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Thursday, November 1, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

So this here novel-writing stuff is E-Z!

I polished off a tiny prologue and the first chapter, 2028 words, in an hour over my Breakfast Special this morning. No problem!

I am calculating right here, aren't I? If I do two thousand words a day for thirty days, that's more than fifty thousand words. Right?

So a really good day shall be one where I write 2,500 words or more, a good day shall be one where I write 2,000 words or more, and an at least we're still on target day shall be one where I write enough words that my daily average is at least 1,800 words. (Note that it's possible to have a really good day and still not be on target, if I've slipped badly eariler; but I plan for that not to happen.)

You really don't want to read the Novel in progress (nor are you likely to want to read it when it's done; quality is not the point here!). But the insatiably curious will find the current draft here.

I'm torn in all sorts of directions. I want to make it a reasonably straightforward story about people; I also want to launch off in all directions into fantasy and science fiction. A few rules I'm trying to stick to:

  • No long dream sequences; dreams can be mentioned, talked about, even described briefly, but no entire chapters in which absolutely anything goes because it's a dream after all.
  • Minimal self-conscious meta stuff; in particular, no discussion of the writing of this very novel, or of "write a novel in a month" projects in general.
  • Let's put off radical stream-of-consciousness for awhile yet.

Caterina.net awards milk-supply contract to Safeway of Canada:

Under the terms of the non-exclusive agreement, Caterina.net agrees to purchase 2 litre containers of partially skimmed "1%" milk from Safeway on a fairly regular basis (the exact terms have not been disclosed).

On the topic of pictures (remember when all I could talk about was my new digital camera and the pictures I was taking? and now it's novel-writing. what a dilettante!), a reader writes:

was hoping to see photos of some people--like you and your family

While there are a few pictures of me on the site (_ _ _ _ _ _ _), and I even put one up on photo.net, I'm very reticent about the rest of the family. Not sure why; presumably the same reason I never mention their names. Not that you couldn't find them out with a few minutes work, but somehow it feels right this way. I'll talk about them now and then, but I don't feel it's my place to name them or show their pictures to just random everyone. No offense!   *8)

From BrainLog, More Moons Around Earth? It's Not So Loony. "Cruithne": a name to remember.

More from readers on novelizing:

I recommend starting writing your novel without any clear idea where it is going - trying to fully develop a plot line will just result in many hours spent staring into space

We definitely did that one (the "without any clear idea" thing)! We're hoping that by chapter two or three we'll have some vague hint of the plot. Although if we don't that's okay too.

Jane of umamitsunami writes:


i'm not sure, either, why this idea sounded entrancingly great to me the first i heard of it. but it does! how exciting, to be able to say (as i do, often) that "tomorrow i start writing my novel".

good luck to you. please post updates as you go. (maybe even excerpts.)

I will if you will! *8)

On the other hand, someone recommends

that you recommend that people not write novels, or at least that they not publish them. There are way too many novels already. I'll never get them all read. Instead you should recommend that people bake bread or plant trees or soothe crying children.

People should of course also do those things. And then write novels about them. And then you have to read them all; sorry!

For Halloween, the Bicycle Pedaling Frog dressed up as a Tricycle Meddling Hog.

I could tell a long story about Hallowe'en this year (maybe I'll put it in my novel). It was fun. M says it was a slow year, but I think we had about the usual number of kids; maybe a few less. (Which is probably just us both saying exactly the same thing in our different personalities.)

I went around with my kids and about eleven of their friends; it was just like the old days of the Play Group. Except the kids are bigger. The little boy got tired early so we took a shortcut for home while the rest of the group went on (we went out to The Island; it's great to have a friendly family living out there now instead of mysterious rumored drug-dealers in limos). And then after most everyone else was done I went around with the little daughter and four of her friends and a Mom for another block or two.

The little daughter was out for about two hours altogether. She has lots of candy...

Wednesday, October 31, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

What is ideological speech? I mean, suppose I am a member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Mushrooms, and I think that mushrooms should not be eaten at all, can I be compelled to take part in this advertising?

I highly recommend Supreme Court Oral Arguments in general. What a good idea!

