Friday, April 17, 2009

My Writing Progress

This week I've been taking a lesson from Scott G. F. Bailey's hand-written notebook. A dear friend of mine got me a fountain pen, and I've been working on my book without the use of my computer. It was a little rocky at first. I wrote things like "test, test, test" and my own name. Then, because I still wasn't ready to write, I decided to draw pictures of the shanty where my characters live and the soccer field where they play ball. I drew a little sketch of my protagonist's gambling father watching a cock-fighting match. The feathers. The spray of blood. His squinting eyes hungry for money--Did I mention I studied studio art in college?

Slowly, my brain constructed more details of this opening scene that I have had so much trouble writing. Some things that I thought I would write no longer seemed all that logical. New, exciting, emotionally-juicy details spat out. I realized my protagonist was being too passive in the scene and suddenly he was active. Suddenly, he was guilty of making the situation worse...maybe even starting this entire mess that is the rest of his life!

The pen came from Little Tokyo here in Los Angeles. I'm not sure how much it cost, but it's no Sheaffer Agio Signature Pen. Still, it did its job very* nicely.

I also got some more nice publishing news. Last week I told you I was a finalist in Opium8's publishing contest. A couple of days ago, editor Todd Zuniga e-mailed me and told me I was a "finalist-finalist." I'm in the top 9 and Opium Magazine is publishing my story in their print magazine. I also got a story acceptance from Noo Journal (which I had mentioned liking before) for a story I wrote a couple of years ago based on my trip to the iron mines in Brazil. It's called "God In Frogs" and will be coming out at the end of the year.

*That's for you, Scott.


  1. From now on, I'll call you Mr. Impressive (due to your accepted submissions), except for most of the time.

    I shake my fist at Scott and his pen! Real men waste away in front of computers.

  2. Hi Davin,

    Congratulations on being a finalist-finalist. Will keep my fingers crossed.

    I've discovered writing my stories in longhand works so much better than typing it out. I don't stop to edit like I do when typing. Then when I type it all out, expand on what was written. I found a great fat pen from Target that works pretty well and my fingers don't get cramped.

  3. I LOVE a fountain pen. I fell in love with them when I lived in France. No smoother writing out there anywhere. (Though a good rollerball can be very nice sometimes too.)

    I find that when I write by hand I write very differently than when I write on the computer. It's as if the actions required for each process reach into different parts of my brain. It would be interesting to do a study on why.

    This is true for editing too. I can edit all day on the computer and not see something that jumps out at me when I print out the MS and read it on paper.

    I'm glad that you've found a new way to write. Every little process makes all our writing better.

  4. Integrating all your talents is great. I'm jealous. :)

    Your post just made me remember of some photographs I took of a place in Hungary where I imagined one of my scenes, so that I can focus on some details when I write. I have to find them and use them.

    Congrats on your great contest news!


  5. Congratulations on your "finalist-finalist" notice. I'm impressed, Davin.

    I haven't written as in with a pen and notebook in a while. My handwriting is illegible. I can read it, but not too many others can. Then, there's the thought of having to type it all in eventually, anyway. But, I might try this and see for myself. :)

  6. I am very, very, very happy to hear about Opium and Noo Journal.

    But behold the power of writing by hand! One thing I like about using pen and paper is that I feel free to draw sketches, make charts or diagrams, do free-form maps or whatever as I go along, including them in my manuscript. When I'm sitting at the computer, I feel boxed in and forced into working (and therefore thinking) in a certain way.

  7. Congrats on all your literary success! I hope you become the finalist-finalist-winner.

    Yeah, I need to get back into writing by hand. I've been too worried lately about progress but not about writing.

  8. I love pens! I have a whole collection...and I will steal yours if I like it! LOL I ask though...

  9. Wow! Congrats on the contest and getting those submissions accepted!

    You know, after I read your post about writing in the negative, I've been trying to avoid that very thing in my own writing. And (lol) then, your post on using "and" too much and regarding it as a lazy form of writing prompted me to watch out for that specific thing in my writing, as well.

    So, thanks for the great posts! As far as I'm concerned, you deserve every bit of your success as a writer thus far.

  10. Davin, much congrats on getting your submissions published.

    Also, sometimes you have to take to a pen and notepad, (at least for me), it's an easier way to connect 'disconnected thoughts'.

  11. Davin, awesome job on your progress! That pen sounds beautiful. Perhaps I should try a fountain pen sometimes. It sounds refreshing! No backspace key, though...

  12. Justus, I think I know when you shake your fist. The sky around my lab sort of turns gray and I hear some thunder in the distance.

    Robin, I'm just trying out the longhand. I've tried it before and I always decide it never fully works. I don't stop editing, unfortunately. So, there are just strikethroughs and arrows and little notes everywhere.

    Lotusgirl, you're right. It is a different action. Not better or worse, I don't think, but different. I also have to print out my stories, at least once, before I can really feel like I've seen it.

    Krisz, you research really shows through in your writing. I think it's great!

    Robyn, some people say the typing in from the handwriting is good because it forces you to write another draft from scratch. Those types of drafts are always really good for me, even though they are a lot of work.

    Scott, I often sketch stuff, even when I work on the computer. I just have little notes everywhere. My fear with the longhand is that I'll lose stuff. I'm not very organized! But, it has already helped me break through an intimidating chapter so that I can at least work on it some more.

    Annie: "I've been too worried lately about progress but not about writing." Do explain.

    Litgirl...I hope you live far away from me. Or at least from my pens. :) I admit I always find penstealers a particularly charming breed. Well, the ones that admit to it anyway.

    Ashley, thank you so much for your nice comments! They're heartwarming!

    Crimogenic, Yeah, I think sometimes you just have to do something, anything, to shake up your thinking a bit. I had an art teacher who would make us drawing while standing up every once in awhile. I thought it was great.

    Lady Glamis...nope, no backspace. My notes are VERY messy. :)

  13. Okay, this is the post I meant to get back to, to answer your question.
    I'm actually not sure why I wrote "I've been too worried lately about progress but not about writing," but I think I meant that writing isn't hard. Blogging, freewriting, or journaling (especially with a pen) are easy and fun for me and I could spend a long time at it. But, I worry then I'm not making any progress. I feel like I have to keep driving a story forward. I feel like I have to type and keep track of word count so that I can literally see my progress. So, I feel like I can write anything, and that's fun, but then I feel guilty and think I should buckle down and actually make progress on a story or novel.
    Does that make sense? I don't know. I have all kinds of rules and guilty feelings about writing more stream-of-consciousness vs. "real" writing.


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