Prison Diary: On Writing Fiction

Here are some notes on writing and “my method,” especially related to producing first drafts; from March of 2010.  This was written early in my prison career; I will post further material on writing from the Prison Diary (which continues for another six years) as I get it dictated into the computer; this particular material...

Novel Plans: Diary 3/19 to 3/25/21

A title occurs to me:  The Curse of Lolita, or perhaps Lolita’s Curse, though the latter seems misleading.  Or how about The Blessing of Lolita?  I am not taken with it.  Later thought:  The Lolita Curse; this is the best version.  I’ll live with it for a while and see.  I’m thinking satire, which is not what I had in mind.

Fynn Novel: Diary, 3/9 to 3/18/21

Highlander:  I’ll be as honest as I can given that I’ve only ever read your tweets.  You seem to me to be a liberal philosopher, slightly damaged, but feisty, a bit cantankerous, but we all get that way with age, and Impassioned about not only your beliefs but with ideas.  You like to share.

Efficient Learning: Diary, 2/3 to 2/6/21

Even a schedule isn’t necessary; just a bookshelf. Each morning—mornings are best for this kind of work—take the book at the left, sit down with it, and go through it, either page-by-page or marker-by-marker (tape flags for target pages).

Diary, 7/15 to 7/23/19

I’m thinking that the reading I do, which I called “sifting” a while back, mostly doesn’t stick except in the form of externalized memory. That is, I highlight in books and/or type out quotes in my Collected Quotations book, but I don’t often review these products. So I sift out the gems, but don’t make much use of them. I need to make more use of them. Then I won’t be feeling like I’m just wasting time. In fact, the process, which grew by itself, seems efficient...

Diary, 6/19 to 6/22/19

So, am I going to commit to writing, or not? Turning Pro? I think that I must—I think I’m at a “make or break” point in my life, and must make something lest I break something. It seems most natural to start each day with diary writing, unless some day I wake with an urgent need to work on another project. Of course, it would be a mistake to allow myself to be distracted by the diary to the point that I never work on anything else.

Diary, 5/19 to 5/21/19

I’ve been depressed, I have to admit it. Around 6 pm I was ready to go to bed. But I got into Korzybski, finally, and now it’s 9:00. I stuffed myself with chocolate chip cookies instead of eating dinner. It’s been a long time since I’ve binged like that. How many cookies? About eight. Breakfast was also a mess—I felt kind of sick when I got up, so I started with two cookies and a banana. Then a diet Dr. Pepper...

Diary, 1/3 to 1/7/19

The Hemlock Club was good today, though a bit shorter than usual. Four attended. I ate too much at Dagny’s. We talked about Poe’s poem, “Alone,” which Pablo had prepared for us, I took some notes (hence these details), D sang (from his phone) “Silent Night,” a very creditable performance, I talked about how I was a lousy employee and got fired from virtually every job I ever held, Salomé worked on a watercolored bookmark which she presented to me, I asked Salomé to marry me (a joke), I talked about Norman Cousins: Anatomy of an Illness (but had the title completely wrong), D mentioned The Biology of Hope by Bruce Lipton (which sounds really interesting), and we all went for a walk around downtown Bakersfield (it was fun).

My New Diary, 11/30 to 12/4/2018

Nearing the end of Goldberg’s book. It’s very interesting, and I’ve had the thought that “the best books about writing aren’t about writing, but about writing and something.” What Goldberg offers to the aspiring writer mostly isn’t practical advice about methods or anything, but heart. And perhaps sincerity and courage.