I’m going pretty well with my 30 short stories in 30 days thing for NaNoWriMo. I’ve completed about 16 short stories so far this month for about 31,000 words. They sum up, when I store them all in a single file, to 107 pages so far. Not bad. I’m pretty sure I will be able finish on time. I have a good idea for my next novel too – but I’m not going to start on that until later. After all my short stories are first drafted.
In May, I wrote another novel, called Doylestown.
Two young boys spend a lot of time running around the back alleyways of the small but growing town. The story is set in 1905 Doylestown as it grows from a small community with a couple of hotels and a courthouse into a larger, more modern city. The two boy’s fathers are the most prominent doctor and the most prominent lawyer in town. The fathers also spent a large part of their childhood running around the same back alleys.
One of the father’s business associates is murdered. The night before the murder, the two boys, playing spy, as they are wont to do, overhear their fathers arguing with the person who is murdered. She is a third, very prominent member of the community. The boys suspect that their fathers are involved in the murder which causes great tension between them because each is convinced that it is the other boy’s father and not his own who must be involved.
Over time and under pressure from a local woman newspaper reporter the chief of police comes to believe (although not with a high degree of confidence) that the two men are guilty as well. He starts tracking the men. He finds numerous bits of incriminating evidence.
Meanwhile, the young women newspaper reporter has made a friend with a young Mennonite girl who comes frequently with her father to the weekly farmer’s market in town. The young Mennonite girl idolizes the modern women newspaper reporter, which of course is a source of great concern to her father. The newspaper women encourages the young girl to write – says “If you want to become a writer you must do just one thing: write.” The Mennonite girl takes this to heart and starts interviewing everyone she meets.
One of the people she interviews is a local man called Harvey. Harvey is an oddity in the small farming community where Rebecca (the Mennonite girl) lives. He gets everywhere on bicycle. He is a bit ’slow’ but he is very friendly and quite pleasant. Rebecca interviews him and he says that he knows something about “the two men involved with the murder in town.” Rebecca assumes he is talking about the two men, who were arrested in town, but he is not – he is talking about two other men that he knows about. Harvey knows everything about everyone. He spends his entire day riding his bike from farm-to-farm and talking gossip. He knows everyone’s business in the entire community. He hears one piece of information from one person, another from a second person and more from everyone else. Even though he is slow, he knows more about more things than anyone does – and he has a certain slyness that comes through in his interactions with people – maybe he’s not quite as slow as he seems.
Through a series of interactions with Harvey and the younger brother of the two men Harvey is talking about, Rebecca comes to believe that the police have the wrong men. She tells her newspaperwomen friend. She has become acquaintances with the two boys as well through her attendance at the market stall every Saturday. She intends to save the two prominent citizens from the hangman’s noose.
As the story plays out everyone finally comes to realize that the two men where not involved in the murder, however the chief of police wishes to use them as bait to capture the real murders. In a shootout scene in the barn, this is accomplished. Returned to their former prominent positions in town, the two men complete the construction of a beautiful building that becomes a symbol for the town – a beautiful example of the enthusiasm present in 1905 America as it flexed its industrial muscle.
Rebecca returns to the town many years later, having graduated from college as a journalist. The newspaper her friend had worked for many years earlier hires her as a reporter. She stands outside the building at the center of the town that serves as a testament to the two older men and their great friendship when one of the two younger boys (who is now a 25-year-old young man who cuts a very dapper figure) appears behind her. As she admires the building, he introduces himself again. The scene fades to black.
I wrote this book in ten days – from May 1, 2010 to May 10, 2010. Here is a chart of my progress. I find keeping a chart of the number of words I have written each day is an amazingly easy way to motivate myself. Here is the chart:
The yellow bars represent the number of words I wrote each day. The pink line is my progress towards my goal, which is represented by the blue diagonal line. As you can see, I exceeded my target, which was to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I completed 50,000 words in just 10 days. The two days of negative word production are from very slight editing I did to correct some egregious grammar errors using MS Word grammar checker. I lost 200 and 500 words each of the two days I was editing so I stopped because the total went under 50,000.
Someone asked me how good it could possibly be if it took me only 10 days to write. I say, “It’s just a first draft” which is the truth. I went through each scene of the novel in the remaining 20 days of the month of May making a list of all the problem areas I could think of. I now have a list of over 550 different things that I think I can make better in the second draft.
We used to vacation as a family at Beach Haven, NJ. In the summer of 2002, when Emily was five, Nate was four and Katie was one I took along some drawing paper for them to record thier memories in. I transferred all these picture to the following PDF file. It takes a while to download. Just be patient.
