Novel Writing is Cooking; Blogging is Gathering Salad Greens

I’m making measurable progress on the revision of Blessed by Silliness.  In my plan for this rewrite, there are eight sections, twenty-two chapters. This week, I got through (not using the words “done” or “finished” at this point!) Chapter Twelve, the end of Section IV.  Halfway, and it is about 50,000 words.  Having begun this project mid-February, I could be “done,” meaning ready for more editing by the end of June.  Ready to print reader review copies by the end of August.

But, with mowing awaiting, gardens beginning, the dog impatient to play, (Thursday is“Dog Day,” and garden day), the novel racing on, and my caregiver work as delightful and time-consuming as ever, how do I keep my commitment to myself (or anyone following this?) to write five hundred words a week on this blog?  Just now, the Word program has decided not to show the word count for this document automatically for some reason, just to frustrate the exercise!  This is the kind of thing I’m sure everyone who writes runs into, wastes precious time on, and no one else ever cares.  These glitches are the weeds in our gardens.  So, I made the document wider and the word count came back.  This is as satisfying as de-rooting the horsetails in the strawberry bed, my next garden chore.

One tool that’s helping me to organize and make progress on this novel are my lists.  Lists of characters, lists of facts and key phrases in each chapter, timelines of the plot and real time story arcs, charts showing the histories of the two families that merge in their travels.  At the suggestion of my professional editor (thanks, Barbara), I made a big list, which I keep refining, of all the “real time” and “back stories” in this novel.  Doing this helped me see which pieces go together, which can be left out or combined, and how to tame my story jungle.  Working with those lists, I came up with another metaphor for sorting them into a couple more helpful categories.

I call this, in my notes, “Bricks” and “Cooking.”  For the real time stories, the division is between straight-forward travel and theme material.  As for back stories, many are simple and can be presented whole, laid like bricks in a foundation or an outdoor oven.  Most of those are in place in the first half of the book.  Others develop like parts of a meal being collected and prepared for baking, boiling, or putting straight into the fire.  Hearing about Michael Pollen’s new book Cooked, has been great fun.  I haven’t mentioned this on these blogs, but Colbert, The Daily Show, and The PBS Newshour are the TV part of my “tribal” life.  We live in a world where it is easier to feel connected to Bill Clinton or Michael Pollen than to the neighbor (hi Matt!) whom I might want to ask to mow my blackberry patch.

Today, I  blog, the way a cook picks lettuce. Happy salads, eaten raw!


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