Red string

Jotting this down so I don’t forget again:

Zayn is a calligrapher, a hand-writer in a time when handwriting is obsolete.  That’s his art, not just his skill in cleaning and disguising objects.

I need to write down proper character notes more often…. I forget really important things all the time, and remember them way after it would’ve been useful to remember them.

[dream scene] Blue blood

I’ve been tossing around the idea of jotting down little scenes or spontaneous story snippets whenever I have an interesting dream.  Part story-starter, part way for me to recapture the feeling of the dream, and all fun. The snippets won’t necessarily be directly lifted from the dream, but will always  be inspired by it.

Had a bizarre dream after seeing The King’s Speech last night; so here is my first “dream scene.”

————

Blue Blood

It’s the protocol of the thing that befuddles them.

Is he a Royal, or isn’t he?  And even if he isn’t–will his blue blood, undeniable, protect him from retribution all the same?  Should he then be imprisoned instead of executed?  Or will his immunity protect him even from that?

The Empress is mysteriously silent.  Since she received word of the murders, she has been shut in her throne room and refuses to let anyone in or out, save her second consort, the Princess of Ulshrum.  The Princess delivers her orders, and carries out the lesser business in her name.

There are whispers that the Empress is dead.  That he murdered her, too.

The possibility is too grim to consider with any seriousness.

 

Back and forth, up and down

I’ve been doing pretty well on my revisions but now I’m hitting the parts where I left gaping holes, skipped ahead and otherwise left a big mess in my wake. So I’m ending up (re)writing whole scenes, and messing up what comes after. So far, I’ve written at least a half chapter of new text, but I’ve also had to remove (at least for now) two chapters that come after, as the chain of events is changing. Which draws me back to my eternal dilemma: was it better that I pushed through, or would it’ve been better to try to sort it out a little better in my head first?

I suppose six of one half dozen of another.

Still, it’s a little painful, watching things have to be set aside, even while I’m still confronted with issues I wasn’t able to sort out the first time around. This time, though, I’m not writing on without properly sorting through these scenes, first. It isn’t easy on the momentum, but I think it has to be done.

Work ethic

From what I’ve observed in my medium-length life, US culture holds as sacred that any difficulty can be overcome by patience, determination and hard work.

I confess, I sometimes doubt this, even while some part of me cries out that it must be true.

I’ve always tried to deny such a thing as “talent”–I preferred to think of it as just people being more interested in a thing so that it consumed them and they did it all the time, ie, their hard work and dedication was what made them that good. But as I’ve gotten older, there do seem to be some people for which certain things come naturally, and they’re just as likely to carelessly toss this ability aside as embrace it. True success seems to be a mix of talent, commitment, hard work and even (I’m going to say it) the simple lucky break. (Oh, I’ve read so many “how to get published” books that simply insist it was dedication, not luck, but the truth is, I know people who’ve been flinging themselves at every opportunity for all their lives and yet to have anything stick. Sometimes it IS a matter of your manuscript landing on the right desk at the right time. Why is that so offensive? Because it means that some people who are really good won’t see success? — Still, without constant effort and dedication, your chances of this happening lessen drastically.)

— Related, but not really:

For quite some time now (as you’ve seen recorded in this blog) I’ve been trying to apply myself, to first finish and then revise my novel, and I’ve been floundering, to put it nicely. I’ve been very unfocused and I’ve known that everything I’ve written has been pretty distracted.

And then today, for no reason I can figure out, I had lots of energy. I worked out twice, got a ton of things done, and then I revised a whole big chunk of my novel.

Completely random.

I will never understand my brain. To be honest, if I hadn’t been writing all those days, I’m not sure it would’ve made a difference. I really do have some on days (rare) and some off days (many). And when I’m on, my work is so much better than when I’m off.

I’ll keep writing as often as possible, because I think it’s good to keep the joints oiled and in good working order. But I do so knowing that most days, I’m just going to be churning out junk. And hoping for that one day where I’m on, plugged in, focused, flying.

Dreams and the stories in between

Every once in a while, I wake up with a dream sticking in my mind.  Sometimes it’s the whole dream–some of my dreams are story-like, and many of my dreams are exciting adventures, running away from this threat or that.  Sometimes it’s just an idea from the dream, or a feeling, or a character that sticks to me.

Last night, in a long, tangled dream about other things, I dreamed I was  reading/playing a game (in that weird dream simultaneity) about a woman named Carla, and then dressed up as her for some costume party we were holding.  For some reason, Carla really stuck in my head–I remember her face clearly (narrow eyes; thin features that were threatening towards severe, but still pretty, in a girl-next-door kind of way; black hair (formerly blond in the past? or a past life?) tightly drawn back in a ponytail), and a sense of sadness to her, but also determination.  In part of the dream she narrowly dodges a series of slamming stone doors–almost Tomb-Raider like–and at one point I was sure she’d been killed, but she hadn’t.  I knew or read that she’d formerly been a somewhat powerful woman, in a past life, but one who’d done things she hadn’t been proud of.

