Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The call of the divine...maybe

What is it with the need to write? Every time I sit down and start tapping out my stories, I move into a "zone" where a little movie plays in my head. I see my characters running around, doing their stuff, gesturing and stomping, hugging and hissing--sort of like a silent movie. Then I type the dialog and put those actions into context and the story begins to move ahead. We learn a little about my MC and her thorn in the flesh, as well as about the current pain in the behind. I am learning, right along with my future readers, who seem to hang over my shoulder, waiting with bated breath for the next installment. I need to write this out so I can see what happens, too.

Oh, sure, I have a plan of sorts, but I am not the kind who can outline in the formal sense. I know in general what sort of things will happen, but when the movie starts in my head, it sometimes takes me some place I hadn't thought of going. When authors talk about their characters taking over, I can see where that comes from. There is a mystifying aspect to writing--the story reveals itself as we, to quote Stephen King ( check out his book "On Writing"), uncover the bones. And I NEED to uncover those bones. And for pete's sake, if you own "On Writing," don't lend it to anyone because you'll never see it again.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What are first drafts for?

Right now, I am simply forging ahead on my novels, including notes here and there where changes will have to be made (I use a series of capital Xs to mark the spots), but I won't make those changes now. In my last post, I mentioned that Anna in The Fictional Writer needs to be more complex--more stuff bubbling up to the surface. She has a lot of undercurrents of angst and ambivalence, but so far, I haven't made them big enough to truly trip her up. That will happen in the rewrites, but it is soooo hard to keep on writing and not go back to the beginning and start putting stuff into the story.

Patience is the name of the game. I put on blinders, in a sense, and keep advancing. Once the first draft is completely done (by the end of the year, God willing) I can go back and rework all the stuff, stick in the details I still need to find through research, and look for the holes in the structure. I will probably bribe a couple of my critique members to read through the whole book for me and give me their comments. One of them is particularly susceptible to brownies.

some times you feel like a nut....

Okay, now that is a really OLD commercial, but today that's what I feel like. Since I'm working on two novels at once (with one, maybe two simmering in the background for later), I am bouncing back and forth between my main novels. Today, I felt like writing for Cody for a while, then I felt like working on Anna's story. On The Fictional Writer, I mostly tweaked some stuff based on comments from the last trip to the critique group. On The Big Kissoff, I finally got Cody's no-good client, Diggerson, into her grimy office so she can "chew him up and spit him out." Cody is so much fun. All those nasty feelings I've ever had toward employers or horrible neighbors, or people who cut me off on the freeway--all that energy goes into Cody. She's just fun/mean and I truly love her, alcoholism and all.

Anna in The Fictional Writer is not yet as complex as Cody in The Big Kissoff. I started The Fictional Writer over a decade ago, tossed half of it out a couple of years back, and I think Anna may be too nice for me to relate to, which probably means she's too nice for readers to relate to. Not that I want her to be as troubled and irritating as Cody, but I really need to bring out the ambivalence she feels about her father, about romance, about being a fiction writer v. a journalist. All her issues are undercurrents and I need to get them boiling to the top. I understand Anna better than Cody, because like her, my issues are mostly undercurrents, not obvious stuff like alcoholism and really poor people skills like Cody's. So, because she's farther from me, I can write her more easily. Still, I hate to think how much like me both of these characters are.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Burn out

I don't know about you, but when I try to do too much, I burn out quickly. Up the number of pages I'm working on, increase my posts here on the blog, as well as get the cat to the vet (twice in one day last week, doggone it!), homeschool, shop and cook (you notice I didn't mention cleaning, which I pretend doesn't matter until I can't stand the level of dust on the bookcases), and I'm ready for a long nap.

I like working on two novels at once, but I really can't push for more than a few hundred pages a week or I just explode. My life is too crazy.

Let's be real. I live with a 12-year-old and a husband who works long hours, so I have responsibilities that require my attention. I need discipline, but not draconian rules. Pile me up with requirements and I fade immediately. As it is, I just put one foot in front of the other and keep plugging away at the books. As long as I do that frequently and stick with it, if only for 15 minutes at a time, I can keep the story moving. Time, personal limitations and family interruptions may keep me from the novel, but not forever. Writing is a priority for me--not just to produce the books, but for my sanity. I need the creative outlet and those characters keep jumping around on my brain. They want out, and I can see the next ones in line ready to come in and jump around for at least another couple of books, so I have to keep moving.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Praise the Lord and send in the critique group!

Okay, I know I'm constantly yammering about my critique group. I can't figure out why we all clicked so well, but these women hold me accountable and tell me terrible truths about my writing--things I need to pay attention to if I want my book to really zing along.

Since I'm switching around and working on two novels actively, with a third simmering on a back burner (is your brain like a stovetop, too?)--I need a group that will hang with me as I alternate between the novel excerpts I bring to the group each week. I had one character tossing a tennis ball around, so of course, somebody sharp had to ask, "Where did the tennis ball come from? What's the story with that?" The others chimed in--they want to know, too. I had to give that some thought, but it came to me pretty quickly. When I got home, I began my editing--adding in suggestions from the group, including the story of the tennis ball. I sort of ignored some of their ideas about what it might mean (she was a former star tennis player??) and used it to help create a picture of her office environment. She's come down in the world from being on her way to a partnership in a huge legal practice to a crummy building where former tenants leave things behind (dirt, chipped light fixtures, and tennis balls) and nobody cleans it up. I see her office as a reflection of the crummy life she now has to climb out of. Now, what would I have done without them insisting they needed to know about the tennis ball?