Who are we writing for?

who-are-we-writing-for-Silk’s Post #158 — The 5Writers are rolling again. Fingers flying over the keyboards. Chunks of time swiped from Normal Life to commune in solitary confinement with the muse. Free moments in between Other Important Things given over to imagining snips of dialogue or the delicate placement of plot points or the exact shade of a protagonist’s eyes.

Our own eyes scan public places for characters and their stories: travelers fidgeting tensely with their passports in the airport; mid-summer sidewalk cafe patrons sitting alone together with their iPhones; boaters walking the docks with burnt noses and three leashed dogs. Maybe we’ll see someone to add colour, or maybe we’ll find the inspiration for a whole new subplot.

Our families and friends may notice our blank stares from time to time, moments when we’re checked out of reality and are looking inward to a story twist no one else can see. Yet.

The miracle is that even one of us escaped from our writing desert, where we’ve been mostly trudging through a lengthy dry spell punctuated by the occasional sip of creativity at rare oases. Attempted re-starts at a sustained and serious writing life over the past year or so have been mostly mirages.

I can’t overemphasize how difficult this kind of drought is to overcome, even for professional, previously published writers. Which we are not.

So the fact that we have managed to re-boot our 5Writers critique schedule and our individual writing efforts as a group is pretty miraculous. Some will achieve momentum more quickly than others, that’s natural. Just as some may hit another hurdle to overcome, while others may find a clear path ahead.

But the statistics tell us that many, many more writers start a book than finish a book, and we’re determined to buck that trend. (I’d love to quote some stats here, but since I’m writing this offline while floating on a boat in a small bay in the San Juan Islands with sketchy cell service and zero wifi precludes it. However, I’ve gawked at the numbers before, and I know there is a shocking, planet-sized gulf between the large number of writers who give up and the smaller number of writers who follow through to “the end”. And an equally gigantic gap between the number of finished books and the number of books that actually get published.)

One of the key differences between giving up and following through may be the answer to the perennial question a writer must eventually answer: who are you writing for?

I just read a stinging observation in a favourite novel, in which a jaded inspector describes people at a demonstration in Moscow as “… a middle-aged intellectual crowd. Publishers who abandoned their writers, writers who wrote for the drawer … romantics who lamented a rendezvous with history that never took place.”

I think I can say with confidence that none of the 5Writers are writing for the drawer, at least not on purpose.

Rather, at the opposite end of the wide spectrum of possible goals for writers, our critique group actually began under a different banner: The Future Bestsellers Group. A moonshot goal.

Given our trials, our achievements, our learning, our disappointments, our experience, our growth, and now our resurrection, I think the 5Writers have a better handle on who we are really writing for – and for each of us, individually, that falls somewhere between the drawer and the bestseller lists.

Here, I speak for myself. I’ve come to embrace the idea that I write, first, for myself, and second for the kind of people I like to talk to.

I write for people who are interesting and interested, who have ideas and like to discuss them, who have empathetic hearts and curious minds. I write for people who love a puzzle, a mystery, a challenge, who seek truth whether or not they expect to find it in any absolute, unchanging form. People with open minds. Smart people. People who know they don’t have all the answers, and that no one else does either. People who care about others. People who cherish their values. People who feel deeply. People with a sense of humour. People who love words. People who love story. People I could stay up all night conversing with, perhaps over a few bottles of wine. And, of course, the most important item on their resumes: people who love to read.

When I’m feeling high and hopeful about my writing (and, thus about my chances of getting published), I think of this group of people as a crowd big enough to support a bestseller. When I’m in a trough of writing angst, sure that no one outside my 5Writers group will ever read my manuscript, I try to think of something else I’d rather do with my creativity, my mind, my words, and I remember that I write because it’s what I love to do most. I write for the experience, not the drawer.

But here’s some good news!

Ever since the whole Brexit tantrum, when the the Brits collectively decided to pull up the drawbridge and pretend globalization has not already occurred, I’ve been thinking about the global marketplace for writers.

This is especially interesting from the perspective of the sentimental vestige of Rule Brittania called The Commonwealth (where I now live, in Canada), and also that other former British colony where I was born (the US). The irony of Brexit is that it’s a reminder of the global power England once wielded.

The legacy of English dominance in the colonial era is still incredibly significant — in fact, it’s such a big a part of our global landscape that I think people don’t even notice it anymore, like the fact that the sky is blue.

That legacy is the English language.