I found that page while looking into the aptly-named "Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition" (00-795); here's the docket, and here's a NandO story: Supreme Court discusses impact of child pornography law on films. Is it Constitutional to outlaw things that look like child porn, but aren't? (A related question is: even if Constitutional, does it make any sense?)

Speaking of porn, a reader suggests this image, which I'm sure I've seen somewhere else before (is that Jane?). On the other hand, I've never seen this picture before. Thank heavens for the Web, which makes this vital cultural material freely available to all.

So I finished the "His Dark Materials" series; it was amazingly neat. I wonder if there have been Christian denunciations of it? (I didn't find any in a brief STFW.) The basic message is that we have to make our own way in the universe, that the Fallen Angels are the good guys and God on High is an agent of repression, and that the Republic of Heaven is better than the Kingdom of Heaven. On the other hand, the victory of the Good Guys relies on a deep-background "Providence" that makes everything come out just right. I'm not sure if this was intentional on Pullman's part, or if his memes are just a little mixed.

Then I started reading "Your Name Written on Water", but I'm sort of struggling with it. Descriptions of people having sex and not enjoying it, and feeling dirty and ashamed during and after it, don't do much for me; and the writing qua writing is very uneven. But we'll see; perhaps it will grow on me.

In between chapters of that, I've been going through the Prestel Sightlines book "Art", which gives one-page descriptions of every significant Western art movement from Impressionism to roughly the present. Calling it superficial would be pointless; I suspect I'm actually learning from it, though.

The story behind the Net Authority.

Paul Ford also posts pictures of piles of books!

Housekeeping: Thanks to a friendly prod from Anita R, I'll be pinging the weblogs.com "I've updated" function (by hand or via the SOAP call) when I update, so anyone using one of the weblogs.com XML files or services based on them should now see updates to this log reflected there (again). Although this doesn't seem to apply to "My Userland" which is I guess just dead; or something.

On the Speakers: Velvet Chain.

My novel-writing intentions from yesterday are still intact. I dreamed about writing novels last night. Clearly the meme has taken root and is getting comfortable in my mind, in preparation for growing a big new structure of some kind in there. Scary!

Reader response is mixed but interesting as always. Just Another Perl Hacker writes:

You are approaching this the wrong way. You don't need to write the 50K word novel. What you need to do is write a one-page Perl script which will write the novel.

This way it will (1) be much more fun; (2) take much less time; (3) provide text of quality at least comparable to novels of other participants; (4) be reusable next year, with maybe only minor tweaks; (5) be The Right Thing To Do.

Certainly a notion, and The Right Thing in some universe. But I wouldn't get out of it what I'm hoping to get out of doing it the old-fashioned way (typing it in on a laptop). So maybe I'll do the Perl version next month...

AJL writes:

You have to wonder if this method was employed by William Burroughs for his novel "The Naked Lunch".

Stream-of-consciousness is certainly going to be a temptation here. But I intend to at least experiement with resisting it. (In reading about NaNoWriMo yesterday, I read someone wondering if that was how Stephen King got his start...)

Someone who clearly wishes he or she were writing a novel writes:


No biscuit for you, bucko!

Someone whose job I can't quite imagine writes:

No. Not a chance. I write too many words every day already. And many of those are the same words. Trying to write different words would be hard work.

Someone who watches television writes:

I'm reminded of the bit on the TV show Taxi. Alex, had been doing cocaine, cleverly disguised as cookies. He bounds into work saying, "Last night I wrote an opera. It was so much fun I'm going to write another one tonight."

It did occur to me that if this proved to be a huge amount of fun, I might write a novel a month. Sort of like how, when you're standing at the edge of a cliff, it occurs to you that you could jump off. But you don't.

Someone writes, paradoxically:

I'm seriously contemplating doing the NaNoWriMo thing. I just need a Good Idea.

But that is a good idea! Oh, you mean like a good idea for the novel, like a plot and stuff? I'm assuming that that will arrive when needed, at 00:01 tomorrow.

And finally, a celebrity! Dan of BrainLog writes:

I'm not just doin' it, I'm helping to organize the Seattle NaNoWriMo parties. :) My Unofficial NaNo web site is coming very soon (please Fate let me finish the site before Nov 1), and I've already talked no less than five of my friends into doing it with me, for which I feel slightly guilty. :)

I, by the way, am wearing an enormous blue bow-tie with big white polka-dots.