As I stood in the shower this morning I thought about Carla and what stories she might have.  For some reason, and I don’t believe this was in the dream but it stuck in my mind all the same, there’s a man associated with her–a present life? An ally, from a past life?  A “controller”?  Maybe he dreams of her, or remembers her, or somehow is her?  That could get interesting in a gender-issues sense, or it could get very messy, I suppose.

Whatever her story is, I’d like to revisit Carla soon, and maybe tell a bit of her tale.

Have you had a dream that stuck with you long after you’ve awoken? Have you ever taken that idea and written about it?

By the book

If you ask me if I’m a rules-following, structure-loving, please-the-teacher goody-two-shoes, I’ll probably say yes.  I like structure, and having an idea of what’s the right way to do something and what’s the wrong way, and knowing what step comes next.

But I’m also an instinctive, stubborn, organic creative person who prefers to learn that yes, that pan is hot by burning my hand, and who loves nothing more than chasing the wild plot bunny recklessly down ill-advised, long-forbidden paths.

As you can imagine, these things clash.  Endlessly.  It seems especially bad when I’m writing more than anything else.  I’m not exactly a structured writer; trying to outline drives me crazy and most of my scenes are written on pure gut reaction to what has come before.  It’s not the best method of writing, and I’d hardly recommend it to anyone else, but the stories that come out when I trust this method are (to me) my best works.  The few times I have forced myself to write to an outline the stories have been stilted, not so fresh.

However, I do wish I could be a more methodical writer when I inevitably begin to lose confidence and start to doubt my instincts.  I question what’s come before, and what the characters want to do next, and I grind to a halt.  If I were a person with a tried-and-true plan of action, I feel like I could get through these moments with  a lot less grief.

As it is, I’ve yet to come up with a good solution.  I’ve tried writing through, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t–depends on the root of my doubt, valid problem or just pure lack of confidence.  I’ve tried stepping away, but then sometimes I never come back at all, or sometimes the effort of re-immersing myself months or even years later just seems not worth it.  I’ve tried writing ahead–which has, almost every time, turned out to be a waste, because when I go back and pick up the threads of the story, I don’t end up in the same place and the future scenes go unused.

I powered through things with The Red Box and a part of me still wonders if I was just marching along because that was what How To books and general wisdom were telling me to do.  (And perhaps pride, and a determination to finish before the new year.) I can’t help but wonder if that’s why the end left me feeling, well, so deflated.  Normally, when I power through because some impulse is compelling me to, even if what I write is full of gaping holes and wrong, I still feel a great sense of accomplishment.  I know I’ve written a good skeleton, something to build on.  So I have to wonder why I didn’t feel that way about what I did with the end of The Red Box.  I have to wonder if I didn’t just waste time and words doing the “wrong” thing.

But chatting with a friend this weekend, she  helped me to remember that sometimes you have to go down the wrong path to learn the right.  Maybe I wrote the wrong ending, for the wrong reasons, but that’s OK.  Sometimes I have to write the scene wrong four, five, six times to find the right one.  Most efficient?  Best practice?  Good writing technique?  Probably not.

Even so, I think sometimes I have to trust myself, do things the wrong way, and be okay with that.  Not kick myself for not following rules, or, in this case, following them even though I didn’t feel it was the right thing to do.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I consider what I will do with my manuscript after the current pass.  I asked my friend what the usual approach was–should I finish my first draft and shove it in a drawer? Should I share it immediately?  She had her advice, and it was good advice, and I’ll consider it.  But I’ve decided to trust myself.  When I’m done the draft I’ll know if it’s ready to share, or if it needs more alone time.

A new year

So I fell off a bit during the holidays. I did keep trying to write, but there was travelling and visiting and family-ing and yes, even a mild bit of partying (very mild) involving a deep-dish pizza, delicious wings, cocktails, wine and RuPaul’s Drag Race Season One. We missed the New Year’s Countdown because we were on the last episode and had to see who won (we finished a few minutes after midnight, humorously).

However I’ve picked up again after the holidays and it isn’t going horribly. It’s not going fantastically either, but… I’ll take my small half-victories. I rewrote a scene I’ve never been happy with, and I’m not sure I’m happy with it yet, but it is certainly a lot closer to what I want than I’d had before. (This scene has actually gone through three versions at least, already.)

Recently, in his own New Year’s post, Neil Gaiman wrote:

And also, please wish me luck with this short story I’m writing. I’m up to page 19 and nothing’s happened yet. Right now, they’re eating porridge. In my head, by this point in the story everyone was going to be terrified, and strange oogly things would be happening to all the villagers. Porridge!

And I had to laugh because that could be a quote from me, given that kind of thing happens to me all the time. In fact, the novel I’m trying to wrap the first draft on now was supposed to be a short novella (around 25,000 words) and is now twice that.

Sometimes I despair of ever getting my characters past that proverbial porridge, but I know if I just take it bit by bit, eventually, we’ll come to the end. And then I will share it with my trusted first-round readers, and then shove it in a drawer, and come back to it fresh later on.