Novel Journey 3: In which the author goes snorkeling

Bonsai Farm, Moalboal, Philippines

Bonsai Farm, Moalboal, Philippines

It is a 20 minute walk from Dacozy to Panagsama village through the village where the folks who support the tourist industry actually live.

There is one cluster of small houses where everyone seems to have gone made for bonsai trees. I’m not sure if it is a very enthusiastic hobby or something raised to sell elsewhere.

The poverty here is bad. Not starvation bad, and not community destroying as I’ve seen elsewhere. Nevertheless it does lead to the sort of conflicts where unfortunate choices have to be made, like: do we eat the fish and blast the reef, or do we starve and hope there are enough tourists? It’s not as if you can grow much here. The ground is hard coral.

The reef shows signs of dynamite fishing but I gather this has been stopped. The corals are bleached and not always in great condition although there is tremendous diversity in hard and soft corals, as well as in the sea life. I think this is partly just because it is so shallow here. At low tide the reef at the shelf is barely a metre below the water in places.

After my morning swim – at about 7 am – I got started. Today was better. I have achieved a total word-count of 15,487 of which 5,040 came today. I can’t promise they are brilliant words, but that is the process of pruning and embroidery that is almost constant through the writing process.

Today does mark, though, the first day in which I really felt as if I was watching events unfold before me and simply struggling to act as a journalist of events.

Would that all days are like this.

3 replies »

  1. In the late ’90s, I found myself writing and editing and rewriting the same 100 or pages. Felt I had to make it “perfect” before I could move on. I mentioned this to my pal (and occasional Scrogue) Greg Stene. He asked me why. I explained that the first section of the novel had to to with introducing the female protagonist. Had to get her just right, I said.

    Greg said, in a word, nonsense. He asked me if I had a good handle on the male character she was about to meet. I said yes. So he said, just hook ’em up and get out of their way.

    Greg was right. In the all the fiction I’ve written since then, once I had created characters of sufficient depth and intelligence, I “just got out of their way.” As I wrote my 1,000 words or so a day, I became more and more a witness to their interactions rather than the creator of that interaction.

  2. denny makes an interesting tangential point here (besides his very important one of getting out of the way) and that is that for some reason, 1000 words per day seems to be the typical quota for a writer. Marquez was 250, as was Leonard if I remember, and of course King’s daily limit is until the keyboard screams for mercy. but by and large, from pohl to hemingway, the daily quota seems to be 1000. for me, 1000 works.

    i know that when i write faster than that, i end up with huge amounts of detritus which must be tossed. 5000 is absolutely fucking huge. will be interested to see if that ends up being your standard pace.

    someone, i forget hwo, said, “there’s no writing, only rewriting.” and i think it was voltaire who said the “problem with books is how to start the damn thing.”

    good luck.

    • Maybe I’m used to how much I have to cram into a day. I’m used to producing 2,000 words in a day – after hours – for my commercial writing work, so if I’m spending 10 hours writing on one novel, 500 words an hour seems about right. And for something I’ve spent so long thinking about … not particularly hard.

      And, on one epic day so far, I produced over 7,000. If anything, I’m writing so fast that I’m not quite describing everything that happens, so every day – for the last two hours – I stop writing anything new and go back through the book to flesh out scenes and clean and review.

      I agree with the reviewing bit, absolutely essential.