Some things I’ve learned in writing lately are to never presume, never expect and never relent.
It’s easy to fall into that complacent place where you feel like you’ve won a great battle when you finish a story. Recently, I finished an original short story, the first thing I’ve truly accomplished writing-wise in months and the feeling was fantastic. It reminded me why I write, why I decided to write seriously. My writing process for this short story was fairly simple. I had written an outline a year or two ago, after a brainstorm “hashing-it-out” session with one of my besties. I came up with two versions of the story. One would be short and one in case inspiration went wild, just in case the story turned into a short novel. I sat down the other day intending to work on this project for my friend and the words flowed fairly easily. I’ll admit I had a few moments where I had to drag myself back into the story and into the “mood”. I listened to a lot of Sigur Ros to find the right atmospheric blend of wonderment, soul and mystery. After crossing my fingers and hoping it would translate onto the page, I let the fingers loose again. Amazingly, I finished within a week or so of picking this story up. While a part of me wanted to take the story to deeper dramatic heights, I liked leaving it where it ended. Instead of pushing the imagination too far, I wanted to leave the reader with a sense of realism. And of course, I wanted to leave the reader with the hint and possibility of magic. When it’s published, you can read the story and tell me for yourselves what you think. I’ll let you know when to look for it.
So yay! One story down! After months-long hiatus I felt back on my game and decided to relax a bit. I presumed it would be easy for me to jump right into the next story. But the past couple of times I’ve sat down to begin a new story, this time a full-length novel, I froze. I realized just because I had planned things out to the best of my ability, just because I had that rushing high of finishing a story, didn’t guarantee instant inspiration. Just like before, I have to open the document and make myself write. I’ve read a lot of blogs and articles written by fellow authors, and begun Stephen King’s memoir “On Writing”. The culmination of these has filled me up with brilliant advice and again the lingering fear. I suppose it’s because when you start a new project, with the daunting task ahead of you, there is a pressure to get it “just right”. I have to remind myself often that I can’t expect to get everything together the first draft. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to get it together the first draft. It should be like the initial sketch of a larger and more refined piece. The detail and suggestion of color and line should be there, but it won’t bedazzle you right away. It will serve as a guide, which brings me to my last point.
Writing is hard work. Sometimes I find myself dancing around in a muddled paragraph riddled with description. I love words, but I love words that paint pictures most of all. And when I write dialogue, I have to read it aloud a lot of times. Because, trust me, something you write a character saying will sound a lot different out loud. I’ve had a lot of moments where I read something to a friend or myself and cringed or just thought, “how corny!” Other times I find those filler moments almost impossible to work for me, like my character refuses to go from point A to point B.
Something Mr. King, long may he reign, has taught me recently is there are too many wasted words in novels. I could probably glean through this article and take out at least fifty and you would get the full meaning of my story. In spite of all my struggles and flaws, however, I will continue writing the same way I keep on sketching or practice an impossible piece on piano. With each sketch and every session I work through the music, it becomes clearer. That is what I will endeavor to do with my next novel. I have a fairly big goal (more on fall/winter goals later) to reach by the end of this year. I will do my best not only to write a little bit every day, but keep y’all posted on the progress and the process.
Much love to those of you who have read this. Speaking of reading, if you haven’t read Laini Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke & Bone” you better click on this link or go to your nearest bookstore and purchase now. It is, in a word, sublime.