Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Long Weekend

I spent Saturday walking around the local mall, looking for a touch of inspiration (and maybe some diversion or other). At that time I was still sifting through a number of possible plot generators in my head.

These were all "baby ideas", mind you. These weren't "adult" ideas, the kinds that arrive at your doorstep all made out and demanding that you paint the town red. No, these were "baby" ideas, the kinds that lie in a basket while you read the tear-sodden note from the unwilling young mother who probably doesn't exist.

With "baby" ideas, the basic plot is there. It looks cute, it looks workable, and it looks like it'll let you get a handle on things. The problem comes about the moment you bring it home, when it starts crying and throwing tantrums and generally messing up the place. That's when you realize that you probably didn't think things over as much as you would have wanted to. That's when you regret not having gone into this without a plan in mind.

(I'd like to take this moment to say that I have absolutely nothing about babies in particular. Bear with me on the metaphors; it's been a rough day.)

So at 3:00pm last Saturday, I decided to throw everything out of my head and start fresh. I paid for two hours' advance at a small internet café, staked out an empty spot in a quiet corner, opened this blog and started scribbling the first thing that came to mind.

About a hundred minutes later, I had a thousand words. What idiot writes a thousand words of meaningless fiction in one sitting, anyway? By that point my computer time was running out, the sky was darkening with the threat of rain, and I desperately felt like chewing on something edible. So I went home and just hoped that the story would keep my interest till at least later that night.

I was only able to get back to the story at around 10:00pm, and to my surprise, the narrative sounded fluid enough to work. So I kept at it, and by two in the morning, I had over two thousand words to my credit.

Two thousand words. You have no idea how nice that sounds. Two thousand words implies that the story is beyond a passing fancy. Two thousand words says, plainly and simply, that you decided to invest a good chunk of your life into the work, and that turning back now would result in a lot of wasted time and effort. Two thousand words is magic.

I stayed home practically the whole of Sunday. I got a nasty scare when I turned on the computer shortly after waking up, and found that I couldn't write anything. After lunch, however, I got back into my peculiar narrative rhythm, and I chalked up that morning's miscue to morbid fatigue. By two in the afternoon I hit three thousand words. By two-thirty I had a another five hundred.

Then the Pirates of the Caribbean movie came on TV, and I got distracted by Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley (not necessarily in that order). Creative movies are the bane of any writing binge; their images flood through your mind so fast that you can't tell which ideas are which anymore, and you can't shut off the stupid TV because the show is so darn compelling. I was still stuck at three thousand six hundred words by the time the sun went down, so I shut off the computer and gorged myself on Cheetos and Pepsi MAX or a while.

I emerged from my gluttonous episode sometime after dinner, at which point I told myself that I needed to finish the stupid story before I went to bed. I didn't want to panic like the last time; while panic might make for some good writing every now and then, you don't want to end up editing the results. I ended up sitting myself on a hard swivel-chair for the next five or six hours; pounding out words, phrases and sentences on a stubborn keyboard; wondering just where the story was going and how it was supposed to end.

I finished at two in the morning, a hard-bitten veteran of over six thousand words. Then, because I was also a closet masochist, I spent the next one-and-a-half hours reading the silly thing and making millions of adjustments to every tiny detail.

I did the same thing again when I woke up around noon that Monday. I can be the most obsessive-compulsive man when it comes to my stories, and once you factor six thousand words into the mix, then you get a writer who moves with all the speed of a turtle and all the grace of a house on fire.

I had bought a ream of bond paper specifically for this occasion. That gave me good reason to watch my agonizingly slow printer for two full hours while it scanned my words to paper and spat them out into a plastic tray. Between the printing, the paper, the clips, the envelopes, the application form, the formatting and the CD, I needed about three whole hours just to get everything ready. I whiled away the time by reading the piece again and cursing myself every time I encountered a mistake that I could no longer correct.

Then, because I could no longer wait to get rid of the cause of my suffering, I threw the envelope into the back seat of a car and drove it to Fully Booked headquarters. I handed it off to a polite young gentleman who obviously didn't belong in customer service, but who was nevertheless nice enough to help me double-check my requirements.

Finally I went home and collapsed on the bed.

Two thousand words will drive you. Three thousand words will spur you on. Six thousand words will leave you a wet dishrag on its way to the bottom of the sewer.

And people get impressed at the fact that I do this to relax.



Dominique said...

Best of luck, Sean!

Ida said...

Congratulations (in advance)! ;)

Charles said...


banzai cat said...

"Two thousand words will drive you. Three thousand words will spur you on. Six thousand words will leave you a wet dishrag on its way to the bottom of the sewer.'

And the fun part is that YOU DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN! ;-)

P.S. Good luck to all of us man!

kyutbabe said...

Just curious, how many pages did those six thousand words span?

Just being a concerned citizen, minimize the junk food and softdrink intake. It's for your own good.

Dominique said...

Kyutbabe: I suppose it depends on the font and spacing. But assuming it's double-spaced and Courier 12, that would be roughly 24 pages. Those parameters average out to around 250 words per page.

Sean said...

All: Thanks. Too bad it's too long to submit to any other publication... when I tried editing it in cold blood, I ended up adding a hundred more words to the mix.

And Dominique is right on the money... the work came out to 24 pages, double-spaced at Times New Roman 12. (250 words per double-spaced page, moreover, is about average for me.)