Thursday, February 21, 2008

Writing and Anniversaries

Today is the 5th month anniversary of Dad's death. We talked about it at lunch yesterday. Not that anyone remembered but me until we spoke about it. I am the keeper of sacred memories I think.

It came up because I was talking about my writing and how I had discovered something surprising. What surprised me was the date that my brother and his wife and I attended a national reunion just before I started my caregiving career. It was November 6, 1998. That was the nearest date to November 2nd which was the 217th anniversary of the murder of the man from whom my last name is taken. And that was significant to me then and is now, too.

But then I could only look back from 1998 and now I can look back from now. And when I do I see that my mother died 3 years to the day after that reunion. I don't know why I never made that connection before but it surprised me.

I don't know how to write really. I have read some books about writing just recently. Several have been recommended to me by Betsy and Joanne and others. And there are a lot of recommendations on the Internet sites and all over Amazon. But I can't do a lot of the stuff that other writers do. I just start writing. Words fall out of my mind and somehow end up on the screen and about 99% of the time I don't like them very much and they get replaced with new ones. Then I leave it alone awhile and when I return to it I sometimes like it and keep it and sometimes I start over entirely and often I change something here and there.

And that happens every time I return. What else happens is that I remember more detail about whatever it is. Sometimes what I've written will be exactly wrong and more often it will be somewhat wrong. Always it is incomplete because it is just not possible really to convey much by words.

Writing is a lot like programming for me and more so than just typing out words. I don't really know how to do programming either. I've studied programming and read a huge number of books about it. But for the most part I just start writing my programs. At first it is all chaos. It is chaos to everyone else and it is to me, too. It scares people who have not seen me do it before because they can't usually see how something usable will ever arise from the chaos. It used to scare me, too. But I've done it so much now that I know the chaos stage has to happen. I don't know why.

Writing is like that, too, for me. First there is the chaos stage. I have some idea of where we (the writing and me that is) age going but it is only vague and incomplete and fragmented. At some point though the outline stage begins to break through the crust of the chaos. Then I begin to see the entire work unfold in my mind. After that happens it is more a matter of me recording what I see. There are surprises along the way and some branches require pruning and some are false starts and don't support themselves and die.

I was thinking how much my caregiving was this way, too. Except there was more chaos and it kept reappearing along the way. And reading all the books about what to do and how to do it didn't really help me all that much either. I had to find my own way to do it.

Yesterday was interesting though because I finally gave up and bought a copy of Microsoft Word 2007. My laptop didn't come with it but had Word Perfect instead. And I had Open Office, too, and a bunch of other editors and word processor programs. And they all worked but I kept running into things in my publishing research that were distinctive to Microsoft Word so I finally gave up and bought a copy. The version I had on my desktop which I hardly ever use anymore was Word 2003. Well Word 2007 is a lot different. I think it actually may be better but it is different enough that I am having to spend a lot of time figuring out how to use it.

Still I made a lot of progress yesterday. I decided on my trim size. I'm going to use 5.25" x 8" and that's important because that sets the maximum word count and the maximum number of pages. Because I'm planning on using print on demand technology and I'll probably use Amazon's BookSurge. The maximum word count for that size is 230,000. So yesterday I managed another 700 words bringing me to just under 1%. I spent an enormous number of hours yesterday but most of it was figuring out how to use my tools. Still my 2,100 words or so probably has taken about 10 hours. At that rate and if I hit the 230,000 words I have about 1,100 hours of writing ahead of me. And that's assuming these 2,100 I have remain which is far from certain.

But Judy told me I should read about Margaret Mitchell who wrote "Gone With The Wind" and won a Pulitzer Prize for it.

Judy is smart.


nancy said...

just wanted to let you know i am thinking of you today.

best of luck to you with your writing. i love your title. just keep at it, i can't wait to read the finished product. and of course, keep us posted along the way.

Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Keep putting those words down. You'll be at 100% in no time. :D Glad you're doing this, Terry. I'm looking forward to reading the finished product as well.

*(·¸*Chris*¸·)* said...

I so cannot wait to read this. What a treat:) Of course, you could put some teasers on your blog??

~Betsy said...

I know I sound like a broken record, but just keep writing. Edits can come later.

Everything I have ever written (that was suitable for publication), was written entirely in my head first. At times it is chaos and other times it is as clear as can be.

Good luck!