I present here and give into the public domain my idea for a new puncuation mark. I call my creation the semi-comma. Due to the fact that I just invented it – it’s use has not been codified but I propose that it be used at the end of any sentence wherein the speaker has forgotten, half-way through, what he/she was going to say.
The top half of the mark is made up of the top half of a question mark, the bottom half of the mark is made up of a comma, thus:
An example in dialog:
Mary: Hi John. How are you?
John: I’m fine – I was just going
John: I don’t remember where I’m going so I quit speaking in mid-sentence.
That’s why, implicitly, with my voice, I inserted a semi-comma in that last sentence.
Please accept this mark as my gift to the world of literature.
I love short stories. I am going to use this post to list any interesting sites I find devoted exclusively to the short story. Clicking on these links will open a new window.
- The Short Story Reading Challenge
- Save the Short Story
- Selected Shorts
- Classic Short Stories
- Story Bites
- Mississippi Writers
- Author’s Calendar
- Journal of the Short Story in English
Author Specific Sites:
- Sherwood Anderson (2)
- Margaret Atwood (2)
- Isaac Babel (2)
- James Baldwin (2)
- Ann Beattie (2)
- Ambrose Bierce (2)
- Heinrich Böll (2)
- Raymond Carver (2)
- Willa Cather (2)
- Geoffrey Chaucer (2)
- John Cheever (2)
- Kate Chopin (2)
- Colette (2)
- Arthur Conan Doyle (2)
- Joseph Conrad (2)
- Stephen Crane (2)
- Charles Dickens (2)
- Fyodor Dostoevsky (2)
- William Faulkner (2)
- F. Scott Fitzgerald (2)
- Nathaniel Hawthorne (2)
- Bessie Head (2)
- Ernest Hemingway (2) (3)
- William Dean Howells (2)
- Henry James (2)
- James Joyce (2)
- Franz Kafka (2)
- Ring Lardner (2)
- D.H. Lawrence (2)
- Clarice Lispector
- H.P. Lovecraft (2)
- Bobbie Ann Mason (2)
- Guy de Maupassant (2)
- Flannery O’Connor (2)
- Edgar Allen Poe (2)
- Saki (H.H. Munro)
- James Thurber (2)
- Leo Tolstoy (2)
- John Updike
- Eudora Welty (2)
I’ve gotten some really weird spam in my life. I’ve been using email for about twenty years so I’ve gone from no spam whatsoever – to getting spam from someone and feeling it was my responsibility to respond back to that person saying “It is really not appropriate to send unsolicited commercial emails” in a polite way assuming that they just did not understand the etiquette of the Internet. Back then we distinguished between unsolicited commercial email and unsolicited non-commercial email. These were the good old days in the early ’90s. Unsolicited non-commercial email with the whole point.
Then I started getting emails that were clearly sent knowing that they were spamming but apologizing for it in the opening of the email: “We know we’re not supposed to do this, but we’re sure you’ll agree this is an exception…” Somewhere along the line people started calling this Spam. At some point the floodgates opened. As a result of all this spam email I’ve learned a lot about Nigeria and have become an expert on penis enlargement (not that I’ve ever tried it – didn’t need too — he says, polishing his fingernails on his coat lapel).
Today, though, I got the weirdest unsolicited commercial email I’ve ever gotten.
It was from some Taiwanese folks who are apparently interested in chicken parts. All types of chicken parts. Legs, thighs, wings. Any part. They were interested in forming allegiances in the United States (and with me related in particular) regarding the importation of chicken parts into Taiwan. It’s quite lucrative, I hear. I did not know that. I’ll have to look into that. I’ve been looking for alternatives in case this whole “Jay Rush Becoming a Writer” thing doesn’t pan out.
- Don’t post things about how bad your day was – it sucked for you – why would we want to hear about it.
- Don’t post things about what you’re going to do in the future – stop writing blog posts and go do these things.
- Don’t post things about going to the dentist or grocery shopping or any other mundain task that you wouldn’t even bother your spouse with – they don’t want to hear it for a reason – its boring.
- Don’t expect your readers to know anything about what you wrote in your blog ten million years ago – as if we’ve been following you – we haven’t.
- Don’t say your going to post somthing every day and then post for three days and then tell us, six weeks later, that you haven’t posted in a while and that you’re falling behind. We could not possibly care less.
- Unless you have something interesting and unique to say don’t tell us all about your inane political beliefs. You just clog up the cognitive brain space that could be used for illuminating thoughts of someone who knows what they are talking about.