Happily for us, it’s the language we write in — which is the most widely spoken language in the world by far. Wikipedia tells me there are 2,400 million English speakers in the world today. The next closest language is Mandarin Chinese at 1,090 million. Now, even though English has under 400 million native speakers, compared to about 950 million for Mandarin, it has become dominant as the world’s second language of choice. This virtually assures its continued spread in today’s era of globalization – which will continue, Brexit notwithstanding.

In fact, the new prime mover of world order – namely business/commerce – which has enthusiastically adapted to globalism even as political, cultural and religious institutions have resisted it, has adoped English as its own Esperanto.

I therefore dare to declare that English-speaking writers are in one of the most advantageous positions in the world today to practice our profession in a growing, rather than shrinking, marketplace.

Yes, worthy books get translated and can succeed (sometimes spectacularly) in places where people don’t normally read the language they were originally written in. But doesn’t it make sense that the more English speakers (and readers) there are in the world, the better the market odds get for writers of books in English?

There — doesn’t that make you feel good? And hopeful? And enthusiastic about pounding out some wordage today?

Reclamation of dreams

abandoned-farmhouse

Silk’s Post #153 — I’ve always been fascinated by abandoned places, attracted to the empty stage sets of lives now relocated, or finished. I wonder whether those lives were recorded somewhere, whether they’re recalled by someone, or whether they’re irretrievably lost to memory.

But I’ve never stepped into an abandoned place where the dreams that once filled it did not come instantly to life, leftover shreds of hope and intent that were once the substance of lives that mattered. Dreams echo. The imagination leaps ahead, visualizing rooms full of furnishings and people, creating scenarios. The heart aches with the sorrow of abandonment, the weight of time. But simultaneously, it longs to know the story whose traces have been left behind. Who were these people? What happened to them?

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably noticed that, lately, it has been feeling, well, a bit abandoned. Once animated by four or five posts every week, it now sometimes has only one or two. In some recent weeks, it has been a room empty of conversation.

And so, are the 5 Writers moving out? Moving on? Deserting our writing lives and taking up residence in some other other space, to live some other life and pursue some other truth? Honestly, I don’t know the answer, and it will likely be a different answer for each of us.

But here’s what I do know: As I walk through the 5writers5novels5months blogspace, I’m haunted by the richness and vibrancy of our dreams, our hopes and our intents. And I long not only to foresee our story, but to create it.

Of course, the only stories I can create are my own: both my reality and my fiction. Because I have three books, manuscripts that literally sit within the reach of my hand right now, that I have all but abandoned.

One is finished in first draft: my firstborn. It’s the one closest to my heart because it’s the most personal, set on the island I call home. It’s also the one with a plot structure so flawed it will need multiple surgeries to bring it to life, and even then could still turn out to be a Frankenstein of a book.

One was my entry in the original crazy 5writers challenge starting in September 2012: my attempt at a relatively formulaic genre book. Like a horrible mother, I abandoned it halfway through, bored with a plot arc that failed to matter enough to me. It will need an infusion of consequence, something to make me care about finishing it.

One is the book I’ve been working on since 2014, but although it’s a theme-driven story that I do really care about, I have made pathetically little progress. It needs nothing more than an author with the will to write write write. A writer with the burning desire to know the story.

The whole idea of abandonment touches deep emotions. When I chose this topic for my post, I wandered the net looking for abandonment definitions and references, and found them to be universally distressing and depressing. It’s the sad, broken face of failed dreams, the antithesis of the fresh start.

Now, simple logic and emotional intelligence would dictate that the road back to productivity for a blocked writer really needs to begin with a fresh start.

Of course! That’s the ticket! It sounds like much, much more fun than revisiting abandoned manuscripts, cobwebbed with frustrations, guilt and regrets. Wind up the run-down clock once again! Re-infuse my writing life – both novel and blog – with a new sense of purpose and commitment! Get excited about a brand new story, one with endless possibilities and – as yet – no flaws, troubles or broken promises to drag me down!

But that’s not what I’m going to do. You probably already guessed that.

I feel drawn back to that which I’ve abandoned. I have an ache to reclaim those dreams, to re-animate the characters I gave birth to, and to nurture them to maturity. I want to rediscover the soul and the hopes and the naive confidence of the neophyte novelist I was six or seven years ago, when I felt like I was bursting with creative energy.

I want to re-engage the writer I was, back when writing was what mattered most to me, was at the centre of my self-identity. When it was a mission, a seemingly achievable mission. Before I realized how hard it would be to do such a thing really well – as well as I demanded of myself. Before I discovered how challenging it would be to sustain my enthusiasm over the long arcs of time required to finish novels that had some hope of getting published. Before I understood the true costs and disciplines of the writing life.

