Update on My Novel: Month 20

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

NOVEMBER STATS

Days Writing: 25
New Words: 4003
New Chapters: 1

Total Word-count: 66,847
Total Chapters: 18

Coming into December I knew that it is usually a difficult month for writing, given how heavy it is on holiday festivities. I was also afraid that if I started missing multiple days back-to-back it would be all too easy to give up on it entirely until the new year.

So at the start of the month I made a commitment to not have two days back-to-back where I didn’t work on the novel. A lofty goal…and I made it!

The days that I missed were the 6th, 12th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, and 27th. As you can see, at the end I started missing every other day as the festivities ramped up, but I successfully managed to sandwich each absence with at least a little bit of work before and after.

And how about that grand total of 25 days writing?! I believe that is a new record for me, and I do think it was directly due to this idea of no back-to-back days off. 4003 words written means that each of those 25 days was a little light, but that’s still the most I’ve written in a single month since March.

If you’ve been following my progress, then you know I have tried a variety of different routines to get the most out of my writing and some of those have been more successful than others. I’m pretty excited about this new no-back-to-back-misses approach, though, and will certainly be carrying it forward!

So here’s hoping for another great month in January, I’ll let you know in February how it went. As usual I’ll send you off with a piece that I wrote during this month. Enjoy!

Then begins the crafting stage. Of all the phases, this one is the most routine and repetitive. There are many identical pieces and all must be cut to exact length and precisely shaped, so that they may be bolted together in a perfect fit. And as the full quantity of these has already been tabulated, John has a quota for exactly how many pieces to construct each day. Like a machine his arms memorize the movements and repeat them over and over, parts flying off the table in rapid succession until the full tally has been made.

Of course he cannot completely assemble the pieces of the mill at his workstation, for then they would be too heavy to carry down to the river. Thus he forms them into as large of pieces as his little wheelbarrow can bear, then he will carries them down to the river and completes their construction on-site.

This transportation phase requires some adjustments to the wheelbarrow, though. A single wheel and two leg supports has made for a most agile vehicle, but it simply won’t do when supporting massive constructs of lumber. So he gets rid of the legs, adds three more wheels, expands its bed, and raises its walls. Now it is a proper cart.

Then he treks down to the river, one load at a time. It is not easy to haul such large pieces over such a distance. The ground, while relatively flat compared to the rest of the island, is still far from a paved road. Indeed John thinks to himself during the process that he will have to prioritize making some roads during the off-season when he has a spare moment.

But for now there are no spare moments. He is still holding himself to a rigorous schedule and he must make many trips back-and-forth, every single day. By his copious experience he knows full well how much strain is behind every numbered task. He knows the exact amount of work to be accomplished and the amount of pain to be endured, and he does not let his day finish until he has met both quotas.

Update on My Novel: Month 19

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

NOVEMBER STATS

Days Writing: 13
New Words: 2121
New Chapters: 0.33

Total Word-count: 62,821
Total Chapters: 17

Definitely a quieter month for me compared to October. In fact it was my fewest number of days since July. Those days felt a bit like running in place, too, as most of my time was spent back in my previous chapter, adding in another scene.

November is a big holiday month here in the United States, and that definitely was a large factor in how things went. But December is an even bigger holiday month, and so I am anxious about falling into the same trap.

The hardest thing for me is to have skipped a few days, and then have to get back into the context of where I was the next time I start. It makes it all the more tempting to just skip the next day as well.

To that end, I’m going to take special note whenever a day passes and I haven’t written anything. I will make it a rule that I must write on the next day in that case. I’m far enough ahead on my story blog that I could even afford to take a day off there, if it meant having time to work on the novel.

We’ll see how this approach works. If it’s effective, then the absolute minimum number of days for me will be fifteen, which isn’t great, but still better than what I managed this month.

For now here’s a piece that I wrote during this month, it is part of the scene that I added into Chapter Seventeen. Fair warning, it is rather intense.

“Yes. See how you’ve clenched yourself? All the muscles in your abdomen tight as a rock? That’s no good. Then when it has to drive through that’s–“

A strangled cry emanates from deep in your throat as ‘it’ pierces through with a series of rapid surges, forcibly cutting its way through the muscle on its way towards the surface. You sift your fingers back and forth through the dirt, trying to focus on that sensation, willing it to take your mind off the pain at your belly. You give two sharp inhales, then try to relax your muscles.

