Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Blank Sheet of Paper

Today I'm at the blank page of the blog entry screen, basically without an idea of what to write. The blank screen is an intimidation. Remember the comic strip "Shoe", where the two birds worked for a newspaper? One was the editor the other the writer. One day the editor asks the writer if his article was finished. The writer replied, "90 percent." He then went back to his messy desk, fed a blank sheet of paper into his typewriter, and said to himself, "The white part."

That rarely affects me in my writing, but it can at times. It's more likely in my business writing than in creative writing. For that reason I have created some templates in the office that I can pull up on the screen that already have certain key information in them. So I start, not with a blank document, but with some of the basics already entered. I believe it's a help, espcially when I'm about to write a construction specification section from scratch.

I'm currently editing on all projects, not writing fresh. In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People is with an editor (day 29 now), so I'm waiting. I actually have a little editing to do on that, since I'm not sure I have days, dates, games, and travel schedule right for the Cubs during the playoffs. The Candy Store Generation is with a few beta readers. Meanwhile I received some improved graphs from the Congressional Budget Office (my tax dollars at work), which I need to work into the document. I will also do one more read-through on my own simultaneously with the beta readers. Then, hopefully, it's ready to publish.

The writing I'm doing on Documenting America: The Homeschool Edition is more like editing than writing. I read each chapter, find links to a bio for the writer of the source document and to the source document itself if possible, and write four or five questions that I think a high school student should be able to pull out of the book, sometimes with a bit of reasoning on their part. It all fits on less than a half of an 8.5x11 sheet. It feels like editing.

So I'm not faced with the blank screen right now, but I soon will. All this editing will be done in a matter of a week or two, three at the most. Then I'll go through the publishing tasks and get them listed with Amazon and Smashwords. For The Candy Store Generation I'm going to use a book designer/formatter for the interior, since the graphs are a complicating factor. The others I expect to do myself, all but the covers. I may need help with interactive Table of Contents for the e-books.

After that, sometime around mid-July, it's on to the next writing project. This will certainly be a short story, maybe two short stories in a row. Right now both are blank screens, except for pre-writing I've done in my head. For one of them, the spy one, I think I wrote out a couple of paragraphs if I can find that sheet of paper.

After those, it's on to a novel and maybe another non-fiction book project. That will be a second volume of Documenting America, probably a Civil War edition. I still haven't decided on the novel yet, so I don't know if it will be a sequel to FTSP or my China novel or the next in the church history series, following up on Doctor Luke's Assistant. Time will tell, but not a lot of time.

All of those will start with the blank sheet, except for what's in my head. I will have to act fast, before those gray cells start hemorhaging ideas.

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