Saturday, May 30, 2015
Two or three other things have to happen before it ends, and that's fine, except I don't know what else will happen, and I still don't know how the story will end.
All I know is, I won't be finished with this bad boy before June begins. And that's gonna bode quite ill for my novel. I figure I have no choice but to not write my novel until this one's done, and the faster I get this done, the faster I can get on with that one. So I put in a bit of extra work on it today, writing three or four pages, instead of the usual one (or zero).
Still, I NEED to increase my output if I'm gonna write a novel in ninety days, even a short one. And old habits die hard, as I still am much more willing to write in my notebook than on a computer (or worse, my phone, which Big said I should really try). I think what I might do is, take my laptop out to the backyard--or better yet, to the park--and write on the story till the battery runs out.*
"Into the Furnace" could easily be a novel. All I'd have to do is develop somebody other than the main character, or try to have the story be about something other than a sheriff arrives in a new town and discovers a mystery there. I could even introduce some kind of romantic subplot, either for Will himself, or for his lovely daughter. Yeah, I probably ought to do that.
But no, what I really ought to do is try and write this thing--with its single primary storyline--through to the end, knowing I can always go back and expand and develop things after I'm finished with the first draft. That's my plan, for now.
Here we be:
So, around twenty-eight percent done. If I'd just worked a little harder, I'd be a third of the way through this thing (but I spent my whole day off hacking away at an overdue Dunesteef story, so at least it wasn't just watching reality shows).
Even so, there's no way I'll be done by June 1st, in time to start my novel when I was supposed to. ** Which doesn't mean I get to shrug off my novel-writing commitment--Big already has his idea in mind and has been gathering character names, which is a fun thing I tend to do before starting a project, only to forget I ever did that and end up making up new ones while writing anyway--it just means I will have less than ninety days to finish my book.
Although, between you and me, if it takes a hundred days, or heck, a hundred and ninety days, to write my first novel, as long as I actually write it, I'm gonna consider that a success.
Here's to success.
Rish Outfield, Writing Boy
*Oh, something must be wrong with the laptop I bought because its battery only lasts an hour. That seems laughably short to me. Is that typical? The craptop I had a few years back had a six hour battery, and I called it a "craptop."
**Which I realize I already said, but this is actually two posts stuck together, so try to ignore the redundancy.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
But he's always been a huge fan of the Western genre, at least as far as movies go, which, let's face it, is all I really care about either. He has seen hundreds of Westerns, and has either rewatched them all, or has an especial way of remembering them and their casts and details. I spoke to him the other day, and since my last two stories were Westerns (well, Western-ish), I always try to ask him about some technical detail that he's familiar with.*
In "Into the Furnace," I'm still trying to figure out a way for the hero, Will, to succeed, to defeat evil, to save the day. I asked Dad about explosives, about dynamite, about lighting a fuse with a gunshot, and what the highly-volatile goo that oozes out of the sticks in the movies is.
I told him my story was about a sheriff who comes to a little Western town only to find that something is taking the livestock and the occasional townsperson. He said, "What? Like a grizzly bear? A mountain lion?" I didn't want to bring up anything specific, for fear he would criticize me and my frivolous fixation on the fantastic, so I said, "Well, we don't know. It's a monster, you know?" I could have just told him it was a dinosaur, or a shark that operates on land, or a giant snake or something, but I didn't.
He chuckled and said, "You know, when I was in tenth grade, I wrote a story about a big monster that was up Praisden Canyon, coming down at night to steal people away." This was the first time I'd ever heard that he did anything creative, much less wrote anything, and it's kind of shocking because I have written a couple stories about monsters up in the mountains. In fact, "Unreleased" started out as a story about a bunch of high school kids who go up Praisden Canyon (even named so in the narrative) and stumble upon a secret, ancient evil up there.
So, there's that.
Here is my regular bar-graph update:
That's just over twenty-one percent, says my math. And that ain't terrible. This was due mostly to me not allowing myself to go to sleep the other night until I'd reached a round number (five thousand, in this case). It feels nice to have positive progress every time I post one of these. Guess that's because I only post when there's progress. Tell no one.
*With the sequel to "Birth of a Sidekick," I asked him about rifles, specifically how accurate they were, how expensive, and how many shells a rifle of that era would hold. He told me, even giving me a brand that everybody had in the American frontier (I wanna say it was Browning), but I neglected to write any of it down, and since forgot it all, so I guess I talked to him for naught, right?
Sunday, May 24, 2015
This is a nice, though strange, little story about a young man who was born with a caul (which he keeps in a jar in his closet), who has never been in the ocean. The biggest challenge for me was how to say the author's name.
