Daily Archives: June 16, 2009

Status Check on Current Project

I’ve gotten a number of friendly solicitous questions about my current writing project and schedule, so I thought I’d answer a couple of those.

1. As for what the project is, I’m keeping it close to the vest at the moment. It’s not a huge secret — I’m not reinventing literature as we know it — but it’s something I think is best revealed when it’s done and ready than while in process. Guessing in the comments will not avail you, since I will neither confirm nor deny your stabs in the dark. You’ll know when I’m ready to tell you.

2. I’ve noted that I’m writing to a quota each day, and some of you are wondering what the quota is. It is: 2,000 words, or six hours daily, whichever comes first. The weekly goal is 10,000 words, which is (if you do the math) five 2,000 word days. Generally speaking I hit the 2,000 word goal well before the six hours is up, which is not terribly surprising to me since I am typically a quick writer and have, when pressed, banged out 10,000 words in a single day (my record, I think, is 14,000). So 2,000 is a good daily goal for me because it’s a fair number of words, and yet at the same time it doesn’t leave my brain feeling entirely worn out when I’m done. This means I have some thinking ability left over for editing and plotting out future scenes.

Usually I write slightly more than 2,000 words daily, on account that stopping exactly at 2k words would leave me in a middle of a scene or whatever, and I might as well finish the scene or thought. Excepting the two days where I didn’t write at all (which I budgeted in because, hey, it’s nice to let your brain relax), the least amount I’ve written on a day is a shade over 1,000 words; the most just a shade under 4,000.

3. The reason I’m writing on a daily quota schedule is to see if I can and what effect it has on the writing. I’ve had a tendency with previous novels to write very little for several days and then bang out most of an entire six or seven thousand word chapter on a single day, which is a little like laying on your ass for four days and then running a 10k. It’s doable but you don’t necessarily feel great afterward. I wanted to find out if a more regular writing regimen was more congenial, both in how I feel at the end of each writing day and on the quality of the writing.

Since I’ve only been at this for a couple of weeks I’m not ready to come to any long-term conclusions about it one way or another. I will say that so far, writing this particular project has been a very pleasant experience — it’s nice to see the words click by at a more or less constant rate, and there hasn’t been a point where I’ve hit any major plot snags, which may be a consequence of the project, or may be a consequence of having enough brain left over after writing that I can work out plot snarls before I sit down for more writing. Again, too early to tell.

4. Without going into any detail about the project, I will say two things. One, I’m happy with the writing itself; I’ve enjoyed reading what I’m writing, and so has my reader, who is also my wife. Krissy is not the sort of person who just genially encourages me (she kept pounding on me until I got Zoe’s voice right, you may recall), so if she’s happy with the writing, I feel like I’m generally on the right track. Two, I’m having fun writing it, fun being a quality that is not always in abundance when writing, especially the closer one comes to a deadline. But one of the reasons I’m doing this particular project is that I thought it would be fun to do, and it is. For various reasons, this is a good thing.

So that’s what’s up with the current project.

This is How Old I Am

I’m so old that when I had a college internship, I actually got paid for it. And then, the next year, instead of having another internship, I got a job. Because in the old days, that was the path of the intern. Today’s intern path appears to curve in on itself, and the only hope for an actual job on that path is to do so many internships that you achieve a sort of momentum that eventually lets you hit escape velocity and launch yourself into the world of actual paying employment. I think I like the way it used to work better.

What bothers me about unpaid internships is not fundamentally that they are unpaid (although that really isn’t a good thing), but that the purpose of internships seems to have changed in an uncomfortable way: it’s gone from a way to train students in practical real-world application of skills they’ve learned in college to a way to plug, for free, actual skill gaps in one’s work force. I don’t doubt interns learn something in the latter scenario, but what I suspect companies learn is that there’s little point in hiring for certain roles and tasks because there’s always a new crop of interns. Thus begins a baseline expectation for business that some labor is always meant to be free, and so long as they give themselves legal/moral cover by calling that work an “internship,” there’s no reason not to exploit it.

And while I admit that I can see there is some appeal to this idea — I wouldn’t mind having a college-age lackey I could boss around and make clean my house and fecth me my Coke Zeros, all for free, in the guise of them being an “intern” for a bestselling, Hugo-winning writer — I don’t think it’s the correct thing to do. Internships are work; work should be paid for. Internships train workers; they should not be used to replace them. And just because you can get a 21-year-old terrified that his/her college resume is too light to work for free on the dubious assurance of course credit and/or a job reference, doesn’t mean you should. Pay the poor kid something, why don’t you.

I know, I know. Getting paid for work is very 20th century. Call me a relic.