Sunday, March 08, 2009

Starting and Stopping

Three days! After my last round of grading I had three glorious days to work on Wraith of Talera. Since it had been a couple of months since the last time I worked on it, most of those three days was spent in a careful rereading and revision of material already completed. I had to refresh my memory as to where I was in the story. Right about the time I got back to “new” material, mid-terms hit. I managed to get some needed plotting done, but not much in the way of new writing. Since then I’ve been grading. Just grading.

Starting and stopping is one of the hardest things to deal with in on a novel length project. And, unfortunately, that’s the nature of the teaching biz. You have moments of down time, then moments of insanity. And this semester I’m teaching a non-fiction writing class, which means a lot more paper grading than in most semesters. There’s always in academia, in addition, the need to do at least a couple of scholarly type writing projects a year. Those provide more interference with any long-term fiction goal.

But it’s not just the academic job that interferes. I had a couple of really nice opportunities to do some short fiction and nonfiction. They were things I wanted to do and that were good for my career, so the novel went on the back burner. For too long.

I wish I could end this post with a lesson I’ve learned, or a technique for dealing with slow downs. Ain’t gonna happen. I’ve got more grading tomorrow, and on Monday I’ll have a pile of late papers to grade so that I can get midterms turned in by high noon Tuesday. Right now I’m pretty tired and am going to bed. I’ll try to make my blog rounds tomorrow, but Monday and Tuesday are likely to be no shows for me. After that I might get back to a semblance of normalcy for a while. Then it’ll be final exams and all the hassle surrounding graduation.

Just gotta hang on. Gotta hang on.
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49 comments:

Lana Gramlich said...

Let me crazy glue your hands, so you can hang on better...

the walking man said...

Charles...if idle hands are the work of the devil then you have no fear of hell.

G said...

Ughhhh....Blogger ate up my comment.

Reconstruct.

Hmmmmm......keep thinking semi-happy thoughts and remember, a match can always cure what ails ya in the academic world.

As for the novel, let's hope that after the current break, you'll be able to pick up where you left off more easily.

David Cranmer said...

I understand because I'm working on my first novel. I had some quiet moments over the last month where I've been able to make great strides and then the darn day job rears it's ugly head again. Good luck and watch out for Lana and the crazy glue!

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, I'll just hang on to you.

Mark, not at the moment, for sure.

G, At least I do know there'll be another quiet time, but it's frustrating to wait when you've got ideas that need writing down.

David Cranmer, Lana sort of IS the crazy glue that holds me together.

Crushed said...

I think the problem I'm having with my novel, which I think you read part of, is that I'm not sure I any longer feel enthused by its central premises.

In actually want to go back to basics and rewrite the entire plot.

spyscribbler said...

Starting and stopping gets me all off track! I can't stand it! It takes so much extra time to get back on track, too. I've been totally derailed for nearly two weeks by taxes and a drama parent. Ugh.

Now it's into "piano season." Performance after performance. I'm dreading it this year, for some odd reason.

Josephine Damian said...

Charles: Can't imagine school being an endless proposition - the only thing that kept me going was knowing it would end and I'd get back to writing.

Travis Erwin said...

I've been starting and stopping myself but I hope to get back in the groove soon.

Steve Malley said...

These things make us stronger.

I want to offer some helpful advice, but the best I got is, maybe carry a pad and pen, jot what you can in those odd moments/coffee breaks/while you're supposed to be teaching but instead tell the kids to read at their desks. ;)

That way, even if you're just jotting a sentence a day, the work'd stay fresher for longer. Maybe?

Ello said...

I have so many papers to grade I'm feeling very meh. I hear ya!

pattinase (abbott) said...

This resonates with me. I put a novel aside before Christmas and haven't touched it since. The time is coming though. I've been able to work on some shorts but that just takes me further from the job.

Stewart Sternberg said...

It's interesting when you stop and start up after a month of two. It's disorienting isn't it? I find myself scrambling back to character and plot notes I've made to keep from being inconsistent. It's like coming home one day and finding someone has rearranged all the furniture.

ivan said...

Funny how that goes.

I was a columnist for a local magazine here, but my teaching responsibilies encroached on that second job, so I had to sort of pull back, hoard my energy like a miser for the teaching. I was really out of column ideas anyway, some woman wanted my job at the paper anyway, and it looked like it would be the end of my column writing.
Material, material. What would I use for material? Something had to keep me in print. So I gave them my novel, The Black Icon to be serialized; talked the editor into it. He liked the book and said "This is only the beginning, my friend." Well, it was a pretty good beginning. Local prof publishes book, though only in serial form. Hey, publish or perish. It gave me clout.
But once the novel was finished running, there was a sudden hiatus, somehow.
Said Dr. S., "Well, well well. From Ivan the Great to just plain Ivan, just plain teacher. Ha.

