Staying Productive

I’m proud of myself–although it’s way too soon to start patting myself on the back.  I have been able to maintain my five pages per day for National Novel Writing Month.  I was even especially virtuous yesterday.  I came home Friday night and was just too exhausted to spend any time at the typewriter, so I fell asleep in bed just after 20/20–although I fully intended to watch the news up until the weather (I have less than zero interest in sports), and then plod down the hall and start typing.

But I didn’t.  Steph had a choir retreat yesterday, so she was up at the crack of dawn.  I was going to lounge around in bed for awhile, but I decided to be conscientious.  Once she was out the door, I went into the office and went to work on my daily five pages.  At nighttime, once Susie was in bed and Steph had fallen asleep over the rebroadcast of The Bionic Woman, I slipped out of the bedroom and did another five pages.  So I am maintaining my quota.

I am realistic enough to know that I’m going to have to apply the blue pencil big-time with this project once November is over.  It’s a repeat of an issue that I had about 20 years ago, when I was at work on another manuscript that, by the time I had stopped working on it, took up 1.5 typing paper boxes.  I had set myself a quota of 10 pages per day.  Usually I was pretty good at keeping it, and sometimes I would even exceed it, spending many hours at the typewriter while neglecting meals and work.  Years later, I reread the manuscript and realized just how often I was typing lots of garbage and excess verbiage just for the purpose of making quota.  I’m doing some of this now, and I know that a lot of what I will write this November will end up on the cutting room floor, but it’s word tonnage that counts now.

If you’ve been following this blog thus far, you must be aware of my admiration for the movie Henry Fool.  Falling in love again with the manual typewriter has gone a long way in breaking my writer’s block, but sometimes the tools don’t even have to be that sophisticated.  Here is a scene from Henry Fool that replicates–up to a point–the first step I took in writing this novel for the contest:

INT. THE GRIM HOUSE KITCHEN — NIGHT

               Moments later.

               Simon comes downstairs into the quiet, dark kitchen and sits
               at the table. He listens to the traffic on the highway and
               stares off into space. Finally, he takes the notebook Henry
               gave him from his pocket and places it before him. But then
               he just gazes off into the dim living-room and scratches his
               head. Returning his attention to the notebook, he digs down
               into his pocket and retrieves his short stub of pencil.

               He opens the notebook and carefully flattens back the cover.
               Lifting the pencil, he pauses and stares at the blank page.
               Then, after more intense hesitation, he brings the pencil’s
               dull tip to the very top left edge of the page and begins
               writing in a slow, laborious hand.

               INT. THE GRIM HOUSE KITCHEN — DAY

               The next morning.

               Henry barges in the kitchen door with two containers of coffee
               and some jelly donuts. Simon jumps up from where he sits
               asleep over his notebook at the table.

                                     HENRY
                         Good morning, Simon! Glorious day,
                         huh? Here, have a donut. Can you
                         lend me twenty dollars?

               Simon rubs the sleep from his eyes, blinks, disoriented and
               reaches for his wallet.

                                     HENRY
                         Thanks. Where’s the library in the
                         scruffy little burgh?

                                     SIMON
                              (handing him cash)
                         Down the highway about a mile and a
                         half and then make a left.

                                     HENRY
                         Excellent! I’m polishing up the final
                         chapters of my ‘Confession’ and I
                         need a reasonably well-stocked
                         reference section.

               He lifts up Simon’s notebook.

                                     HENRY
                         What’s this?

               Simon hesitates, shyly.

                                     SIMON
                         I thought. Um. I was. I wanted to.
                         Maybe.

               He gives up, sighs and gazes at the floor. Henry flips through
               the book, impressed. It is full from cover to cover, every
               page dense with Simon’s cryptic scrawl. Henry frowns,
               intrigued. Then…

                                     HENRY
                         Can I take this?

               Simon looks up, terrified. But his friend puts him at ease.

                                     HENRY
                         I’ll correct the spelling.

Susie has read about half of The Sad Hospital since I finished it.  I Xeroxed it at work so that Steph would have a copy to proofread–had to make it darker because the ribbon on that typewriter is on its last legs.  She’s fascinated by it, especially since she has lived some of it.  The main character in the story is a girl named Michele, which happens to be Susie’s middle name.

After I’m done with my five pages, I don’t dare touch anything until I’ve scrubbed my hands, surgeon-style.  The ribbon on my Royal Royalite keeps jumping out of the slot, so I’m forever replacing it so I can keep typing.  I’ve already had to gear down my speed, which is probably a good thing–I get to think more about what’s going on the paper–but constantly having to adjust the ribbon is quite frustrating.

I wrote two poems this morning while I was waiting for and riding the bus.  I used the 2008 date book that the Industrial Commission gave me.  (They also gave me an ’08 calendar pad, which I will use.)

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