78 prewrite

when i started this fiction project, i thought it’d be as long as the how-to-be-sober book (40,000). so i started to write this one, 40,000 words in 100 days, seems easy enough.

as i go along, i realize that it’s not easy.

but i keep going.

then i get to about the halfway mark (20,000 words) and realize it’s not long enough. Extend the 40,000 to 55,000.

sounds like being sober. started for 30 days, extended to 90, then ‘just a bit longer’ and today i’m on day 1,980.

ok, then i did some research on the length of fiction books? gulp. unless it’s a novella, regular length is 70,000 to 100,000. yeah, no shit. good thing i didn’t know that when i started or i wouldn’t have started. (if i think i’m quitting drinking FOREVER then i’ll never start, too large, won’t finish, too much.)

but if i start off heading towards 40,000, then extend it a bit, and now here i am realizing that there’s a big chunk of book left, that is still EASIER than any of the other options.

just begin. move the deadline. go a bit further. then you can SEE further out, and it’s not so scary.

ok, so that means i will not have a first draft of the novel finished in 100 days after all. i’ll have a big part of it done, though, 22 days from now.

don’t know how i’ll write it after the 100 days, i may keep going for a bit, or take some time off (a couple of days?). i know how that sounds though, even to me. it sounds like “if you have momentum, then keep going. it’s easier to keep going than to stop and start. yes, even if it’s christmas day. yes, even if travelling. yes even if it’s your birthday, yes, even if.”

and as tempting as it might be to say “i’ll just pause for a few minutes and then start again when I FEEL LIKE IT, you and i both know that ‘feeling like it’ is generated by ALREADY BEING IN MOTION. you don’t feel like it before you start. you feel like it once you’re underway, and you’re making progress, and you’re solving problems, and you’re celebrating milestones.

you know.

how everything is like everything.

76 prewrite

it took until day 74 for me to change the schedule. for 73 days, i got up and wrote first thing. afraid that it wouldn’t happen otherwise. and didn’t want it on my to-do list all day in case something else happened to hijack my time.

then on day 74 i changed things. it didn’t seem like a big deal (it was only 3 days ago) but now i realize – duh, of course – it takes time for the new thing to feel reliably possible, to not feel like you’re pushing a truck uphill.

i might have thought it would be around 60 days, but – well, in this case, it’s 73.

last week i had very busy catering, and still wrote every morning, first thing. one night i was in bed, writing out my plan for the next day, i thought: what if i ran first, then wrote. what if i got up, no headphones, no podcasts, no distractions, no email. just get up, run and then write.

did that sunday and monday and again today. and the difference is subtle, but impactful.

and you might say, well no shit sherlock, everyone feels better after 10 minutes of exercise.

and i would say, yes, but to begin, i could only do one thing at a time. i could only write. i couldn’t vary or alter the schedule. I wrote first, then ran.

Now i can run first, then write.

i had something that was working (writing, sobriety), and i was too nervous to fuck with it. when you don’t allow yourself even one failed day, then you HAVE to come up with coping strategies, and this was mine: don’t change anything.

get one successful day and repeat.

repeat for how long? until you know that it’s ok to move the schedule around a bit.

how long does that take? in my case, this time, 73 days.

day 76 of continuous fiction writing today. never been here before.

68 prewrite (the tunnel)

yesterday i moved my laptop from my desk to the dining room table, which seemed to open up some ‘mental’ space. also the dining room table is cleaner than my desk, so i don’t feel so hemmed in.

also, last night, husband was out (as he often is), but instead of hiding in my office corner facing the wall, i was out here, at the table, and the apartment was dark around me, and it was just me, and i put on the fairy lights around the mirror, and i started to write.

no kidding. i found the portal/tunnel back into the story in the evening, 8-9:30 pm ish.

thus far, i’ve been writing mornings. first thing. get it done. but also writing to a deadline every day.

last night, just went into the tunnel and stayed there until it spit me out.

this is only significant because i USED to write at night, when i was single, when i was in grad school, and i used to get into the tunnel by drinking one beer on an empty stomach and sitting in the dark and waiting.

and last night, that wormhole opened up again. sans alcohol. sans husband. lights off (husband always has the lights on, i turn them off as soon as he leaves, he watches tv with the lights on, which for me ruins the ‘effect’).

and it only took 67 days to find this wormhole. that’s a long time. too easy to get discouraged in that time. too easy to decide that it’s not worth it, that it’s not working, that it’s working but not well, that it’s good but not great, that i could be doing something else (sleeping).