However, I do have to admit that I don't understand the story, especially its ending. If you care to check it out HERE, and you "get it," please let me know.
Rish "Caul-less" Outfield
Friday, May 22, 2015
If and when I ever publish it myself, it'll be hard not to give in to temptation and have the cover art reflect that also. My worry is, that scene comes so late in the story that anybody who bought it because of the cover would be mighty impatient to get to that point, and heartily bored in the meantime. Guess I have to hope the story is good enough, without that element, that they are carried through to that moment, where, if I have any writing talent at all, I will have hooked them.
But speaking of if and when I ever publish this thing, we just had Mother's Day in America when I started this post, and a couple of days before that, I thought that this ("Into the Furnace") might be the first story I've written in years that might be appropriate to share with my mother. She was always (and still is) an avid reader, and though it's been twenty years since I had her read one of my stories, she has never actively discouraged me from my filthy habit.
I don't know that she would enjoy "Into the Furnace," but it occurred to me that, with a bit more planning and elbow-grease, I might have given her this story for Mother's Day, instead of the fat empty nothing I did give her. I wish I could just say, "Well, I'll buckle down and make sure to have the story done in time for her birthday," but my mom's birthday was two days before Mother's Day this year. I should be a better son, but hell, I should be a better everything.
I have managed a few more words (both in the notebook and on the computer), and I just might take my laptop to work tomorrow, to see if I can type instead of handwrite. So, that leaves our little word meter at:
By my math, my tale is fourteen percent done (14.72%). Not bad. Not great either, but I did take a couple of days this week to edit the audio drama that was my entry for this year's Masters of the Macabre contest. And though it was a lot of work, I think it turned out way better than the last two did.
That doesn't really get me off the hook for my dry run story, but it makes me feel like I'm not dragging my feet quite as badly as I could be. Ah well, onward and upward.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Unlike the first time I watched "SNL" on my own, I have no idea when I first watched "Late Night with David Letterman," or who the first guest was. But once NBC took "Friday Night Videos" out of Dave's slot,* I was able to see his show beyond just the summertime, and took pleasure in watching him mock himself and the show he did in a way that really, really attracted me.
Dave was awkward, he always seemed a little ill-at-ease in front of the famous and the beautiful, and he really let the audience know when a joke didn't work or he blew a punchline. Dave was approachable, he seemed like a regular guy, he made fun of everybody, but mostly, he made fun of himself. As I said in my recent essay "Comedy Is Hard," David Letterman is one of my heroes, one of the men I most aspire to be like when I'm doing my show(s), and someone I will miss now that he's gone.
For some stretch in the Eighties, he started to refer to himself as "your Unca Dave," and I've called him that ever since. That's kind of creepy, really, since I really do have an Uncle David, but it's Letterman I think of when I hear those words. I don't know if that says something about my own uncle, or just that shows that I have mental issues.
I watched the show on weekends, and all through the summers, but 1989 is the year I always associate with Dave, for some reason. It was the Year of the Batman to us kids, and I stayed up every night to watch Letterman and I'd actually try to write down the Top Ten lists as Dave was reading them.
"Late Night" was a hallmark of my teenage-hood, and though I watched the show from time to time when it went to CBS (and became "The Late Show"), that show was more expensive, more polished, and more old person respectable, and it never grabbed me quite the same way. I'd still tune in, from time to time, but it was an almost-religious tradition for me a quarter of a century ago, and that's the Dave I remember most fondly.
Well, "The Late Show" is ending this week, and though I would have liked to start up the tradition again and watched every one of his final shows (as I did with Johnny Carson back in 1992), I'm just too busy or undisciplined or loaded with projects that I ought to work on instead, so it wasn't until tonight that I turned on his show again.
Dave's guests were Oprah Winfrey and Norm MacDonald, and it was the same old Dave, making the same old joke about his terrible "hairpiece" that he made when I was beard-free and about a hundred pounds lighter. I was enjoying the show, but then, at the end, Norm MacDonald actually got choked up, talking about first seeing Dave at age thirteen (doing stand-up) and what an impression that made on him, wanting to be a stand-up comedian, and cried at the end after telling Dave he loved him. I too began to cry, and decided I ought to come in here and write a little something about the show.
In 1996, I got this picture taken. I was too young and/or dumb to realize that if I stood in FRONT of the cardboard cutout of Dave, it might look like we were the same size, but hey, I was young and I was dumb, and I'm still one of those things.
So, since I typed this post, Dave's final show has aired. It was jam-packed with tributes and clips, and there was never the quiet moment for reflection and tears I sort of expected. Dave spent most of the show thanking people, including the staff, the band, and even the audience. Not one for the maudlin, I suppose, the last shot of the night he actually had his back to the camera.
