It was raining last night and into the early morning hours. I have been working on my novella, Ghosts of North Beach. It is an exercise in self discipline. I prefer to work in smaller increments – poems and blog posts, and 1000 word pieces for various online and paper publications. It has been a very long time since I attempted anything approaching this scope, and it has never gone this smoothly in the past. I tend to get hung up, writing long swathes of text as if they are poetry, and the plot getting lost in the pretty. This time I have given myself a good talking to, and written copious notes in a vain attempt to keep myself on track. I think it is working.
When I passed the 20,000 word barrier things started to get interesting. The sum of my writing over the past eighteen months is far in excess of this word count, but varied and mostly not a cohesive chronological work. The novella is, by definition an extended long distance race of a project. I think it is going to top out at around 40,000 words. I have the next installment almost planned out, if unnamed. I suppose it is a testament to this perhaps not being a horrible idea, that I managed to creep myself out so thoroughly in the early hours of the morning when I tend to write the best, that I had to turn all the lights on, and listen to Warren Zevon through my headphones, so as not to disturb the sensibly sleeping. The French Inhaler drifted into my eardrums and took the edge off the creeping feeling that I had awoken some strange beast, or at least a couple of San Franciscan ghosts. That surely has to be a good sign. After all, if I can scare myself writing it, I should be able to scare a few people reading it.
I never thought I would go the route of supernatural horror story writer. The plot came together so perfectly that I couldn’t help but write a few pages and see how it went. After a few pages I was hooked. My long held assertation that I do not write novels is eating dust and my favorite hat while I tap away around the 25,000 word mark wondering if I can wrap it up in 40,000. I have to wrap it up in 40,000, otherwise it will end up too long for a novella, and too short for a novel and that will not please me at all. I know I am hardly a commercial kind of writer, but I still have something that I think might be called ‘pride in my work’. So here I am trying to write for an audience. To entertain! Who would have thought it, that me, of all people would try and sell out! I almost feel faint at the prospect of it. Of course, that is partly why people write, and more or less why people read what they produce. It is entertainment. No one wants to be battered round the head with misery when they open a book, at least not unless that misery is well written, I suppose.
I have been reading “Last Exit To Brooklyn”, by Hubert Selby Jr. It is wall to wall perfectly written suffering. A masterclass in sadness, desolation and loss of hope encapsulated in sentences that don’t waste a word. It is art. I wonder what it feels like to write something like that? Hunter S Thompson once said (I believe in the Gonzovision BBC documentary), that he used to type out books he admired, just to see what it felt like to write genius perfection. I feel tempted to do the same. My version of this is picking up my guitar and playing a few Dylan songs. The pleasure of playing takes away the sting of knowing that I will never write anything as inspired and beautiful as Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues. Every time I pick that final G chord and sing “I’m going back to New York, I do believe I’ve had enough” I smile. I can’t help it. It is so absolutely perfect. Every time I sing it I see the young Dylan, hand to his mouth shouting the lyrics out at the Royal Albert Hall performance back in in 1966, existing in that absolute bubble of creative supremacy. To write that well is to fly with the Angels, and hang out with the Goddesses and Gods on Olympus, to rise above this earth and clay and war and suffering and gain the keys to the kingdom, even if no one can stay there for long. What comes up, must go down, or at least write Country Pie or New Pony and move away from the sun for a while.
I knocked out 4000 words this morning, mainly rewriting a section of the plot that didn’t feel like it was working. It is set up for the denouement and I know where it is going. I figure I will have it finished in first draft form by the end of the week. It is almost scaring me, but then again, a lot of things scare me.
Outside in the early hours of the morning, a couple were having a fight in the rain while I worked. It was miserable and full of recriminations and mean words. I wonder what it is about my house that people like to stop outside to have their personal dramas. I wonder if they know they are subconsciously auditioning for a spot in my novella? Would they pick somewhere else to fight if they did?
My room smells like hyacinths. I have pretty pink ones in a glass vase sitting in my little indoor garden. They are so rich and powerful that I feel like I am living in luxury. I love the smell of hyacinths. I don’t often buy the pink ones, I prefer the purple or blues, but these smell so strongly I think I was missing out! My little garden gives me such joy. I have never had the chance to grow a few houseplants. Sometimes someone would pick me some wildflowers and put them in a cut off sprite can, and there is a certain joy to that too. The quiet country beauty and unassuming downhome joy of wildflowers in an impromptu vase is something that I treasure, a memory that is too delicate to disturb too often. Sometimes I would come back to the campsite after taking a walk or a shower, and find a small handwritten note and a bunch of flowers next to a small pile of huckleberries that would read something intensely personal and kind. Generally that someone loved me. I have always been glad for love, but now it is time to write.