Thursday, July 23, 2009

Longhand is fun, but typing's a b....

Nick wouldn’t tell her, would he?

No, I think, he wouldn’t. He loves her too much.

The pen tip, glistening like baby eyes under the light of the candle, hesitates for a moment—just a moment—over the paper before it goes in for surgery. The incision is soundless. The pen recoils as if to look at its work—yes, that felt good—before continuing on with further creation. And me—I only think of the characters, their lives, their actions, their meaning, and their hearts and how they beat to this world forged by my pen. The soft drone of crickets is my background music, the faint flutter of moth wings dancing in candlelight my entertainment. I have no worries, no exams to study for, no job to wake up to, and I will only sleep when the creative eye tires, not the physical.

Some hours later, as I slip off my sandals, pull back the mosquito net that has already congregated its nighttime followers, I think about Nick Harrington. As the misty haze of rejuvenating sleep crawls over me, right as the last of my consciousness hangs on, I smile weakly.

Yes—he loves her too much.

What you’ve just read is a window into my life last summer, a time when I knew my characters well. How could I not?—I interacted with them on a daily basis. Amidst the dark nights of the jungle they became more than just pen strokes on a paper, but actual people with their own unique personalities and beliefs, even their own fears. It seemed that I wasn’t just writing them, but that they began to write themselves. For the first time I was able to interact with my creations on a daily basis—on a brand new level. It was the summer before my senior year of college, and I had decided to forego taking on a mind numbing internship, or signing on to assist with research. I needed change. I needed new experiences. I needed to write. These necessities and the spark of an idea brought me to an Afro-Ecuadorian community on the Cayapas River in a remote jungle village in San Miguel, Ecuador with two purposes: to take in new experiences for use towards a future novel and to allow myself the time to develop my writing. It was a place devoid of electricity, running water, and the Internet—where typical life worries are naught and the pen is king. Needless to say, it was the best writing experience of my life. (I kept track of some of my adventures here)

My days in San Miguel were consumed with reading and writing. With the first draft of my first novel, Parallels (the story of a young boy who witnesses the brutal murder of his parents before being thrown into a parallel world) finished, I opened a spiral notebook and began my second book. It was a story about Nick Harrington, a character I introduced in the very beginning of this statement, a man haunted by the ghosts of someone else’s past. In addition to keeping with a strict daily writing regimen of ten pages, I read upwards of one hundred pages of fiction per day to keep my mind fresh and as a reminder of what to do and what not to do in my own writing. With these two goals set and, more importantly, the ability to carry them out, I felt my writing improve with every day, more than it ever had in any academic setting.

Fast forward a year. I have 600 notebook pages filled with what I like to think is a compelling, well-written (with a little editing, of course), story that will scare the shiznit out of someone...someday.

During my last few months in college, I went through the whole of it, marked it up, removed sentences, paragraphs, whole pages, added things here and there, made notes. Honestly, half the time was spent looking at a word like it was some alien artifact, trying to figure out just what the hell I had written. I figured most of them out--sooner or later--and the rest I just guessed or concluded that the sentence needed redoing anyway.

Now the really tedious part. Typing it all up. Who knew that something could take sooo long? I eventually caved and got this program called MacDictate, a microphone headset, and some patience. So now I read the novel aloud to my computer and it transcribes it for me. At least, that's what's supposed to happen. And for the most part it does this, but those little errors can get annoying. I actually questioned whether I was saving any time at all, so I tested it. It takes me 10 minutes to type up a full page, whereas, corrections and all, it takes about 5 minutes with the speech recognition. And it's easier on the hands. Also, there are some benefits: my computer has a tough time recognizing a certain four-letter word that starts with an 'f' and all the times I had to go back and correct made me realize...hmm, I might be putting on the foul language a little too thick. But I blame that more on the character (Tom Jacobs, not Nick...Nick is too much of a stand-up guy) than me.

I am on about page 86 now. It's a ghost story which I enjoyed writing, so it's kind of thrilling to go back through it again. I'll most likely write more about it in the future and hopefully you will see it on the shelves one day.

-Justin Key

No comments:

Post a Comment