Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Oh, the dailiness!

"Writing a book is an endurance contest, and a war fought against yourself, because writing is beastly hard work which one would just as soon not do. It's also a job, however, and if you want to get paid, you have to work. Life is cruel that way."  Tom Clancy in Writers Digest Magazine, January 2001

I love that quote which, while a bit depressing, pretty much sums up the "glamorous" life of the writer. It is a lonely, persevering, sometimes heart-breaking job. It is occasionally transcendent--there's just nothing like being in the zone with your work, forgetting the world around you and seeing a world you're creating unwrapping itself like the gift from God it is. But most often it's just discipline, application of craft, nitpicking, and analyzing what is good vs. what is best. Some days, I'd rather do some ironing, dusting, nearly anything but write, but I am forced by fate to write.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What stops a writer from writing on weekends.

I sit at my computer, with a scene in mind--completely acted out like a movie, ready to go. As I begin to type it in, my daughter charges up the stairs and wants to know if she can go visit the neighborhood cat. This animal hangs out on our street and is fed by at least three families, so she is as fat and sleek as a pet pig. Yes, please, go visit the cat, but don't plague the neighbors while you're out.

Then my husband wants me to know he's heading for the gym. Then the phone rings and it's my 90-year-old mother in Oregon.  After we hang up, I remember I have dishes in the drainer and more to wash, plus emptying the dishwasher of the things in there.

The scene continues to run through my mind as I sort out all the dishes and wipe down counters. But I see the plant from the nursery, sitting in its plastic pot, right next to the clay pot I need to put it into (all right, into which I need to put it). Now my scene is fading rapidly.

This is probably the story of nearly every day of my life, but on weekends it seems like the traffic up and down the stairs, through my brain, over the kitchen counters and out the back door increases to Grand Central Station. I am constantly distracted. I finally have to run upstairs and type in a few lines to remind me where I'm going with this scene, then run back down to join my daughter visiting the cat. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Living with your characters

I find the characters I have (supposedly) created for my novel really do seem to have lives of their own. Sometimes they yell at me about not getting enough page time, or they tell me they are NOT going to do what I planned for them to do. As soon as I start writing that particular scene, they balk. They will not speak, they move like heavy, poorly strung puppets. Other times, their stories come pouring out, vining together with other characters, showing me their relationships, their affections, and their biases. It's pretty amazing to be writing along and have a character holding a pad and pencil and as I see him in my mind, there he stands, pencil in his left hand. "By golly,"  I say, "That guy is left-handed. I wonder if that means anything in my story. Why is he left-handed?" At this point I do not know.

My heroine is neurotic, for sure. Conflicted, as any honest person living a lie would be. Can I even call her an honest person? Does she know how to be honest any more after ages of living a double life? What "tangled web" will catch her, forcing an explosion in my plot? I rub my hands in glee. Conflict, at least on the page, makes me joyful. Conflict means there's something interesting going on she's going to have to deal with. 

Tonight, as I lay my head on my pillow and just begin to cuddle down under the comforter, someone will probably yell at me, "I don't like the flowers you put in my garden, I can't stand my sister, I want a horse," and other such crazy details. But tonight I'm jotting down a few notes, then telling them to shut up. It's been a long day.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


If I can't be honest about the fact that I am not one of those people who can write alone in a garrett (or back bedroom in my case), I'd better drop the blog. The whole idea for me was to evaluate honestly the process as it happens. A diary of the (mostly weekly) successes and failures. And like most writers I know, there are more days of failure than of success. Pretty much like the rest of life. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

critique members save me again

This Friday was our bi-weekly critique group, so I brought what I have from my last chapter and read it. Then we talked about what needed to be in that section, and how I could insert those elements into the text I have now. The brainstorming may make it seem to some that I am writing my book by committee--but I think of it more as the team of support folks with the water and first aid that are there for the marathon runner. Iron Man assistants, so to speak, since a book really requires a variety of skills from a writer: creative writing, self-editing, rewriting, and imagining a scene with its feelings, smells, and sounds. Those assists along the way--whether in a regular critique or just a passing comment from a friend that lights the bulb of an idea--are essential to me.

I may not be physically capable of an Iron Man competition, but I am sure giving it a try in the world of publication.