There are various Pinterest quotations about writing, which tell us that writing is about discipline; and so it is. They tell us writing is about one word at a time, just getting it down on paper; and so it is. But some of them say that you have to force yourself to write the scenes you don’t like, the boring scenes, the in-between scenes.
I disagree. You shouldn’t have those scenes in your book.
Don’t write it if it’s boring. Who would want to read it? If a scene is dull, dragging on, redundant, chuck it! Write something new; combine scenes; write over it. Make it dialogue instead of description; give us a picture instead of a pause. So you have to give someone’s backstory? Give it in flashback; have someone (an unreliable narrator perhaps?) describe it. Make your story interesting; make every scene count.
There’s a difference between discipline (writing *when* you don’t want to write) and dullness (writing *what* you don’t want to write). Write! Always write! But write with a reason.
Greetings, one and all. Dare I squeeze the truth and beg of it an ambiguous excuse? Better not. My absence on this blog has no real reason beyond the human shortcomings well known to all of us.
That said, I have just been challenged (in a manner of speaking) to my writing resolution of the New Year.
On Pinterest, I found a quotation: “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” Naturally, Pinterest means this as a vaguely motivational message, for us all to eat more healthily and blog more frequently and read more philosophically and act more charitably and be better generally. As a writer, however, I cannot pass up the prompt.
Today I write the first page in a 365-page book, which will end on December 31 2014. For 365 days, I will write one page a day, and where ever the story leads, I will follow. One page a day, no more, no less; a believably feasible resolution, I think?
Anyone else looking for a challenge?
It’s halfway through Nanowrimo, and I have more or less (probably somewhat less) 3,000 words. That’s not 30,000, or even 25,000 that I should have: that’s three thousand. That’s fewer words than two days’ worth. How did this happen?
I got sick.
You wouldn’t think it, but a week’s worth of flu can really knock the writing out of you. You would think that a week’s worth of day dreaming in bed or lolling about on the couch would be the perfect opportunity to write. It’s a writer’s dream, isn’t it? Well, not so much. The little grey cells don’t function quite up to speed. Which means Nano isn’t happening for me this year.
But that’s ok. It’s good for my humility; it’s good to remember I can’t accomplish everything I set out to do. And, in some ways, it’s good for my writing, too. Instead of working on the story I meant to write this November, my brain has been going around and around with the murder mystery I’m almost finished with, and I’m actually starting to tie up some loose ends. If a flu will make me lose Nanowrimo but help me finish a year-old project, I hope I get the flu every year!
Meanwhile, I hope your projects are going well, and your Nano counts are getting higher and higher every day!
One more day. One day more. Twenty-six hours from now, and I will be wide awake, panicking at the first quarter of an hour of November 2013. That quarter of an hour will determine the fate of my novel, my story, my soon-to-be bestseller, my brainchild, my life.
*cue dramatic music*
Yeah, or not.
Most likely, I will just fall asleep.
The story will write itself, one way or another. I am a writer; I write. This doesn’t mean that I’ll actually become the next Jane Austen; it doesn’t mean that anyone will ever read anything I ever write; it doesn’t even mean that I will ever finish a single writing project. All it means is that I put words one by one down on paper or type them out; these words mean to me some thought or emotion or problem or curiosity. These words express, consider, question, describe, imitate, contemplate, criticise, and analyse Life as I know it. I write as a matter of course. I write because I must write, because I am meant to write. I write because …
NANOWRIMO IS COMING.
Three days until Nanowrimo. Three days of security and irresponsibility. Three days of possibility, potential, and procrastination.
I’m gonna die.
Not only have I neglected to sufficiently plot the story for this year’s Nanowrimo, I have, in fact, neglected to plot at all. I have a dubious array of vagueish characters, including a reluctant heroine, a not-so-heroic hero, and an abstract concept for villain. The setting is the present (I guess) and the location is small-town America (sort of), but beyond that, I really don’t have a clue.
I have, in fact, a vageuish vague of vagueness.
Despite the negations and desperate lack, however, I am determined to make this a Nano to remember. No abstractions will suffice, no reluctance will inhibit, no vagueness will define the story of this November.
