Trollbooth Blog #4

Designed by Margie Markevicius @
Designed by Margie Markevicius

If you haven’t been following my Trollbooth blog, you can catch up here.

Let’s call this one the vacation edition.  As I talked about last week, I decided to take a week off coincidental to my vacation and work on other projects.

I tell you, I tried. Up until Thursday, I either wrote little or worked on a story that blossomed into a full-fledged clusterfuck. I took a concept I still like (even if I can’t make it work as a story) and transmogrified it into something strange and different.  Given that the story was about a mutating poodle, at least there’s irony in that.


Thursday afternoon I was journaling about how it sucked that I had all this time and couldn’t get a fucking thing out.  As usual, talking to myself was cathartic (I really do recommend it), and it hit me that the answer wasn’t getting away from the storyline I’ve grown to love.  No, taking off on a tangent was the worst thing I could’ve done to feel good and refreshed.  I didn’t want out of my EFSF universe.  I wanted to create in it again!  And so, rather than turn left or veer right, I slipped sideways and kept going the same way on a different track.

I spent the rest of my creative vacation time working on an Enchanted Forest State Forest story I began last year, but ultimately put aside to focus on the Trollbooth revisions.  I’d written the opening pages months ago; last week I was able to complete the next story movement.  It’s still not finished, but that’s okay since I really had no expectations beyond good writing.  I’ll get back to it in a month or so.

Now that I’m back, I’m working on Trollbooth again.  I feel good about Monday’s production; hopefully I can carry that momentum into the rest of the week.  It’s going to be creatively boring, as I’ll be transposing again as I outlined in my writing process, but that’s okay.  I had a week off.  Now I can push.

Trollbooth Blog #3

Last week was a bummer in just about every way. I lost two pets on Monday and an aunt later in the week. Needless to say, most of my time was spent working through grief and taking care of the family. It left only a little time for writing; the follow is how I feel about what’s been happening this week.

If you haven’t be following my Trollbooth bloom, you can catch up here.

Regularity may be the most important part of my writing process, but the reality of life is that it’s not always possible. I’m trying to accept that as I move from one week to the next. Now I’m feeling guilty about the coming week, where I’ll be on vacation. I’ve been planning for a couple months now to take a concurrent vacation from my usual work – which is currently Trollbooth – and simply write a story or two longhand. I’ve done vacations before where I’d go camping or halfway across the country, and leading up to them I’d have this believe that I could write my usual work and suffer no difficulties even though I’m out of my usual environment. It never worked. At best, I felt like I was writing to put words on the page, or revising under duress, I’d get something solid accomplished, but it was slower and more tedious. I don’t know about all of you out there, but that’s not the way I want to experience my vacation. To that end, I spent some time this winter contemplating what I had done well on vacation, and that was simply write a story, from scratch or a plan, but with a pen in hand and a bunch of blank paper ahead of me. Old–fashioned? Sure. It also works. I’ve learned not to argue with what works when it comes to procedure.

And so I have eight days ahead of me where I don’t have to sweat the small details. This week is about the creation part of writing, the birthing of an idea from thought to something others can understand and enjoy. Work on Trollbooth will recommended next week when I’m back at my desk, with my hardcopy and my usual keyboard and double-monitor setup. I believe I can finish the second draft in under 2 weeks, and that’s judging by the typing speed I was averaging on the few occasions I actually was able to write this past week. Now at I’m in the groove, both in the muscle mechanics of typing and the growing confidence I’ve developed in the story. I can actually see my first draft evolving and taking shape on the page. It coincides with the memories of writing I have from that period, where I was holding large chunks of story movement in my conscious mind, even when I wasn’t at my desk. That let me work on smoothing out the rough edges, since I was almost always aware of the sequence of plot events. I know what I’m doing when I sit down each day to write. It’s a good feeling; old as my writing career and fresh as a lecherous first date. Add in a week of swimming in pure story-ether, and I call this a period of refreshment and renewal.

Trollbooth Blog #2

It’s been a little over a week since I started work on the second draft of my new novel Trollbooth.  Last week, I promised to keep a journal of the process of shaping this book into something that’s entertaining and readable.  Here’s what I’ve learned in the past seven days:

First, I have to silence my inner editor.  I know it sounds crazy, but if you take a look at my writing process, I’m at the stage where I’m translating my handwriting into the computer.  This means it’s boring work, for the most part, and when I’m already getting up at 4 a.m. to write, that’s hard.  The key to getting through this, just like any other less-than-stellar (yet necessary) task in life is to get it done as quickly as possible.  Therefore, I’ve been teaching myself not to worry.

That’s hard, especially at the beginning of a book.  For one thing, I didn’t know Trollbooth was a novel until I was 50 pages in with no end in sight.  For another – and I think this is true with most authors – the first few days of writing with a project are very uncertain times.  I didn’t yet have the rhythm of the language, the command of tone, or even a clear, specific sense of the sequence of events.  In the first draft, I just write to get it all out there, and now, as I force myself to just type what I see like a secretary, I’m noticing every little bit of imperfection, ugliness, and/or error along the way.

I want to halt when I see those things.  They offend me, even if I’m responsible for them in the first place.  I want to stop and restructure, or add detail, or take a passage I know doesn’t have relevance to where the story eventually leads, and fix those things.  They bother me the way a toddler leaning way over a staircase would bother me (and I know all about that, too!).  The thing is, the second draft is not the place to fix those things.  The second draft is handwriting-to-computer.  Nothing more, and the reason is simple: there’s too much to fix.  I could stop typing and change things, start again, realize that I changed something that affects other things back 10 pages, and get myself caught in a scenario where I’m doing the grunt-work typing very, very piecemeal over a period of months rather than weeks.  Since the second draft is a necessary evil to me, boring as hell, I’d rather get it over with the way I shovel dog crap in my yard.  All at once, do it and get it over with.  I’ve tried other ways in more variations than I can remember, and none of them do any good for my creative self, or my overall mood.  This is the only way.

But still…I have to shut up that editor in my skull, and that’s a bitch.

I spent the majority of the week cracking the whip upon myself.  I typed and turned pages and typed some more.  I stopped here and there for sips of coffee, but other than that I wouldn’t let myself fix even a typo.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve improved my discipline day-over-day in this regard.  I still change things here and there, and when I do I’m going with my gut feeling that I must do it, but if it takes more than a few seconds, I’m getting ahead of myself and will leave it for the next draft.  Even if this last line sounds contrary to everything I’ve been saying, it’s still true; art is about the when, the what, the how, and the who.  Why can go fuck itself.  That’s the process of creating art.

My original plan was to finish this second draft by the end of this week.  A cold forced more rest on me, since I have to be dad, husband, and maintain the day-job before being a novelist.  Some facts of life have no middle ground, and I know better than to push too hard.  I’m set on doing as much as I can this second week, and keeping myself aligned with the draft-by-draft goals I’ve set for myself.  It’ll keep me happy and working, and since I want this story to be awesome, that’s the best thing I can do.