Whenever I write a novel,
I have a strong sense that I am doing something I was unable to do before.
With each new work, I move up a step and discover something new inside me.
~ Haruki Murakami
Image from pexels.com
I’m working on a synopsis for my work-in-progress and, as anyone who has ever written one can attest, it’s not a pretty process. This time around I’m writing a synopsis before writing the novel which means I’m not locked into anything.
NOT LOCKED INTO ANYTHING = EVERYTHING IS A POSSIBILITY
Or another way to describe it: SQUIRREL BRAIN FREE-FOR-ALL
My ADD tendencies are having a blast-y as I try to reconcile my rough outline with all the brand new shiny ideas firing in my brain.
ZIP ZAP ZOOP.
However, I did make progress today. And when I’d had enough of ye olde synopsis, I put Emma on her leash and we went for a run on the trails.
Nothing clears the squirrel from one’s brain like a run over uneven terrain.
For me, when I ‘discover’ a story,
there is a feeling of buoyancy and clarity,
perhaps similar to early morning out on a prairie highway,
when darkness lifts and reveals
the outline of farmhouses and copses of trees in the distance.
~ David Bergen
Image from Pexels.com
I’m working on my new-old middle-grade project, one I partially drafted and then set aside for six years. It’s been a slow process as I reenter this manuscript, but not painfully so. It’s more of a satisfying slowness as I put down words that, at times, feel very close to being just right.
Image from pexels.com
Who knows? Those words may end up being absolutely wrong.
But right now it doesn’t matter. Right now I’m allowing myself to enjoy the slow, deliberate movement of this particular story’s metamorphosis.
That right there is progress.
I spent a fair amount of time yesterday and today searching for character images. I’m writing about a girl and her little sister, and want to have touchstone photos I can refer to when I feel myself veering off track.
I love this photo, but it’s not quite right. There seems to be something off about each image I find. The expression is wrong or the hair is too long, too blonde, too short, too punk. Or the hair is perfect, but the eyes don’t speak to me and the body language is wrong.
I guess what I really need is a photo-based Mr. Potato Head.
I grabbed my copy of WRITERS DREAMING from the shelf and opened it in hopes of finding something interesting/insightful to share here today. I wasn’t searching for anything in particular and within a couple minutes, I happened upon these two excerpts:
I’m the kind of writer who doesn’t take notes.
I tell myself, trust the unconscious.
If something is important enough in my unconscious life I will remember.
It will come to me when I need it.
So I don’t keep a notebook of good lines, good thoughts or dreams.
~ Bharati Mukherjee in WRITERS DREAMING
Usually I don’t take notes
even when I have an idea for a story until I actually sit down to do it.
Because I always have felt that I have so many ideas that the ones that are important to me, that really are good, will stay.
And the other stuff will fade.
That’s kind of a filing system.
If it was not that interesting, or not that good an idea, if it had a germ of something good in it, that part will come back.
It’ll be in there somewhere.
~ John Sayles in WRITERS DREAMING
What the hell? No notes? Because the unconscious? And because bad will fade away and good will make itself known?
Who are these writers with their functioning memories and bizarre confidence in their abilities?!
I can’t imagine life without notebooks.
I have a variety of notebooks in a drawer, waiting for me to pull them out to write down all sorts of things inside. The good, bad, and everything in between. It’s how I sort out what’s what and who’s who in my stories. Notebooks help me navigate the oftentimes confusing dance of ideas going on in my head.
I take notes because I’m that kind of writer.
I’ve started working again on a project that I put on hold in 2012 because I didn’t feel equipped to do it justice. I’m still not insanely confident about my abilities (after all, I am a writer), but I’m pushing ahead.
Last night my Writing Roosters critique group got together, and one of the members spoke of her current process as she drafts another book in a series. She said that for her, outlining and research could turn into a form of procrastination, and that it was important to just get writing and trust that that other stuff will sort itself out along the way. I realize that isn’t a new concept, but it was one of those right-comments-at-the-right time things, and it went ping in my brain.
That’s exactly where I’ve been with this project; reacquainting myself with the characters and plot, doing more and more research. Thinking I had to get most every detail nailed down. Obviously, that’s false. Because as it says in STOP THAT BALL! : Could this go on all day and night? It could, you know, and it just might.
One of the best read-alouds EVER!
So today I stepped away from the outlining and research rabbit holes, and started writing. I didn’t get a whole lot of words down, but I accomplished more than page numbers.
Take that, Steven Wright!
Going off the road just leaves me more time to be a writer.
~ Janis Ian
Fiction is too beautiful to be about just one thing. It should be about everything.
~ Arundhati Roy
I absolutely agree with Ms. Roy. Fiction should include the smooth, the rough, the soft, the sharp, the bright, the dull, the everything. Right now, however, I’m struggling with a bit of overwhelm in regards to the EVERYTHING I’m contemplating for this current project.
The good news is that I’ve (temporarily, at least) eluded my panic, and am whittling away at one piece of EVERYTHING that I hope belongs in the story. If it turns out this piece doesn’t belong, I will still have learned something.
Disclosure: That mature sentiment will fade if this project turns into one long-ass process of elimination.
I just read GOOD PROSE: THE ART OF NONFICTION by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd. As the cover says, it is “Stories and advice from a lifetime of writing and editing.” I highly recommend this wise and funny book.
There are many gems scattered throughout (and not just for nonfiction writers, but anyone who loves playing with words), and one has been in the front of my brain since reading it:
I remember in college reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel The Last Tycoon and studying a note that he left in the manuscript: “Rewrite from mood. Has become stilted with rewriting. Don’t look — rewrite from mood.” I reread those lines so often, trying to understand them, that they stuck in my memory. Fitzgerald knew that there are at least two kinds of rewriting. The first is trying to fix what you’ve already written, but doing this can keep you from facing up to the second kind, from figuring out the essential thing you’re trying to do and looking for better ways to tell your story. If Fitzgerald had been advising a young writer and not himself, he might have said, “Rewrite from principle,” or “Don’t just push the same old stuff around. Throw it away and start over.”
I’m getting close to The End (of this draft) of my YA project, and very much appreciate Mr. Kidder sharing Mr. Fitzgerald’s wisdom with me. Maybe it will reach someone else who needs it now.