I’m a different writer now. Better, but less idealistic. I’m like a middle-aged woman returning to a childhood home after the family is all gone, after experiencing the successes, failures, joys and regrets that life inevitably delivers. And I know that reclamation of those earlier dreams will be a process of putting past hopes and present reality side-by-side and accepting the obvious differences. And moving on from there.

I have yet to decide which of my three books to embrace again, but I sense that doesn’t matter as much as how I step back into my own writing life and embrace my dreams again, after disappointing myself by abandoning them.

The important decision, though, has been made. For me, giving up is not an option.

Is writing child’s play?

playtime

Silk’s Post #151 — I found myself in a playful mood at the keyboard the other day, and suddenly two unbidden questions formed just above my head, like cartoon balloons.

The first was: Why don’t I feel like this more often? The other was: What’s the difference, really, between work and play?

I quickly concluded the first question would be difficult to answer, probably requiring some couch time with a mental health professional. (As it turns out, I now believe I was overly pessimistic about finding the answer, and overly self-centred in thinking my playfulness deficit and longing for more of it is at all extraordinary – but more on that later.)

On the question of the distinction between work and play, I expected to easily find received wisdom with a few clicks. Perhaps there would not be total consensus, but surely such an elemental question would have been deliberately examined thoroughly enough to have been distilled into two or three theoretical camps. Maximum.

But it was not as easy as that.

I found myself at a fork in the road, where the sign marked “play” pointed one way, and the one marked “work” pointed the other. A bit of cyber hiking revealed a lightly explored wilderness between the two camps. It seems “play” occupies a space exclusively populated by children, except in special multi-generational compounds designed for structured activities like drama, sports, or music. On the other hand, the “work” zone is, more or less, an adult gated community.

So, is that the answer, then? Play is for children and work is for adults? This seems very wrong to me. But, as a writer who has been struggling with the balance between the regimented discipline of work and the creative anarchy of imagination, the question feels important. Existential, maybe. It begs a more satisfying answer.

I mean, come on. Two little four-letter words we use every day. You can’t tell me we don’t objectively know what we mean when we say “work” or “play”.

But if there’s a simple definition about the difference between them (and their relationship to each other), I didn’t find it. Is work-play a continuum with varying degrees of combination, like a mixing tap for hot and cold water? Is there one (or more) key differentiator that separates work and play, some litmus test? Is play just practice, a learning strategy, a training ground for a life of work? Is the experience of work or play entirely subjective, all about attitude, all in the eye of the beholder?

There are some enlightened professionals around who are broadening their horizons regarding play – looking beyond childhood development, where it is well-recognized as critically important to development of physical, social, mental, emotional, moral and creative skills. There does appear to be dawning recognition of play as a vital, lifelong companion to work, perhaps in response to the age-old lament “youth is wasted on the young.”

Wouldn’t adults benefit equally from experiencing this effect of play, described in a pamphlet from Play Wales, a national organization for children’s play? …

Play is a spontaneous and active process in which thinking, feeling and doing can flourish; when we play we are freed to be inventive and creative. In play, everything is possible with reality often disregarded and imagination and free-flow thinking taking precedence.

To me, this sounds like the ideal state of mind for a writer. An interesting series of articles by Dr. Peter Gray in Psychology Today (check out “The Value of Play”) suggests these five attributes of play (paraphrased from Gray):

Play is self-chosen and self-directed; players are always free to quit – Play is an expression of freedom. We do it because we want to, not because we have to (or because someone is making us do it).

Play is activity in which means are more valued than ends – What we value most, when we are not playing, are the results of our actions (i.e., meeting a goal, solving a problem, earning a reward), while in play this is reversed: we engage in play primarily for its own sake, even though there may be intrinsic goals within the play activity itself. The corollary (an important one when play is applied to creative pursuits like writing) is that fear of failure is absent or diminished.

Play is guided by mental rules – While play is a freely chosen activity, it is not without shape and form; self-imposed rules are conceived to guide and stimulate choices, problem solving, actions, imagination and (in social play) shared understanding – all of which imbue play with satisfying (but not threatening) challenges.

Play is non-literal, imaginative, marked off in some way from reality – Play is serious yet not serious, real yet not real; it is a work of imagination – a “let’s pretend” fantasy – like a novel that is based on, reflects and experiments with reality, but is fictional.

Play involves an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind – Because play demands our active engagement and creativity – but emphasizes process rather than outcome – it challenges and stimulates us in a low-stress manner; play is only possible when we fully focus on the “here and now” without being constantly distracted by the past and future (i.e. goal-oriented pressure to perform, which is a creativity killer).

