500 Words a Day

I Held My Breath as Long as I Could Cover

Cover Art, I Held My Breath as Long as I Could

In the last month, I’ve kept busy and missed precious few days. I’ve written a completely fresh draft of a story called “Radiation,” which I originally wrote in high school (it’s the story that earned me my favorite rejection letter ever, the letter which said, “This story is almost strange enough to like — unfortunately, it makes no sense at all!!!”). I love the revision. Also been working on revisions to some of the stories here, to mixed results. I have these ideas of what I want to do, but sometimes it just doesn’t work the way I think it should. I’ve got one more month until my deadline for new content expires and I go to strict line-editing, but I’ve already gotten the feeling that these are the stories I’m going with, and that I’m going to need all the time I can get to make this heap of sentences work.

There’s so much to do. There are so many words. The idea that people routinely write long novels blows my mind a bit right now.

Tonight, I’m going to read one of the pieces at Black & White here in Manhattan. Hope the audience likes it. I feel a bit nervous, as always, but it’s been too long since my last reading. I’ve been too much in the lab, and I have to make an effort to get out more.

I Held My Breath as Long as I Could Cover

Cover Art, I Held My Breath as Long as I Could

I’m officially announcing that I Held My Breath as Long as I Could will be published for all manner of ebook readers this October. It’s going to be a wild, weird collection, and it will feature one nonfiction piece, a good smattering of my favorite ten-minute writes, as well as short stories, new and old (there will be some which haven’t yet seen the light of day on this site). And the best part?

It’s going to cost $1.

That’s right. I’m asking so little that won’t allow me to take 70% royalty on this one. I’m going to get $0.35 on the dollar for this effort.

Additionally, I’m going to put as little DRM on this sucker as possible. Meaning that if you really want to, you can pass the file to another person with a Kindle, and they’ll be able to read it just fine.

You know, like you would a real book.

I care more that people read the stories than I do that they pay. Although payment is nice, because one day I would love to only have to write for a living.

What this means for me in the short term is that I’m writing again. I’ve actively worked on this collection for the last six days straight, and I’m back to my old 500 words-a-day rate (even though the collection already was, in large part, on the page, there’s still stuff to expand and improve on). Should be around 55,000-60,000 words upon completion.

And there’s no room to budge on this one. I’m treating it like a hard and fast deadline.

I’m publishing this fucker in the beginning of October.

This is real. As real as self-publishing can be, anyway.

Daukherville Cover Art

Daukherville Cover Art

You know the one. The one that took me forever to write. The one I (sort of) finished in a cabin in the Maine woods last summer.

Yeah, so … where is it?

Funny you should ask. I’ve come here to confess and publicly shame myself. I’ve come here to admit that when it comes to editing, I am nothing but useless.

And it needs to stop.

I told myself I needed to take a break. And so I did. I told myself I needed to write something else, and so out came Ed at Eleven, which itself is another novel I don’t know how to edit. After that, I told myself I could take a break, kick back, I’d written two novels in one year. Time for some video games! I told myself maybe it was time to focus on some short stories, so I wrote a few more first drafts–with a lot of days in between where I wrote nothing. Gone are the days of 500 words a day.

When I think about Daukherville, I think about an idea that I screwed up. I think about characters I don’t fully understand, even after spending fifteen years with them (actually, very soon it’s going to be sixteen years since I wrote the very first incarnation of the story that had become Daukherville). This fucking book is about to graduate high school, for crying out loud!

What am I afraid of? That’s easy: I’m afraid this is one of those Obsession Projects. You know the ones–the projects where the writer puts way too much pressure on the thing to be the Grand Work. In my case, Daukherville is supposed to be my Great American Horror Novel. But it’s depressing, because I know that the book I wrote in one month is actually better than the book that took me fifteen years. Daukherville smells of too much sweat.

But it can’t end like that. I refuse to let this book that I have loved and dreamed about for so freaking long end its life as the setup for a stupid joke about the writer who tried too hard and failed. I care about this story. I care about getting it right. And it’s big and it’s intimidating and it’s complicated, but the job is to make it work.

So, these days, I’m trying to look at it. To think about. To ease off on the pressure. It is one of the stories I am going to write in my life; it is not the story I am going to write. This website itself is full of other ideas. Ideas I like. Things that were fun to write.

This is not fun. This is hard, and it is really scary being here and not knowing if the book’s ever going to be something I’m proud of …

Daukherville Cover Art

Daukherville Cover Art

That’s all. What more is there to say? It’s approx. 170,000 words, which is probably a bit long. It probably needs a lot of additional work, editing, rewriting, and paring down. This is actually probably only the halfway point. But you know what?

I haven’t finished a book since 1996. Not even in draft form, which, let’s be serious, is all I ever write anyway. The book is done. I could pass out copies, and people could read it and get a complete story–beginning, middle, and end.

And I know it’s late, and I’ve just been balling my eyes out as I typed, but sweet baby jeebus, I think this one’s good.

I think it’s really good.