but to write at night means i can skip the 6:15 a.m. alarm. it also means i might start sleeping through the night again (last night, awake twice, once about rayna, once about catering this week, don’t forget the lemon and sugar ‘sand’ on the cake says my head, in bed, at night).

from DG yesterday about my ‘tense’ samples:

My input, while still just an opinion, is: “snarky narrator tense” sounds too much like your blogging. You must know that I love your blogging. Your writing style drew me in from the first day I found your blog. I identified with your experience and vernacular. This idea coalesced for me when I finished reading the last snarky tense sample and moved on to your prewrite. The snarky paragraph transitioned into the prewrite and I felt no distinction in form. By the way, I really enjoy the prewrite. Anyway. Just my 2¢. 

and my reply: perhaps snarky narrator (sample #6) is the closest to my real voice, if it sounds like my blogging. perhaps that’s my true voice.

of course, that does NOT mean i should write a novel using my blogging voice. but it might be a place to start for a first draft, and then flip things later.

tired. cautiously optimistic.


66 prewrite

it’s an error to read your email first thing in the morning. i’ll leave it at that. <le sigh>.

clear and sunny day, 9:05 a.m., coffee ready. will do my writing and then go for a run.

yesterday was a particularly good day – enough sleep, a rare break from catering (this week upcoming will be full-on). I did some food puttering (stuff that didn’t need to be done but was fun to do, including some bread left to rise overnight in the fridge, that did just that, and ballooned up into a space alien, so i have to work on that recipe clearly, and my husband will eat anything). i did some cleaning. i wore my fuzzy socks. i read an old magazine from february (New Yorker) in the tub for an hour.

and i thought about rayna and what happens next all day. i woke through the night with ideas and i could hear bits of conversation.

then it’s morning, i’m in bed at 8:15, and i think “this will never work, i don’t know what to do, this is a dumb idea, why am i doing this to myself, if i just wrote when i felt like it that’d be never, well i can do 100 days and then quit.” and part of the problem is that – like early sobriety with a bit of momentum – i can now see how much else needs to be done. i can see now, literally, the whole second book. i realize that there are more threads in this book that will lead to other stories. i thought the second book would be a new character set, maybe the head of google has a booze problem, that kind of thing. but now i realize that rayna and mel and beet and laz and jack and steve and don and her sister annie, and her parents, are all in this too. and i want to know more about them. maybe they each get a book. or maybe …

and maybe this writing in front of the world thing – i do love it – but it’s new, and maybe i’d like to talk about the process of this to some other writer groups, so maybe the NEXT book i do i’ll do some more ‘promotion’ first … and then i think, for fuck’s sake. write day 66. and then go for a run.

madly off in all directions.

familiar boozer traits.

this book thing is the closest parallel to quitting drinking that i’ve had since i quit drinking. it all ain’t pretty. BUT there are 66 days of accumulated writing, not perfect, but day after day strung together. and some of the biggest ‘how to’ problems i’ve been learning while in motion (the temptation of course is to stop and learn things and then research some more and then ‘begin all over again because i’ve started wrongly’). i continue to switch between third person present (Rayna sees) and third person past (Rayna saw), and first person present (I see), and first person past (I saw). none of them seem right (yet). i have to be ok with it not being right (yet).

some days i’m better at that than others.

today on my run, i will buy skinny multi-coloured heirloom carrots, a shoulder of pork (to make pulled-pork mid-week), and a bucket of greek yogurt for my husband. not enough treats for me: ok, i’ll add raspberries. and flowers).

not enough treats.

not enough back-patting.

65 prewrite

from me, prewrite:

i am now wearing my new fuzzy writing socks. they are soft and thin. they may last one season. maybe you’re supposed to get new socks every so often. maybe, like other tools, they wear out and they need to be upgraded continuously, augmented. why would i think that one pair of house socks would last forever, but more to the point, why would i continue to wear them once they had holes in them and my big toe was sticking out. it’s not about poverty, it’s not about deprivation, it’s about flat-out laziness in the self-care department. really. new socks.

like you, having two favourite sober podcast episodes that you listen to all time, so much so that eventually you have it memorized, can repeat all the words forwards and backwards. you could download a new episode. ooh no, i have these already. (or even better, “i tried socks, they don’t work for me.” did you try new socks, these ones over here? “no, they won’t work either.”)

well for 7 euros i have fuzzy socks. ok, that’s probably 2 bucks more than i would have liked. but really. based on a comparison to what? where is the price referential coming in? i’m ok to spend 17 euros on a lentil salad yesterday (very good, reliably lovely bakery, but stupidly expensive) but i’m not ok spending 7 on socks when the ones i have have holds in them.

what if the new tool WORKS, what’s it worth then? what if these socks have sober super powers and as docsam says “they can be your Writing Socks and give you special abilities to foreshadow and sprinkle conflict and develop characters. :)” then every time i look down at my feet, i remember. just like what if the new bracelet works, and every time you look at it you remember what you’re doing, and why.

if the first tool has holes in it from overuse, then augment it with a new one. even if you love the old socks? wear a thinner layer underneath. keep the old socks. that’s fine. just don’t have your toes sticking out!

