Now if I could get him to stop drooling on me, my notebook, and my mouse pad. For whatever reason, he knows better than to drool on my keyboard.
That’s a good boy.
One of the best things about being a writer is that we can always learn and become better storytellers. Today, I happened upon two insights regarding character motivation (wants vs needs, and choices) that were worded in such a way that I immediately spotted what was wrong with my work-in-progress. What I read wasn’t new to me, but information doesn’t always sink in the first (or second or fifth) time I come across it. Today, things clicked. And that makes this writer very, very happy.
Art can’t be taught;
passion can’t be taught;
discipline can’t be taught;
but craft can be taught.
And writing is both an art and a craft.
~ Elizabeth George
Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.
~ Pablo Picasso
I guess that’s basically what I strive for with my fiction: to write lies in such a way the reader realizes some truths.
I loathe liars, but this kind of lying is a pretty good gig.
I’m not sure what put the light in this rabbit’s eye*, but I know where mine came from: today’s writing session was great fun. Even though I’m writing a first draft and, therefore, not overly hung up on language, I put down some good stuff. And that makes me very happy. Even after reading the following:
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
~ Anton Chekhov
Much of what I wrote today is more tell than show, but I still had a damned good time.
*okay, it was probably the sun
Some writing days are excruciating. The worst are those when I don’t get any words down, and instead spend my time catastrophizing and twirling in my head. The next worse are those days that feel like a death march through neck-deep glue, in which every word has to be dragged kicking and screaming to the page.
Today was the latter. I achieved my word count, and now possess a messy mass of sentences which have the potential to be revised into something less vomitous.
I’m in the process of drafting a middle-grade novel, a story I started six years ago and then set aside after writing 50 pages. Those pages burst out of me with voice and vitality, from who knows where, and while it’s great fun to be reunited with those characters, my process for writing the brand new pages is very different. This time around, I’m using a synopsis as my guide.
I’ve never written a synopsis before completing a first draft. Ever.
Last spring, when I’d let my agent know about the project, she asked if I had a synopsis to send along with the newly revised 50 pages. Um, no. However, I decided to give the loathed document a whirl, with the caveat that I wouldn’t shoot for any specific length, rather, I’d include EVERYTHING. A week later, I sent her the pages plus a 10-page synopsis. And today, I did the unimaginable: I thanked her for suggesting a synopsis. I told her that it was helping me keep on track, which was, in turn, helping me keep writing.
Which is why I decided to devote today’s blog post to my newfound appreciation for knowing-what-in-the-hell-comes-next. So, I pulled THE ELEVENTH DRAFT: CRAFT AND THE WRITING LIFE FROM THE IOWA WRITERS’ WORKSHOP off the shelf in hopes of finding a passage to reinforce my synopsis love.
Except, the part of his essay “Not Knowing” that spoke to me was this:
One night in Iowa City, I sat and listened to our instructor recount his day of writing, how he followed a character down to the basement, where he heard a strange rustling, and the character turned and drew out his gun and shot in the dumbwaiter a rat. “And,” the instructor grinned, “I didn’t even know it was there.”
And I thought, “So you don’t have to know.”
Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!
I admit to feeling momentary panic about that blasted 10-page synopsis. But then I calmed the f*^% down. Just because I’ve charted a path for the story I’m writing does not in any way mean that I am beholden to that chart. It’s a general guide, nothing more. If a rat or gun or dumbwaiter shows up in the story, I’ll allow them time to lobby for their inclusion. I won’t automatically toss out anything that shows up to the party.
And when that panic and angst over being too structured returns, (because I know for a fact those emotions will return), I’m gonna come back to this right here. After all, I set out to write one kind of post, and quite happily ended up with another.
Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.
~ Khalil Gibran
Yesterday I moved my writing desk from the living room into my weight room / standing desk room / ginormous whiteboard room. The animals are all a bit confused by the change, and are taking turns hanging out with me. Zoey and Emma were just underneath the desk where Zoey quivered in fright because of thunder while Emma slept on my feet.
This is Marcel from earlier in the day. Right after this photo was taken, he noticed his tail and started chasing it. Confession: I have yet to look away from a cat chasing his tail. I’m dialed into those feline hijinks for the duration, and will watch as long as the cat continues to act the fool.
The change in venue feels good for my writerly brain and psyche, but so far, the animal distractions are more than I bargained for.