I was now fair game, and, as I feared all though high school, quite ordinary. Not publishing, I began perishing.
A consistently publishing teacher, especially in the local press, has great leverage at a college.
People respect (fear) you. But once that source of power is gone--and you're an untenured professor--you are fair game.
Began to feel the loss of power. Crashed my car. "The asshole smashed up his car," says the department head.
"How is your son? Is he going to be like you, this big brain atop a puny body?"
"You are anima-haunted. That's the first thing I noticed about you when I intervied you."
I resisted the temptation to cite the Man from Nantucket. Weird when the department head has a sweet tooth on you, but that's life in the academe.
I was a long time before I got the column back. By accident. Just as my academic carrer began to flag, they published some filed "bring forward" material of mine, and I was back in the game.
Back in the game. Back on Boogie Street. Contract renewed....But I wondered how long I would last this time without burning out.

Teacher burnout. You are wise to manage your time, Charles.

jennifer said...

You could just give them all an A and be done with it.... JUST KIDDING!!!!!

I hope that you are able to get back to your novel soon. Hang in there Charles and have a great week.

Greg Schwartz said...

hey Charles, hope you can find some time soon to write. you're absolutely right about starting and stopping... i've been working on a humorous fantasy novelette for over a year now, and every time i go back to it i have to reread it to remember where i was. it would be nice to just be able to take a month or so with no other obligations, but i guess life doesn't work that way.

Erik Donald France said...

Good luck with the juggling -- as with Lana, seems like a Spring Offensive . . .

laughingwolf said...

i feel for you...

my older daughter has six weeks to go before she grads with her master's... she barely has time to call for a chat

Travis said...

You'll get through it. At least you were able to get some plotting done. And it's March, which must mean that summer break is on the way.

Shauna Roberts said...

Good luck getting through the semester and finding time to get back to your Talera book. Are you on quarters or semesters? My husband's university here (UC-Riverside) is on the quarter system, and it's much more intense and eats up much more of time than the Tulane semester system.

Charles Gramlich said...

Crushed, Sometimes they need that kind of drastic surgery, although it’s sure a lot of work. But I think writers sort of know when things aren’t going right.

spyscribbler, exactly. So much extra time just to get back where you started.

Josephine Damian, that knowing helps, but I think after 20 something years it gets harder to wait strangely enough.

Travis Erwin, I really want to have some unbroken time to put toward writing. Be able to get going and keep the momentum up.

Steve Malley, I did do some writing in class while I was administering a test the other day. But then with all the grading I haven’t even had time to get that typed in on computer. It just depends on the situation. Sometimes I can keep going a little bit at a time. Other time the grading just has to take precedence.

Ello, papers, the bane of teaching!
pattinase (abbott), yes, I’ve done some shorts too, and enjoyed them, but with a full time job I typically can only spare time to do one major project at a time.

Stewart Sternberg, good analogy. I trip over the couch in its new place for a while when I have to restart.

ivan, I’ve envied some of my English prof friends because they can often count their fiction or poetry toward their scholarly publishing. Because my dept is psyc I’ve never been able to count it that way. In fact, with one dean my fiction weighed clearly against me. Even though I’d also published lots of nonfiction. Can’t win for losing sometimes.

jennifer, I try all kinds of things to get them to write better papers, because it’s a lot easier to grade a good one than a bad one.

Greg Schwartz, nope, it certainly doesn’t appear to. I know even full time writers have distractions from real life, but at least they don’t have the constant demands of another job to deal with.

Erik Donald France, Spring is always the worst semester because it’s graduation season. Everyone’s tension goes up a few notches.

laughingwolf, I well remember those days.

Travis, looking forward to summer. Other than a couple of trips I’ve gotta take I’ll have some good hours to work.

Charles Gramlich said...

Shauna, we're on semesters, which I think is better than Quarters. Although I've never taught in a quarter system.

Christina said...

I know that feeling, but you're back to the grind and hopefully you get a chance in the summer to really work on things. Unless you teach summer school...

Miladysa said...

You'll look back in a few weeks time and be amazed at what you have achieved and all fired up to carry on with the fiction :D

I'm sending positive thoughts your way and wish you well with all your projects.

Mary Witzl said...

Gish Jen, a writer I admire very much, said once that not everything in your life can be turned into fodder for writing. And sadly, that is true. While I'm cooking or pegging out washing I'm okay: I like cooking and pegging out washing. But when I'm picking up after others or taking out the trash or doing the dishes, or teaching people who don't want to be taught, I seethe and think of all the writing I COULD be doing instead. I tell myself I'm developing my character instead. Pathetic, but it sort of works.

