I have written somewhere over 90,000 words, so far, for (or is it ‘in’ or ‘of’ or some other word?) my surf/romance/detective/coming-of-age inter-genre novel/fake memoir, “SWAMIS;” and it’s so close to being completed; so perilously, dangerously, frighteningly close; and yet… not not not not done.
Completing “Swamis” is my latest compulsion. If, as I say, writing is mostly thinking, then typing, scribbling, word processing, long-handing; whichever (I love the backspace feature; so much cleaner than crossing-out and writing in the margins and adding carrots and lines and arrows; and so much easier to read than my handwriting) process gets the thoughts onto the page, new thoughts filling-in gaps in reasoning, backspace taking out the occasional fuckup. Oh, and there’s reviewing, and, perhaps, reading out loud (best way to find flow impediments and, if you’re reading to someone, the best way to get some sort of reaction as to whether you’re just fucking wasting your own and possibly their precious time, possibly to definitely on that scale); and there’s the opportunity to go back, change, edit, add something earlier that makes things later make more sense.
So, okay; let’s just ask this question: Is one crazy for thinking, when all of us are supposed to have some skill at writing, that one is a writer? And/or (jeez; I could have put a semi-colon there and extended the run-on; do love a semi-colon) does writing turn one crazy?
So glad I put the and/or in there. The answer, I believe, is both.
Here’s exactly where I am: It’s 1969. Jesus Freak Chulo is burned up on the Swamis parking lot side of the Self Realization Fellowship compound in Encinitas. Thousands of words later I’ve had my mind changed on who killed Chulo, and why; and what form of violence is going to be necessary to take care of the killer or killers? I didn’t know who killed him myself, going in; and, in the tradition (I didn’t say ‘best’ tradition- just ‘the’) of detective novels, it’s not who the reader thought it was. It’s not who I thought it was.
Work and other distractions are things I’ve rationalized (this is like; yeah, I know I missed some classic waves the other day, but mowing my lawn was just so, so… it’s lying to yourself) into a positive is this: (I hope you notice the full on colon usage) The time away from writing gives me new eyes, a fresher and more objective view of the drivel and crap and genius level verbiage I have previously written. Sure.
NOTE- I just back-spaced a whole paragraph. Painful? Not too.
Oh, just thought of this: (colon): I’ve had some people who have been gracious and patient enough to listen to me try to tell them something about the plot and characters and time and place setting and underlying truths in “Swamis.” I do appreciate this. My daughter, Dru, is one of these. “Sounds kind of dark, Dad.” “What? No. It’s not. It’s…” “How many people are killed?” “So far? Chulo, Gingerbread Fred, there’s stuff about Vietnam, um, people I probably have to kill off. Yeah; maybe it’s a little dark. There is some humor.” “Okay then.”
I am tempted to go into this sub-topic: Is writing (or surfing, or drawing, or mountain climbing, a huge list of activities, including, because it’s critical to the plot, meditation) self-edifying, self-aggrandizing, in some way masturbatory? Okay; I’ll avoid that subject. Answer- probably all of the above; depending.
Depending. I am both stubborn and self-critical. I realize “Swamis” is dialogue-heavy; I feel that my style might have changed from the first page to whatever page I’m on; I’m not entirely sure my style is… good. It might be; and I’m self-critical/stubborn/conceited/delusional/insane enough to stick with it. So far.
So far. Part of the problem is, or might be, that I started to think of the story, and to break it down into a succession of scenes, like movie scenes. I do have some history as a failed (I prefer almost successful) writer of screenplays, the difference being I’m still painting houses. I do seem to think of and remember things in two ways: Visually and verbally.
A screenplay is a quite specific discipline/format/tradition. It seems to be this: (man, these colons) Setting, dialogue, action. Where something is happening, what is said, and what is done. What we as viewers don’t realize because of the visual, is that most movies have very little dialogue. Without that, with only words, what you have is someone trying to guide/push/force a reader into creating the visual.
Or this could be bullshit. I do have several people who have agreed, in theory, to read “Swamis”, once it is completed. Yes, I did ask each one to read earlier chapters, just to get their feedback, their take on the style. Nope. It has to be done. Or at least, a draft of the manuscript with ‘the end’ at the end. The thing is, in the hour here, hour there I’ve had to work on this; I usually spent the time editing the living shit out of what was already on the thumbdrive. Now, this close, I know most of what I have to go back and change or modify. Most or some. And, I’ve surprised myself at how something early on can fit into the story as it has developed.
What to do with “Swamis” once it’s at ‘the end,’ there’s a question. I can’t help but imagine different scenarios. Frightening.
I have to go, finish an interior in Port Ludlow (hint; means that if there is surf around these parts, I won’t be snaking your waves). I’ll try to think about the ending and how, if I choose this, I’ll have to change that, that kind of shit. It’s fine; it’s an empty house and I don’t have a radio that still works.