Gray does note that children are more capable of engaging in pure, 100 percent play than adults, citing his four-year-old son’s ability to stay completely in-character as Superman for days at a time. He suggests that adults more often experience some mix of play (imaginative fantasy) and work (disciplined reality), depending on their activity and attitude. He estimated his work-to-play ratio in writing his blog post as 20/80 – obviously a man who loves to write.

In fact, 20/80 is my new personal goal for work-to-play ratio when I’m writing!

In my December post, 5 more overlooked emotions, I suggested playfulness as an “emotion” to spice up your characters:

This important emotion is too often dismissed as frivolous. Well, it’s not. Maybe it makes you think of puppies and kittens. I believe that a sense of playfulness is the bright face of curiosity (the dark face of curiosity is usually termed “morbid”).

There’s all kinds of serious brain science behind this passion for understanding, but it starts in childhood in the pure form of play. Although psychological research into adult playfulness is apparently in its infancy (“probably because it wasn’t deemed worthy enough,” bemoans University of Zurich psychologist René Proyer), it has been highly correlated to academic performance, active lifestyles, good coping skills, creativity, and attractiveness to members of the opposite sex.

People like playful people … So if you want to make readers love your character a little more, let him be playful. Maybe some of it will rub off on you!

What I discovered when I searched for insights into adult play was that all the good quotes were, without exception, attributed to creative people. Aha! Yet another piece of evidence that life imitates art. For your amusement and contemplation, here are some of the best:

“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” (from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) — Mark Twain

“The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.” — G. K. Chesterton

“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” — Arnold J. Toynbee

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play.” — Charles E. Schaefer

“If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.” — John Cleese

“Genius is play, and man’s capacity for achieving genius is infinite, and many may achieve genius only through play.” — William Saroyan

“This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” — Alan W. Watts

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” — John Lennon

So, I think I have my answers – or perhaps I should say I’ve found the inspiration I was looking for …

Why don’t I feel playful more often? As with most people whose youth is behind them, life has conspired to turn me into a work-headed adult. Goal-oriented. Realistic. Mostly serious. In the course of “making something of myself” over the decades, I’ve been taught to associate play with relaxation and recreation, not accomplishment and creation. This is a difficult thing to unlearn, as it gets hard-wired in your brain. Yet in the past few years since I’ve been trying to become a writer, I’ve (finally) gained a different perspective.

If I want to write, I need to learn to play again. Focus on the game instead of always the goal. Let fantasy push reality aside sometimes. Make fun of being serious and get serious about making fun. Is this not the most congenial prescription ever? As Br’er Rabbit cried so eloquently, “Please, Br’er Fox, don’t fling me in dat brier-patch.”

What’s the difference, really, between work and play?  The difference between work and play seems to come down to the attitude and perspective you bring to what you do. If you’re fortunate enough to have choices, and especially if you’re creatively inclined, you can turn a good chunk of your life into a playground. How play relates to writing is so obvious, I can’t believe I didn’t really “get it” automatically, but had to pursue the concept and process it in my analytical left brain before the epiphany came.

But even mundane or stressful tasks with seemingly limited opportunities for fun or creativity can be re-cast by a play-full mind. Some lucky people can turn anything into play. Peeling potatoes. Making sales pitches. Caring for a patient. Painting a house. I’m convinced of that now. And it’s an incredibly empowering revelation. Probably should be a religion. Maybe I’ll start one.

 


Note to readers:  Where’s the 5/5/5 box score? It’s a new year and a fresh start, but it’s pretty obvious that I’m just getting some traction on my writing practice again. Getting back up to speed didn’t magically happen when the clock struck midnight on December 31st. My hope is to re-start my weekly progress reports with my next blog post. Stay tuned!

5 More overlooked emotions

skateboard-man

Silk’s Post #147 — I just got a like and a share on a post I wrote two years ago, which is a bit like sticking your hand in the pocket of a jacket that’s been hanging in your closet forever and finding a $10 bill. (Thanks Kelsie and Shannon).

So I went back and read it. And like any long-suffering, praise-starved, unpublished writer, my first thought was: Wow, this is better than anything I’ve written recently. Followed, of course, by a flutter of panic, pangs of angst, and a dash of hopelessness.