Happy Hallowe'en!

Tuesday, October 30, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

I think I may seriously need to be dissuaded from something here. But I think it may also be too late.


So I'm not exactly the first blogger to notice this, but November is National Novel Writing Month. A whole bunch of seriously disturbed individuals have signed up to write a novel of at least fifty thousand words ("fifty thousand words" looks so much nicer, feels so much nicer in the mouth, than "50,000 words", or "50K words") between the first of November and the last of November, 2001.

What a silly idea!

And for whatever reason instantly captivating. I think I could do this! On Sunday I dashed off a bit over eight hundred words for the Weblog. Could I do roughly that three times a day for a month, if I didn't care too much about quality? Sure, I could!

Does it make any sense to do that? Probably not.

I like to write words. Mostly short-story (and weblog!) kinds of words, but I've written tiny little fragments of two novels (or what I tell myself might someday be two novels). Like virtually anyone else with literary pretensions ("aspirations"), I tell myself that someday everything will gel, and the free time will appear, and I'll actually produce an entire novel. Someday.

But if I do this, I would actually have Written a Novel by the end of next month! My God, this is tempting.

Now I didn't find out about it in time to officially sign up, but it's not clear that that matters at all. I'm hoping that I can still persuade them to let me into the Yahoo Club, or at least to accept my finished novel when it's done to count the words in and post my name on their web site as someone who Did It. But even if they didn't, I would still have Done It! And, at least as important, have learned whatever there is to be learned from it about myself and about writing and about who knows what.

The idea that I might try and fail, or even try and decide not to halfway through, somehow doesn't even occur to me.

And it'd certainly give me something to write about here in the log! *8)

Any of y'all readers out there doing the NaNoWriMo Thing?

(See? Four hundred words without breaking a sweat. No problem!)

Monday, October 29, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Weekday readers should note that we had a Sunday entry yesterday. I am so pleased by this fact that I'm hardly going to write anything at all today.

Unless I get carried away.

Someone or something writes:

The Most Powerful CD you Ever Seem

This CD contained the most powerful information that ever release to the Internet. See it for yourself, and prepare to be amazing !!!

I'm certainly amazing! There is a Deep Mystery about just how this completely illiterate spam gets produced, and what role it plays in the world.

Speaking of which, since WNYC was having a fund-raiser this morning, I was listening to WBBR in the car this morning. WBBR is Bloomberg, and it's all about money and markets and stuff.

Now at first glance you'd expect, or at any rate I'd expect, that at least a big chunk of the Listener Set for this station would be smart and hard-driving people with lots of money, who wear suits and grease the wheels of the economy and become rich by being clever about finance. But in fact, going by the content and style of the advertising, the listener set must be more like "Gullible people with more money than brains". Essentially every one of the ads screams "scam!" in one way or another. Some are for spurious get-rich-quick schemes (silver futures, aggressive funds with "PROVEN TRACK RECORDS!!"), some are for dubious products and services like the "See Clearly Method" of improving your vision through eye exercises (here's a somewhat objective evaluation that concludes that there's no reason to think it works).

So I guess all the smart people are getting their financial information from dedicated Net feeds, and only the gullible are left to listen to WBBR. Or something...

And speaking of WBBR, here's gratifying evidence that some people are way way into radio transmitters. This gives me a warm feeling, somehow.

I remember seeing the book "Arming America" blogged somewhere lately; it's a rather controversial work that claims that our idea of colonial America as a place where more or less everyone was patriotically armed is wrong, and that even back then it was mostly only the government that had guns. There now seems to be pretty strong reason to think that the book is heavily based on flimsy, and perhaps entirely fabricated, evidence; and the author's University is now asking him to publish an explanation. That's gotta hurt!

Wanted: a moratorium on comparisons between domestic politics and terrorism:

Even as a serious international debate continues on the proper definition of terrorism, American political discourse continues to be plagued by insipid and inflammatory comparisons of domestic political figures and groups to terrorists. These comparisons take advantage of the tremendous emotional associations that "terrorism" and related terms now carry in order to discredit the positions and policies of opponents.

Sanity invades Britain, Cannabis to be reclassified:

Under new proposals, first recommended 18 months ago, cannabis will move from class B to class C and will no longer be an arrestable offence, heralding a massive shake-up of drugs policy.

