Beep…beep…beep

That’s the sound of me backing up. It annoys many others in the coffee shop when I back up when I’m writing. “Can you stop beeping?” they shout. “I’m on my cell and I can’t hear myself think.”

Sorry.

I’m backing up from yesterday’s writing. Oh, what a miserable day. I don’t know where the muses were, but they weren’t here. Did they stage a walk-out? Maybe. Don’t know.

I knew I had to make some links, slow down and let the story breathe, to improve the novel. That’s what I was trying to do. After a fitful session, I’d written a lot but I felt like it was horrible. I didn’t like it.

The muses agreed this morning. As soon as I awoke and finished thinking about my dreams (more family and dogs – WTH?), a muse rep said, “You know that stuff that you wrote yesterday?”

“Yes.”

“Well, it’s terrible.”

“I — ”

“It muddies the flow and does nothing for the pacing or coherency.”

“Yeah, I — ”

“This is what you need to do instead. First, delete all of that crap.”

“Crap is a little harsh, don’t yo — ”

“And then, this is what you write.” He proceeded to tell me.

I thought the proposal over. It was a lot better, and made more sense. I nodded. “Okay, I will. Thanks.”

My thanks went to empty air. The muse was gone. Guess they were off to help some other poor writer.

Got my coffee and took my first gulp of the blessed hot, dark, bitter brew. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

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Puzzling It Out

 

 

Back in January of this year, I had an idea that excited me. In this case, the idea arrived as a dream at night, while I slept. Into my dreams was inserted a title, April Showers 1921, along with a gold embossed cover. I knew April Showers. I wasn’t certain what 1921 was about. (I now know what 1921 means in this context, and it was a surprise.) That didn’t deter me. I began to write.

E.L. Doctorow

Scenes emerged like mushrooms after heavy summer rains. I had ideas about what this story was about. I brainstormed in search of explanations and coherency. I drove forward, headlights blazing, through a dark countryside of thought, although I turned down made several wrong roads, and occasionally went off a cliff.

Characters, scenes, and the concept grew in understanding, although not at the same rate. As they grew, details gained substance. Storylines arced. Characters gained dimensions and complexities. Their stories expanded.

As I thought, wrote like crazy, listened to the muses, and sometimes argued with them, a novel took shape. One day, I thought, I can see the end of this. I can smell the end of it, if you will. It was a strange sensation of anticipation and completion.

It was a false impression, like seeing the Rocky Mountains on the plains ahead as I drove west across Kansas and thought, oh, we’ll be there in a few hours. The immensity fooled me. Terry Pratchett and others stated, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” I’ve written a few novels by now, but each novel is unique, so I need to learn the work-in-progress and what’s required. What I had really reached was a complete understanding of the novel.

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

I’m still in search of the first draft but now I see and know the entire story. Most of the pieces have been created, but now, understanding the story, I need to put them together in the proper order, adding more pieces to complete the picture, and other pieces to finish the tale.

When I began, I created a folder, “April Showers 1921”. Eleven documents reside in it. Two are brainstorming documents. One is the novel in progress, and the rest are trails that went nowhere, or side bar information. I didn’t expect April Showers 1921 to take the turns that it did; my headlights didn’t let me see that far ahead.

As always, it’s a fun ride, fun and challenging. I love the process of exploring and discovering, and then trying to write what I’m seeing and hearing, what I’m witnessing. 

Patricia Cornwell

It’s been a good day of writing like crazy, but the coffee is gone, my ass feel sore from sitting, and my brain feels wiped out from reading and writing. Time to stop, at least for now.

The Muses and Me

Yeah, another writing rant/post. Aren’t you lucky?

I wondered again about this writing process and how much control I have. Writing today, I reached a scene where I stopped writing to say, “I don’t want this to happen.”

The muses answered, “Okay, we appreciate your opinion. Now write the scene.”

“But — ”

“You’re wasting time,” a muse said. “Pitter patter, get ‘er at ‘er.”

Jaw clenching, I put my hands on my lap and glared at the computer screen. “I’m the writer here. You’re not the boss of me.”

“Yeah, we are,” the muses said with hooting laughter. As their laughing mounted, one shouted, “He thinks we’re not the bosses of him.” That fired their laughter into higher mocking tones.

Saving my work, I locked my computer and went for a walk to shut them up and think.