It is a hard thing, though. For the flesh feels the knife’s edge within, and instinctively flexes itself against it.

“Focus on my voice,” your companion offers. “Make me everything you see, hear, and know. Better to turn away from yourself at this part. Better to make it so you don’t even know what happens.”

The knife-edge pulls back, then lunges forward again. Your somewhat relaxed muscles seize right back up and you cry out again! The knife-edge increases pressure, drives itself at the fibers. You give a long, guttural groan, clenching your fingers on the hard soil, gripping the entire earth for you anchor.

“Press on!” your companion cries. “Press on! You are so near!”

Your long shout goes silent as the last of the air expels from your lungs. You choke silently for a moment, then ‘it’ bursts out of your navel like an arrow.

A strange cry, like that of a wounded animal, warbles out from between your numb lips.

“Yes! Yes! You’ve done it!”

Your whole body trembles as you let your torn muscles slacken. With face on the ground you catch a glimpse of a small gray creature falling to the soil. It drives razor-head into the dirt and scrabbles its feet madly. It disappears into that new womb, churning the soil up in a small cloud as it seeks its collective.

For a moment you feel nothing, and then all at once the entire ground seems to turn beneath you. A single massive force contracts and flows, like a massive underground river. It is the collective welcoming their newest brother.

With a sob you roll onto your back, weep the birth, and try to stop your body from its convulsions.

Oh, Go Be Bored!

Photo by David Fagundes on Pexels.com

A Story of Me)

I never lacked for food, clothing, or shelter as a child. I never brought any complaints to my mother in those departments. What complaint I do remember bringing to her, however, was that I was bored!

“Well you have plenty of toys!” she might say.

“Yes, and I’ve played with them all.”

“I haven’t heard you practice your piano lessons yet…”

“No thank you.”

“Why don’t you read a book?”

“I’ve read books.” (To be fair, I really had. I read many, many books in my youth.)

“Well I’ve certainly got my fair share of chores that you could help me out with.”

“I said I was bored, not a masochist!”

Clearly, it was up to me to resolve this dilemma.

It was a tricky problem. For starters my family was homeschooled and insulated, so I didn’t have any friends to hang out with. We didn’t have cable or internet or video games. We did have over-the-air television and movies, but I was quickly saturated with those and still dissatisfied. And it wasn’t entertainment I wanted anyway, it was something to do.

We did have a computer, though. A Windows 95, complete with Microsoft Office. Simply because I couldn’t think of anything else to do, I gravitated towards this, and in my boredom found two great loves that have defined me ever since.

One was programming. I found how to record macros in Microsoft Excel, and I used that to start making simple point-and-click adventures. I would try to make sense of the generated code and modify it when it didn’t quite do what I wanted. I didn’t know that this “programming,” and I certainly didn’t know that you could make a living off of it. At that time it was just my own little world, and it would be years before I stepped into the wider universe of software development and made it into my career.

There was another “own little world” that I found on that computer, too. One day I opened up Microsoft Word and started writing out my first story. I got out all of four-and-a-half pages, literally could not think of a single other thing to say, so I typed THE END at the bottom.

I was hooked.

One story followed another. One about a superhero, one about a small ant, one about a group of orphaned children. Each one was longer than the one previous: ten pages, fifteen, twenty.

Finally, when I was about twelve, I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. From that point on everything I wrote was a fantasy. I scaled my writing up to an epic novel in five parts which totaled over 100,000 words. My next work was the only hand-written piece I’ve ever done, and it was over 300 pages.

And all of this writing was done primarily on days when I was bored. Eventually I got a job and went to college, and for a time was too busy for the writing. But thanks to the days of boredom, I had found the things that I loved to do, and I always knew that I would return to them eventually.

Boredom: The Sequel)

Nowadays, I am not nearly so bored. Of course there are the occasional moments of lethargic indifference, where nothing sounds interesting to me. And there are the brief stretches of time where I have to impatiently wait for something. But by and large boredom is not a way of life anymore.