If you’ve been reading some of our 5writers posts recently, you’ve probably picked up on our collective struggles to put butts in chairs, get words on paper and keep enthusiasm high as we approach our self-imposed February 5th deadline for finishing our first drafts in the second 5writers5novels5months challenge. Last week I blogged about The art of course correcting as a strategy for giving ourselves the gift of more time, pulling ourselves out of our writing hole, and rehabilitating our 5/5/5 spirit.

After a probably unhealthy amount of introspection (and a couple glasses of wine), I concluded that there’s a life-imitating-art parallel between the arc of writing a book and the arc of becoming a writer.

At the beginning it’s pure excitement, ideas and enthusiasm and confidence bubbling up like one of those science project volcanoes. Then comes the interminable muddled middle, the all-work-and-no-play slog when you wonder what in the hell you were thinking when you embarked on this shapeless plot and whether you’re really cut out for the writing life. It’s all you can do to keep the faith long enough to reach The End, when you finally catch fire again, tie up all the threads, and bask in the glow of accomplishment. You need to really enjoy that glow, because it has to carry you through the next phase of rewrites and queries – a process that can be so demoralizing it will drive you either to start a new book so you can enjoy that beginning rush again, or quit writing and take up something easier, like rocket science.

Well, right now, I’m deep in the mushy middle – both of my book and of my second-career learning curve to become a writer of novels. The original excitement of the starting writer is long past, and the hoped-for success of the accomplished writer is still far, far ahead.

So it was almost shocking to revisit my writing self of two years ago and read the enthusiasm and engagement in my words. What happened to my writing joy? My competency? My confidence? Will I ever get it back?

Then, something unexpected happened.

My mood lifted. And I started getting excited again, because I remembered: I can do this. The proof was right there on the page.

As an hommage to that two-year-old post, The top 10 most overlooked emotions, I’ll work on getting my groove back by adding another 5 under-appreciated emotions to the list for consideration when you’re trying to add nuance and dimension to your characters. This time I’m focusing not on reactive, situational emotions, but instead on underlying emotions that shape a character’s personality and attitude. My preamble to that post still fits here:

In the service of the writer’s twin holy grails – TENSION and CONFLICT – we cram in the obvious basic feelings like LOVE, HATE, FEAR, HOPE, ANGER, HAPPINESS, IMPATIENCE, RESENTMENT, DOUBT, and EXCITEMENT. 

But it’s the subtler shades of emotion that help elevate characters from bland and predictable to spicy and complex. Without these grace notes, emotions can come across as cartoon-like as emoticons. Here are some more to consider …

1.  WELTSCHMERZ – I wish the English language had equivalents for some of the German words that pack a whole suitcase full of emotional complexity into just a few (admittedly chewy) letters. Just saying the word Weltschmerz seems to dredge up a whole gutful of deep, organic feeling. Weltschmerz, Weltschmerz, Weltschmerz. I just can’t say it enough.

Germans love to craft words that are collisions of two or more thoughts, and Weltschmerz, said to be coined by author and humorist Jean Paul (Johann Paul Friedrich Richter, 1763-1825) translates roughly as world-pain or world-weariness. Wikipedia defines it as “the kind of feeling experienced by someone who believes that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind … anxiety caused by the ills of the world.”

This below-the-surface emotion – a favourite of authors in the Romantic era like Byron, Hesse, and Heine – has added depth to memorable characters in modern novels by writers such as John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut and Henry Miller. It’s having a new vogue among today’s essayists, as they attempt to put a name to our collective unease at the world’s present dysfunction. And it even has its own built-in mission: to strive, even against hope, to make things right.

Do you want your action-oriented protagonist to be haunted by a certain sense of deep longing … the pain of a failed idealist that has not hardened into cynicism … a kind of hole in the soul that can never be patched? Give him a dose of Weltschmerz.

2.  PLAYFULNESS – This important emotion is too often dismissed as frivolous. Well, it’s not. Maybe it makes you think of puppies and kittens. I believe that a sense of playfulness is the bright face of curiosity (the dark face of curiosity is usually termed “morbid”).

Curiosity is all about “inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation and learning … [and is] heavily associated with all aspects of human development,” Wikipedia informs us. Thomas Hobbes wrote, “Curiosity is the lust of the mind,” and Edmund Burke called it “the first and simplest emotion which we discover.”

There’s all kinds of serious brain science behind this passion for understanding, but it starts in childhood in the pure form of play. Although psychological research into adult playfulness is apparently in its infancy (“probably because it wasn’t deemed worthy enough,” bemoans University of Zurich psychologist René Proyer), it has been highly correlated to academic performance, active lifestyles, good coping skills, creativity, and attractiveness to members of the opposite sex.

