3 Rabbits from My Hat – Writing Feats

Exactly 30 days ago, I began work on a series of writing goals:

Goal One – The Pledge: I wanted to write every night, at least on average. If I missed, because I fell over exhausted, I’d make up for it. In the past 30 days, I have generated exactly 32 writing pieces. I have exceeded the goal of writing nightly.

Goal Two – The Turn: 3 days into it, I decided to make it a goal to write complete stories, not just story parts. The first couple were dissatisfying, in that they sort of teased, but did not tell a complete story. I was writing warm-ups in the form of nightly chops (the demonstrations of proficiency that Jazz musicians do when they cut loose and jam after hours in certain clubs – “showing your chops tonight”) – and they worked for that, but I added the chop of making them stories, wherever possible – they had to contain a turn to go with the pledge, leading to the prestige. I have generated exactly 30 pieces that can stand as complete stories, so I’ve also achieved this goal, also.

Goal Three – The Prestige:

  • The Days: 5 days into it, I decided I wanted to included Habitforge. It’s like NANOWRIMO as a goal tool, but can be used for anything, not only writing, and it can be done any time of the year. The premise is that when you do something for at least 21 days straight, it becomes a habit. So I added the goal of writing nightly chops for 21 days straight, at least on the average. There are some tucked in features you can use for this, though it’s not really configured around averages. If I wrote the stories for Tue/Wed/Thur all on Monday, which I did once, I said yes to all of those days. The goal was the goal, not the software. I’ve achieved an average of 25 days of writing out of 25 days of measurement, which perfectly reflects the initial goal of writing every night. Habitforge goal achieved.
  • The Words: 27 days into it, I realized I was hitting a word count pace similar to NANOWRIMO, otherwise known as the month of writing Hell – 50K words in 30 days. It wasn’t intentional to keep pace with Nano – it just worked out that way. Apparently, if you write every night, it’s pretty reasonable. So I added that goal. 50K words in a month. Word count to me, was never really the point, of course. At MYTHOLOG, we didn’t pay for stories by word count – we paid by the piece – to discourage padding with fluff, and to maintain the premise that a story should be as long or short as it needs to be in order to be what it is, no longer, no shorter. I’ve kept to that premise roughly 85% of the time, too. The goal, though, is more about performing a feat – it’s an arbitrary measure. And in this case, it was achieved. 51,000+ words in 30 days from December 26th through January 25th.

Goals and Performing Arts: While doing this work, I’ve been reading Erin Morgenstern’s lovely book The Night Circus, along with Justin Cronin’s new vampire sequel. I know he hates that word, but I have no problem with vampires like the one in Let Me In/Let the Right One In – vampires that aren’t about being somebody’s boyfriend, like in Twilight. Ugh. Anyway, The Night Circus is about rival magicians and made me remember The Prestige which is also about that. Film is a language to me, so I re-watched it again last night. OK, more like 4am this morning. Three things go into a magic trick, the film says – The Pledge (which is the promise inherent in any story, the contract the performer sets up and fills with the introduction of any new piece – the goal established in any feat of magic or performance- we can say ‘trick’ if we want), The Turn (this is where something actually happens, and is what makes a story a story, and is when you see the means by which a person is achieving the goal – it’s sometimes described as being “on” in a performance), and The Prestige (this is the result of the showmanship inherent in any performance art – it is the thing you’re paid besides money, if you make money at all).

I bring this up, because I really do take writing as a means of performance. I write in order to read to you – in order to respond to the phrase “Read to Me, Asher.” It isn’t the act of writing, for me, but the achievement of it, the creation of something and the placement of that something in your mind through the act of talking onto a page. In that lie the three parts of my own wizardry, if I can be so arrogant as to call it that. I don’t do open mic night. I’m not that kind of performer. I’m a stage diva, and you can look around and see one of my stages. A stage is a construct, after all – specifically that – and Asher’s Haunt is one of many. The pledge is to hack things – a genre, a method – the goals above are a form of life hacking, one of my favorite memes. The turn is kicking things out, with a shift in the direction – managing a different nuance of voice, a different tweak of the genre, a different subject matter. And now, taking my bow, I am accepting the prestige, like the attention whore that I am – though, I prefer the term “diva” which is an attention whore dressed in more elegant attire.

The Next Act: For my next “trick” –  and by the way, that word “trick” makes me think of prostitution too – admit it, you were thinking that – I’m not ashamed – I’ll prostitute myself for a little applause – asking you if you like this, do you like that… for my next feat, trick, set of goals, I plan to focus on continuing to write nightly, on average, but with a mixture of the chops displayed here in the Asherverse, and work on the long form. Ultimately, I intend to kick out novels, endlessly. The current goal is to learn to do it at least once. If I can do that, then improvisation, to cite Jazz again, is no problem. I can push out variations on a form all day long, but I have to learn to do it once, the first time. You’ll still see more chops coming out – frequently, I hope – perhaps most nights – they maintain the rhythm – but I also intend to focus on building that literary nuclear device we call a book.

Thank you – * bowing * – for your support during the above performance (you all know who you are). I’ve deeply appreciated the various thumbs up along the way, and the handful of you who have read my stuff. Don’t worry, if you didn’t  – I can see those stats, and the fact that some stories get read a lot more than others (get more attention than others) gives me useful information to add to the performance toolbox, too.

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