I wish I had been more of a dedicated viewer over the past ten years. I've sadly only caught the show a handful of times since moving away from Los Angeles (which, in the grand scheme of things, has started to be a less and less significant chunk of my life), but I sure watched a lot of it this week. YouTube may be a repository for the worthless, banal, wasteful, and unprofessional, but it's a heck of a place to find old clips and, amazingly, entire episodes of the NBC show. Seeing tons of that stuff, both familiar and new to me, made me feel closer to Dave Letterman, and a bit of a more loyal fan.
Like his own hero, Johnny Carson, my guess is that Dave will disappear completely now from the limelight, enabling us to remember him as he was, young and goofy, or middle-aged and crotchety, or getting old but still vibrant. It will be easy for me to remember him when he was at his best, because that's how I already remember him. The man made me laugh, made me think, inspired me, and again, made me laugh. I love you, Unca Dave. You will be missed.
Okay, one more thing: for some weird reason, my favorite sketch on "Late Night" was a little bit where they showed what Dave and Paul (Shaffer) did after a typical episode. They walk down the hall of 30 Rock, when they see an Amish man struggling with a handcart with a broken wheel. Dave and Paul fix the wheel, sending the man on his way, but then realize that the son of a bitch took their wallets. They run after, and shoot the Amish man, Eighties TV cop style. If I can find that sketch on YouTube, I'll embed it here.
Whoa, it was there (from the end of a "Late Night" anniversary show). Love the internet.
*According to the internet, this was in 1987.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Sometimes I've had to interpret typos or poorly-worded phrases and try to figure out what the author is trying to say, since you can't (usually) read gibberish out loud, but this is the first time that an entire piece feels that way.
Who knows, somebody somewhere may hear my narration and be genuinely moved or entertained or inspired by what I did, and if that happens, I'll certainly be of two minds about it. I will, however, be pleased if they never caught on that this one was all about the money, like that "art" film you did right out of school with very little dialogue, a heck of a lot of nudity . . . and not much else. You know the one.
By the time you've read this, that money will have come my way, and been spent (probably on something worthless, like a toy or a book I will never read), so any questions I had with this project are now academic.
But still, I wonder.
Rish Outfield, Boy Narrator
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Now, it may be that that's what creativity is--intending to write about one thing and getting diverted by the muse into a number of unplanned sidetracks and subplots. But I worry that's what an undisciplined writer does, or somebody who doesn't know what he's doing.
For example, in "Popcorn Movies," I wanted to write about artificial nostalgia, and ended up writing about second chances, feelings of worthlessness, the movie business, the American dream, addiction, and the choice between getting what you want for the wrong reasons or getting nothing for the right ones. I don't think that any of those subjects got the attention and exploration that they needed, and I pretty consistently worry that that story just isn't very good.*
In this one, my dry run (which I forget I've already started calling "Into the Furnace"), it began with the idea of "What if a Western sheriff encountered _____?"** But I've been writing on it for weeks now, and I feel like I'm at least at the halfway point, and so far, it's been about grief and second chances, a bit of mystery, and what I fear will be more of a ripoff of JAWS than a homage to it.
But like I said with the Kathy Bates beginning the other day, I'm determined to write what I want to write, and I will keep on forging through, hopefully all the way to the end. Going into the writing, I didn't have any clue how to let the good guy win, but I decided just to start the story and hope it came to me. Now that I'm a page away from the protagonist actually meeting the antagonist face to face, I still don't know how the good guy can win. I hope that inspiration strikes and that it feels earned and organic, but I have very little problem with deus ex machina, and if I can find a good one of those, I will be happy to go for it.
Now, let's take a look at our word count.
That's considerably better than last time, wouldn't you say? Part of the reason is that I went to my friend Jeff's with my new laptop the other day, and he had a conference call he had to take, so I just sat and wrote (actually typing the damned thing) the whole time he was gone. If I could somehow force myself to do that every time I do my writing, I suspect I'd be nearly done by now.
Talk to you soon.
*Which is probably why, even though I finished it over two years ago, it still sits, unread by any human eyes, or unheard by any human ears. Sigh with me, kids.
**A note I jotted on a piece of paper and showed to Big at a convention, which he mentioned this week he still remembered. Though he didn't clarify whether he thought it was a good idea or bad.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Gino asked me what the story's genre is. Turns out, this is another Western, but with another element at play. Unfortunately, it's gonna be a loooooot of Western before we ever hit that second genre. But ah well.