And that’s alright, because I already have my passions to follow. So now boredom serves a new purpose. I don’t use it to seek out what vocation speaks to me, I use it to know when I’m doing a good job in that vocation. For example, when I’m writing a story and I start to get bored with it, I know it means that I’m leading the story down the wrong path.

Think of a story as a journey, one where you are willing to arrive at any destination, so long as it is an interesting one. With parameters that wide, you could take this journey in any manner of different directions. But of course, not all of those paths are going to be as fruitful. In this journey there are treacherous routes you need to avoid altogether. You certainly don’t want to get stuck in the bogs of inaction, or tangled in the doldrum forests, or lost in the mazes of irrelevant plot.

Each of these slows your progress, and some can even bring you to a complete stop. I know this firsthand.

Because for all the stories I mentioned up above, the ones that I completed in my teenage years, there were just as many that I only partially wrote. They were tales that I began with great excitement, but which somewhere along the way found unbearable to continue.

At the time I didn’t understand why I couldn’t finish those projects, why my stamina ran out on some stories but not on others. As I’ve gone back and read over the unfinished drafts, though, I’ve realized that I always quit right when I hit the boring parts.

It is barely tolerable to sit through the boring scenes as a reader, but it is all the more unlikely to power through them as the author.

In the course of writing this blog I have run into this same conundrum again. I had multiple instances where I dreaded continuing with my current story, and fortunately I realized that it was not an option to just force my way through. If I did that, then I would deliver stories that I hated and my readers would be bored out of their minds by, and eventually I would stop writing them altogether.

So instead I have learned to recognize that dread of writing for what it is: my journey has wandered into one of those paths of boredom. And when I realize this I say “Oh, looks like I found the wrong path. I really had meant to go down this way, but it’s better to give up those expectations than kill the whole thing.”

Then I delete the last few paragraphs–take a few steps back on the path–until I reach the junction where I turned into the troublesome area, and look for another way forward. And you know what? I’ve always been able to find one.

A Non-Boring End)

So here I am, writing stories that I truly enjoy, and I owe it all to boredom. Boredom led me to discover story-telling in the first place, and boredom showed up again just last week to save me from writing a lifeless exchange in my most recent story.

My first draft of the boys discovering the stranger had been platonic and rigid and unbearable to write. Thanks to boredom, that scene now features a freakish woman whose face has been turned to stone and a guard who wields a shotgun-crossbow. You’re welcome!

Come back on Thursday to see how that story progresses. I promise I will have course-corrected any time it started to stray towards boredom!

Update on My Novel: Month 18

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

OCTOBER STATS

Days Writing: 20
New Words: 3924
New Chapters: 1.25

Total Word-count: 60,547
Total Chapters: 17

Well this month was my most productive in a long while! It was the most words written since March, and the most days-in-a-month working on the novel since October last year! It would have been nice to break the 4,000-word barrier…but I’ll just have to keep that as a motivation for this next month.

A little less positively, I noticed during this month that I kept falling into a pattern of halfhearted writing. I would open my word processor, type out a minimum number of words as quickly as possible, and the quality just wasn’t up to the standard I have been striving for. I’ve told myself previously that it’s okay to only write out a few words during a busy day, but they still ought to be quality words!

On the other hand…maybe my tepidness is a blessing in disguise. It could be a warning to me that the section I am working on is not very interesting, and will be a slog for the reader to get through as well. A slow middle is one of the most common failings in literature, and I might very well be falling victim to it myself!

But if I am able to recognize this trend as it happens, I will still have time to correct it. I’m currently doing a once-over on my latest chapter, and in addition to picking out grammatical and logical errors, I will repeatedly ask myself “is this even interesting.”

For now, though, here’s a piece that I wrote during this month. One that I feel still has that spark I’ve been striving for. Enjoy!

But William has no more time for ruminations, for Eleanor is now ushering the family to their seats around the fire, and once they are settled she presents the first real feast that they have enjoyed since setting foot on the island!

The main attraction, of course, is the roasted bird.

“Oh, this is divine!” William exclaims. “What kind of fowl is this?”

“Well I’m not sure exactly,” Eleanor answers, “but it looked like some sort of pheasant.”

“Are we going to start putting traps out for them regularly, now?” he smiles hopefully.