I couldn’t appreciate their case for what they wanted to happen. I didn’t have an impressive alternative, either. Hard to argue with them when they have a plan and I don’t.

Dismissing that for the moment, I reflected on the epiphany that I’d had, that, ah-hah, I need something else at the beginning, “something else” being mental shorthand for a more involved and complete opening scene (or chapter) that properly sets up the story and consequences, a piece that gives the reader more reason to be invested with the main character, along with the supporting protagonists.

As many writers before me have said, the first draft is the writer learning the story, and you can’t write the beginning until you’ve finished writing the end. All this seems especially true with this novel in progress.

Returning to my writing, I sat down and did as the muses decreed. It was the best thing to do because, at this point, I was wasting precious writing time, analyzing what they were telling me to write and my reasons for not wanting to write that. Besides, this is just a draft. I can always edit and revise this part later, right? I can even delete it.

That cracked the muses up. “Sure,” they said. “Of course you can. You’re the author.”

Sometimes, I’m not fond of the muses. They can be so mean.

The coffee cup is empty except for a cold, bitter dribble. Time to stop writing like crazy, at least one more time.

Closing on the Finish

It’s a weird thing, actually, but then, the writing process, organic and raw, often strikes me as a weird thing. In this case, as I wrote yesterday and today, I thought that I’m closing on the books’ finish. By that, I mean the beta draft, of course.

This isn’t a matter of page or word counts. The first is three hundred twenty-five Word pages, and the second is seventy-seven thousand words. I’ve cut away whole chapters as the story found shape.

No, this is just a feeling suddenly that it’s all coming together for a final rush toward the ending. I wrote a sense of the ending a few weeks into the novel-in-progress, sort of a light in the tunnel to aim toward. I’ve not revisited it in over a month, I think, so I know it’ll require major revisions to incorporate all the threads and ideas that’ve germinated into storylines since.

As always, I have a mixed response to this feeling that I’m coming to the end. It reminds me of being on vacation and realizing that I’m going home in a couple of days, that vacation will end. It’s been a good time, but I’ll go on to another phase of living.

I can be wrong. The muses might be pranking me. They may jerk the rug out from underfoot at the last minute, laughing as I fall on my ass.

Or I might finish and begin reading it and then discover that it’s a miserable load of dinosaur feces masquerading as a manuscript. It’s all happened before.

I address that with a shrug these days. Writing is always a process of discovery, re-thinking what’s been found and presented, twerking changes, refining what I think I know and what should be told. Editing and revising is a shift of how it’s done but it’s a continuation and refinement of the process. That’s my view, and I’m sticking to it.

Been another satisfying and productive day of writing like crazy. You know the scene: the coffee is gone, my ass is asleep, my stomach is rumbling, and the day awaits. Time to save and close the docs and walk away, at least one more time.

Another Stimulating Day

It was another stimulating day of writing like crazy. The writing had taken off on startling tangents, tangents that made me laugh aloud, although quietly, because I’m in a public coffee shop and I’m not fond of attention. This session capped off several wild writing sessions where I just let it flow without thinking and then, ‘lo, the whole thing somehow connects in surprising ways.

Well, they surprised me. Hope to hell readers who didn’t write it also find them surprising.

So cool, so much fun and enjoyable. When it comes like this, I wonder if I’m writing it, remembering it from something I’ve read or written before, or just acting as a vessel. I wonder, but I don’t question it too deeply, accepting it as a mysterious but pleasurable process. Of course, then I came to the day’s stop, and suddenly all the usual angst about whether it was any good, made sense, etc., sank its fangs into me.

My coffee cup is empty and the novel in progress has been saved and closed. That reminds me that I put off doing a back-up yesterday. I need to do one. I don’t want to lose all of this because I was lazy.

Meanwhile, I’m done writing like crazy for today.

What School? (Updated)

Once again, Stephen King has managed to irritate me.

I’d been busy writing, thinking, and brainstorming yesterday, capping off the final few minutes of an enjoyable writing session. (I know, I seem like an eternal optimist, don’t I? Truth is, I don’t share many of the dark days. I don’t like dwelling on ’em.)

MS Word froze. Hell, the entire computer froze. With an exasperated, “WTF?”, I sat back, sipping the last of my cold coffee, hoping to wait it out. A few things were attempted to break the hold. Not a damn thing worked.

