Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pages

Some time ago, you heard yourself telling a class how "One keepable page a day works out to a novel a year."  The information stuck with you, through days of many pages or no pages at all, days where keepable was an abstraction, a goal, the quest of a Joseph Campbell heroic journey.

Some more recent time ago, you heard Dennis Lynds asking Duane Unkefer, who was about to have yet another drink, if he'd done his pages for the day, to which Unk replied, "I've been off my game for a while."  Dennis' response, "Got to get you back on the horse."  And once again, you heard Unk's demurral.  

You remember that incident as well as the first.  Took you a while, but much in the manner of a recovering booze abuser, you began marking the time since you began getting at least one page a day. No celebrations, only the awareness of a personality lingering about the work area, where ever the work area happened to be.

Sometimes the page was handwritten, not an uncommon experience under any circumstances.

Before his life was cut short by an unanticipated traffic accident, Dennis wrote under his own name, the pseudonyms of William Arden, John Crowe, Mark Saddler, Carl Dekker, and perhaps yet others you're unaware of.  You place his total at over fifty booklength works.

Unk has, to you knowledge done three.  This is not meant to dis Unk, whom you consider a friend, nor is it meant to romanticize Dennis, who was also a friend while he lived.  The two men are different types of writers, each approaching story from a different purpose.  Both took pains with their manuscripts.

Disclosure:  you met Unk after having reviewed his major novel, Gray Eagles, a review that caused him to seek you out.

Disclosure:  Dennis was so prolific that you ghosted a few of the novels he wrote without a by-line for a series character with many authors.

This puts paid to anything but the focus on pages, the personal effects on a writer having produced pages, the reenactment of the heroic journey, the lifting of the writer from one plateau to the next highest.

The ultimate problem with the meme of a keepable page a day being equal to a novel a year is the difficulty in knowing which page to keep, how many non-keepable pages must be written in order to find one that is keepable, and the added metric of there being the great possibility of editorial notes to cope with even after a book is accepted.

You are currently in the process of editing a book for another editor, a highly fraught set of circumstances in which money and confidences have been exchanged and a publisher is waiting.  You've discovered in addition to the author having "and" as a habit word, also having a habit meme consisting of sentences with three linked independent clauses.  This usage accounts for nearly forty percent of the text in question.

This is one of the things editors are for, thus no judgment is intended.  The process revolves around pages.  What you produce becomes a gateway for your eventual satisfaction.  What you don't produce becomes an engine of dissatisfaction that takes on its own agenda, perhaps to your continued uneasiness.  Even if you work at producing pages but do not in fact produce them, there is a minimal plateau of satisfaction you've reached.

Small wonder how your adjunct interests and activities hover about the production of pages, undershot by the desire to cause some of those to be keepable.

Another thing you find yourself telling students, your arms separated by at least the length of your body, even more if you're feeling expansive.  You have to know this much, you say, now bringing your hands to a gap of about a foot, in order to write this much.

The disposable pages are thus as much a part of the process as the keepable ones.



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