“Yes, I think so. Try and catch a few and start breeding them I imagine. Though this came out quite dry and bland, didn’t it?”

Everyone murmurs in disagreement. But of course, this is the first fresh meat they’ve had since they arrived, and even dry, bland fowl seems succulent and rich!

In addition to the pheasant, there are two side dishes made from the recently harvested produce of their garden. The first is yellow yams that have been boiled soft, with green beans and peas mixed throughout. The second is another set of yams that has been sliced and fried, and is served with a dip made of mashed mung beans.

And even this isn’t all. A large bowl is also passed around, full of nuts and sunflower seeds, and also a jar of tamarind jam to enjoy by itself.

“How nice to have a dinner with dessert again,” John approves. “Would you like some, Clara?”

“No,” she wrinkles her nose. “I don’t like tamarinds. And that’s not what we’re having for dessert.”

“There’s more?” John looks in amazement to Eleanor, who reaches behind the stump she is sitting on and produces cashew fruit, cut into halves and topped with some of the leftover cane sugar from their test crop.

They all eat more heartily than they knew they could. There isn’t a single morsel left in any bowl or plate, and there isn’t a single finger that isn’t licked clean. They are quite full when all the food is gone, yet each feels they would happily eat just as much again.

Update on My Novel: Month 17

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

SEPTEMBER STATS

Days Writing: 18
New Words: 3145
New Chapters: 1

Total Word-count: 56,412
Total Chapters: 15.75

Well 3,000 words-per-month definitely seems to be my pattern of late! Actually, if I’m being honest, I was tracking well below that level until the end of the month, and when I realized it I redoubled my efforts just to be sure I made that mark. I guess 3,000 words unconsciously became a minimum standard for myself.

Also, I wouldn’t have had a chance of hitting that many words if not for a writer’s group that I am a part of. Each meeting we take an hour-and-a-half of uninterrupted writing to get out as many words for our novels as possible. I only attended one of these meetings for the month of September, but from that one session I got 1,200 words. Just by attending more of these (they occur on a weekly basis) I could get a lot more done each month.

For the past while I’ve been realizing that the greatest slow-down to my writing process is that I review each chapter after I finish writing it. I don’t get chapter polished to a perfect state, and there’s still going to be a lot of refactoring and revising to do later, but my work does become markedly improved from this editing-as-I-go approach. I think it is an important process, but it sure does put the brakes on my momentum.

I’m not sure what to do about that yet. I could push myself to edit each chapter for a set number of days only. I could try to be more sparse in smoothing out each rough spot. I could see if it is better to write out three whole chapters, and then edit them as a batch.

Perhaps I’ll implement some of those ideas this month, I’m still not sure. But I will be paying close attention to how things go once I get finished with Chapter 16. Come back on November 1st to hear how it went.

Before I head out, though, here’s a little snippet from my work this month. Enjoy!

An early chill crawls out of the earth that night and the family awakens to several patches of dew that have crystallized into frost.

“Is this a concern?” William asks Eleanor.

“No, not yet. We had a few cooler days last season as well, and none of them were a problem for our test crop.”

The wind picks up, and all of the family pull their blankets more tightly around their shoulders and lean closer to the fire.

“Well that’s a proper sea breeze, isn’t it?!” William exclaims.

“Yes, and a sea sky,” John observes the flat, gray canopy overhead.

“Well I think it’s quite refreshing myself,” Eleanor smiles. The wind picks up once more and she shrinks back into her blanket. “I’ve gotten so used to this hot and humid air that I don’t even notice it anymore. Nice to have a day that you can actually feel once in a while!”

“Well I prefer not feeling the day,” Clara shivers.

“Were you finished with your porridge?”

“Yes.”

“Well then why don’t you and I start on our way. The walk will help thaw you out.”

“But then I won’t be in my blanket anymore.”

“I’d consider letting you keep it around you, but then you’d have to carry it back at the end of day.”

“I’ll carry it!”

“And it will be hot and stuffy this afternoon, and you won’t enjoy having to carry it then.”

“No, I’ll be alright. Thank you, mother.”

“I believe you mean ‘please, mother,'” William cocks an eyebrow.

Clara sighs. “Please, mother?”

“Well, alright.”

