An improbable streak of sixty-eight days

For the last 68 days I’ve written a minimum of 1,000 words per day.

The second draft needed to be a major revision, but I wasn’t making much progress in the endlessly-revisable sandbox of Microsoft Word. To free myself of perfectionism, I put pen to paper. I began writing page one and kept going until I completed the last chapter on Sunday.

I still need to type up about a month of journal pages, fill in a few gaps, cut a few things, and reorganize, but the end is in sight.

As a special thanks, our gift to you

I’m pleased to report that the second draft is about half done. As a marker of this milestone, I share with you a synopsis (subject to change, as always) of the sort that might appear on the back of a book:

“A man can get fixated on a thing far beyond its value or the bounds of reason,” so begins Kurt’s narrative.

Kurt has a job. No one does any work, only the occasional pretend call to a nonexistent customer and the logging of a fictional sale. But it pays the bills, and he’s lucky to have it. Meanwhile he has discovered a letter trapped in a used paperback. The idea of delivering it to its intended recipient, Danielle, feels to him like a heroic act. But the only link he has to her is the man who denies being named Rudolph, a man known to each of his associates by a different name. The man is a slippery thing to hold, and the tighter Kurt grasps, the more things slip. And when his idle coworkers become manpower in his quest, things become even less sane.

Credit and thanks goes to Ross for helping identify the rough spots in the draft of this.

A familiar story: perfectionism, inactivity, and movement

My process for the first draft, if you remember, was designed to suppress my perfectionist tendencies. But when I finished that draft in November and began the second (without those safeguards) the beast of perfectionism reared its head. I revised and rewrote and revised the first chapter until just short of my own premature death, and it was exhilarating! But the euphoria ended with the second chapter.

What did wonders for a week had soon fizzled out, and perfectionism became paralysis. Trapped by a single problematic idea with no clear answer, I did nothing. The holidays came and went. January and February zipped by. A long period of agonizing about my inactivity was followed by an even longer period of not thinking about it at all.

Then in March one morning, without any prelude of intent, I awoke with an idea for the novel and renewed purpose. Since then I’ve worked steadily, mostly firming up the foundational elements of the story, which is why you haven’t noticed much movement on the old thermometer over there. It’s just not the kind of progress the old progress meter is good at measuring (it has its blind spots), but progress has been made. I swear.

That foundational business behind me, along with a certain redesigning of my second draft processes, I’ve begun what will surely be a highly productive cycle. Expect noticeable progress in the coming weeks. The kind the progress bar will show.

A working title is a work in progress

At first, when the germ of my story was a husband who discovers his late wife’s secret diary, the novel was called generically The Diary. But that plot line felt like too much melodrama (and what do I know about husbands?), so I replaced the husband with a hapless thirty-something single and the diary with a love letter trapped unread in a book for many months; the novel became The Letter. Of course later I added the diary back in to complement the letter, and I called the thing The Letter/The Diary

This arrangement lasted me all of the first draft and into the beginning of the second draft, until this morning I decided to remove the letter altogether (what do I know about love letters trapped unread in books for many months?) but keep the diary, at which point the novel became the cumbersome formulation The Letter/The Diary.

That’s when I remembered the list of halfway-decent titles I had worked up a while ago (none of which really seemed quite right for the final title but one of which could certainly serve temporarily). I took the best one and gave the novel the working title The Long and Short of It. I’m sure that’ll change.