People like playful people. (Wouldn’t you like to meet the guy with the skateboard on his head?) So if you want to make readers love your character a little more, let him be playful. Maybe some of it will rub off on you!

3.  GRAVITAS – If you’ve Weltschmertzed your character successfully, you may already be on your way to achieving gravitas. But is it an emotion? Well, not exactly. But it certainly is the product of a cluster of emotions – or perhaps I should say of a person’s way of managing those emotions.

Gravitas was identified as one of the primary Roman virtues, alongside other qualities like dignitas and veritas. In short, it’s an attribute of people who take things seriously, and are taken seriously – and trusted – by others. People with gravitas are the “adults in the room”: responsible, earnest, dignified, substantial. People who have depth of personality. People not given to playing fast and loose with their emotions.

If you think about the traits of the spectrum of politicians currently in the headlines, for instance, you can quickly pick out those who have it, those who don’t but wish they did, and those who you might suspect are wearing a mask of gravitas that hides who they really are. See how much fun this is? How gravitas makes a great protagonist (think Strider)? And how much more interesting an antagonist who’s faking gravitas could be than a standard cardboard bad guy?

4.  GRATITUDE – The emotion of gratitude is getting a lot of attention lately, as it deserves. People now talk about “practicing” gratitude, as opposed to just naturally feeling it. According to some current thinking, “people aren’t hardwired to be grateful … and, like any skill worth having, gratitude requires practice.” (Really?)

Psychologist Robert Emmons, for instance, wrote a 2008 self-help book called Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You HappierIt doesn’t take a professional, though, to know that gratitude will make you more popular – people love an ingrate the way they love a person who kicks dogs.

Gratitude can be seen in an immediate emotional reaction to a stimulus, but it can also be present as a general attitude closely related to humility. A fictional character who exhibits gratitude will win the empathy of many readers … and could be a terrific opposing foil for a bad actor who makes readers want to choke him to death with a big piece of humble pie.

5.  INSECURITY – Ah, the writer’s companion. Definition: anxiety about oneself, lack of confidence, self-doubt, diffidence, nervousness, inhibition, sense of vulnerability or inferiority. Who has never, ever felt like this, even for a moment? Any hands? I thought not.

When it comes to characters, an insecure protagonist is usually a horrible idea unless you have some plan to rehabilitate her pretty quickly. It isn’t easy to relate to a clingy victim – or, on the other end of the spectrum, a bombastic over-compensator – as the main POV character. Insecure people are needy and often make others uncomfortable, as anyone who’s been closely shadowed by one at a party will attest. They can try your patience and suck your emotional energy. So, as main characters, they usually don’t cut the mustard.

But that makes Nervous Nellies or Bobby Blowhards perfect in some secondary roles. For instance, as the sidekick whose insecurity hides her brilliant mind, or big heart. This gives your protagonist an opportunity to exhibit sterling characteristics like empathy and loyalty. And sets up a satisfying surprise when the inhibited sidekick has to rise to the occasion and find her courage just when the protagonist needs her.


5/5/5 challenge scorecard for the week:

Since we’ve done our 5/5/5 course correction in the name of sanity and mutual support, I’m now aiming to complete my first draft by April 5th. But I don’t want to float off completely into the ether of unaccountability, so I’m re-starting my blog post scorecards.

New pages written:  Since when? Oh, yeah – well let me just take a look, um. Right, uhhh … let’s see. What was the question again? Hold on – is that the phone? Sorry, I have to take this. I’ll, um, get back to you on that.

Word count:  Still 9,320

Rewrites:  None

Blog posts written:  2 this week (and this one’s early … a first!)

Research done:  A little tiny bit

Other accomplishments:  Figured out my ending, my villain and a main character’s motivation to take the action that sets the whole plot rolling. Hallelujah!

Best new thing:  My sciatica went away.

Holiday progress:  Christmas letter done. Decorations out from under the stairwell. Cards in progress. Gifts to be mailed away bought and being wrapped in … 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 minute. Bye now until next week!

The art of course correcting

compass

Silk’s Post #146 — The course to your writing goal is rarely a straight line (a reality writing shares with most other life goals). When you start writing a novel – especially if you’ve done all the work of outlining, or at least envisioning the story arc from start to finish, you think you know where you’re going.

But when you encounter an unexpected impasse, what do you do? Press on ahead, no matter what? Or reassess and correct course?

In other words, can you – and should you – be flexible enough to deviate from your carefully-planned roadmap? Without feeling like you’ve given up, or failed? Or should you go backwards and try to “fix” whatever narrative deficits have brought you to this troubling nexus?