“Thank you, mother.”

Update on My Novel: Month 16

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

AUGUST STATS

Days Writing: 17
New Words: 3001
New Chapters: 0.75

Total Word-count: 53,133
Total Chapters: 14.75

August continued with the greater success that we saw in July. I’m not at the 6,000-words-per-month level that I was at the end of 2019, but I’m more than double the low point of 1,376 words in June.

Interestingly, I did 17 days of writing in August, a significant increase to July’s 10, but wrote nearly the exact same number of words. I don’t mind that my average performance each day was less, though I wouldn’t want that trend to continue down further.

The good news is that my family and I are officially done with the move! We’re still acclimating to our new surroundings and we’re still busy with unpacking boxes, but the main effort is over. Hopefully that means more time for writing, but honestly even if I maintain this baseline I will be content.

I had an interesting experience with writing this month when I wasn’t sure how to start a particular scene. After trying to find the “right answer” for a while and failing to do so, I just plowed ahead with the first idea that came to mind. I finished feeling that what I’d done was garbage, and that tomorrow I should just erase it and try again.

When I looked at it the next day, though, it was actually pretty decent. Really it was only the very last paragraph that I still had an issue with, which was probably what had put the bad taste in my mouth to begin with. So I kept everything else from before, only rewrote the last paragraph, and happily continued. It was a good lesson in not being afraid to let go of problem areas, but also to step away and look with fresh eyes for value that I might have missed in the heat of the moment.

Before I head out, here’s a little snippet from my work this month. Enjoy!

Across the island, John arrives back at the field, bringing with him the last bundle of sugarcane for William.

“Thank you,” William exclaims, hobbling over to take the sack from him. “Sorry again to make you come all the way down here. I think there’s still some porridge in the pot if you wanted to sit down a moment.”

“No, I had better get back to the workstation.”

“Of course. Well sorry again.”

John waves his hand dismissively, but he cannot help but consider that if it had been he who was bringing in the sugarcane yesterday, he surely would have found a way to bring in the full measure, even with a sprained ankle. Although, more likely, he probably wouldn’t have sprained his ankle to begin with.

“I admire your passion, son,” he says as soon as he is out of earshot, “it gives you vision and motivation. But sometimes you let it get you worked up, let it get you jittery, and then you make mistakes. Yes, I want to give you the fulfillment that I never had, but not at the expense of the grounded surety that I have had. I want it to be possible for you to dream and achieve, but also for you to be focused and deliberate. Otherwise you won’t have it better than me, just different. And I want you to have it better.”

Update on My Novel: Month 15

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

JULY STATS

Days Writing: 10
New Words: 3060
New Chapters: 0.7

Total Word-count: 50,146
Total Chapters: 14

With July I decided to do things a bit differently. I got rid of tracking partial days and full days, I got rid of minimum amount to work each day, and I just made it a simple commitment to do something on my novel every day.

And, for the first half of the month, things went quite well. I wasn’t getting every single day, but I was getting more than half, and I was on track to have my best month since January. Then, in the second half, I once again stopped working altogether.

I feel more okay with my lack of productivity for this month than I did for May or June. Things have been very strained these past few weeks, with us getting our house up on the market, preparing to move, and an intense deadline being thrust on my team at work.

It’s difficult to decide the balance of “just get something done, anything, no matter how chaotic the rest of the day has been” and “have some understanding, it’s okay to get less done during hectic days.”

But rather than dwell on what didn’t get done, I want to relish the first part of the month where I was really working on the story. It felt so good. I feel like my changes in how to approach the work removed all of the stress, and left the pure enjoyment of it instead. I’ve craved that these past couple weeks, and want to get right back to it.

So I’m going to keep that same format for August, and hopefully I’ll be able to find a little more time in the nooks and crannies of each day.

Before I head out, here’s a little snippet from my work this month. Enjoy!

“Oh look, there’s some new flowers over there!” Clara suddenly points excitedly to a small cluster of black morning glories perched on the slope that rises on the other side of their stream. They grace a particularly steep portion of that incline, crowning a sheer, rocky outcropping that presses out of the green growth that otherwise makes up the hillside.

“Oh…” Clara says slowly as she regards the precarious position. “We don’t have to get those ones…if you don’t want to.”