I am so close now. One more night should do it. I have returned from the woods, where I wrote fifty typed pages over five nights. It was a fantastic recalibration, and, like my dad said, “Even if you don’t finish, I think you’ll do good things for the book.”

Maybe so. Once I left the cabin and returned to writing on the laptop, I wrote another 25 pages before getting back to New York City. Yesterday alone, I wrote over 11,000 words.

The end approaches. The question is: is it going to be tonight?

Emu StationI have butterflies. The failure of this book would be more devastating to me than my failed marriage. A few days ago, I found the two-page screenplay treatment that started the whole thing back in the summer of 1995, complete with comments by my scriptwriting instructor (e.g., “WHAT?!? Get serious, please!”). It made me laugh so hard I cried. Amanda read it and asked me, “When did you learn to write? And when did you write this, because it sounds like you were in junior high!” I wasn’t. I was about to be a senior in high school. A few months after writing that loopy two-page story, I wrote essays that got me into Harvard. But what can I say? When it comes to writing, sometimes I’m being purposefully ridiculous. Certainly, this book started as a cosmic joke (girl moves couch and unleashes a giant emu which eats her family). But now?

Now, it actually means something to me. In the past fifteen years, it stopped being a joke to me and became a personal myth that I carry around with me everywhere I go. And this whole process has been a struggle to get it closer to that mythic status while retaining its roots in the depths of absurdity (itself an important part of the story I’m still struggling to tell).

And it’s always when I creep around this corner and step within sight of the conclusion that I lose my nerve and tell myself the draft isn’t good enough and to scrap it and start again.

But not this time. This time, Daukherville will have its ending.

I hope.

Tomorrow, I head to the woods.

Daukherville Cover Art

Daukherville Cover Art

Well, after taking something like nine or ten days off again, I thought the curse was back. You know the one: It’s where I get to this point in the story, lose all faith in it, decide I’ve written it wrong or what have you, and I scrap the whole thing and start again. Only it doesn’t really happen exactly that way–no.

The first step is always just letting it idle for too long. Freeze up. Fail to write. Fail to push myself to get through the next scene. And then eventually it sits for so long that when I return to it, I convince myself there’s no going back into it where I left it, and I decide to start writing again.

Well, here I am again–a few pages beyond the highest page count I ever managed for this book. And I was frozen. Frozen by the idea that now I have to start bringing things to a close. I’ll be heading to the Maine woods at the end of the week to shut myself in a cabin with a typewriter and a few bottles of Jameson to do battle with the end of the book in style. This week is going to be a lot about getting myself to that final sequence. This past weekend, I struggled to get started. It was a real battle to get the words moving again. There was a lot of fear and doubt. I ended up actually breaking one of my own rules, going back, and rewriting two pages just to shut some of the criticisms in my head up.

Then I had a record day yesterday. 5000+ words.

Only 39,000 projected words to go. This is the most dangerous part of the climb.

keyboard… Well, sort of done. I was really excited last night about finishing Part 3. It seemed so good in my head, so perfect … until I read it again today and realized I’d done a really skimpy job on the last few pages. Reads like a bad screenplay.


Sigh. It needs work, just like everything else. I’m so frustrated and scared, actually–that’s right, I said it–that I’m not good enough a writer to be in charge of this story. Someone more talented than me should have written it.

It’s raining. I put too much water in my noodles.

Emu StationI’ll admit it; I’d lost the urge to write these daily posts. I’d lost faith that anyone was reading. But you know what? It doesn’t make a difference. I’m here to write. I’m here to tell you how it’s going, and so … It’s going. I’ve been writing every day for over a week now. Probably in record-breaking territory. I’ll get back to you on that one.

I’m officially changing the date of completion of this draft to August 6, 2010. I’ll be spending that last week in a cabin in the woods, finishing my book on a typewriter, if you can believe that! The mission for the rest of July is to get everything but the last eighth of the novel done–pretty much everything but the end.

So how am I feeling about the book these days? Eh. Not great. I dunno. I’m in too deep! I don’t know if this book is any good. I’m probably the worst judge of its quality right now.

Just keep on typing, right?

Emu StationJust wanted to let you all (haha) know that I’m still writing, still fighting the good fight, still on track, but just slow to update. I don’t really know what to say here, so I’ve been lazy. But I have been progressing.

I watched Hellraiser again. I love that film. Apart from a goofy final ten minutes and some embarrassing slow motion shots (with slowed-down dialogue, to boot!), it is a pretty damn near perfect horror film. Clive Barker really has put some amazing stuff out there. I don’t think the S&M-style horror of Saw would be around today if Barker wasn’t such a talented guy. Read the introduction to the 2002 version of The Damnation Game, and it really made it sound like Barker was trying not to just be another Stephen King clone. Good for him. I know that, in the end, if Daukherville is ever published, the comparisons to King will be all over the place. I accept this, and I believe that it would be disingenuous of me not to own up to my roots. At the same time, I have mad respect for people with strong identities and unique visions.

But then I look at my title up there. I look at that word: Daukherville. It’s really cool. I’ve come up with a lot of lousy place names in my time, but Daukherville is not one of them.

On and on we go!