Writing is Weird

My apologies, I haven’t yet written about the great retreat I went on last week, nor have I posted any of the pix. I will though, soon.

Meanwhile, I have this to relate:

There I am, sitting at my desk, working away on the sequel to Blood Rain, working title Blood Down the Bones.

Beautiful summer day, not too hot, gentle breeze, nicely sheltered from my mortal enemy, the sun. Cat sleeping on his perch nearby, spouse tending me with cups of hot and iced coffee. Perfect writing day, yes?

I finally make a decision I’ve been mulling for a few weeks, whether to kill off a certain character from Blood Rain.

I draft the scene.

Then I am overwhelmed with sadness. I had actual tears in my eyes. Sheesh.

like the character I just murdered, and didn’t want to kill them, but it was the only way to move certain pieces into place in the sequel.

How does George RR Martin cope? I don’t know. Is he a secret (or not-so-secret) sadist?

R.I.P. imperfect but noble character, you died a good death. I’m sorry I had to murderize you. And in such a pitiless, horrible way, too. The motherfuckers. How dare they do this to you?!

_________

Photo by Simone Dalmeri, used under a CC licence. I salute you as well, generous photographer

Limericks as Emotional Deflection

I’ve been at a writer’s retreat all this week (more on that in another post). One of the prompts we were given pushed my emotional buttons. To write to the prompt would have taken me into the Realm of Big Fucking Feelings**, and in that moment, that simply wasn’t cricket.

Continue reading “Limericks as Emotional Deflection”

Outliners and Pantsers and Bears, Oh My!

I’ve blogged before about my writing process and how it fits into the Classical vs. Romantic traditions (TL;DR: it doesn’t).

So what do I do? A little bit of everything, including:

  • Daydream and noodle around with a notebook and pen in a public place, telling myself stories about the people I observe. (I wear ear buds that are not plugged in to anything to prevent creepers from creeping on me; it deters a few)
  • Read good books for inspiration
  • Read terrible books for even more inspiration (if you choose only one thing on this list to try on for size, choose this. I particularly recommend 9 Lovers for Emily Spankhammer  by Kaleesha Williams.  This novel is sometimes called the This is Spinal Tap of bad writing. The comparison is apt. The only thing that could improve a reading sesh of 9 Lovers for Emily Spankhammer is a large glass of Marques de Rojas and ravioli eaten straight out of the can with a plastic spork  while listening to Sia or Lana Del Ray at a volume designed to disturb the neighbours. (No offense to the neighbours, they are probably very nice. On the other hand, fuck ’em. We must all suffer for art.)
  • Write down dreams I’ve had. That’s how writing Blood Rain started. Chapter two was based on a dream I had that I couldn’t stop thinking about.
  • Summarize the ten essential scenes on index cards so that whatever I am writing has beginning, middle, and end. (How does anyone write a book without using index cards?! Impossible!)
  • Get the mojo running and then fly by the seat of my pants, just to see what happens.
  • Attend writing groups and take critical feedback on the chin.
  • Develop character portfolios— I know what they wear, what foods they like, their preferred footwear, what they would find if they underwent past-life regression hypnosis, what TV shows they watch, the genealogy of their horses, and much much more.
  • Be stubborn- I revise the first draft as many times as I have to. No piece of writing is every truly finished, IMO. There is always more to do.
  • Usually I write things in chapter-order, but I give myself permission to break that ‘rule’ as much as I want. I estimate that about eighty-five per cent of Blood Rain was drafted chronologically.

If you write, how do you write? Are you a disciplined Classical outliner or a free-spirited, Romantic ‘pantser’? Or are you a mixture of the two, like me?

On telling people I’m a writer

 

When I tell people that I’m a writer, they typically respond with at least one of the following questions:

Would I know anything you’ve written? 

Where do you get your ideas from?

I never know how to answer these questions.

(That doesn’t stop me from trying– I’m a compulsive talker).

Try as I might, people do not seem gratified by my responses.

I used to think that had something to do with me. Surely I must be giving shite answers, that must be why a look of disappointment creeps over their faces, right?

Wrong.

(I think)

(Can you tell that I’m the sort of person who constantly questions herself?)

(Can you tell that I’m the kind of person who loves parenthetical remarks?)

More and more, I think they are disappointed because they haven’t asked their real questions.