Eleanor’s eyes narrow.

“I hadn’t expected you to be scared off so easily, Clara.”

“What? No, I’m not scared, I just–“

“It’s alright. You just wait here where it’s nice and safe and hold my bag.” Eleanor hands Clara the sack and then begins to ascend the hill. She goes up the gentle-sloping side until she is about level with the flowers, then moves sideways to the rocky face. The flowers’ ledge is a little more than two feet higher than her feet now, so she grips the rock face with her left hand, stretches her left foot up to plant it on the rocky shelf, then firmly swings the rest of herself up and onto the ledge. A few moments later and she has plucked a few of the flowers’ finest representatives.

Getting off the ledge is a somewhat trickier matter, though, as now she must step down onto the slanted surface of the hill. Clara sees her mother’s hesitation and quickly scrambles up the hill to be beside her.

“Here,” Clara says, “take my hand.”

“And send us both rolling down the hill?”

“I’ll be firm.”

Clara plants her feet squarely, and keeps her hand out until Eleanor concedes. The maneuver is made simply enough, and the two quickly ascend to the top of the incline.

“Weren’t you frightened, mother?”

“Terrified!”

“But—but then why did you go up there in the first place?”

“Because you thought I was frightened.”

“But you just said that you were! And I knew you were the whole time, even though you pretended not to be!”

Clara’s tone is frustrated and chiding, and Eleanor cannot help but laugh.

“I’m sorry, Clara, you’re absolutely right. It was silly of me, but…well, I don’t know…I suppose it’s just a hard thing for a parent to let their child know when they need help.”

“Well…as long as you know that it’s silly!”

Update on My Novel: Month 14

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

JUNE STATS

Full Days Writing: 5
Partial Days Writing: 3
New Words: 1376
New Chapters: 0.3

Total Word-count: 47,133
Total Chapters: 13.3

 

For a while now I have reported declining numbers each month, and each month come up with a plan to resolve that, and each month that plan hasn’t worked. Consider how many words I have written each succeeding month this year:

January: 6360
February: –
March: 5244
April: 3747
May: 2751
June: 1376

A very steady trend down, and fast approaching zero. For June I said I was going to start tracking partial days and full days of writing, in order to encourage me to write something even if only a small amount.

Ultimately, that did not pan out. I’m sure I could make up a number of excuses for why my numbers are continuing to decline, such as starting at a new job and generally having less time due to the new baby in our family, those reasons would sound hollow. The simple truth is that my motivation has been declining. There have been many days in the past months where I could have written…and just didn’t want to.

I am far from giving up on this project, though. I still do care for the story, and frankly have put in too much time and effort to call it quits now. I’m still going to keep working on it, and will hold myself to a higher standard moving forward.

To this end, I am making the following changes: no more partial-days/full-days, no more “my goal is to write this many days for the month,” no more set amounts of time to write for, and no more set amounts of words. We’re just going to go back to basics. My goal is to write every day, full stop.

I will still track how many days I write, and how many words, so that I can measure trends, but there will be no more quotas. This might seem counter-intuitive for increasing productivity, but really I just want to get rid of all the clutter and bring the focus back to pure writing. Perhaps this plan will backfire, in which case I’ll just re-evaluate it at the start of next month.

Wish me luck!

 

Though I wrote very little for the month of June, I did write some, and here is a snippet from that work. Enjoy!

The next day William digs some burlap sacks out of their gear and throws them in a pile on the ground, next to his cutlass and field journal.

“How many sugarcanes are out there?” Clara asks him.

“I think it actually is just ‘sugarcane,’ even when you’re talking about more than one.”

“What?”

“Never mind, it doesn’t matter.”

“Oh, so how many sugarcanes are there.”

“No, see, if there is just one sugarcane you just say ‘one sugarcane.’ And if there are two sugarcane you still just say ‘two sugarcane.’ Just like ‘one sheep,’ and ‘two sheep.'”

“So how many…”

“Sugarcane.”

“…sugarcane are there?”

“Well…I didn’t count their number exactly, but back when I was taking inventory of the island I did estimate what I saw. A few dozen here, about a hundred there, and so on. In any case there’s more than a thousand of them.”

“More than a thousand!”

