I have a new book review up on KQED. This time I’m looking at The Mothers, a debut novel by Brit Bennett. Check it out here!
How did you spend your weekend? Aside from a hike in the local park, I spent it putting my stuff away in my new kitchen cabinets. Here they are, along with the muscular harvest of the last of the 2016 Meyer lemons.
Still to do: install a new light, paint one wall, tile the backsplash, replace the blinds, replace the faucet, and–most importantly–put in the countertop. We’re going with black quartz.
It’s a lot, but for the moment, I’m just happy to have cabinets again.
I’m writing something based on Humboldt County, where I grew up, and where I go fairly frequently. So I took a road trip there earlier this year and spent some time in the old-growth redwood forests.
A few more pictures.
This is the kind of forest I grew up with. I saw so many beautiful places this year, but these forests continue to be in the top.
* Along with several other writers, I answered this Q&A question on Howlarium: How does your partner handle those periods when you need to be in your head, be alone to talk to yourself, to lament the latest publisher’s rejection, or otherwise tend to your creative life—how does your partner make room? Interesting talk about it can be difficult for other people to understand the weird needs of writers. Click to read more.
* I went to a writer’s residency in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a great experience. I’ll write a post about it soon.
* I took a trip to Humboldt County to research something I’m writing. It was a great experience. I’ll write a post about it soon.
* My novel was a finalist in the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.
* Kyle was on a podcast talking about computer security.
* He’s also Chairperson of the Advisory Board for Purism, which I think sounds so fancy.
* We’re remodeling our kitchen. You guys. It’s stressful. Right now our kitchen looks like this:
* We’re about to go on a 12-day RV trip. We’re renting an RV from Cruise America and driving through Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland.
* When we get back, Kyle is going to Amsterdam to speak at the O’Reilly Security Conference. I don’t get to go, but that’s okay. I’ve traveled plenty this year.
What’s going on with you?
In June I went to the Cuttyhunk Island Writers’ Residency. It was the first year they had the residency, which was located on Cuttyhunk Island, near Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. I’d never heard of it before.
Along with 14 other writers, I studied with the author Paul Harding. I also wrote about 50 pages in my new book. We stayed at The Avalon, a lovely old inn. Here’s a picture:
The residency was a new experience for me. It made me think a lot about class and how its intersection with literary fiction fundamentally blocks our ability to achieve diversity in literature. Part of my reaction was due to the fact that Cuttyhunk Island is so clearly a place for rich people. Of course, it’s a beautiful place.
I didn’t get a decent picture of my room, so here’s one from the Avalon website.
My room had a balcony where I did a lot of writing. The view from the balcony was also great.
One night, there was a double rainbow.
The beaches are rocky and loaded with wild roses.
East Coast insects hate me. I was stung by a wasp, bitten by spiders, and devoured by mosquitoes. This never happens in California.
There were ticks everywhere. I went down this path, and when I came out the other side, seven ticks were crawling up my legs.
I keep thinking I want to move to New England, but it’s really not for me. It was nice to visit though.
Back in New Bedford, I went to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, where Herman Melville set part of Moby-Dick. It was a fascinating, weird place. I took pictures with my phone. This is my favorite.
The horrified face of a northern fur seal once it realizes it must spend eternity as taxidermy in a whaling museum. pic.twitter.com/zw5QnqQfez
— Joy Lanzendorfer (@JoyLanzendorfer) June 15, 2016
In July, I made a goal to complete the first draft of a new novel. I’d been working on a book for several months and I needed to finish it so that I could move onto other things.
So I increased the number of pages until I was writing 10 a day, sometimes even 15-20 pages when I was on a roll. I tracked my progress on Twitter.
Successful day: wrote 10 pages and a short-short, and finally finished painting the trim in the kitchen.
— Joy Lanzendorfer (@JoyLanzendorfer) July 23, 2016
Today was hard because of morning discouragement bomb, but soldiered through #writing 10 pages
— Joy Lanzendorfer (@JoyLanzendorfer) July 22, 2016
Wrote 10 pages despite insomnia. I think I'll finish the first draft of the new book this week.
— Joy Lanzendorfer (@JoyLanzendorfer) July 26, 2016
It was a harrowing time. I wasn’t sure I would make it, but on July 31st, I finished the first draft of the book. It is 151,000 words, 530 pages.
Since I made my progress public on Twitter, lots of people asked me how I was writing so many pages in a day. Here are some thoughts on that.
I can’t stress enough that this was a first draft. It will be a long time before I have a finished manuscript ready to send out for publication. For me, it’s easy to spit out a lot of words. It’s harder to edit them.
So, this draft is rough. Just because I wrote 10 pages doesn’t mean that they were all good pages.
I was motivated to finish because I took time off paying work. I put aside my day job–writing articles–to spend a month on fiction. I can’t afford to do that often, so I made the most of my time, not only writing this first draft but working on short fiction as well. When I plan time to write fiction, I take it seriously.
I used rewards to motivate myself. My writing buddy and I agreed that if we met our July writing goals, we would get a reward. That was doubly motivating because I wanted the reward and I didn’t want to let my buddy (okay it was Marcia) down. Now we’re going on a road trip!
I used markers to motivate myself. I find that visual evidence of progress is helpful, so I put a sticker by every completed bullet point on my outline and I made a dash on my notebook every time I finished a page, like so:
I also wrote my daily word count on my whiteboard. This is for July.
You’ll see I started on page 342 and finished on page 529.
The more I wrote, the easier it was to produce pages. When I started, writing this book was so hard that completing three pages was a decent day’s work. Then something clicked and I got used to writing a lot every day. It’s like any other discipline: You do something enough, you get used to it, and it becomes easier. It’s a shift in perspective.
Everyone works at their own pace. Several people contacted me saying they could never write this much this quickly. You know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. Every writer has a different process, and it doesn’t matter if you do 10 pages or 2 pages as long as you write regularly enough to make progress on your work.
Now this book will have a long rest before editing. I find that my fiction benefits from distance. Letting a draft sit for a period of time makes me more objective, which means that I can look at the book with clear eyes and have a higher chance of knowing what to do with it. Therefore this book is going to sit in a metaphorical drawer for several months before I pick it up again.
And that’s just fine… I have plenty of other things to write in the meantime.
I was lucky enough to be on another beer panel for All About Beer magazine. I got to taste beer and say what I thought of the nuances and flavors. Nice work if you can get it. Check out the July issue to see which beers we liked the best.
I’m so proud to have a short story on Tin House’s Open Bar. It’s called Drought. You can read it here.
And guess what? It was also reprinted in The Guardian.