For some writers, the answer is “forward-ho!” Forge on to the predetermined end, and fix whatever problems are causing a sense of discomfort or dislocation in the second draft. Nothing wrong with that strategy, especially if it keeps you on-track with your writing discipline. Mind you, you may be spending a lot more time with your second draft working out stubborn plot or character problems than you had imagined. But it’s a way forward.

And forward is where we must go.

Other writers may pull up the reins, look around at their storyworld surroundings, and realize they’re just plain lost. How did I get here? Everything’s wrong! Feeling trapped in the bog of the mushy middle is no fun, and I wonder how many books simply die right there … slowly sinking into the quicksand of confusion and lost momentum.

To be brutally honest, some unfinished and unworkable stories do need to be given a decent burial rather than continue to suck energy out of their authors, to no good end. But many others are salvageable – maybe even brilliant, eventually – if the writer is willing to let go of the original prescribed plan and let the story bloom in its own natural time and manner.

What happens when an author gets to the narrative’s mid-point, for instance, and realizes – with horror and probably a wrenching ache in his or her gut – that the protagonist should  actually be someone other than the chosen lead character? Or that, even worse, the protagonist is terminally boring, or unlikeable? Or that close third person isn’t working at all, and the story should be told in first person? Or that the whole “voice” of the book is wrong? Or that the story is actually a mystery, not a romance, and needs major structural revisions?

Ah, but these are the lucky authors. The ones who can actually see what’s wrong in the course of the first draft. Why they’re struggling, why they’re swimming against the tide. For many of us, these insights may not come until much later – although “later” is still not “too late” when it comes to a novel. Many resurrections take place in the second or third draft.

However, making a decision to correct course in the middle of a writing journey can be more than daunting. It can be debilitating. Demotivating. Discombobulating. And, seriously – do we need yet more hurdles and self-doubt in our sometimes stuttering writing practices? After all, we’re not out on the high seas in a Clipper ship, our very lives dependent on finding the right course to make a safe landfall. We can just tuck that off-track manuscript in the bottom drawer and go do something more rewarding.

Persistance can be hard, but it can have a big pay off.

Correcting course requires some potentially painful choices. And they can be humbling.

It may mean literally throwing away a lot of stuff you worked hard on, and struggling to convince yourself that it wasn’t just a waste of time. It may mean psyching yourself up to counteract the demotivating experience of having to go backward before you can go forward. It may mean admission that you over-reached, or didn’t work hard enough, or didn’t work smart enough, or picked a genre that isn’t your forté, or any number of other writing sins.

And sometimes the worst sin of all is simply neglecting your writing practice. Maybe you’ve left your manuscript untouched for so long that it has become a kind of skeleton in your closet, Exhibit #1 in the damning case against your sin of omission, a personal rebuke. Maybe you got stuck somewhere along the way, the going got tough, and you put it aside for later. Now it’s later, much later. Are you going to keep avoiding it? Or summon your courage and seek a fresh direction?

To recognize you need a course correction, you have to admit you’re on the wrong track. And who likes to be wrong?

But this is where the art of it comes in – the art of nourishing your writer’s soul. Writers all work essentially alone. Yes, you may be lucky (as I am) to have a writers/critique group, or an editor, or a mentor, or any number of wonderful, supportive people in your writing life. And that really matters. But when the words go on paper, it’s just you and the blank white page. You are an enterprise with a staff of one: yourself.

You have to look after yourself and your assets – your mind, your imagination, your health, your skills, your commitment, your creative spirit, and maybe most of all your enthusiasm.

So don’t look back. Don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself huge points for making the decision to get back on track, take a breath, then get to work with renewed hope and energy. Because although writing is hard work, it should be joyful work.

In my own experience, writing feels incredibly good when it flows, when I know my scene, or my character, or my storyworld, or my narrative arc is working well. It only feels bad when I’m grinding my gears because something’s broken down.

Course corrections are positive. They mean you’ve learned something essential. They mean you’re becoming a better writer. And, hopefully, they lead you away from the struggle of wrestling with something that isn’t working right, and back to that euphoric place all writers seek: The Zone.

And The Zone is where I hope I’m bound this week. Because I have to admit that, of late, I’ve been guilty of the sin of neglecting my writing practice. Yes, right in the middle of the 5writers5novels5months challenge. While the hardy NaNoWriMo participants gushed hundreds of thousands of words during November, my writing output barely filled a teacup.

