Amateur Novel Writing

Inspired by NaNoWriMo, but not following the rules, I’ve started a novel. I’m having two problems, which I imagine are a very common among amateurs. First, I think I’ve told half of my story in just a few pages, and second, I keep revising the pages I have rather than adding new content.

I have about ten pages written and feel I can complete the story with another ten. It’s hard to imagine beefing up this story to the length of a novel when the entire story could be told, complete with battle scenes and love affairs, with just ten thousand words.

As far as the words that I already have, not only do I keep making little changes, I also keep finding mistakes. I have a scene involving a squad of soldiers with advanced technology. They’re covered, head to toe, in battle armor. Their heads are covered by their helmets and they look at the world through high-tech visors. In this scene, the squad is walking through a hot, humid jungle, and I had this one sentence: “Rane wiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve.” I must have read the scene over and over twenty times before I realized how stupid that was.

A Personal Note About My Mouth

I have friends of varying religious and political beliefs. As a typical New York liberal who spent twenty six years in the Coast Guard and then retired to rural Virginia, I’ve been exposed to a variety of views. But I have, on occasion, made comments or jokes that were inappropriate to the setting and possibly offensive to my friends. On the other hand, I’ve kept quiet in situations when I should have spoken out. A friendly social gathering in the home of a friend with different beliefs often isn’t the place for me to express controversial viewpoints. Of course, this blog is such a place, and I’m drafting some good ones right now.

To friends who I may have offended, I’m sorry, and to those causes that could have used my voice, I will do better. In general, I will exercise better judgment over when to speak and when not to.

Fake Paradise or Real Hell?

Melina had a great idea. Via our blogs, we’re going to continue a conversation that we had using a pre-internet communications protocol called “talking”. During that conversation, Melina asked me: “fake paradise or real hell?”, and I surprised everyone who heard me by emphatically choosing “fake paradise”.

But there are some caveats. My decision requires nothing short of a letter, handwritten and signed by God, promising that my decision won’t cause any negative consequences for me or anyone else. That being said, why not? I want to be happy; I want to make others happy, and the “no consequences” caveat includes a provision that anyone I would have made happy will be equally happy in my absence. So without any reason to feel guilty or afraid, yes, I’ll have the blue one, please.

I believe that the only reason to continue, in reality, is to make things better for yourself and others. Perhaps I wouldn’t be the best suicide counselor, but I honestly believe happiness and responsibility are the only two reasons to keep living. If you take care of my responsibilities and make me happy, you can take me; I’m yours.

How many stories were told on this subject? Perhaps hundreds of books, movies, TV Shows, all about happy people living the good life until someone has to go screw it up. In a lot of these stories, it’s not a perfect fantasy but it’s the best they can do and the people are happier than they would be without it. If we’re not talking about stories where a band of slaves has to labor somewhere to make the fantasy work for others, and if we’re not talking about stories where the fantasies end with a nightmare, then I’d be the bad guy in most of them.

The only story I ever saw that came close to showing things my way was “The Menagerie”, an old Star Trek episode in which Captain Pike, after becoming paralyzed in an accident, chose to go back and live in an illusionary paradise, in the care of the big-head people. But he initially refused, dooming an entire race of intelligent beings to extinction (I can’t give the details here, see the show or read the wiki) and leaving behind a real woman who he loved on the doomed planet, just to avoid fake paradise. It took total paralysis to make him change his mind. As Bugs would say, “What a Maroon!”

Visit Melina for an opposing point of view, coming soon.

Gone Nasty

On the 28th, I sarcastically paraphrased the words of teleconference participant, with the phrases “fuck everyone else” and “dirty children”. But I don’t know this woman, and she was expressing valid concerns about people making poor financial choices and worries about how we should deal with health related threats resulting from illegal immigration.

That post got about twenty hits within a couple of hours after posting it. Which is about, …oh… twenty times the amount of hits that I usually get the day I post something. Maybe it’s just because I used the word “fuck” but maybe it’s because being nasty and insulting brings up your ratings.

We have more than enough blogs out there suggesting that those who disagree with them are nasty, stupid, or selfish. But most of us work over forty hours a week, with another ten or so for transportation. We spend a few hours with our families, doing chores, and entertaining ourselves. Those of us who are politically active do the best we can with the little time left over. Event the experts can’t seem to agree on diddly, how can we blame each other for having different opinions?

Assuming I ever get more than three readers, I don’ t want them all to be ditto-heads or trolls. I want dialog. And I’m not going to get that with insults. So, Lady, I’m not going to lie, you sounded smug and cold-hearted to me, but I shouldn’t have insulted you as I did. Sorry.

I fought the bog. I won.

Our septic tank was clogged, and I decided to deal with it myself (think about that next time we shake hands), instead of paying for someone to come out on his own schedule and charge me for something that I might be able to do immediately. I spent, probably about an hour staring into an opaque bog of nastiness, poking around with an old wooden tool handle hoping to break something free before resigning to the fact that there just isn’t going to be any nice way to do this.

I’ll spare details (because they’re disgusting) and jump to the point. The point is, I fixed it. With the help of mighty Google and the grace of wonderful people spreading knowledge without expectation of reward (or at least without serious expectation of any great reward), I was able to tackle something that I never dealt with before.

I lied in the previous paragraph. “I fixed it” wasn’t really the point. There have been times when I tried to do something myself, ended up making things worse, and had to deal with the expense and the embarrassment of dealing with a professional who shook his head and said “Should have called me first”. But if I add up the cost of my failures with the savings of my successes, I win. The biggest regrets in my life are the things I was afraid to try. I’m happy to be getting a little bolder now. That’s the point. That and my appreciation for the good people out there.

Missing New York

Note: I don’t want this blog to filled with personal ramblings, but I reserve the right to ramble every now and then.

The other day we watched an episode of Criminal Minds that took place in New York, and the old New Yorker in me started feeling very homesick. It’s hard to explain why I miss New York. Although it’s not all hard: The night life; the variety; the multi-cultural environment; and the real bagels, for example, are all things that I miss but are easy to explain. What’s hard to explain is that I miss the dirt. I miss the graffiti. I miss the “do not disturb” New Yorker faces. And I miss the noise. We have plenty of noise here in Suffolk (that’s a whole blog post in itself) but I miss the murmur of TV sets vibrating through concrete and steel, and the sounds of distant music from different radios clashing with each other. And sirens, and car alarms, and standing shoulder to shoulder with people I don’t know or particularly like. I miss things that I should be glad to be rid of.

But I don’t miss them enough to leave my land or my animals. And I love the people I’ve met since coming here. If I could live both lives, I would. This is the better choice for my family and me. I thank Sasha for leading me here.

Benjamin (no middle name) Goldberg