64 prewrite

as i was writing out today’s tentative schedule while in bed last night (up at 6:15, write, run, emails, go to specialty food store to buy yeast and dried cranberries and smoked paprika and non-stick spray for baking pans…) i was trying to think of what i’d like for a treat today. i had flowers last week (as if that matters), i don’t need any kitchen tools (said no baker, ever), i’m too fat for clothes (!), and so on.

you know what this is like, right? i couldn’t find the RIGHT treat. then i remember that it’s not about the right one, it’s about the framing around it.

so i decided on socks. there’s a store near the food place. all of my socks have holes in them, which is fine, because nobody sees my socks. but still. i stopped buying clothes when i got married. 11 years. some strange twist of not wanting to spend the money on myself, or wondering how i can harp on him for being loose with his money, and so i’m ‘showing’ him something by example… when really, what i’m showing is poor self care and holey socks.

anyway. socks today. it has been decided. you? what’s your treat for doing the hard thing?

day 64 today…

63 prewrite

from me:

writing, day 63, seems like a nowhere land kind of place. getting to day 50 was an accomplishment, day 63 feels grey and ‘going nowhere’. which isn’t true, of course, it’s just grey and i can’t see where i’m going (again). how do i wrap up all of these story points between now and christmas eve? will i continue to be able to do this day after day? yesterday i didn’t write until noon (for the first time, that late) because i slept in until 11 am. and i thought: “yeah, i’m done now. i’m not writing today, I don’t FEEL like it.”

oh yeah, waiting to feel like it. as if that ever worked for anyone ever.

and then i did write, and it was fine (again).

so here i am, day 63, in my jammies (of course). i didn’t go outside yesterday. maybe not today either. maybe i don’t go outside again until the weather is better. i’m drinking my coffee. staring at the screen. can’t tell if the next scene is more with dog boy, with mel, ahead to beet. and what does she do with a bag of mussels, now, out in the world. they need to be refrigerated …

i’ll update this in a bit.

sober fiction will live here :)

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Starting on Thursday October 5th

I am trying different. I think that publishing my new fiction novel online, from the beginning, day by day, even though it’s not finished, is an adventure and i’m thinking it’ll help me keep going.

I’m on day 20 of continuous sober fiction writing today, so i feel brave enough to start to share it with you.

because clearly, what i had been trying wasn’t working in terms of getting the fiction project started … take an online class about story writing, but if there’s no participation or homework, then i read it and thank ‘yeah, whatever’ (sort of like all those sober classes/workshops where you read but nothing every happens. they’re missing the PERSON / gentle pressure / accountability part of it. This is why self-study is so tempting. Work at your own pace! Take this class even if you aren’t sober! Sure, that’s tempting. cuz really, they get to take your money and nothing changes for you. sure it’s a good business model (for them), but how does it help YOU.)

and so if this is about me, and the writing thing (just like it’s about you and the sober thing) then i need to (a) have some external gentle pressure, and (b) i need to try different. i keep having these fantastic ideas of what the book will be, and when i can’t see how it all fits together, then i don’t start. i want to see all the way from maine to san francisco while i’m sitting in the parking lot in maine. it’s a snowy morning, blue light, no shit i can’t see where i’m going.

nobody can. we just start. that’s the THING of it. and if i can’t start on my own (no shit) then i involve other people. and i get to PICK the people. like, i don’t post on my catering newsletter that i’m writing a sober fiction book, cuz they just don’t care (and if they have feedback, it wouldn’t be useful). so when you’re looking for sober support, you can do the same: face the people who can actually help.

and if my ‘audience’ for a sober fiction book are sober people, then — hey — that’s you.

so the experiment begins.

i will write here. new posts will be visible for 24 hrs. then i take them down and put up a new one the next day.

you can follow along.

but also, you can be the carrot or stick / cheerleader or heckler / idea-giver or nodding in agreement / hater or lover / bored or engaged reader that everybody needs when writing ?

first installment within the next 24 hrs.

question: Is one of the reasons you don’t read as much, because you don’t have time? maybe getting it day by day, 5 minutes a time would help?