“Or at least there had better be! I’m counting on it!”

“So that we have enough for filling our field?”

“Exactly. Each cane that I bring back should give us about four or five setts–that’s what you call the chunk you plant in the ground that the new stalk grows from–and it will take more than sixty-six hundred of those to fill our whole field!”

“Well Daddy is going to be busy all day!” Clara laughs to Eleanor, who is now walking up to the two.

“Aren’t we all, and every day?”

“Yes, and with no holidays,” Clara pouts.

“Now that is a problem” William concedes. “But for now, the cane isn’t going to wait.” He picks up all of the supplies that he has prepared, kisses his wife and daughter goodbye, and treks off for the first cluster.

Update on My Novel: Month 13

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

MAY STATS

Days Writing: 10
New Words: 2751
New Chapters: 1

Total Word-count: 45,743
Total Chapters: 13

Well, May wasn’t a great month for working on the blog, but I don’t really feel too bad about it. To explain why, I think there is something I need to make clear. Writing my novel is not a relaxing exercise for me. It is work. I don’t mind that it is work, it is work that I very much want to do, even work that I need to do, but it is still work. It is the same with these blogs. I enjoy doing them, but they still require real work.

Writing my novel and blogs only happens because I have made peace with the fact that I am going to work my full-time job, and then I am going to work some more. I will work my full-time job for pay, and work my writing projects for passion.

Sometimes, though, the “work” work takes up more of my time than usual, at which point I don’t have much left in the tank for writing. That was the case with May, where on top of my regular hours I have been applying to and interviewing with other companies, looking for a new job. This can be quite an involved process. In my particular profession, each company that takes your application under consideration requires you to undergo a programming assessment, which usually take around 2 hours to complete, in addition to all the standard interviewing steps. Pretty soon looking for a new job becomes its own part-time job.

I could have crammed novel-work on top of the rest, but I think I would have grown to resent it. I frankly needed more of a break at the end of each day. And thus I’m actually pretty pleased with getting 10 days and a whole chapter completed during the month.

There is one thing that I think I could do better in how I approach my novel-work though. I find that if I don’t want to write for my full goal of 30 minutes, then I give up writing at all for that day. I don’t like that. From now on I am going to track two numbers: full writing days, and partial writing days. If I feel I cannot write a full 30 minutes one day, I’ll still try to talk myself into doing 15, and count that for a partial writing day.

So what are my goals for June? Well, the good news is that I did end up getting that new job. As in, just this morning I signed the agreement! So hopefully things will be a bit more back to normal. I’m going to shoot for 21 days, hopefully each as full-writing days, but at the very least as a mixture of partial and full.

Before I go, here’s a snippet from the work I did manage to get done during May. Enjoy!

Thus begins a very slow process of watching and waiting. The puddle fills out the bottom of the main channel quickly enough, and then starts to lift itself from flatness into fuller definition. The family is transfixed by the swelling, slow as it is, and silently stare on as the void is filled.

 

After it reaches a certain height, the water in the main line starts to tease at the mouth of each irrigation trench. It begins to reach down them, like fingers that are curious, but oh-so-cautious. The water does not flow merrily down these channels yet, rather all of its moisture is spent only in permeating the dry earth there, preparing the way for later, bolder incursions. It creates the illusion that a damp mud is spreading through the soil, extending itself down each trench by pure osmosis.

 

Only after the soil has had its considerable thirst quenched in this manner do small, thread-like trickles of water glide over the freshly sealed mud.

 

Later on…


Now that each trench has filled the entirety of its length, all that remains is for them to rise to their fullest height. The family stand and turn their heads side-to-side, watching the progress ebb and flow through each lane. Now this one pulls ahead of its neighbors, then slows down as its trench widens suddenly. Now this one takes the lead as the eddies from the mainline bring an extra wave rippling down its length, then lapses as the same eddy moves on, sucking some of the water back out.

 

It is hypnotizing to see the mass at work, as if with a mind of its own. Sometimes it seems a single unit, other times a chorus of individual voices. No one questions whether observing this process is a worthy use of the family’s time or not. Like the birth of a child, or the death of an elder, it seems an important thing to witness. It is the story of how the veins of their field were brought to life.