Okay, "Into the Furnace" sounds fine to me as a title for this tale. I suppose it's a play on "out of the furnace and into the fire," but that might not even be a saying (I remember in The Hobbit, Tolkein said, "Out of the frying pan and into the fire," which was the first time I'd heard that, but like I said, I dunno).
The story is going well, if slowly. I have written five or six days of the last week, and though I know I'll need to go through it and add some more details (the description of, well, everything, is pretty sparse, pretty sketchy), I like what I've written so far. In fact, if I'd typed the damned thing up already, I'd have sent it to Big to see what he thinks.*
But, as I've promised, here's how the writing meter looks right now:
That's not great, only five percent finished, but I rest in the knowledge that I've actually written much more than that (twice or thrice, easily), and I haven't hit any major obstacles, except for misplacing my notebook on one day, and diverting off the path last Sunday by coming up with another story I wanted to write while at work, and then forcing myself to finish that one during my regular "Dry Run" writing time.
If this is how the novel-writing goes this summer, I will be slow (too slow, maybe), but I'll be steady. And that's who wins the race, right? That one I know is a saying.
*Of course, on the off-chance he didn't like it, I'd be too afraid to read his comments until I'd finished the story, and that would be a waste of his time, wouldn't it? Guess what I'm really after is somebody reading it and saying, "Golly, Mister Outfield, this story's swell! I can't wait to find out what happens next!" I'm a sad little man.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Also, if there's time, hear me mangle a Tracy Chapman song.
Download the file HERE, if you like.
Sunday, May 03, 2015
Well, before I'd even finished "Dead Money," I got a message from D.W.S.'s agent asking if I was interested in producing the audio version of the first of the Cold Poker Gang books, "Kill Game." Of course I said yes.
The members of the Cold Poker Gang are all, save one, men. And this story deals with the one female member recruiting the others to investigate the long-past mysterious death of her estranged husband. They start uncovering rocks and discovering clues, and the more they find, the stranger it all becomes.
Here's the LINK.
This was a short book. So short, it makes me think I could write one someday (soon?). It would be nice if these would sell a bunch of copies, but even if they don't, I spoke to Dean recently, and there are at least three books in the series already written. So, you never know.
Saturday, May 02, 2015
That is not good. But as I said before, this is only what I have typed up from my many, many pages handwritten in my notebook. I will attempt to get more going, so that you're impressed the next time I update. But I may fail in that (hence this dry run).
Second, I had a conversation with Big the other night about how, in screenwriting, they say you're supposed to start each scene as late as possible and get out of each scene as early as possible. I know that's supposed to make your writing more dynamic, but it's one of those irritating screenwriter sayings like "Show don't tell" and "Page one is the most important page, followed by page two, and page three, and page four..."
I started writing this story, which I'm currently calling "Into the Furnace," a few days ago, and I knew even before I began it that I wanted to start the tale with a conversation with the mayor, telling the sheriff he needs to leave town. He's a shell of the man he used to be, and is doing no good as the Law in that place anymore. I think I even came up with the first line I wanted the story to begin with, but as I thought about it, I decided that it would be the mayor's wife who would be giving the speech (it's that Geena Davis suggestion of arbitrarily changing a male character to female that I can't seem to shake).
But in having the conversation with Big, I realized that, going by screenwriting rules, the story could actually begin with him having left the city and trying to start afresh in a new town (this one, I decided--also arbitrarily--will take place in New Mexico), because that's the real beginning of the story. That's how I ought to start it, with no mayor's wife (played in my mind by Kathy Bates) telling him how much the people in town appreciate him, but he's got to leave).
Except I'm not going to. I answer only to myself, and Kathy Bates is gonna be in there, by God. Nobody may read it, but I'm going to write the story I want to write. It's the little power I have in a life that usually seems pretty powerless.*
After all, if the story began with the arrival in the new town, I would have exactly zero words in the above meter. And no one wants that.
*Have you ever seen the way THE AVENGERS originally began? The Battle of New York has already happened, and Maria Hill is being debriefed, and she begins to tell the story. Then it starts in flashback with Captain America having come to 2012, trying to process how much the world has changed, discovering everyone he knew before except Peggy Carter has died, and he goes for a walk in New York, taking in the changes, where he meets the pretty waitress he ends up saving at the end of the movie. It's all character development, those scenes, and Joss Whedon (or it could've been Feige, I dunno) ended up cutting it all, and starting the movie with Fury and Coulson, Iron Man underwater, then we enter Steve Rogers's new life in the gym where he's beating up on punching bags and Nick Fury recruits him into the Avengers. I understand why it was cut, but I also would've appreciated seeing a version of the movie where all that was edited back in (well, maybe not the Maria Hill bookends, but even that might have worked if we'd seen it the context of how Joss first presented the film). Just saying.