Sometimes You Already Have the Answer

I wrote some strong, honest words this week. I had a burst of writing on one of my WIPs—it’s the one you see in the sidebar, temporarily titled FISH. I started off writing it at a good pace (for me), but that came to a stop last November at about 14,000 words.

bluechairsI hung up my writer’s hat for the month of December. In January, I went back to work and wrote steadily, but stopped again at 26,000 words because I came to a bridge scene and couldn’t decide how to cross it.

Since I try to write something every day, I switched to working on my other WIP (working title TEA.) After I’d gotten 10,000 words into that one, I distracted myself with trying out Scrivener by setting it up to work on TEA.  As you know from my last post, that was a good experience.

But I wasn’t writing.

I set up all my folders and text files, and even found celebrity photos to attach to my character cards for TEA. Then I decided to set up another Scrivener project for FISH. And, of course, I had to find photos to represent my FISH characters too. And I researched 1970s home interiors, bathing suit styles, and marijuana laws because FISH is set in 1974.

But I wasn’t writing.

I wasn’t “blocked” from working on TEA. I just felt strongly that I needed to return to writing FISH, partly because I’ve lived with it longer, I’m comfortable with it, and partly because it’s another women’s fiction novel, while TEA is more an experiment. But I still hadn’t worked out that particular scene.

I felt guilty about not writing. So I tried to read because that usually sparks my writing (which is why it usually takes me forever to get through a book), but I couldn’t concentrate on reading. I went to sleep every night trying to figure out how best to move into the next section of FISH.

Now we all know a writer writes … right? So I decided that until I figured out the solution to that sticky scene, what I needed to do was open that project’s Scenes-to-Write folder and work on a scene I’d written the bare bones of previously. That was a success, and it led to reworking a few too-short scenes, raising my word count by a couple thousand.

Then I opened and read another skeleton scene—just dialogue with a few “stage directions”—started months ago. I expanded the dialogue and turned those directions into narrative. Four hundred words grew to thirteen hundred and counting. And then it hit me: if I changed the setting, this scene would be the perfect bridge!

I’m continually amazed at the Muse—and by that I mean a writer’s mind. In the background or in this case, in advance, it’s always working. Sometimes the answer we’re looking for is already there. We just need to get out of our own way to find it. BICHOK*

Linda

*For those who don’t know, this stands for Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.

Apparently, I need a blog editor

It appears my last post is an example of why I edit, edit, edit when I write fiction. Evidently, I need to do the same when I write these blog posts. I thought I wrote a positive post. I thought I shared a bit of wisdom. But I confused some of you, so obviously my thoughts did not make the trip from brain to keyboard intact.

For the record, I’m happy to be a published author. I’m proud of my first novel and excited to get my next one out soon. I’m thrilled that I have fans—FANS—can you believe it? I hope thousands of readers discover my books, but if they do, it will most likely be by word of mouth because, by nature and by choice, I am not a high-profile writer.

However, if I’m destined to become an author known throughout this world and beyond, so be it.

Speaking of editing, I have now written 90% of the first draft of my next novel, so I’ll soon be ready for that stage. I hoped I might crank out those last 10,000 words this week, but I’ve been stalled since Monday night. I mentioned my dilemma on Facebook yesterday and a few of my writing friends let me know this is a common occurrence at this point in a draft. I guess I’ve forgotten.

I think the problem is my attempt to not write this novel as a pantser. I wrote a simple outline and several key scenes before I started the draft, but—as they always do—the characters had their own ideas. I quit following the outline some time back and eliminated or revised some of the scenes, but I still have a couple that I can’t decide whether to use as is, revise, or trash. So, until my characters show me the way, I’m stuck.

And speaking of Facebook, have you LIKED my author page? I’ll be thrilled if you do. It takes only two clicks, first click on this link and then click LIKE to the right of my name. Come on, I dare ya’.

Even if you don’t LIKE me, I wish you a wonderful end of the week. 🙂

A River of Words

One thing I often wish for writers in my tweets and comments is that they will be blessed with a river of words. That’s how it feels to me when the mental dam breaks and sets the story free.

Unfortunately, I seem to be an expert dam builder, though I can’t say I know how I do that. I can never see a specific pattern leading up to these obstructions. Once I build that dam, I’m just as much in the dark on how to tear it down.

I want to write. I need to write. I cannot write.

That frustration only reinforces the dam, which leads to more frustration, which reinforces—well, you get the picture. I lay blame on this and that and the other. I distract myself. I pretend patience. I use force, trickling out a few words at a time. Eventually, I decide I have no talent and should give up.

For a while now, I’ve pretended—if I positively affirm that I’m a writer, that work on my WIP is going just swell, thank you, it will be so. Ahem. I only know that about ten days ago, I faced up to a dam of terrifying proportions. I felt like a total fraud. I was convinced I was a one-book writer. The voice in my head was screaming, “Shut up. Shut up! JUST. SHUT. UP.”

So I did. I shut up. I gave up. And that seemed entirely logical. Gloriously freeing. Long overdue. I decided to give away one more copy of Brevity, and then quietly slink away.

I planned another blog, where I could post my thoughts under a fictitious name. I would write about anything EXCEPT writing. It would be like a virtual witness relocation plan. Maybe a few people would find that blog and I could start a new online life. Eventually, if I were lucky, I would look back at my experience as a novelist with amusement.

Only, that’s not what happened.

What I thought were just my usual allergy problems turned out to be a virus, and this one settled in my chest, which for me, means a deep, wrenching cough. Naturally, this frequently interrupted my sleep. I spent a few nights in a sort of half-dream state, in which, every time I woke a bit more with a coughing spell, I “heard” people talking to me.