Ladies and gentlemen, prepare your pencils. Let the plotting commence!
It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? When we can get it, when we can find it, when we can make it … currently, I am making progress, of some sort, on my pet project of the moment: my murder mystery story. At 46,000 words (and counting!), it doesn’t look like much, but I hope it will be worth it. But the problem is, progress is such an ambiguous thing. How many hours, how much writing frenzy does it take to make a readable story? How many times do I need to change “he said” to “he whispered” to “he leered” before it’s acceptable? How many new characters need to be introduced to make it interesting, exciting, suspenseful? What do I do with the character who seems to have no purpose? Do I scrap her, or develop her? Is cutting progress? Is scribbling progress? What about staring blankly at a blaring-white computer screen?
said declared ranted, I am at least enjoying this vague and immeasurable progress. And when project has progressed into product, I hope you will too.
COMING SOON: What it’s all about!
It’s coming to a November near you! Yes, near enough to smell, and it smells like burning oak leaves, and hot tea, and frosted windshields, and pumpkin-scented everything, and ball-point pen ink, and brand new journals, and bouquets of sharpened pencils … yes, I’m that excited. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more excited about a NaNo before … I’ve only done it a few years now, but each time it’s been a thrill and a challenge and a marvelous feat and a superpower and a dance. And if you haven’t done it before, DO IT! Sign up, log in, and WRITE!
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Many literary amateurs — in the original sense of the word — take this quite to heart. I really shouldn’t say “they” but “we;” I’ve done it myself, many a time. But when the reader finds some style of expression, some use of language, some plot device or character or setting that speaks particularly to him, naturally he wants to keep it. He wants to hold it close to his heart, bury it deep in his soul, feed it and nourish it and allow it to grow, let it spring upwards towards the light of day again, in his own colors and into his own sunlight. He wants to re-create, according to one who has already created something beautiful and truthful and good.
The truest way to re-create a masterpiece, however, is to study that which the first artist studied. It’s easy enough to read Agatha Christie novels and try to formulate a murder mystery according to her plot patterns, but what first inspired her to write? What books did she read to gather her ideas? Jane Austen’s seemingly-facile turns of phrase and lovable characters may be read and read again, but nothing will make a new Regency-era story come to life until we familiarize ourselves with Anne Radcliffe and the Brontes as well. A true Tolkien imitator should, in theory, not only read Tolkien, but read Norse myths and Arthurian legends and Beowulf — in Anglo-Saxon.
Well, that’s all rather daunting, isn’t it? But I should dearly like to try it.
Sometimes, when your head hurts and your bills pile up and your muse is on holiday (again) and the other members of your household are making enough racket to wake the deaf and the world is crashing down upon you … sometimes, the only thing to do is pray.
We all understand the concept of “prayer;” when we pray, we communicate with God. When we pray formulaic prayers, such as the Our Father, we speak to God; when we pray “freestyle,”* we [try to] speak with God. A lot of “freestyle” prayer requires humble listening. We have to stop our “please, God, may I have … ?” and say instead, “I’m listening.”
As writers, however, how do we pray? Writers have difficulty listening. They train themselves to focus on words, and so they hear very well, but it is difficult for them (us) to stop and truly listen. They listen to people’s words, and they use those words to make sense of the world around them. They listen to the voices in their heads to make sense of other people’s words. God doesn’t speak in words, however — or at least, not to the average writer. God speaks in conscience and virtue and soul; He doesn’t communicate in tangible or even definable methods. Perhaps this means that sometimes a writer must stop being a writer and be only a pray-er. To be prayer itself? To offer oneself as prayer? Is this possible? Is this thinkable? Am I still acting as a writer and over-thinking something again?
Sometimes, the only thing to do is pray.
And sometimes, the only thing to do is pray and listen to Gregorian chant and promise yourself another episode of “Sherlock” if you get a blog post written.
* Is there a theological term for this? Also, a nod to Mere Inkling for subconscious non-divine inspiration for this post 🙂
The Creative Writing Process in GIF Form.
It’s Sherlock and Castle and the Doctor encouraging you. You have been encouraged. GO. WRITE. WIN!