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Here’s what I imagine is going on:

Would I know anything you’ve written?

actually means

Are you rich and famous?  

and

Where do you get your ideas from?

actually means

You have had thoughts that would never have occurred to me. How can this be?

There are answers, certainly. I’m neither rich nor famous.  I get my ideas from the same place everyone gets their ideas. My ideas are not the same as yours because we are different people, with different minds and experiences.

I’m not sure there are any answers to these questions that people would find satisfying. How would you answer them?

 

 

Things That Will Mess Up Your Writing Process, Part Two

depression
Charcoal drawing by Chloe Cocking

Another thing that can mess up your writing process– if you let it– is squidgy boundaries. Many writers I know (myself included) are people-pleasing folk who have a hard time saying “No,” as in . . .

  • “No, I don’t want to go dog-walking with you, this is my writing time.”
  • “No, I don’t want to go out shopping with you on Sunday, because Sunday is one of of my writings days, I need that time to be organized for the upcoming week.”
  • “No, I don’t want to watch Netflix at the moment, I am writing.”
  • “No, I can’t sit on this or that committee for this or that arts organization, or volunteer to stuff envelopes or update your database, or, or, or, or or . . .”

If remarks like this came easy to me, I think I would have finished Blood Rain faster.

I have developed a script that I use to turn down the invitations I find most tempting– feel free to use or adapt it if it is useful to you:

“I’m sorry, I am in recovery from being a Woman-Who-Does-Too-Much. Asking me for ____________ is like a kind of crack for me, so I must decline your invitation. Thank you for understanding”. 

Things that will mess up your writing process, Part One

aaron-burden-189321
Photo created by Aaron Burden, used under a CC licence.

My high school creative writing teacher gave the class a lecture one time about the two types of writing processes, “classical” and “romantic”.

He advised that writers with a classical process are highly structured, create detailed outlines, and develop their plots and characters fully before they start drafting.

He opined further that writers with a romantic process, write (only) when the spirit moves them. They often draft scenes outside of chronological order. Their characters and plots develop organically, sometimes in directions the writer did not anticipate.

This bit of advice was then (and is now) horseshit.

Every writer I know uses some combination of classical and romantic elements.**

What’s more, having that dichotomy in mind messed up my process. I felt like I was doing it “wrong”, which contributed to long periods of not writing.

From my perspective, any writer’s process can be like a frozen soap bubble- something lovely to look at, but also something that can be easily destroyed by a probing finger or overheated breathing.

**More on this in a future post

COUNTDOWN: Five Reasons I Love Writers’ Manuscript Groups

I’m not much of “a joiner” nor am I a person who loves group activities.  I need a certain amount of “leave-me-alone-to-brood” time.

Nevertheless, I attend two different manuscript groups and I love them. Here’s why . . .

5. No one minds if I attend meetings in my pajamas.

4. Saturday morning cartoons are not what they used to be.

3. Critiques– even unkind ones– are helpful. Hard-to-hear feedback can lead to deeper insight into one’s own work (and save you loads of time when it comes time for the second or third draft).

2. The feedback is immediate.

The number one reason I love writers’ manuscript groups?

1.  Deadlines. Organized structured groups provide deadlines. You know the old saying “if it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done”?  The person who coined that must have had me in mind. With a deadline, I can move mountains. Without one, I can’t move at all.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

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Photo Credit Used under a CC license

Theodore Roosevelt is credited with saying “comparison is the thief of joy“. I think this is true.

Why?

Comparison . . .

  • Fosters unrealistic expectations and perfectionism
  • Fosters competition (the unhealthy kind, not the having-fun-wrestling-on-the-floor-with-a-litter-of-puppies kind)
  • Fosters envy and jealousy **
  • Keeps us small and spiteful

I think the worst thing about comparison is that we– most of us, anyway– are trained to do it to ourselves. No one needs to tell me I suck compared to the writer who lives just up the road from me.*** I am busy telling myself that. *sigh*

** I’m not being redundant here. “Envy” is the emotion we experience when we covet the possessions of another. “Jealousy” is the emotion we experience when we think a relationship we value is threatened. I notice that people tend to use the words interchangeably. IMO, they should not. 😉

*** Steven Galloway, who wrote the beautiful Cellist of Sarajevo and many other things