Life Sentences, Day 128: The PULPIAD

February 6th, 2011

If I’m stuck with PULPED, so are you.

The Internet is full of writers who don’t blog obsessively about what they’re writing.  Everett probably has an alphabetized list of several hundred of them.  But thinking about PULPED kept me up last night and woke me up this morning.  It pretty much ruined a perfectly good concert last night, Shawn Colvin and Loudon Wainwright.  (That wasn’t entirely the book’s fault — the hall was waaayyy too big for two relatively intimate solo performers accompanying themselves on guitar.)

Okay, PULPED yesterday.  1800 words rather than 2500. Now at 84,233 out of approximately 92,000.  I had this pegged at around 90,000, which is short for me, and it’s coming in right on target since I’ll trim it in the edit anyway.

Something I’d completely forgotten I wanted to do (at least consciously) happened spontaneously yesterday, always a good sign.

Another good sign: I’m still in love with the characters.  In fact, one of the things that kept me awake last night was the realization that the ending I’ve been leaning toward would be a great wrap-up for a series book.  This may just be my reluctance to part with Madison, or it might be the sense that I’ve barely scratched the surface of the possibilities in this two-dimension world. That might mean that I have a lot of rewrite to do in this book, or it might mean that all this will surface in another book.  And maybe one after that.

I don’t think so.  But it was kind of an interesting discovery.

One other good sign: As I get close to the ending, I realize that there’s all sorts of stuff in the opening 50 pages that points this way.  It’s as though part of my mind was holding back a preordained ending in the hope that I’d find my way to it myself.  And when I went too far off the beam, it nudged me back on the path.

This is so much like one of the primary dynamics in the last part of the book — featuring a writer named Hallinan — that it makes me want to laugh.  When it doesn’t actually scare me.

And this book is turning out to be about — what else? — books.

The best thing that happened to me yesterday was a totally unplanned chapter called The Only Glimpse of Paradise He’ll Ever Get, series of fades after a collaborative act of affection in a motel room (also unplanned, by the way).  As something happens elsewhere in the area — as a whole different novel is being written — this chapter stays with our primary characters in a series of dissolves, each of which begins with a new image of the two of them, a new position as they talk about the things they haven’t had time to talk about and that they doubt they’ll ever have another chance to talk about.  It’s essentially four snippets of very quiet conversation.  I’ve never written anything like it, and I may hate it by Wednesday, but for now I love it.

Oh, by the way, “lignin,” which is referred to in the photo at the top of this blog, is a cellular component of wood that’s highly permeable to water, thus helping the osmotic process that carries water up to the tops of trees.  It’s brown, and has to be removed from paper pulp by bleaching.  It’s also (here’s the cool part) slightly photo-reactive, and it’s why newsprint yellows in the sun.  Here’s the personal cool part: just yesterday I wrote this sentence:  ” The air in the shop was hot, dry, dusty, and yellow with the light through the faded newspapers taped to the windows.”  When I wrote that, I didn’t know why the newspapers were yellow, and now I do.

Cool, yes?

Okay, to work.  Real work, I mean.

7 Responses to “Life Sentences, Day 128: The PULPIAD”

  1. Gary Says:

    I spent four years doing a forestry degree, learning about wood and trees. And now here’s a guy who can’t even handle imaginary numbers, suddenly knowing all this stuff about lignin.

    Where was the internet when I was an undergrad?

    (Oh and by the way, Tim, huge congrats on yesterday’s ranking.)

  2. Everett Kaser Says:

    Damn, I so want to read this book. I suspect (from the sprinkling of hints that we’ve gotten) that this is going to be another peak in your alpine career!

  3. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Another example of “chance.” I’m with Everett-can’t wait to read this book. You knew where you were going all along; you just didn’t know it.

  4. Gary Says:

    Everyone laughs when I parrot the Bergman line that the story was there all along (including at least one of the writers in your Plotting vs Pantsing series).

    But is this what happened here or what?

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, pulpsters:

    Sorry about getting stuck on this topic, but that’s where I am.

    Gary, I’d love to be all airy about it and ask who doesn’t know all about lignin, but in fact, I put that terrific image up yesterday, saw the word in the caption, and went to Wikipedia to look it up. I like knowledge like that and thought it was very funny that I’d just written the sentence about the yellowing newspapers. Synchronicity at work.

    Everett, I have no idea at all. Here’s what I know. It’s got some really nice things in it. The more I write it, and the closer I get to wrapping it up, the more I suspect that the whole thing is actually preposterous. So the question is quickly becoming, “Can I get away with something preposterous?” So the game at the moment is telling the story in such a way that people will think it’s preposterous on purpose.

    Thanks, Lil. This one is going to need a resting period before it goes into edit, so even when I finish writing it, it’ll still be a ways from being done. So it may be a few months before anyone sees anything.

    Gary, they’re not laughing at the Bergman line. They’re laughing at your parrot voice. (But I do believe that line — in fact, I was probably the writer who quoted it, since I use it all the time.)

  6. Everett Kaser Says:

    Tim, you’re used to writing mystery/suspense/thriller books. You broke the “conventional wisdom” of the publishing industry with Crashed, by including so much humor in a suspense/thriller type book.

    From your description, Pulped has a serious dash of fantasy in it (with Simeon being in limboland, then becoming real to Madison, or some such). Who’s to say that, “conventional wisdom” aside, folks won’t accept that quite easily. There are a LOT of folks out there who read ‘straight’ fantasies, people who read ghost stories (there’s fantasy and suspense thrown together already).

    When you’re not publishing through the traditional Big Publishing channels, you shouldn’t worry so much about their “conventional wisdom.” Readers are much more flexible and forgiving (and intelligent) than publishers give them credit for. (Is ‘for’ not a word you can end a sentence with? Oops.)

  7. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    I’m not worried about publishers, Everett. I’m worried about whether I can get away with this book aesthetically, to use a fancy word. It’s an uneasy combination of elements.

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