Hard reboot, please. I was sore about it, nay, pissed. I wanted to bring the doc up to finish those last few thoughts and paragraphs.

Twelve minutes later – was I counting? Ya think? – the docs were up with some final paragraphs missing. Grrr. The excitement had fizzled, the energy had dried up, the thrill was gone. (Cue B.B. King.) So was my coffee and the allotted time to write. I made a note to myself, just a brief, slightly cryptic thing. I figured, I’d remember…

Twenty-four hours later, I don’t remember. Well, I remember three out of four that I’d thought. Damn it, that fourth one is plaguing me.

Which brings me to the eternal question, which school do you belong to? Are you one that writes copious notes, or are you of the “I’ll remember it” school?

I used to be the copious notes school. Then I read that Stephen King said that he doesn’t keep notes. He said that if it was important, he’d remember it. How sage that sounded! I would be like Stephen King. He can do it, so I can, too…right?

First, I lied. I am a copious note maker. I have documents of notes about the novel in progress, explaining what and why, because I know that I’ll probably get lost in the tangled tales and forget. I invoked the Stephen King clause yesterday in an optimistic fit. While I don’t remember it now, I’m sure that I will as I write today…or tomorrow…or…sometime.

I hope.

Got my mind juice, a.k.a., coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

UPDATE: I remembered the fourth as I began writing, and made a note of all four. Ah, the power of coffee.

 

One Typo

I was writing several days ago, working on the novel in progress, April Showers 1921. I’d dream the novel, seeing the cover and knowing the main characters and a lot of story. Yet I was struggling to find and fulfill the potential the dream had shown the novel to have.

I plugged on, though, searching, testing, writing, and then tossing some of it away, trying to find the right path. Completing a scene, I went back over it, making minor changes. I uncovered a typo, an ess attached to a word, changing the noun from singular to plural. While laughing at the images that plural conjured, I deleted the letter, but then reconsidered what the plural could mean to the story. Within a few seconds, that extra letter and the shift from singular to plural opened up a new range of ideas. I went with it.

Results surprised me. That typo bloomed like algae, taking over that scene, but also illuminating masses of the underlying concept. The typo changed the main character’s interactions with others and shifted the entire story by several degrees. The typo opened unexpected mind streams. I surfed into new directions again and again, reacting with surprise, but also with satisfaction that this novel was becoming something different than how it’d been going. All of this is what causes fiction writing to be so engaging and entertaining for me.

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

Cliffhanger

I worry, is there too much dialogue? Is the story too obtuse? Is it too, is it too…arg.

I try to follow the muses as they flash their lights and urge me forward into the foggy writing night and a cocoon of dark imagery. Anxiety ripples through my torso. I want to ask the muses if they’re sure that this is the way, but you know that you dare not question the muses.

Peeking to either side to see what else could be there can’t be resisted but the muses have led me into a precarious wasteland. I feel like cliffs abut the path, and the path is growing narrow and precarious. I follow but I struggle with the catch the muses have clamped on me, a catch almost as beautiful as Catch-22‘s catch. My catch (for the characters) is that they need to remember to know what to do but if they remember, they can be tracked and dusted. (Dusted will be explained at another time, but use your imagination.)

Now all those characters are remembering and the protagonist, Anders, is freaking out, because he’s starting to remember, despite efforts not to remember, what happens when you’re dusted, and what this is all about. The others are coming, the trap is closing, and then, ‘lo, here’s a new fucking group running toward him from the opposite direction.

The muses gave no warning about them. In a panic, I wonder, who are they? What’s Anders going to do now? He was trying to ditch Jazmine and Petty because he remembers with growing certainty that remembering in one person is reinforced in another — memories beget memories — and that’s not good for here and now.

Pooh-poohing my worries, the muses wave their dainty fingers, dismissing my concerns. “We’re stopping for today,” they inform me. I picture them nibbling chocolate truffles. “We’ll pick up here tomorrow.”

It feels like, you know, I watched Avengers: Endgame, and here I am, waiting to see what happens. It feels like I’m watching Game of Thrones, waiting to be see the next death, the next twist.

Cliffhangers. Fun to watch, harder to write when the muses are guiding you on an organic writing trip.

Good day of writing like crazy in one sense, cause, hey, progress. We cheer progress. Mystifying day in another sense because of the questions created by this cliffhanger and the writer’s angst that it enjoins.

What happens next? Well, I go home to wait and see.

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