I’m a vagabond these days. I bought a project house that I’ve been working on since August, but with the bathroom gutted, I can’t live there. As a result, I’ve been wandering from spare room to spare room among friends and acquaintances. This means I don’t have most of my usual writing tools at hand. My writing desk is in a storage container, as is most everything I own. My writing cats are living in Arkansas.
Typically, I write my first drafts longhand while sitting at my writing desk. I prefer a Clairefontaine notebook for their creamy paper, and a Pelikan fountain pen filled with slippery silicone-enhanced ink. Yes, despite being a fucking philistine in the rest of my life, I’m kind of a writing snob. My writing desk is an antique Abernathy library table.
Without my preferred tools, I had rather expected that this hiatus from homebound security would also produce a hiatus from writing, but I was wrong. In September I wrote a first draft of a book, and not in my usual manner. I hammered it out on a dinky little third-hand laptop with pixelated lines on the screen. No handwritten drafts. No handwritten notes even. It’s the first project I’ve ever tackled entirely on computer.
Well, almost entirely. When I came time to do the heavy lifting of revisions and edits, I fell back to form. I printed the whole thing out and started editing with pencil. Only a few pages in, I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t working. What was the problem? The pencil. I was using the nearest thing: a mechanical pencil. That was the problem. I always do edits with a real wood pencil. I don’t know why, but it feels easier. It’s warm and satisfying and mess and erasable, which is good, because I’ve been known to do some serious erasing while I’m editing. Plus, there’s something about rolling off wood shavings every few chapters that really appeals to the crafty side of me.
At least once I recognized the problem, it was easy to solve. I dug up some old wood pencils (shout out to my alma mater!), bought a really nice manual sharpener and a good Japanese eraser (Oops!Pig). I’m in business. Two hundred pages of edits done and two hundred more to go.
How about you? Are there writing habits you can kick? Are there ones you can’t? What’s the bare minimum you require to get a book on paper?
And now that I look at the picture I snapped, I realize that the last sentence shown is: “A blowjob on one page and some girl taking it from behind on the other.” Hmmm. So, what the hell, it might as well be a teaser. Here’s the text of that page shown, pre-edits:
“What the hell are you doing?” Kellen said. Two sleepless nights and too much adrenaline caught up with him, made his hands shake as he popped the clip and ejected the round in the chamber. He slammed open the kitchen drawer and shoved the gun to the back. “I said, what the hell are you doing? And goddamnit, you better answer me for a change.”
Wavy looked at him, as though to say, isn’t it obvious? A magazine lay on the table in front of her. Reading.
“Come on, pack your shit up. I’ll give you a ride home.” The back of his shirt was filthy from lying in the dirt working on Vic’s car and her dress was white. That was too bad.
He stomped to the front door to get his boots on, but she didn’t come. When he went back to the kitchen, she was still sitting there.
“Now. Goddamn right now. I’m not in the mood for this.”
“Walk.” She got up from the chair slowly.
“No, you’re not walking home.”
“Yeah, well it wasn’t pitch black out when you walked here, either.”
“And how’d you get in here?”
Out of her dress pocket she took a key and laid it on the table. The spare from under the mat on the back porch.
Looking down at the key, he realized she was reading a skin mag. Not a skin mag. One of his magazines, from out of his night stand. She had it open to a page he didn’t even like to think she’d looked at. A blowjob on one page and some girl taking it from behind on the other.