Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Still Hacking Away at the Book

Last night I had another cigar (Rothchild) and half a bottle of wine (Steak House, red). I'm told the wine should've been more vinegar-like, considering how long ago I opened it, but if anything it was sweeter--that could've been the cigar's effect.

I don't need to unhinge my mind when I crank out my tedious little short stories with the comic twist. I can knock those out and be done with them in an hour, if I'm inspired. I can turn them in and get an A, or I have historically.

But currently I'm working on my novel, and I really need the nicotine and the alcohol to dissolve and wash away the barriers of my conscious thought, to enable my creativity to find weak spots through which to seep. I'm amused to discover how highly I view the concept of the novel, how many tacit tenets to which I hold myself accountable in this writing process.

My writing ritual is to relax on the porch to start with, lighting the large clove candle in the iron holder. I smoke a whole cigar, I drink a quantity of alcohol, and I study a Gene Wolfe novel. The plot of The Citadel of the Autarch (or The Castle of the Otter, as some have it) glows faintly in the back of my mind, like a television set in an unoccupied room, as I focus upon word choice and sentence structure, how specific terms contribute to the atmosphere of the piece. For all the new words he created for his world, I'm fascinated by which of the mundane variety he retained. What was he trying to achieve with this character's voice? How do these two men speak differently, and does it impart the desired sense of foreignness between them?

Lastly, I look at how very much he wrote in each chapter, how indulgently long they are, and that is the permission I need to sit down at my own computer and write out as much as I desire. This is important because I've been working on censoring and editing myself, trying to say in a few words what I would say in many more. Many people around me remind me of my verbosity, the logorhea with which I'm afflicted. I think the real crime here is when I use a lot of words to become repetitive, and there's nothing wrong with me typing out vast quantities of text otherwise. So last night, after rereading the storytelling contest, I opened up "Chapter Three: Piotr Trains Alone" and tripled its file size, and I'm not done with it.

3 comments:

Bexley said...

I have an actual copy (as opposed to the combined Castle/Book of Days reprint)of The Castle of the Otter. It was one of my miracle Half Price finds, on the shelf next to the entire BotNS in hardcover. I think I injured my wrist, I grabbed at the shelf so quickly.

Christian said...

Good score, wow. I'm hoping that if I mention in a letter how much Castle of Days meant to me, Wolfe might find an extra copy in his basement or something...

Bexley said...

Good score indeed- it was finding them all in hardcover in one shot that led to my donating my paperback copies of TBotNS to you. (To be fair, you'd already heard of him, and might have gotten to them eventually without the donation.)