Saturday, September 30, 2006

revision marathon

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book doing light revision--typos, looking for small problems, finding things I want to weave more tightly into the fabric of the book, etc.
My thought is--I really need a massage. Sitting at your desk for this long is serious wear on the body. My shoulders are tight and my spine is twisty. Plus, I need more chocolate. I've eaten most of a Lindt 70% bar, a chili-spiced Dagoba, and a leftover Godiva truffle I found in my purse. For a while I had a cacao high going, but now I've crashed.
Tonight, D (who is doing all the revision-era cooking) is making venison stew, there are brownies in the freezer, and we're going to watch some Bob Newhart (the 1st show--I hate the 2nd innkeeper one). Plus I've bought a copy of Soap Opera Digest, so I can enter more fully the restful world of daytime TV. Is Reva really going to die of cancer? I'm looking forward to worrying about someone's characters besides my own.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

writing is an extreme sport

Check out this great post by BlogLily on what happens when you're writing and you get to the edge of the known. It's the best description I've read of what happens when you've started, and maybe you had to scourge yourself to sit down at your desk and you didn't want to start and you put it off by checking your email obsessively or playing computer games or re-ordering your post-it collection, but you're at your desk and kind of grumpily writing this and that, moving through the scene that you set yourself to write for the day and all of a sudden you're in new territory. All of a sudden you realize that Carl has gone on this walk so he can go and look at the family cemetery that's back up in the hills behind the farm, and that this connects with about 8 other things you've got going in the novel and therefore is inspired, except that you bypassed inspiration and the scene is coming straight out of your fingertips. You're writing something you hadn't thought of, but it's pretty OK, and the grumpiness is gone and you let the post-its slide to the floor because you're writing yourself into a new place. This is the greatest writer feeling in the world.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

word count

WordCount is a sehr cool website I just found (sorry--I've been playing with online foreign language dictionaries). It describes itself as an "interactive presentation of the 86,800 most frequently used English words," although so far they only go up to 53000 something. It's irresistible to a writer!
Again, quoting the site, "Each word is scaled to reflect its frequency relative to the words that precede and follow it, giving a visual barometer of relevance. The larger the word, the more we use it. The smaller the word, the more uncommon it is."
All sorts of interesting things emerge. For instance, I now know that my name is the 2nd most frequently used female name. You can look up a word to see how popular it is: "feckless," a favorite of mine, is # 35,486. Or you can surf WordCount looking for felicitous word combinations, like "kill creation governments" which are #s 2137-39. "Wife" (566) is more used than "husband" (899); but "man" (142) more than "woman" (393). "Novel" and "toast" are more than 4000 words apart, although I did find the happy combination of "Indian roof novel" and "subjective toast curiosity" nesting together.
It also does a nice swoopy graphic thing when it zeroes in on a word. Can there be a better time-waster for the procrastinating language-lover?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

and yet more

I've started reading the novel over and doing a light revision. So far, so OK.
In other news, here is more of the un-novelish thing:

When we decided to shoot the pistol at the last minute, it was because Brandon came home from his job early. He and John got the pistol out to look at it, and then, while the kids were trying to entice the kittens out from under the porch, they set up a target on the little hill behind the chicken coop. Everything was packed into the car, but the day was so mild, so sweetly hazy, so tenderly sunny, that Sophia and I were not annoyed by the delay.
We all gathered to watch, leaning against the front of the truck and sitting on the hood. Eden put the lead on the dog and brought out bottles of water: loganberry, cranberry, cherry. I put my hand to my face to hide my mouth which was stretching into a smile. Who was she kidding? She was just a baby, she didn't have a kitchen in there behind the screen door (although I had seen it, I had sat in it, sliding my feet on the floor), her Play-Easy refrigerator was only two feet high and although it had a light, it was decorated with stickers of Mickey Mouse--it wasn't cold inside. She gave me loganberry without asking. I loved her so much.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

more of something that is not-a-novel

There was something strange about visiting someone who was to all of us a former child--Eden. A former child who was married. Oh, it didn't bother her sister or her cousins. Her sister was waiting for that to happen to her, to become a former child. Maybe Kelly, too, a little bit: she was fifteen. It never entered Brandon's head, I'm sure. But her aunt, and John, who had known Eden as a child, and me, her mother--it was different for us. How to accept a glass of water or a cookie baked by her own hand in her own kitchen? How could we hide our smiles when she talked about redecorating, or spoke on the phone to her boss? Eden's telephone voice was the voice she had used when she and her sister played School or Office.
But it had been a good visit, relaxed, full of various delights: horseback riding, long walks, discussions on the porch while drinking endless small bottles of flavored water. John had gone out with the gun and the springer spaniel. He hadn't shot anything, there was nothing to shoot. It was the wrong time to shoot anything except crows and woodchucks, which, the farmer who rented the fields in front of the farmhouse told us, were varmints. Varmints were always in season. The crows didn't seem to know it. They hung in the sky, flipping their wings, diving, cawing as if they were in a horror movie. The woodchucks had made themselves scarce though. There was not a woodchuck to be seen, although earlier we had found the entrances to their tunnels in the mowed field on the other side of the pond. You could find these by looking for the places where the grass was a darker green, the farmer's son told us, but when we asked him, he could not say why.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

les vacances

Here's a piece of something I'm working on, during my vacation from the novel:

At the last minute before leaving, we decided to shoot the pistol. We had been taking pictures of each other lying in the hammock, or standing in the field talking to the farmer, or pretending to weed the garden, that we would later show to Grandma and Grandpa, so that they could see how their first married granddaughter was doing, where she was living, what the house and the fields and the barn looked like in the full golden summer light. There was one picture of Robert jumping from the porch banister, staged to capture him in full flight with all the rest of us looking on. We hoped that one came out.

It was a .357 Magnum Ruger Blackhawk, western style. John had brought it because he never had a chance to shoot it in the city. In the city, it stayed in its bag in the basement, oiled, cleaned, and unloaded. He had a friend who belonged to a gun club and who sometimes invited him to come and target shoot, but this didn't happen very often. But out in the country seemed a good place to bring a gun, here, in the hill country, here, on the farm.

Now that I read it over it sounds very Richard Ford-ish, which I'm not sure is what I was going for.