Friday, December 31, 2010


Instead of easily broken and quickly forgotten resolutions, I try to identify priorities for the coming year. The emphasis shifts to sticking with a plan rather than accomplishing specific goals. For 2011 I'm reverting back to resolutions. Instead of the dozens I could and should make, I have one: to finish my book.

My four-day write-a-thon has ended. Despite devoting more than sixty hours to it, I didn't make it to the end of the story. I did, however make significant progress in that direction.

Reading what I'd written before my little hiatus was more enjoyable than expected. Previous re-reads always resulted in significant revisions with massive rewrites and completely reorganized sections. This time I corrected a few typos, made some minor edits and that was it.

After reading the draft, most people comment on my amazing memory. I've blogged about my memory before. Since then I've come to appreciate that creating the illusion of detailed memories is part of the art of writing.

I do recall some things in vivid detail. But mostly not. Things that happened often like Christmas, family reunion picnics and school dances, get all mixed up together in my mind and are difficult to tie to specific years. I piece something together from my memories that feels real to me and move on.

Most details about my early life come from stories I heard over and over and over again. Friends from every stage of my life have been very helpful and often trigger new memories by asking about something I had until that moment forgotten all about. Readers ask questions that either trigger a memory or cause me to research the answer.

The amount of research required, even for a story about me, is astounding. The Internet helps a lot. Google provides the answer to most my questions. Sometimes Wikipedia is sufficient. If not, digging a little deeper often turns up links with historical information that comes in handy. has been surprisingly useful. Information provided by relatives about the dates some people were born or died turned out to be wrong. Except for my Aunt Mary, I was easily able to locate birth and death records that cleared up any confusion.

To make whatever part I'm working on make sense, I often go back and insert paragraphs in chapters I thought were done. Finding the right spot to insert the detail can be time consuming, but adds richness and texture to the story. The reader has no idea half the paragraphs were inserted after the chapter was already "finished". Just another way the illusion is created and fostered.

Besides getting to the end of the story, there's still work to do. One of the chapters is too long, several chapters end rather abruptly and a few don't really add anything to the story. Knowing chapters have a way of changing after I thought they were done, I'll wait until I make it to the end to deal with these issues.

But now it's back to my old journals. They're very useful for turning up little tidbits of information and for the sequence of events. Mostly they bore the hell out of me. No wonder I'm...

The Crotchety Old Man

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