is the fact that the story takes place in 1899. Having never lived in that period, or if so, not for a few reincarnate lifetimes, I am forced to depend upon research, all of which is fascinating, all of which is tirelessly distracting. With AoaN, the exaggeration of personal experience required only amplification, imagination. I know the world of narcissism well enough. But this new project requires learning a new world, becoming familiar with it, as intimate as I can with it. Example: I thought to have Sherman Chapel, the main character of the story, use a spyglass to watch the object of his obsession.

Sherman dismounted with considerable ease on the right side, capitalizing on the slope of the mountain. He tied Augustus off on a manzanita snag, then grabbed his spyglass and crawled over to some rocks that provided a short parapet. He admired the telescope as he extended it, its brass cylinders elongating to a full seventeen inches, providing twenty-two fold magnification while collapsible to a six inch length that fit snugly in his saddle bag. He had purchased it from a traveling salesman in New Mexico just before he'd left; the salesman claimed to have brought it over himself from London, England in the early nineties. It was a Falcon made by a company by the name of Enbeeco; an odd name that added to its exotic European quality. Much more powerful than any spyglass he'd ever used, Sherman considered it one of the few upsides to living in a modern world. From the promontory, he could easily see with the naked eye a horse and rider for thirty miles to the northeast and twenty to the north and to the west; the spyglass gave him over twenty times that range and considerable detail.

Needless to say, I've spent good writing time perusing the Internet for information on collapsible telescopes. And that is time that feels as though it is stolen away from actual writing; a feeling that doesn't acknowledge research as part of the actual writing. Maybe that's because I'm tallying page counts along the way. I'd like to say that I enjoy that kind of research for the information it leaves behind in my brain, but it is more temporary than that. Once it makes its way to the page, it is released from the limited stores of my brain. If you were to ask me about that telescope over a beer, I would likely recall that it's collapsible.

And Thou

So here I am, revealing to you, too early perhaps, a paragraph of a book that is in embryonic form, in the hopes that in some small way, I might be able to explain why we've been apart. Which brings something up that I have to put out there. I just have to say it. Here it is. I don't think we have that kind of relationship. Yes, of course, I appreciate your attention, your participation, our time here together, who wouldn't? It's valuable and you've given me a lot. But I just don't think it's that good for me, for my mind, for my creativity, to go around feeling, yunno, bad if I don't check in here. I mean, "feeling that I'm cheating on you?" That's just not--and I don't think it's too good for you, either. You deserve more than that. You deserve a lot more and maybe it's just that we want different things? Maybe it's just that what you want, I can't give? Then again, maybe I'm thinking too hard about all this. Why don't we just do this: let's just agree that we'll still have this place together and I'll do what I can too keep it alive, and you'll do your part - a part that you do so well, and I mean that - and if that becomes too much for either one of us, heck, we can simply go our separate ways. Okay?

2 Comments:

Blogger Jonathan Foster said...

Yes. And I'm afraid I'm going to have to return this.

August 17, 2006 9:21 PM  
Blogger Gerric Duncan said...

I wonder if Enbeeco made an "Optimism" model.

gerric

August 28, 2006 10:33 AM  

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