Intel to kill floppy drives, serial ports next year (note: this is The Register; use salt as appropriate).

But anyway, read yesterday. I actually had some thoughts.

Sunday, October 28, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

On the way to the bagel store this morning, the radio was imitating a discussion among various religious officials of various stripes comparing and contrasting their various beliefs (and not attempting to convert or slay each other at all). The Buddhist feller talked about the great goals of being free from suffering and the causes of suffering, of having happiness and the causes of happiness, of acheiving non-attachment and equanimity.

Which is all very well, I thought. But, in the last analysis ("in the last analysis"), is constant equanimity and non-attachment a self-evidently correct goal? Or is it a fitting ultimate goal only for people of certain bents? Or does it seem a fitting ultimate goal only from certain vantage points?

I'm generally more interested in the techniques of Buddhism and contemplative practice than in their official goals.

In sitting (zazen) the sitter should (to the extent that a "should" is allowed here) neither try to suppress his thoughts and desires nor allow his mind to persue them. Just allow each one to appear, perhaps think "there is a desire going by" or "there is a thought of orange", and then let them vanish again, as thoughts do when not persued. Eventually the stream of desires and thoughts may settle down, quiet down. With the years they may become so quiet that the sitting finally becomes just sitting. Which, of course, it was all along.

But if contemplation allows thoughts and desires to flow by unheeded and untouched, it also allows the contemplator, if so inclined, to grasp them with a meta hand as they pass by, turn them over in the light, and take a look at them.

Here is a thought of food going by: what's it like? Is it a real hunger, from the cells, or a habitual craving for mouth-feel, or a sensual desire for that hot flavor, this blue taste? What does the thought feel like at some deep and usually unremarked level of feeling?

Here is a desire to stop this silly contemplation stuff and go play Star Wars Racer or something (the other day I erased my previous saved state and started a new one, and worked through all the races again one by one; it was fun and now I'm finished again, but you can always rerun a race). What shape is this desire?

It is like certain other desires, many having to do with technology or games or simple or abstract things, in a gemlike feeling, a promise of ego reinforcement. It smiles and beckons, cheerfully acknowledging a certain fundamental emptiness, but putting itself forward as a diversion, as something we can do for a little while, before getting around to doing other things more worthwhile, more deeply rewarding, but (it whispers, with a wink, with the smile of a shared secret) also more complex and uncertain, and potentially frustrating and futile. (How much easier to enjoy something that told you from the start just how much value to expect.)

Here is a dark thought about anthrax and terrorism and death, escorted by a party of meta-thoughts about how frivolous and self-regarding it is to be sitting zazen in such a perilous time.

Trailing behind them are meta-meta-thoughts about dualism and judgement and obligation, and about whether or not we'll be able to let this growing bundle of thoughts pass unpersued, and about what a good job we're doing of that so far. These thoughts stretch out into the distance as an infinite chain of potential thoughts, and throw off side-trails and streamers in other directions, and briefly fill the internal skyscape with a complicated fractal fireworks display. They gradually fade, with just the occasional burst of self-congratulation about the fading providing a last flash and boom.

Here is a simple ache in the legs, floating up into consciousness. Easy not to move, just let it ache. Center the consciousness in the ache, think about its exact flavor, and it becomes confused. Don't think about me, it says, just move your legs.

Eventually it sighs and passes along, and the surface of thought is calm and unrippled for a second, reflecting the sky. And then there's a little thought of "calm" and "unrippled", a thought of "water" and a little thought of "sky". What perfect little thoughts!

Yesterday we had the quasi-annual Hallowe'en party down at the lake. Kids wore costumes, acorns fell on our heads, we brought in the float-lines and the floating dock, and ate Pot Luck from the picnic table in the pavilion. After awhile we seemed pretty much done, and we gathered up our kids and waved to each other and packed up the leftover cookies and went home.

Later in the afternoon both M (who'd had to leave early) and Ralph down the street (who'd been at his son's baseball game) asked me why the party had been so short.

"Usually we build a fire and have a Costume Parade and people stay around all afternoon; what happened this year?"

Nothing in particular, I said. It just seemed like time to go home, so people went home.


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