Sometime during the third night, I realized the talkers were the characters in the WIP I had so recently shelved. The next day, I realized they were still talking and I sat down at the keyboard. See that photo at the top of this post? Yeah, that’s what it feels like. I have so many words rushing at me now that I have to force them to stop, so I can take a break, eat a meal, go to sleep.

I’m in writer heaven. My river of words is a roaring, rushing, riotous joy I seriously doubted I would ever experience again.

For every writer reading this, I wish you a river of your own.

Photo credit:http://www.dreamstime.com/rushing-river-imagefree193893

AWAKE, but not writing

Well, I missed a blogging day, but for once, when I had nothing worth saying I didn’t say anything. I also didn’t get much house cleaning done. I did some laundry, repotted a few plants, worked on the sprinkler system in the yard, and organized some craft supplies. I also started reading a NY Times best-selling novel, but the subpar writing and editing makes me question whether I should continue.

What I’d hoped would happen during my writing break hasn’t. Not really. What did occur to me, at one point while my hands were covered in soil, is once again I’ve fallen into the trap of worrying about what others will think of the story in my next novel. Is that why I’m stalled?

I said at the beginning that I wanted to write this novel without any outside input, so I wouldn’t submit chapters to any critique group until they were all written, but it seems I’m critiquing it myself. I’m censoring before I’ve even written it. If only I could write without knowing what I’m writing. *sigh*

Speaking of writing, as I usually am, there’s some good writing on the new NBC series Awake. I’ve blogged before about some of my favorite well-written shows like Treme and Mad Men. This new one promises to be another. The premise of reality vs. dream intrigues me; in fact, I touched on it in a short story I wrote last summer.

Police detective Michael Britten, played by Jason Isaacs, has returned to work after an auto accident with his wife and teen-aged son. The problem is each day he wakes up in one of two “realities”. In one, his son died in the crash, Britten is in department-ordered therapy with a male psychiatrist, and he has a rookie partner at work. In the other, his wife has died, he has a female therapist, and his long-time partner at work.

A further confusion happens when clues from a case in one reality helps him solve his case in the other. Each therapist tells him he’s confusing dream and reality because he hasn’t coped with his loss. Britten doesn’t want their help because he doesn’t want to lose either of his “realities”.

I’m anxious to see how this plays out. When the end credits rolled on the first episode, I said, “Wow!” My husband said, “It was okay.” That’s typical for us. 🙂 Then again, he’s not a writer. If you’re not watching the show, but think it sounds interesting, you can watch full episodes online here: http://www.nbc.com/awake/


Awake promo photo ©NBC

Not writer’s block, it’s an abduction!

For the first time in eons, I’ve decided not to watch American Idol this season. I doubt they’ll miss me. I’m not in their target demographic, nor am I an educated listener. Quite often, I think someone gave a wonderful performance, and then the judges tear it to pieces. And I confess, I’ve only ever bought one winner’s CD, and that was Daughtry’s. So, yeah. No Idol this year.

For the first time in eons, I’ve decided not to watch American Idol this season. I doubt they’ll miss me. I’m not in their target demographic, nor am I an educated listener. Quite often, I think someone gave a wonderful performance, and then the judges tear it to pieces. And I confess, I’ve only ever bought one winner’s CD, and that was Daughtry’s. So, yeah. No Idol this year.

I will be watching Mad Men when it returns because it’s great writing, but I really need to limit my distractions, and watching TV is low on my priority list anyway. I have far too many distractions at a time when I need NONE. During lunch with a writer friend last week, we talked about missing the fire we had when we wrote our last books, when the words came so fast we could barely keep up. I’ve had little success stoking that on my WIP.

Recently, I’ve read some blog posts about “excuses” for not writing. Needing long periods of quiet, uninterrupted time was mentioned as a bogus excuse. Well … maybe for those writers it is. I know many writers have small children and manage to write prolifically. I know many writers have day jobs and manage to write prolifically. I’m not one of those writers.

Last year, my schedule changed drastically. Gone, instantly, were the 40 hours per week of being alone, in silence, to write. I knew it might be harder to do, but I thought I could carry on. After all, I had this writing thing down pat. Maybe I could have if the stresses of those circumstances had not increased my fibromyalgia symptoms. It sent them raging, to be honest. Physical pain, I can work with, through, or around, but some of my symptoms are brain related, and that’s a bummer when you’re trying to write.

At times, my brain is foggy. I see the scene, I just can’t quite translate it to words. Like fish in water, the words are right there, but they slip out of my fingers when I try to grab them. Sometimes I can only see the shadows in a scene and when I look for the objects that cast them, they jumble and I can’t make sense of anything. It’s like The Muse is teasing me. Cruelly.

Then there’s the ADD-like symptoms. I open my file, type a few words, and then I find myself in the kitchen making tea. Or checking the pantry for dinner ingredients. Or googling for toothpaste without sodium laurel sulfate. Or playing a Facebook game. Or—believe it or not—cleaning out the junk drawer. Why did I stop writing? I have no clue. It just happens. Abducted by my alien brain.

When I realize what’s happened, I sit back down. I may write a paragraph or two at a time, so that’s progress of a sort, but the pace is horribly frustrating. It’s not as if I’m a literary writer who turns out a masterpiece every decade or two. So, the writing’s not going too well, but it’s not for lack of trying.

By the way, if any of you fibro suffers have a suggestion for fighting the fog and lack of concentration, I’d love to hear it.