Monday, August 22, 2011

Losing Your Work

Yesterday I did something stupid.

During the day, I’d worked on my novel for about two hours. Not a huge amount of work was done, but I made a fair amount of changes and revisions, which I felt halfway OK about.

Then, at night, tired and bleary-eyed from a long week and weekend, I accidently saved the file from my hard drive to my flash drive instead of the other way around.

So: all that work was gone. And it was especially frustrating because I hadn't worked on my novel for about a week, and so on the one day I do, I erased everything. Nice.

I posted something about this on Facebook, and someone responded he once lost two to three months of work due to a save mishap. He took the Zen approach and said it was a sign to start working on something else.

Losing two to three months of work would give me a seizure. I don't think I'd take the Zen approach. I've lost stuff before, but never that much. (Last night I stayed up late troubleshooting and trying to reconstruct my changes while everything was still fresh in mind.)

There are famous stories of writers losing work: Hemingway's first wife losing a suitcase that contained everything he'd written so far, Maxine Hong Kingston losing a manuscript in a fire, etc.

These kinds of things always make me wince, one of my greatest fears realized.

Any horror stories to share about lost work?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Scrolling Headlines and What They Us About Us

Find out here (it's a new story of mine that's in A-Minor Magazine, and it's one of those he/she stories that I seem to be so fond of).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Growing into Novelhood

"I was a semiconscious writer in the beginning. Just sat and wrote something, or read the newspaper, or went to the movies. Over time I began to understand, one, that I was lucky to be doing this work, and, two, that the only way I'd get better at it was to be more serious, to understand the rigors of novel-writing and to make it central to my life, not a variation on some related career choice, like sportswriting or playwriting. The novel is different. . . . We die indoors, and alone, and I don't mean to sound overdramatic but you know what I'm talking about. Anyway, all of this happened over time, until eventually discipline no longer seemed something outside me that urged the reluctant body into the room. At this point discipline is inseparable from what I do. It's not even definable as discipline. It has no name. I never think about it. But there's no trick of meditation or self-mastery that brought it about. I got older, that's all. I was not a born novelist (if anyone is). I had to grow into novelhood."

-- Don DeLillo in a 1995 letter to David Foster Wallace

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Mental Illness of Persistence

From an article about New Yorker editor David Remnick (by Nicholson Baker):

"Remnick is modest about these writing successes, which he attributes chiefly to 'sitzfleisch' – the capacity to sit in a chair until the work is done. 'A lot of what I do is just the mental illness of persistence,' he told me."

I need to work on my

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pear Noir! Number Six

Today I received my contributor copies of the latest issue of Pear Noir!

It looks purty. Lots of good folks in this issue, including Amelia Gray, Jessica Anthony, Mark Strand, Ryan Ridge, Salvatore Pane and many others.

Also included is my story "Look," which begins like so:

"Neighbors kept calling, one after another, a steady stream of complaint. They wanted to know what her husband was doing lying down in the middle of the street. It was getting dark now and he was still out there, Dave, her husband, sprawled like a corpse or a drunk, oblivious."

The issue is sold out, but a second print run is imminent...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Don't Write What You Know

That's advice from Bret Anthony Johnston in the Atlantic's annual fiction issue.

I guess this issue has been on my mind lately (see posts below).

Here's a quote from the Johnston's article:

"I don't know the origin of the 'write what you know' logic. A lot of folks attribute it to Hemingway, but what I find is his having said this: 'From all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive.' If this is the logic’s origin, then maybe what’s happened is akin to that old game called Telephone... A similar transmission problem undermines the logic of writing what you know and, ironically, Hemingway may have been arguing against it all along. The very act of committing an experience to the page is necessarily an act of reduction, and regardless of craft or skill, vision or voice, the result is a story beholden to and inevitably eclipsed by source material."

The novel I'm working on is not autobiographical. But the place where it's set is where I'm from. Sort of...