Monday, October 19, 2009
Update: I'm about 2/3 of the way finished with my book. *raises power fist in camaraderie-like gesture to fighter jet gliding by as I speed down tarmac on motorcycle with "Danger Zone" playing in background.* I'm temporarily calling it Untitled -- snazzy, no? -- as I've been unimpressed with the titles I've thought of so far (and probably will be till I'm completely finished and can study it as a whole). Nevertheless Untitled is going well.
When I talk to friends and family on the phone, they inevitably ask me how many pages I've written so far. An answer to that is as easy as cherry pie. Second inevitable question is "how long will it be?" I wish I knew. Projected word count eludes me like a George Clooney con Vespa sighting in Como. (Apparently he vacations there or some tripe like that, but whenever I'm there I see no such evidence. Sigh.)
I originally thought my book would be about 65k words. Once I started writing I realized that projection was ludicrously inadequate, so I upped it to 70k, then 75k, and now I'm projecting 85,000 words total ... but that'll likely go up to 95k to 100k. Which is fine. From what I've found an official novel is between 60,000 and 100,000 words.
I know that it's easy to get lost in word counts and page numbers and at this stage these things aren't so important, but for me it's the only way to track my progress and keep good pace. I find pacing is key. Here's why:
When I was forced to take freshman PE in high school, running track was my least favorite activity. (All I wanted was to stroll languidly with my girlfriends and discuss important issues like boys and what where we were going to sit for lunch. "Rachel saw Cody kissing Summer next to the art room lockers. Pass it on." Things of that nature.) I wasn't nor will I ever be a runner, but back then I was more of an idealist than I am today. This would result in me sprinting the first lap like a sprightly racehorse, then staggering through the last three laps as I hyperventilated and finally lurched toward that Godforsaken finish line. I didn't want that to happen as I worked on my book. Neither did I want to casually amble the track four times, absentmindedly eating CornNuts and showing my friends how to moonwalk on the gravel, clocking in a 25-minute mile in the end. (I earned no "A" for effort on those particular days.) Let's just say I've come to recognize that pacing is important.
Where I currently stand: 65,000 words written, about 200 pages complete. When I first began writing Untitled I thought something insanely groovy would happen when I finally hit page 200. Like maybe I'd defy the laws of quantum physics and be hurled into an alternate universe where God would speak to me without the use of any psychotropic substances ... orrrr that I would simply hit 200 pages. J teases me lately with "Has God spoken to you yet?" No, no he hasn't, but the farther I get along in my manuscript the more enlightened I become. Why? Because, as Hemingway once said, "The first draft of anything is shit." (FYI: Hemingway also said "Write drunk; edit sober." Something to consider...)
Writing is the easy part, it's in the editing when the real work begins. True enlightenment will come when I press print, get my red pen "Jorge" (pronounced "Hor-hay") ready and start blasting out whole sections, rewriting chapters and fleshing out the vague ... and then have those around me critique it all. I'm happy at how far I've come (I've written a lot in my life but never this many words in one consecutive project) and it feels good to have an actual workable manuscript nearing completion, but the yellow brick road that lays ahead is fraught with months of editing that I can't wait to undertake. John Irving once said that "Half my life is an act of revision." I think the saucy minx had a point.