- Don’t post pictures of your grandchildren. Your grandchildren are ugly.
- When you’ve forgotten to post for two weeks don’t post a single line saying I like this youtube video of a cat dancing on the head of pin sticking out of a dogs buttox. We’ve seen it.
- Don’t post a picture with a link under it saying see this picture in full size and then when I click it the picture is the same size. It doesn’t make any sense and its annoying and you’re waisting our time.
- Don’t call your blog “Daily grunts from someone trying to become a writer”. First of all – you’re not a writer. Second of all – its not daily. Third of all – “grunts”? Please.
Katie has said two of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. One time we were talking about something about some kid who didn’t have a father and I said that I thought it was a shame. This made Katie mad because she was friends with this kid and she thought I was insulting him. She was mad at me – I could tell – and she was just sort of standing there in the kitchen when all of a sudden she said “I wish I didn’t have a Dad.” I thought this was very funny.
Just now she said something pretty funny too. She asked me if I had Planet Earth on my computer. I said, in my best smart ass voice, “Yeah, Katie – I have the third planet from the sun on my computer” – this made her mad again – what she really meant was “Did I have Google Earth on my computer”. I told her I removed it from my computer because “Google Earth takes up a lot of space and its ugly” because it is and it does. After a few seconds she said “You take up a lot of space and you’re ugly too, Daddy.”
If you have any interest in the novel I wrote in November this definition (which I found online somewhere) says everything:
Deus Ex Machina: Meaning “”a god from a machine,”” originated in Greek drama, in which playwrights sometimes introduced a god to resolve a problem so that a play could end. These intervening gods descended onto the stage by means of a mechanical device. Today, deus ex machina is used to refer to any unlikely, contrived or trick resolution of a plot in any type of fiction. Critics–and readers–generally object to this technique, which is most commonly used by beginning writers.
Here’s another great animated poem by Billy Collins. This guy somehow just says something to me.
This is interesting I think:
by Billy Colins
The dead are always looking down on us,
while we are putting on our shoes
They watch the tops of our heads
they think we are looking back at them,
I belong to this website called http://allpoetry.com where I post some poems but mostly because I get to read a lot of poems from other people. This one guy, called Uncle Dunk, posted this one poem there that was really funny (I thought). His poem was in response to a picture prompt contest (someone posts a picture and people are supposed to write a poem in response to the picture). His poem is here http://allpoetry.com/poem/5681793.
You’re allowed to make comments on other people’s poetry so I wrote:
I used to have a pillow
that me wife was jealous of
Because I held it tightly, nightly
And whispered it sweet love.
I came home from work one night
Found that she too had killed me pillow
But, when I found her in the bedroom,
She had surrounded herself with jillow.
To which he wrote:
What a brilliant use of ‘Jillo’
My, you are a clever fillow.
Which I thought was a very funny thing for him to say. http://allpoetry.com is a cool site. You should check it out.
I’ve been done with my ‘novel’ for a couple of days. It was a amazing thing to do for me. I learned a lot – mostly what not to do – for example – don’t start writing a book without having any idea of the plot. That’s the first lesson. Second lesson – do not stop typing no matter what and you will eventually get to the end. Third lesson – never allow anyone to read your first draft.
Here’s a quote from Nate “Daddy, if you write one novel for each of the next 20 years – at least one of them will be the best you can do.” Thanks Nate. That’s great. Really appreciate that. I put the novel, called Sea Isle City, in a box in the attic and there it stays forever.
I have started taking notes for my next novel. Back to poetry for a couple of weeks.
I did it. I wrote my 50,000 word just now. I am done. I’ve written a novel. I would never in a million years allow anyone to ever read it. In fact I think it should probably be deleted – but its done. In just 10 days. 5,000 words a day. I can do this. I can write. I always sort of knew I could in the back of my mind but now I know for sure.
Its the morning of the ninth day. I have only abuot 7,500 more words to go to get to 50,000 so I am 100% confident that I will make it. I long ago gave up the hope that this book would be anything other than a total mess so how the book ends doesn’t matter to me. The only thing that matters is that it will indeed end. I know how its going to end so that makes things a lot easier.
I’ve learned a huge amount about writing a book – 1) its not that hard to physically write the book – it only took nine days – I can do anything for nine days 2) its really hard to write a good book 3) I should have a much better idea of where the book is going before I start 4) its important to do some sembelence of research and/or planning.
I’m going to finish today or tomorrow. I plan on printing the thing out (190 pages) on A5 paper and having it two side copied and bound. Feeling pretty good about it – can’t wait to start the next novel.