Piece Work

I was thinking about my organic writing process, and how much of it is piece work.

Like many writers, I had a concept in the beginning. Then I developed a sketchy framework. Then, like many writers, I wrote to tell myself the story, to realize most of the facets, discover the plot, story and character arcs, and to find where I will begin and end. Today, I’m working on a climatic chapter, the penultimate moment. I’ve already written the end and denouement. Writing this series of scene that is this chapter means that the series’ beta version is done.

In true piece-work fashion, I’ll put together all these raw chunks of words and story until I can see the entirety. Then I’ll begin reading, editing, and revising, cutting and changing as necessary to find the right story (or stories) out of this mass of words. I’m reminded of a sculptor studying rock, marble, and wood, studying it to see what art is within the mass, waiting to come out.

From the beta will come the first draft. From the first draft will come a second draft, something that’s workable and complete. With the second draft, maybe I’ll have something to give to an editor. I’ll see. If I need to, there will be a third draft.

It’s been a long process for me to learn these things, that the first product isn’t the final product, that it won’t be perfect — that it’ll probably have substantial flaws — but whatever flaws are found doesn’t mean that I’ve failed. Writing is a journey and exploration. But it’s not just the story being explored; the novel isn’t the end-all of the journey. Most of the journey and exploration is about me, about learning how I think, what I imagine, and what I don’t know. When I write, more of myself and my attitude is revealed to me through the characters and novels than I ever realized would happen back when I first thought, “Hey, I think I’ll write a novel.” Part of this is learning, how do I cope with setbacks, disappointments, and frustrations? How do I found and maintain the pace and discipline to traverse the arcs and write a novel, or a series? How do I deal with going the wrong way?

I think that may be where many beginning writers struggle; they don’t realize how much of writing is about themselves as much as it is about the story they’re writing. It can be daunting, descending into our private depths to face the person within. It’s a test of resilience to face yourself and your shortcomings, and find ways to address them.

Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.



Wrong Way

I’ve shared the same experience as Barb, where the work-in-progress and its characters seem to actively resist where I want to go, because they knew better where they’re supposed to go. I’ve learned that for me to write, I need to get out of the way, and just follow their lead.

Otherwise, I’ll end up going the wrong way.

Barbara Froman

arrow communication direction display Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Have you ever found yourself heading in the wrong direction down a one-way street?

That happened to my mother when she was driving me to a late rehearsal in Manhattan. It was the first rehearsal, and she was unsure of the best route to our destination, so she made a wrong turn.

I was nine, and I remember exactly three things about that turn: the volume of rush hour traffic heading toward us; my mother’s curses in three different languages; and the speed with which she spun the car around and got us off the road.

She was a good driver, my mother—focused and assured, with marvelous instincts and steady nerves, and loved to be behind the wheel. In all her years of driving, she never had an accident.

But that’s beside the point.

She knew, as soon as she made that turn, she would…

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One thing that I’ve found about myself is that, after I go out and get hot and soak my shirt with sweat and then go into someplace cool, I DO NOT like putting my sweaty back against a cool chair surface. It disgusts me. No reasoning behind it; it’s just disgusting.

To me.

Friday’s Theme Music

Today’s music selection became streaming in my head the other day.

“Man On the Corner” by Genesis was released in 1981. I started thinking about it this week because of the purple guy.

That’s the name I’ve given him. He’s short, about five three would be my guess, and balding, with a large dark brown mustache. Wearing blue jeans in this ninety degree (F) heat every day, he wears a purple shirt, purple fanny pack, and purple shoes, and carries a purple bag.

You might have an idea of why I call him the purple man.

I usually encounter him several times a week. When I do, I say hello, and he replies…nothing. He doesn’t smile, but looks down.

When I saw him this week, he was standing on a corner by the town Safeway, and the song began streaming.

Floofcon (2)

Floofcon (2) (catfinition) – a cat’s alert and warning system, demonstrated by its body language and posture, whiskers, tail, and eyes. Floofcons range from Floofcon 5 (normal state) to Floofcon 1 (the highest state of alert and readiness. Wider eyes generally indicate a higher Floofcon, with a bushy tail indicating that at least Floofcon 2 has been ordered.

In use: “A young cat who’d lived on the streets, his default Floofcon was four. Like the old Strategic Air Command (SAC), this cat was always on some state of higher alert, and often went from Floofcon 4 to Floofcon 2 in seconds, driven to a Floofcon change by a sudden loud noise or, more reliably, the appearance of another cat.”

See Floofcon for other uses of the word.

A Manuscripts & Politics Dream

It began with my little sister presenting me with a manuscript. Handing over a large stack of paper, she explained that she’d written a novel and wanted me to read it and give my opinion. I agreed, but asked her to reciprocate: read my novel and give my opinion.

Gina’s manuscripts turned out to be a humorous mystery. I thought it had a lot of merit. That’s the feedback I gave her. Did she have feedback for me? No, she hadn’t read my ms. She started but then forgot.

Her answer frustrated me. I’d lived up to my end, etc. I was called away before we could finish the conversation. Gina and I agreed to meet later.

Going on somewhere else via dreamport, I was now in a hilly city. It had been rainy. I was standing on the corner by a street. A man in a dark suit and raincoat (who looked a lot like James Noble (the actor)) approached me. We knew one another and shook hands and talked. Within a few minutes, he was telling me that they’d just come out with word about who the new POTUS was going to be. He gave me a name. It as going to be announced soon.

The name surprised me. I knew the man’s name and so on, but didn’t know him. I expressed some concerns about him.

We started walking down the hill. He was  concerned about the choice, too, and was wondering where the man was. He didn’t know if the man had heard yet. As we walked down the hill, the other man mentioned the name again, and then said, “Do you know who he is?”

I began talking about that when the other said, “No, he’s my father.”

That completely surprised me. We went through a conversation about their last names, which was something like LaFontaine. I said, “Pierre?” The other said with a smile, “No, that’s the NRA guy.”

As I was mulling that information, others arrived, and the conversation went on again about the new president. Then the new president drove up in a little old white imported economy car. While it ran without any problems, the car looked like it was forty years old, something small, with petite chrome bumpers, like a Datsun 510 (see the picture?) from the early seventies. (I’ve never owned or drove a 510, btw.)

The others all went off. I trudged back up the hill and, via dreamport, returned to my sister and the manuscripts. She’d read my manuscript and had some suggestions. As we began talking about that, a second younger sister, Sharon, arrived to give me her manuscript. I was surprised. We began talking, and as we did, I said, “I need to add more humor to my novel,” and was excited by immediate ideas that came to me about how to do that.

Then I awoke.

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