Saturday, October 27, 2007

a fever of words

Do you write when you're sick?
I find it depends on what kind of disease I have. Writing is perfectly possible with a low nausea or a pain in the knee, but anything that involves the head is right out for me. Whatever is wrong with my head--sinus troubles, aches of the ear or head or teeth, dizziness--fills up all the space in my brain and nothing much can go on up there besides.
Writing when there's something else going on inside your head is asking for trouble. If you manage to squeeze out anything at all, the words will be crabbed and misshapen, the sentences warped, which will make you imagine the inside of your head, the lumps and misshapes of your brain, which even when everything is fine is a squeamish-looking object. Who wants to know how the bones of the inner ear are misaligned when you've had a bout of vertigo? A game of pick-up sticks that no one has bothered to pick up.
All of which is to say that I have a bad cold, with a kind of sinusy feeling of my head being swollen 50% beyond its happy norm, and some disquiet in my ears, and so I am not writing today.
I had my hair done instead, and listened to the phone conversation of the woman who was sitting near me while our various dyes and streaks were being timed. She got 3 calls on her cell, which she stacked up with call waiting, and she told each of them the same thing: "I am so pissed off," which was because she had had $600 stolen "plus other things" which she perhaps didn't want to mention in front of a staid-looking middle-aged woman having her roots dyed golden-brown (me), but which which this woman (me) thought might be drugs.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

russian: nyet

Three and a half months is a long blog vacation, and I regret to say that I didn't spend it learning Russian or waterskiing or crocheting. (Confession: although I'd love to learn Russian, the very idea of crocheting makes my fingers tangle up; and it's way too late for water sports unless they involve a blow-up raft).
But I have a new novel project, while I'm waiting to see what happens with the ghost novel, which is actually an old novel that I mean to revise. So here I am again, trying to think about how a book works, and getting intimate with reluctant characters. I dropped this novel several years ago, because I couldn't solve two problems: 1) what to do about a character who didn't have enough substance, and whose backstory I could never settle on; 2) whether or not to keep in the subplot about finding a cave with archaeological finds in it, and what to replace it if I didn't keep it, or if it should be replaced at all.
Oh, and I guess there were 3 problems, because I didn't know how to end it, even though I wrote my way right up to the end, or where the end was supposed to be 3 times--3 unsatisfactory, annoying, not-in-any-way-good endings.
But I had a feeling that I could tackle it more effectively now, so I pulled it out and we're having another go-round.
In honor of starting another novel revision, I'm taking up the 5 writing strengths meme that Jadepark tagged me for (here is her own post on that) weeks ago.
1. I'm good at dialogue. I like writing it, and I've got a pretty good ear. I'm not bad at making speech sound like the character who's saying it. There's a small flaw inherent in this strength though, because I often write whole scenes where people do nothing but talk, because I like it and because it's so easy.
2. I can do a very good 1st person voice. I like getting into someone else's head and speaking from behind his or her face--it's a form of writer escapism, I guess. I especially like to write 1st person characters who are feisty and maybe a little difficult, which is a way of getting out of my nice-girl role (Catholic school alumni: unite).
3. I can write funny, although I can't do humor, by which I mean that I can be funny if it's the coming-from-the-side, unexpected kind of funny, but not on-purpose funny. Sometimes though I've written something which I think is quite funny and other people think it's depressing (e.g., my 1st novel).
4. I'm good at coming up with what's-next, although only if I'm actually writing. It doesn't work if I'm thinking about writing, only if I'm fingertips-to-the-keyboard, plowing through a chapter. But it's so much better anyway to be writing than thinking abt writing or planning to write, right?
5. I have never given up.

If anyone's interested and hasn't done this yet, I tag Plan B, Madame X, The Cleveland Brawler, Book of Marvels, and the Alternate Side Parker.