My project for February 2015 is to write or revise four short stories, one a week. A few stories are languishing in first drafts, and several more are jotted ideas. I need to finish some stuff.
The first will be a revision, but I haven't decided which story yet. I've narrowed it down to two.
My January 2015 project was to finish my NaNoWriMo 2014 novel, with at least 50,000 words. It didn't work out that way. This is a good thing.
I started by creating an outline from what I had written so far, intending to extrapolate from this into a full novel outline. However, this summary revealed some big flaws. My main character was a non-entity. People took drastic actions with insufficient motivation. Stakes escalated much too rapidly.
This novel was in trouble.
I started a new notebook, a journal really, for this novel, and begin thinking in its pages. First, the main character. He never displayed strong emotion, not even when we were in his head as catastrophes unfolded. He never acted on his own initiative. He had no personality. How to fix?
Then I realized: he wasn't necessary to the story. And if he wasn't necessary, he wasn't the main character.
So I decided to kill him off in the prologue. This actually gave him a reason to be there, and the circumstances of his death would grant him a bit of personality -- not much, but enough for a bit player.
Now I had to figure out who was the main character. The two strong candidates were the dead guy's wife, and their youngest daughter. After some more thinking-in-ink, I settled on the wife, partly because I'm not writing a YA novel.
Then I took a look at every important character, asking the following questions:
- Is this character needed?
- If so, what role does this character play?
- What is this character's story? (Meaning from well before the action begins, up until novel's conclusion or the character's death, whichever happens first.)
This exercise, which took days, helped both untangle and develop the plot.
Somewhere among all this, I realized I didn't want to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I wanted to write a good novel, however long it took.
So this novel will be an ongoing project. I hope to finish the first draft this year, and I'm certainly creating some goals along the way. (I almost wrote "milestones," then remembered I'm not in the office and don't have to use day job jargon.)
Meanwhile, I'll still be doing my other 12 Projects stuff.
In 2014, I took on a project I called "I-Made-A-Thing-365" -- "making" a "thing" for every day of the year.
What did I gain from the experience?
- A handful of poems and artworks (of the many I produced) that are worth hanging onto.
- Some insight into my own obsessions and habits, e.g.:
- I brood over questions of epistemology and ontology more than I realized.
- I do better at visual art when I start with no idea of where I'm going.
- I too often go for cheap irony.
- I overuse lists.
- Knowledge about technique -- mostly writing technique, but some technical, some visual art.
- Confirmation of my theory that the best way to make decent art is to make a lot of art. ("Decent" here being measured on the scale of what I'm capable of producing, not on an absolute scale.)
- A lot of fun.
For 2015, I plan something different. Still in the makery area, but with both more structure and more variety. Every month I will take on a different project. I have some ideas -- more than 12 of them -- but I'll choose a month's project only when the month begins. (Except for April, which is always devoted to writing a poem a day.)
To start with...
Back in November, I failed miserably at NaNoWriMo. November's always a hard month for me to set aside huge chunks of time, and it was especially so in 2014.
So my January, 2015 project is MyNoWriMo. A novel of at least 50,000 words.
And since it's not an official NaNoWriMo project, I'm giving myself the advantage of starting with what I wrote in November.
A poem in celebration of Whan That Aprille Day (http://houseoffame.blogspot.com/2014/03/maken-melodye-on-whan-that-aprille-day.html). Elizabethan English is the oldest tongue I can attempt with confidence.
WHAT TIME APRIL
What time April, with its pollen thick,
Doth make hale people wan and sick,
And batheth ev'ry nose in such ichor
As the wind flingeth from ev'ry flower,
When teeth do throb, and wretched eyeballs bake,
Ears clog, throats itch, and ev'ry part doth ache,
When small birds sing, while people snort and hack,
Oh, then folk long to beck fell winter back,
Whose blast they well could meet with windows tight,
And take a nip to numb the season's bite.
-- Carl Bettis
...what I call a 5-7-5 syllabic poem that's more epigram than haiku.
A black ice morning:
I drive my daughter to school
at six miles per hour.
WHAT I DO
Planted well back from the water,
I sling weighted hooks
into the lake mud,
hoping to drag
into the air
a fighting bottom feeder.
I never learned to swim.
-- Carl Bettis
Is his life better, the anti-me who
says all that I smother? He's lost
more jobs, more friends, more lovers:
he's had more to lose. I have
what he will not: I stay.
One career, one home, one tribe.
He ends up always hated
for his nakedness; those
who surround me love,
deeply, my camouflage.
(Image by Carl Bettis)
The Overthinker's Love Song Lost Love Lament
([Once only] [That ([night] [other life]) when])
([the land] [we]) sank
([out of ([sight] [the sun])] [under the stars])
and ([our clothes] [your dress]) ([([fell] [dropped] [sank]) to] [landed on]) [¿ the floor ?], and
-- I miss the taste of you.
Somewhere, someone who long ago
knew me is now
not looking for me.
A stream of consciousness poem. Possibly one my therapist would find informative.
the doorman of the forest fire
has come down in the world he once
composed sounds for power
tools and industrial machines
as his grandfather had for
steam engines and extinct birds
his brother is a hospital gnome
with a habit of hiding
in habits of addicts or nuns
he's cute and only
by moonlight looks sinister
he could easily find garden
work but will forgive
no plot that is not Eden
they've never seen their mother
who sells to tourists
mud from the graves
of killers and ivy
from their headstones
in a little shop
made of flannel
deep in the forest
filling with smoke
(Image: Glore Psychiatric Museum, St. Joseph, MO; photo by Carl Bettis)