Me and the DC

March 6th, 2008

The chapter of COUNTERCLOCKWISE below is later, and probably shorter, than it should be. I’m feeling pretty guilty about the status of my participation in The Dickens Challenge — both writing my own book and reading the work of others.

When I got to Asia, on January 19, I immediately hit trouble with the new Poke Rafferty novel, which is tentatively titled MISDIRECTION. It just wasn’t coming along: the material was resisting me, the story felt stale, and I was having anxiety attacks about my ability to write one of the book’s central characters. This was especially frustrating in contrast to the speed-of-light pace at which BAD MONEY, the book I wrote in November/December, had come to me. (I’d been spoiled, to tell you the truth.) Any time I felt like working on COUNTERCLOCKWISE it felt like avoidance — it felt like I was doing exactly like what I’m always telling people not to do, to postpone dealing with the problem, which is the most dependable way I know to kill a book once and for all.

So I went in the other direction and doubled my minimum word count, just nattering on about anything related to the book, writing scenes just to write them, expanding my character sketches, and moving the story along out of grim determination instead of inspiration and enjoyment. Sooner or later, I hoped, someone would say something that caught my attention or the story would take a turn that would surprise me.

Twenty-some thousand words later, both of those things happened. I’ve now had five good days in a row on the book. I tore out about sixty percent of what I’d already written (there’s more to root out, but that will wait), added a bunch of new material that I actually like, and realized today that I knew where I was going for the next thirty pages or so and that I could actually take a day and work on COUNTERCLOCKWISE. So I wrote the chapter that follows and posted it, although I cut it short to get back to work on MISDIRECTION.

By the way, one of the shortcomings of publishing a book this way is that none of you will have the faintest idea who a bunch of people are. They were mentioned weeks ago. (In one case, I had to go back and look myself.) Frank Weller is the lawyer Norah talked to about divorcing Talley; David Kim is one of the homicide cops working under Laura, and Rita Chaney –well, Rita Chaney gets explained right away.

So writing is one side of the problem. The other side has to do with reading your work.

Internet connections in Cambodia are really, really slow. They’re working on the infrastructure, and it’ll probably be much better in a few months, but at the moment it takes anywhere from two to ten minutes for your sites to load – and for some reason it’s worst for the people who use Blogspot. And then, once I’ve got the site, I need to wait again while the chapter loads. So reading two or three of your work is an hour or more sitting in some cafe that’s got a wireless connection.

Therefore, I’m going to beg your indulgence and swear off trying to keep up with everyone for now. When I go back to Thailand, or if I go to China, I’ll be able to catch up, but here it’s just too difficult. I hope you’ll understand.

And I hope everyone is still enjoying the process and shaking off some of the Nozers that say you shouldn’t show your work to anyone.

6 Responses to “Me and the DC”

  1. Cynthia Mueller Says:

    . . . grumble, grumble, grumble. . . I don’t suppose whining about this will change your mind, eh? Because if it will, I’m the best whiner around.

    Good to hear that you’re working the kinks out in your story. I don’t mind going back to re-read, especially if I like the story.

    Re: Nozer, the coffee works wonders keeping the pesky dude away. You’re a genius.

  2. Steve Wylder Says:

    Naturally I’m on on Blogger–what can I say, it’s free. I’ll wait patiently. At least your’e not in Burma, where I’ve heard it’s a crime to have a modem.

  3. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Cindy, Steve:

    Slaving away here on the new Poke. Hitting a vein of gold occasionally and then, apparently, tunneling away from it into an area of absolutely ordinary, resolutely uninteresting quartz. This material also has the characteristic of bring very difficult to get through as I try to hack my way back to the gold.

    Perhaps I’ve had enough coffee for the moment.

  4. Usman Says:

    I’m always telling people not to do, to postpone dealing with the problem, which is the most dependable way I know to kill a book once and for all.

    Tim what you wrote above is in contrast to the advise I have recently taken for my novel. That is to shelf it to one side for a month and let my mind work out the wrinkles. I am finding that impossible to do and even write something else.
    So there is my reason for abstaining from DC for the moment.
    Best of luck in Cambodia.

  5. Lisa Kenney Says:

    Taking a break from The Foundling Wheel, Chapter 11. The going is getting tough! The Dickens Challenge going seems to be getting tough all the way around. We have lots of writers, but our posting regularity and our communication has gotten a bit disjointed in weeks past. Maybe that’s the nature of the beast. It would probably be unrealistic to expect that we’ll all keep going at the aggressive pace we initially established — but a few people are still going strong. Don’t worry about going underground for a bit. We all have to do what we have to do and a few of us are still plugging away and ready to read more Counterclockwise whenever we get it. I’m thinking of joining a critique group I’ve been invited into and starting to massage and shape what I’ve got so far. We’ll have to see…

    Take good care of yourself Tim and we’ll be here whenever you pop in.

  6. Larissa Says:

    just curious, what is your minimum word requirement? Cause I’m not having much luck actually expanding my ideas. Though I did just sit and babble and babble to myself for a few hours about anything even remotely related to the story idea. It went in the trash but I got a few things. Alrighty-well I’ll stop leaving comments now. I tend to things in waves. Sorry (c:

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