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Off to a Start

November 10, 2015

I’ve been in Athens for nearly a week now, so I figured I’d take stock of how things are going so far.

I’m not quite at my goal of writing upwards of eight hours a day, but I write a little more each day than I did the day before, and I probably put in a solid six hours today, so I’m getting there. Before leaving my job, I didn’t have a single month this calendar year where I was able to get six hours of writing done, so this is definitely progress. Given this week has also involved a bunch of errands and related “I just moved here” sorts of activities, I’m content with what I’ve accomplished so far and optimistic that I can get into the routine I want very soon.

As I’ve been working this week, my road map has changed just a bit. On one hand, I’m a lot farther along than I thought I was. I anticipated a few more weeks just to finish outlining (or sub-outlining my existing outline, to be precise), and then a few months of fleshing that outline into an extremely rough draft. I’m happy to say that the outline is pretty much done, and now that I’m writing for hours at a time instead of minutes and daily instead of once every week or two, I think I can have that rough (rough) draft completed much more quickly.

If that sounds hasty, it is. I had originally planned to be conducting interviews—some with people I haven’t talked to yet, some with people I have—while I was still in that rough draft phase. I’m writing this a chapter at a time, and when a chapter is finished (in its rough form; to date, I have one of an anticipated 18 chapters in that state), I go through and figure out what holes still need to be filled.

For example, that first chapter is about the early days in Ruston, Louisiana, where these artsy weirdos felt like outcasts. “Everybody would play sports or hunt or fish. Outdoor stuff. I wasn’t really into that. I wanted to come home from school and play guitar.” But there’s a lot of telling and not a lot of showing, so I realized when I read the draft of this chapter that I need to dig a bit for examples and anecdotes that illustrate why people felt like that. It’s one thing to say, “I felt anxious that I didn’t fit in,” and another thing entirely to say “My classmates beat the shit out of me for wearing a Sonic Youth t-shirt.” Not that that necessarily happened. But if everyone I’ve talked to says they felt a kinship with these likeminded artists precisely because everyone else was so different, I need to paint a more vivid portrait of why that would be.

Which is relatively easy, in terms of reporting. I just need to round up the folks who mentioned it and ask them if they can think of any examples that illustrate their feelings. But if I do that for each chapter as I finish them (which was, somehow, my earlier plan), I may end up having to interview a given person 18 different times. There are certainly people who only appear in a chapter or two and very few if any who appear in every single one, but if I can, I’d like to avoid having to talk to anyone more than once or twice apiece from here on out, out of respect for their time and to manage my own time efficiently (especially given how difficult it can be to pin certain people down even once).

So that linearizes the plan a bit. Outline, then draft, then interview, then rewrite. Very little overlap between those steps. Which is maybe for the best, creatively.

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