A Storm of Scenes

The muse had warned me, “Set aside expectations.”

Of course. Muses are always telling me that. I readily agreed. She was the muse. Lead on. That’s how it works.

“I’m serious.”

I didn’t doubt that.

“You need to discard preconceived notions. Drop them like they’re too much clothing on a hot, sunny day.”

Um…okay.

“Can you give me some clues about we’re where going, what’s going on, and all of that?” I asked. I tried not to sound miffed; I don’t want to irritate the muse. I know my place, but… “I am the writer, you know. It’s supposed to be my work.”

“You’ll know when you need to know.”

She was pretty damn haughty.

She was right, though. I’ve always enjoyed writing my novels. I’ve had a lot of fun writing them. They entertain me. The muses do usually lead in unexpected directions.

This one, though, has been wildly different. The writing and story-telling pace are much, much faster than usual. And as she warned, the scenes, characters, and ideas introduced are constant shocks, little that I expected.

It’s a storm of scenes keeping up with her. Write, write, write, faster, faster. Then, after writing, update the bible to ensure everything’s been captured as far as details so I’m not slowed down by searching for some detail later.

It’s tense, exhausting, and exhilarating, leaving me on a natural high that life just can’t match. It’s a shame, then, to stop. But stopping is required, to go on to do other things and deal with the mundane of existence as a married white American male in 2019.

Once again, it’s been a great day of writing like crazy. I highly recommend it.

Fast Start

I love starting a new project. I love the energy that comes with a new writing project. Energizing and freeing, it’s like I’m taking on a new life.

Nothing — I mean, writing projects — ever really starts easily for me, but then, if I can find and dislodge the right piece of idea, it all starts crashing down in an avalanche of story and characters. This is my third day of working on my new novel, working title, It Begins. The first two days were sputtering efforts. I’m a pantser, so I’d muddled some concepts, characters, and settings together. I managed about a thousand words on each day, but they were gritty writing sessions, real plodders. In today’s session, I managed to dislodge the right little piece, and the rest crashed in. All I could do was hang on and type fast. After an hour of that, I’d added over fourteen pages and thirty-three hundred words. Then I stopped and created the book’s bible so that I could keep track of everything.

Now, I’m depleted and hungry. Half a cup of cold coffee remains. As usual, writer ass afflicts me, and both buns feel like they’ve gone to sleep. Time to walk, wind down, think about the next piece of story, and find food.

It’s been a good day of writing like crazy.

Laughing At Myself

I’ve been laughing at myself. When I finished the first draft of April Showers 1921, I thought, what a mess. Then I began hunting for what to do.

I found problems with structure, character motivation, pacing, story-telling… Whatever could go wrong seemed present. Very disheartening.

I began hunting fixes, slicing like a surgeon removing tumors. Draft two was finished and stalled, then three was written and discarded, followed by four. I lamented to myself, “This is like telling the history of World War II. So much happened. How do I find the right handle to it?”

That lament helped. Although I was complaining, it was true. The novel sprawled in a million directions. I needed to reduce the sprawl and improve the story.

Meanwhile, in parallel, I was reading thrillers. I was reminded of a Stephen King quote: “I showed them what can happen, and then I make them wait for it to happen again.” I’m paraphrasing. Forgive me. Maybe it wasn’t King, too, but I thought it was.

Whoever came up with that quote, it helped me sharpen my story’s focus, and tightened my grip on the sprawl.

I created some rules for myself.

  1. Head down. Focus, and stay focused. Work hard. Concentrate.
  2. Stay humble. Ride the wave. It’s a long ride, so manage your energy and emotions.
  3. Write better. Tell a better story. Sharpen your story-telling skills.

The last was revealing. I’d always concentrated on writing, putting words after words, fixing pacing and finishing novels and stories. Now, I decided that I needed to elevate my efforts and focus on being a better writer. That would hopefully result in a better story and novel.

It required hard decisions. Cut this arc. Modify that one. Tens of thousands of words were shred.

Partway through draft number seven. I think I’ve found a grip. I won’t know until I’ve finished and read it through again.

Done writing and editing like crazy for today. Time to go for a walk and let myself decompose.

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.

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.

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