 

But then, the exact culmination of the process is impossible to tell in a sequence such as this. For the irrigation system comes near to being filled to the brim…even nearer…nearer still…and then, all at once, the family realizes that each irrigation line has already reached its full depth, and they aren’t sure when exactly the system crossed the line from “very, nearly, almost complete” to “complete,” but it has!

Update on My Novel: Month 12

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

 

APRIL STATS

Days Writing: 12
New Words: 3747
New Chapters: 1.25

Total Word-count: 42,497
Total Chapters: 12

 

Well, the main takeaway from April is that I did not get as much done as I had hoped. Out of the 22 days that I meant to write, I ended up with only 12. There were reasons for that. I had come to rely on a regular daily routine which got thrown out the window with COVID-19 and all that that entails. I wouldn’t say that I had less time to write because of it, but just that my usual cues of when to write were harder to pick up on.

More than that, though, we had a family project which consumed a lot of time, and after I had missed a few days in a row it became very easy to say “well, April is ruined, let’s just not worry about it anymore.”

Which is not the mentality I want to have with this project. I’ve always wanted the freedom to be able to say “this day is crazy, today I can’t write,” but in that case I want the next day to truly be a new day, not just an extension of the last. So I’m a bit disappointed in myself for giving up on a whole half-month because of one unforeseen disruption.

That being said: today is truly a new day, it doesn’t need to be an extension of the last. I can be both disappointed in how things went last month, and also let it go and not be bogged down by it.

With May I already have a couple things on the calendar that I know are going to limit my capacity to write, so I’m only going to set a goal for 19 days. And if I miss one of those, then I’m going to make a goal to try and get right back into a fresh perspective for the next day.

Before I leave, I wanted to start sharing small snippets of my work with each of these updates. I will try to choose things that are still “hot off the presses,” but that does mean they will still be a bit raw, and not quite in their final form. Here’s a little something that I put together during the last weeks of April.

 

“Your mother and siblings had a garden when you were a child?” Clara asks Eleanor as they work.

“Yes, both to grow our own food, and also to sell at the market.”

“Did your father ever help you?”

Eleanor laughs. “Well there was one time. He had a wealthy customer come in to pick up an order, and the two got to talking, and the man told him all about a new fruit that was coming to our country from the wilds of Africa! Large, red, and juicier than any other fruit on earth!”

“What was it?”

“Watermelon!”

“Watermelon? But I’ve had watermelon.”

“Yes, because it migrated to our country during your father’s childhood and mine. We had never seen it before then.”

“I suppose that makes sense. Father said saffron and vanilla never grew here before we planted them either.”

“Yes, it was just like that. But my father heard about this new fruit and desperately wanted to try it. So he came to the market with us the very next day and found a man that was selling seeds for it. He took them home and planted them that night. Every day, after he closed up shop, he’d come out and tend to them. Never asked the rest of us to look out for them, in fact he wouldn’t hear of it. I think he was proud to have his own special project.”

“And was he pleased when they grew?”

“Well they never did. After the first week without so much as a sprout mother began asking if he wanted any help. Which of course he took as a slight against his honor,” Eleanor smiles in amusement. “So he refused, of course, and then it became a matter of us teasing him each day, asking when he was going to let those who knew how take a look after the crop. He must have tried a hundred different ways to get some life out of those seeds, but there was never so much as a green stem to show for it all.”

Eleanor pauses and looks to the horizon, her face shifting halfway from amusement towards ruefulness as the memories of those bygone days play through her mind. She stays a moment caught between the two emotions, then leans back to her work and continues with the story.

“It was a big joke to us for a while, but then we forgot all about it that winter…for that was the winter he got sick and passed away. The next year watermelon started showing up in earnest, and we finally got to see what all the fuss was about. I still remember the shock when I tried my first piece.”

“Shock?”

“The seeds were not the same as what my father had planted the year prior.”

“What had he planted?”

“To this day I do not know, the man at the market had swindled him.”

“Oh…that’s sad.”

“It is…” Eleanor agrees “and yet my father maintained a good humor through it all, and I honestly believe he would have been very tickled by the final punchline, if he had only been around to see it. So I’m not bitter about the setback he had, I only wish I could have heard his laugh at the end.”