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The Day of the Jinx

Monday, 7th May, 2001

Well, who woulda thunk it?

Week three and I'm still going strong. Well, strong may be a matter of opinion, but I'm still going, at least, which in many ways is all that matters, especially as I jinxed myself way back on day one by saying I was more worried about day fifteen. So, dear solitary reader, welcome to day fifteen.

In his original article that prompted this harebrain project, Jerry Pournelle advised that there should be two rules to follow on the mad headlong rush for a million words: the first is that I should write; the second is that I should finish what I write.

Those rules, more than anything else, helped shape the format of what I'm doing. An hour a day writing, and each day a distinct piece, that has a beginning and an ending. If all goes well, it'll have something in between too.

He didn't say anything about anyone having to read it.

To all intents and purposes, nobody does have to read it. The aims I'm following don't require anyone out there at all. I'm essentially writing for myself: to prove to myself that I can, to force myself into the rhythm of it, and to improve as a writer in the way that can only come from experience. I need to never miss a day and I need to always finish. Those are the keys.

But gradually people are reading. I didn't have to put this project online, but I did, and while it still isn't linked from anywhere at all, I've sent a number of people to it. It seems that some of those have sent other people to it and so the chain begins. I feel like Christian Slater in 'Pump up the Volume': I know people are out there listening to me, but I don't know how many and it doesn't matter. It doesn't affect what I write because I'm writing for me.

Why change something if it works? After all, so far I'm succeeding in the aims I set myself. Day fifteen has arrived and there's been a piece every day, even on the days when I didn't want to get out of bed. I've finished every piece too, and I'd like to hope quality isn't totally lacking. The volume is also good - I'm averaging around 1,500 words a day, which is enough to give me a 150 page novel every month. But suddenly there are possibilities and I'm wondering about which to follow, and how and when.

Looking back at what I've written over the past couple of weeks, I can see a couple of trends that I hadn't realised were there at the time.

One is that I seem to be writing for an audience, even when I didn't have one. Maybe it isn't enough to have written, there's a need there for reaction too. What I write might work for me, but would it work for John Doe out there, whose main qualification is that he isn't me? What about Jane Doe, who has two main qualifications, that she isn't me and that she isn't even the same sex?

Two is that almost all the pieces so far work better read aloud than they do read off a page or a screen. I found this out by reading them over the phone to people who have responded very well. I've heard them giggling at places I would have liked them to giggle at, and debate has been opened on the more contentious pieces. This makes me happy, of course, but it poses a major question for me: why should I be subconsciously writing for radio? That one has me puzzled.

And to the possibilities. Should I be continuing to write for me, or should I start writing for an audience? Should I add a third aim, namely that I should try to publicise the pieces so as to garner feedback?

Right now, this site isn't linked from anywhere; not from my other sites, not from any search engine. The only way you've found me, dear solitary reader, is because someone, maybe me, has sent you here. The layout of the site is minimal, because it's about words, totally about words. I don't need fancy graphics, all I need is words. Should I jazz it up a little and make it available for anyone to find?

And here I go again with rhetorical questions that may not be rhetorical.

Should I add explanations to the main page so that people can see what I'm trying to do? Should I add some sort of messageboard to gauge response? Should I solicit feedback? Should I open it all up to my reader to point out, in his/her opinion, what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong?

Should I write more with an audience in mind, consciously as well as subconsciously? Should I write in such a way as to invite a response? Should I even open this up totally and ask for topics to cover or styles to work in? Working both to deadlines, on given subjects and in given ways sounds like a challenge that could be really useful for my growing experience. Being a literary equivalent of 'Whose Line is It Anyway?' would do wonders in sharpening my wits.

It could also kill me off quickly, but if so then rightly so. As a writer I ought to be versatile enough to be able to cover anything that gets thrown at me. I don't know if I have the talent, or whether I will ever have the talent, but there's only one way to find out.

What's more, I'm willing to find out. I want to push the envelope here and find out what I can do and what I can't do. I am limited by the hour restriction, but so far I've written seriously, semi-seriously and not seriously at all; I've fashioned fancy and I've opened discussion; I've ranted and I've been circumspect. Should I try to go beyond these?

Maybe I should try fiction here. Usually when I write fiction, I let the ideas bubble around in my brain for a while to gradually settle into some semblance of logic. Not just ideas either, but structures, characters and even sentences. Then, after a while, I put pen to paper and write an almost finished product. My English Language teacher at 'A'-level never did get used to this; she assumed, understandably, that I was avoiding the work, but in reality for me the draft process is mostly mental.

Could I work out a basic idea and then spend an hour turning it into reality? Should I ask for ideas, not to cheat but in order to attempt something different? Again, only one way to find out.

So, dear solitary reader, what do you think? I'm opening this thing up to you. Where do you think I should go with it?

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