BernardL said...

Blogging is supposed to be fun. There's no reason to make it a duty. Grade on! :)

L.A. Mitchell said...

Just remember your academia provides inspiration you might miss being a secluded writer. I wish you quick work and much time to write as a reward :)

Sam said...

Hang on indeed!!
I've been so exhausted lately I don't even have the energy to blog, much less write. Argh- needed - long restful vacation with lots of free time for reading and writing...

writtenwyrdd said...

Reimmersing yourself in a novel length project is a lengthy process. It's too bad you have had to do this, but I'm sure you'll prevail!

Charles Gramlich said...

Christina, no I'm not going to teach summer school. Lana lets me off the hook for that. My ex always made me teach summer school. It sure is nice to get the break.

Miladysa, :) I hope so. I imagine you are right. Thanks,

Mary Witzl, I figure my character as developed as it's going to get by now. Too much other work just erodes it. ;)

BernardL, indeed. I'm afraid I do that too much with things that are supposed to be fun. I've got some issues. ;)

L.A. Mitchell, sometimes the wrong kind of inspriation, but you're right. It also provides me money, and that is of major importance to being able to do anything.

Sam, that's the other thing. As I've gotten older, I need a bit more rest and relaxation than I used to require. That's in addition to writing. Sigh.

Charles Gramlich said...

Writtenwyrd, reimmersing is not all that hard, and can be fun, but it sure takes up time where I'm not making much forward movement.

writtenwyrdd said...

FWIW Charles, I just read a Trailsman book (#279 "Death Valley Vengeance") and found the sex gratuitous and the violence rather meh but actually not over the top or anything.

But--yawn!--what a bore!

The sex scenes could have been totally skipped over with the end of scene where the guy climbs into the wagon with the girl. The violence worked as plot elements IMO.

Don't think I need to read any more of these.

And a random term that bugged me: owlhoot.

Merisi said...

I admire your stamina.
Love your comment, Lana! ;-)

etain_lavena said...

Good luck, Charles.
It will be ok:)

Charles Gramlich said...

writtenwyrdd, I actually read that one too, and liked it quite a bit better than you did. I know the author and picked up some nice touches that he worked in there. I agree that the sex didn't add anything there, and I imagine the author would agree as well. It's part of the guidelines for that series, unfortunately. Owlhoot is a kind of weird word but it is a legitmate historical term.

Merisi, Lana is such a sweety. In some ways. But that crazy glue thing. She might mean it.

etain_lavena, thankee. I'm sure I'll survive. But I'll be tired.

Lauren said...

Good luck with the grading! I agree about the starting and stopping thing. Totally takes the wind out of your sails.

writtenwyrdd said...

Well Charles, seeing as I like Regency Romances upon occasion, one cannot always assume my tastes are, um, impeccable. Actually, they are quite plebeian. Low even.

laughingwolf said...

she found two spare hours thursday morning... and suggested i buy us brunch :O lol

Cloudia said...

Hang in there, Charles!
Aloha-

Best Fantasy and Science Fiction said...

I do the same thing Charles... spend most of the time I have to sit down and write re-reading what I have already written in order for it to make sense and be cohesive. Its quite sad sometimes, but well worth the final product! There are some authors that dont start and stop so well and you can surely tell in their novels. Sometimes its a whole new world in between pauses! :)

Sarai said...

Its almost over. You can do it just hang in there!

Charles Gramlich said...

Lauren, indeed so.

writtenwyrdd, I've been known quite often to hang out in the literature ghetto. In fact, I prefer it there. lol.

laughingwolf, sounds to me like she was just hungry!

Cloudia, thanks. I will.

Best Fantasy and Science Fiction, good point. I didn't really think of it quite like that.

Charles Gramlich said...

Saria, thanks

Lana Gramlich said...

I'll hang onto you, too, so if anyone falls, we go together. *L*
(Just keep thinking about May 11th. ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, oh yeah, May 11th.

Oh, you mean the trip. ;)

J. L. Krueger said...

Charles,
I know the feeling. Although I technically have many hours available to write each day, most days I'm so wiped out by the time I get back to the safe house, I just sit.

Thursday afternoons and Fridays (the Muslim weekend) are my normal writing/blogging days.

Charles Gramlich said...

J.L., When I was younger I used to still have energy when I got home from work. NOt so often these days.

Alex Moore said...

i've found that grading - esp essays, portfolios, writing stuff -- seems to zap my desire to write. After pouring over others' writing, the last thing I want to do is create. I usually settle for a fast, easy book to read at that point. Kudos to you for staying so focused.

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, it depends. I often do feel that way, though, too zapped to do my own writing. It's sort of like needing to clear the lungs of smoke before taking a nice breath of fresh air.