If Time Were Sold in Bottles, I’d Be Sending Mine to the Recycling Center

I have no faith in human perfectability. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. –Edgar Allan Poe

Ever wish you could time travel like Hermonie Granger in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? For those who haven’t read the series, Hermonie comes into possession of a "Time-Turner," which she uses to overload her schedule of classes at Hogwarts. She schedules more than one class per period in the day and can thus attend them all because she can travel back in time to sit in on the conflicting schedules. Sounds like a wonderful plan, except for the flesh-and-blood aspect of it, which is to say that being able to time travel so that you can squeeze more into your schedule wouldn’t prevent you from exhausting yourself. Even wizards need sleep.

Time Chart

I recently spent 5 minutes that I found under the sofa somewhere creating a quick pie chart that represents an average of how my time is consumed on a weekly basis. The whole of the pie is a 168-hour week. I broke out the hours I typically spend working, driving, sleeping, eating, exercising, watching television, and doing chores (including shopping errands). Turns out that I spend nearly as much time working (50 hours between my full-time job and a very small amount of side work) as I do sleeping (56 hours). That’s 106 hours out of the full 168-hour week, or about four and a half 24-hour days.

I also spend about 25 hours doing chores and 20 hours behind the wheel. Throw in meals (5 hours) and exercise (5 hours), and that leaves me with exactly 7 hours in a week to do something for myself, like writing. Instead, I typically spend that hour a night in a kind of low-energy waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop haze in front of the television with my family or in front of my laptop.

Granted, the numbers above are averages, so not every week looks exactly the same.

Also, I’m not really complaining. How one spends one’s time, even in our fast-paced age, is mostly a matter of priorities. I could let some of the chores go for a while and give myself a little extra leisure time. Occasionally, I do just that.

Still, there are those times when I’d like to borrow Hermonie’s Time-Turner, just to be able to squeeze in a few more "want-to-do" items into the dimensional space between the items on my "have-to-do" list.

The Long Stall

You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God’s adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.
–Mark Twain

Writers, according to tradition, are notorious procrastinators. We are especially adept at finding distractions to prevent ourselves from typing those first few new words on the screen, those words that inevitably lead to sentences, which lead to descriptive narrative, which leads to active narrative, which leads to a completed work of literature. We’ll daydream about publication. We’ll dream up possible book cover designs, even though we’re not graphic designers. We’ll consider catchy marketing copy. We’ll ponder how we can use social media to sell the work.

In the end, nothing about that process gets a manuscript from the first draft stage to completion.

Nearly two years ago, I finished the first draft of my novel. I planned on taking a six-week vacation from it before I began the rewrite process, hopeful that I would have a completed second draft within a span of three months. Seven months later, I hadn’t even reread the first draft, much less performed any editing or rewrites. Finally, I forced myself to begin the rewrite process, and I was overjoyed to discover that I once again became completely immersed in the world I had created in the first draft. After a month of work, I had rewritten and edited nearly one-third of the manuscript. The plot thickened and tightened as I wrote. I scrapped some elements of the story entirely. Others, I explored in more detail.

Then life happened, as it is prone to do, and the writing stopped again.

I am sorry to say that I have not returned to the novel rewrite process since, although I have taken time out to complete work on a few smaller projects. I do hope to circle back to it soon. Occassionally a voice calls out to me from that world I was writing about, and the urge hits me to revisit it, to carve on it a little more.


I Just Wrote a Novel

After nearly two years of intermittent work on it, I have completed the first draft of my novel. It’s been a very long road, fraught with frustration over finding time to write, overflowing with joy over putting words on the screen, and replete with discovery as I learned more about the writing process, even at this stage in my experience.

In the end, I have a 405-page double-spaced manuscript with 1-inch margins all around, and typed in 12-point Courier. I chose Courier just because it’s the closest I could come to the way old-fashioned typed manuscripts were formatted, and it made the old-fashioned manuscript word count process (250 words per page) easier to track. I realize that style of word count isn’t as important in publishing as it once was, but it did make my math easier as I wrote and kept track of the size of my manuscript versus the length of the book when it’s eventually typeset.

All-in-all, I feel rewarded by having completed this process. And I will be rewarding myself by taking a few weeks off from the novel before I begin the rewrite process, which, as any would-be novelist learns, is the part of the process where the story really comes together and all the nuts and bolts are tightened. It is my hope that the time away from the manuscript will refresh my perspective on it, and help me polish it into the most perfect novel it can be when the process is complete.

I think it will ultimately be a couple of days before I can actually put the manuscript out of my mind completely for this break. I can’t seem to prevent these three words from cycling through my brain right now: "I did it!"

The Secret Love of Reading

From NPR, this may be one of the greatest "learning to love to read" stories I’ve ever read.

Olly Neal grew up in Arkansas during the 1950s. He didn’t care much for high school. One day during his senior year, he cut class — and wandered into the school library.


As he told his daughter, Karama, recently, he stumbled onto a book written by African-American author Frank Yerby. And the discovery changed the life of a teenage boy who was, in Neal’s memory, "a rather troubled high school senior."

There was just one problem: If Neal took the book to the checkout counter, he was sure that the girls who worked on the counter would tell his friends.
"Then my reputation would be down, because I was reading books," Neal said. "And I wanted them to know that all I could do was fight and cuss."

Finally, Neal decided that he ought to steal the book, in order to preserve his reputation. So he did.

A week or two later, Neal had finished the book — so he brought it back to the library, careful to replace it in the same spot he had found it.

"And when I put it back, there was another book by Frank Yerby," Neal said.

Click through to read the full article.


Top 10 List of Challenged Books

ALA’s Top 10 list of "challenged" books of 2008 (AP)AP – Here is the American Library Association’s list of top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2008, their author and the cited reasons: [Yahoo! Books and Publishing News]

I was floored to discover Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark among the titles on the American Library Association’s 2008 Banned/Challenged Books list. The book was the first in a folklore series first published in 1981. I happened to purchase it and its sequel, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, at a library fund-raising book sale a month ago. According to Wikipedia, Scary Stories is a frequent addition to the list. 

Authors Read ‘Banned Books’ Aloud to Celebrate First Amendment

Authors, banned books part of 1st Amendment salute (AP)

AP – "The Grapes of Wrath" was labeled vulgar and pornographic, a dangerous depiction of class hatred. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" was removed from school classrooms and library shelves after its 1969 publication, deemed inappropriate for its depiction of author Maya Angelou’s rape as an 8-year-old girl

[Yahoo! Books and Publishing News]

‘The Lost Symbol’ Doesn’t Herald a New Age for eBooks After All

Discovered via Victoria Strauss:

Even Dan Brown can’t break the e-book 5% rule

When Dan Brown’s "The Lost Symbol" was released on Sept. 15, Amazon’s rankings revealed that Kindle sales outstripped sales of the hardcover. This led some ebook enthusiasts to herald the dawning of a new era. FastCompany asked, "Could Dan Brown’s new book be heralding the e-book age?" CNet wrote: "The possibility that the Kindle version of ‘The Lost Symbol’ — which follows Brown’s wildly popular ‘Da Vinci Code’ and ‘Angels & Demons’ — is outselling hard copies on Amazon could be a monumental moment in the e-book industry."