Surprising surprises

For years I wanted to be a writer so I could make more of the things I like to read, but during all that time I thought there would be a catch that came with that. Unlike the books I didn’t write, I could never have the experience of reading one of my own books for the first time—they could never come as a surprise to me.

After having recently spent about a hundred days writing a novel, one that I’ve been casually contemplating for more than twenty years, I have to revise my thinking about that catch. Although I knew for years the general idea underlying my book, its main themes, several of the main characters, and how, more or less, it would end, most of what happens in the finished book came as a surprise to me, emerging in the writing, popping onto the page as I pecked away. At least once a day while working I’d find myself saying, “Oh, so that’s how that happened!” In addition, many of the characters, some of whom become very important as the story unfolded, were complete strangers to me when they made their first appearances—like real people, I only got to know who they were over time. And now that I have finished drafting the novel, I am sad that I will not be able to spend more time with them.

No, writing my novel wasn’t like reading it for the first time. It was much more satisfyingly surprising!

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If it were done when ’tis done…

…there would be no need for editors. But, still, I just finished the rough draft of Fuzzy Bytes. 82,756 words according to Scrivener.

I will figure out in the next few days how to distribute the thing to people who want to read it. But right now I can say, woohoo!

Today I am a novelist

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Final Stretch Mark

I’m now composing the final chapter of Fuzzy Bytes. Though I’m not sure how many more days it will take, I think there are few enough that I can count them on my fingers.

In honor of this milestone, I have posted another chapter online. This is probably the last chapter I will post publicly, but those of you who know how to contact me and who want to read the completed (rough, oh so rough) draft should contact me to request an ebook once I finish.

Patience.

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Rough Beast, Slouching

Progress continues apace, if you can call a shambling shuffle a “pace.” I am now midway through Chapter Nineteen (of a projected twenty, plus Epilogue). For those who like numbers, here are the project statistics as of this evening.

progress statistics

To celebrate, I offer Chapter Five for your pleasure.

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The Story Wants What the Story Wants

Although I said last week that I hoped Chapter Eighteen would be “finished in the next few days,” I was optimistic. It’s going to take a few more days still, but not because of anything like writer’s block. Rather, the chapter happens to be turning out rather longer than I estimated. That’s okay with me: if the story wants more words and pages than I thought it would need, who am I to tell it that it’s wrong?

Meanwhile, here is Chapter Four.

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Here, Have Another Chapter

As promised, I have posted another chapter (Chapter Three) to my novel-in-progress. Meanwhile, I am working on Chapter Eighteen, which I hope to have finished in the next few days.

As for the online version: I have been advised that if I post the whole thing online, or even a large part of it, I will ruin my chances of selling the book to a publisher for any significant amount of money. It remains to be seen (i.e., I have not decided) whether I will take that advice and terminate this online publication after I post, say, the first five chapters. But I have a couple more weeks to go before I make that decision.

Apparently, however, my sharing the book privately won’t harm my publication chances nearly as much as sharing it publicly. So, if I do decide to treat the online publication of Fuzzy Bytes as a preview, and you really, really want to keep reading beyond whatever I end up posting, contact me privately. If you don’t know how to contact me privately, I probably don’t know you well enough to add you to my list of secret sharers, though you can always leave a comment on this blog requesting contact information.

In any case, there’s a new chapter up right here.

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Dear Sir or Madam, Would You Read My Book?

It took me years to write, won’t you take a look?

Actually, it both has and hasn’t taken years to write. The idea for the book, Fuzzy Bytes, first occurred to me in the 1980s, when I was working at UCLA, helping faculty and students use a new-fangled thing called “word processing.” One service faculty frequently requested from me was to convert their word processing documents from one format to another.

It was a crazy time: personal computers were rapidly evolving, standards were fluid, disk formats and data formats were myriad, and almost nothing was compatible with anything else. I remember looking one day at an 8-inch disk from an NBI word processor (a standalone piece of office equipment that was briefly popular at the end of the 1970s; “NBI,” by the way, stood for “Nothing But Initials”—really!) and thinking, “We have, and can still read, manuscripts that are over a thousand years old, but five years from now no one will have the slightest clue about how to read any of the documents stored on this disk.”

I imagined the plight of a literary scholar living half a dozen decades from now suddenly discovering the rough drafts of a major literary figure’s works, all stored on disks that were only compatible with devices that had passed from the scene half a century earlier. How would this scholar proceed? Could this scholar proceed?

I made a stab at writing the story of such a scholar years ago, and got 40 or so pages into it when I abandoned the tale.

However, this year I found myself with some free time that coincided with the yearly creative demolition derby known as “National Novel Writing Month” (NaNoWriMo, for short). During NaNoWriMo, aspiring writers and other self-destructive individuals attempt to compose at least 50,000 words of a novel. I dug my old Fuzzy Bytes manuscript from the file cabinet (it’s on paper; the digital draft is, not surprisingly, inaccessible 😉) and figured I would try to finish it.

Instead, I read a few pages and tossed it aside: it was terrible. But the underlying idea still intrigued me, so I decided to start from scratch and just start writing. Which I did on November 1, 2015.

By the end of the month, I had reached the 50,000 word goal with several hundred words to spare. Unfortunately, the story was far from complete. Since then, I have continued to work on the book (though not as feverishly as I had during NaNoWriMo).

As of today, January 2, 2016, the story still isn’t complete: it will take another three chapters to wrap the tale up, as far as I can tell (no, I don’t know for sure: the story has a mind of its own). But I do have enough written, and in reasonably good shape (I think), to start showing it to other people.

And so, as a New Year’s present for (or curse upon) the world, I have begun to post chapters of the book. I’m starting today with the first two chapters, and I plan to post an additional chapter every week or so. I hope that by the time I post Chapter Sixteen (the last one written to date), I will have finished the few remaining chapters.

The race is on!

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Speaking as a Passenger on Time’s Arrow

The future shifts and swirls even as you approach it,
The present fleets by before you can grasp it,
And the past is unrecoverable as it fades away.
Nonetheless, the view…the view…

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“The Intern”

On the one hand, this movie is truly a script-by-the-numbers modern fairy tale, which could easily be subtitled, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being.”

On the other hand, DeNiro and Hathaway are so engaging, and they speak the lines they are given with such élan, that I quite enjoyed the movie despite all of its predictability and happily-ever-afterishness. So, yeah, 👍.

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El Capitan and Fullscreen Spaces

In the bad old days (i.e., the day before yesterday), when you made an app fullscreen on your Mac, the fullscreen app got added to a space in Mission Control at the far right. That was fine for users who never had more than one desktop space in Mission Control (that is, just about everyone). However, I usually have six or seven desktop spaces in play at any time, so if I were working on something on, say, my first desktop, and had to get to the fullscreen space, I would have to navigate through all the other spaces via the keyboard (Control + ← or Control + →), or show the Mission Control bar and mouse over to it. Like a savage.

El Capitan, however, allows you to make and position a fullscreen app beside whichever Mission Control desktop you like: just grab the app’s window and slam it against the top of the screen, then drag its thumbnail beside the desktop space you want it to neighbor.

Here’s a video that shows how it works.

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