I was stuck with a few pretty major holes in my current story. Who, exactly, is my villain? How does the story end? And what motivates one of my key characters to take the action that unlocks the whole flow of the plot arc?

Yeah. Big questions. Until I answered them, I was paralyzed. I questioned whether the whole book premise even made any sense. I wondered whether I was capable of writing it, given that it’s a story far outside my own personal experience. I felt like a fraud, taking on a complex, dark, “big idea” story as a novice writer living my idyllic life on my nice, safe little Pacific Northwest island.

So I stalled out. I found other things to do. And my underfed manuscript sat abandoned on my drive. And meanwhile, the 5/5/5 challenge clock ticked towards our deadline.

But, almost unbeknownst to me, my mind kept at the story. Wouldn’t let it go. I wasn’t even aware I was processing it until last week, when the answers to my plot and character questions suddenly popped into my consciousness while I was driving to the grocery store. All in one big epiphany!

So I’m back to the keyboard, and it feels good. Not quite Zone-like yet, but I have renewed confidence I’ll get there.

But now a new course correction is needed.

Because I know I’m not going to have this first draft finished by our 5writers deadline – artificial as it may be – of February 5th. It’s just not going to happen. So I polled the other 5writers, and it seems I’m not the only one whose productivity has fallen a bit short of where we all should be in our stories by now – if we want to be typing “The End” in exactly 60 days.

Rather than avoid the problem, deny the reality, guilt ourselves into a demotivated state of inertia, painfully wedge enough scraps of writing time into the holiday season to make up for lost time, or just give up … we are discussing a course correction, including a reset of our challenge deadline to April 5th. This would also give us more time for mutual support, including some in-progress critiquing and feedback, and virtual group meetings.

Paths to any goal in life, after all, are just plot lines. They do take twists and turns, with something to learn around every corner. And if you’re afraid to make course corrections, you may never get there.

Don’t wait to write

Karalee’s Post #128

rock on beach

Our 5/5/5 group have all in our own way expressed how we try to organize ourselves to write, how procrastination is a non-starter, and how life pulls us from our offices and computers where our characters are developing and waiting to be born.

And we all know how we hate waiting.

We don’t want to wait at the doctor’s office, or the dentist, the ferry lineup, in traffic, or in the grocery line. We complain miserably about all of this waiting, yet we do it because it is part of our everyday lives or put into our lives on some sort of schedule.

Imagine then, how our characters must feel. We leave them half-formed physically, mentally and emotionally. They literally can be abandoned mid-sentence just about to be shot or die in a car or airplane, or while falling skiing with their leg in the middle of snapping as they hit a tree.

Then we return and change their names, alter their physical, mental and emotional attributes and dump them in a different situation, and then once again LEAVE them hanging.

Waiting.

How can we as writers go to bed at night knowing that we’ve abandoned someone that really needs our help to move out of the situation that we’ve put them in? Guilt should keep us awake at night every night until we have the decency to grab up our computers and do SOMETHING. Even if the situation worsens, at least it is changing and our characters aren’t suffering the same instant over and over.

Be empathetic. Imagine it’s you sitting in an airplane about to crash. You’re strapped in with the oxygen mask over your face and the plane is in a nose dive. You know you are about to die, yet it goes on and on and on. Days. Weeks. Months. Sometimes years. It goes way beyond the laws of gravity.

So I sincerely ask all the writers out there, especially my dear 5/5/5’ers, be empathetic and PLEASE keep writing so you can let your characters do what has to be done. Don’t leave them waiting any longer than necessary!

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Short Stories Written:  Two. I committed to finishing them and that was the inspiration for this blog and the reason I didn’t get a blog written last week. I chose to keep writing. I didn’t want to leave my characters hanging in limbo while I went to bed . I wrote. I created. I finished.

Short Stories sent to Competitions:  Two. Great incentive to be kind to my characters and reach The End. Thanks Joe, for lighting the fire under me to get my work off. Now it’s a different kind of waiting game to see if my stories pass the judging stage.

Exercise:  I must be one of the three people Joe knows that runs. In the past couple of decades I’ve completed one marathon, a dozen or so half-marathons, and many 10 km races. My race days are over due to sciatica (accumulation of wear and tear on my back over the years and exacerbated from dragon boat racing). I still run 3x/week but slower and shorter. Joe is right, what the exercise is doesn’t matter, rather it’s getting out there and doing something to get the circulation and muscles working.

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Perspective Photos:

Tammy close up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Umbrella B&W

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!

 

Make it believable

Karalee’s Post #127

As a writer, this quote is powerful. In a writer’s mind anything and anyone can be real in our imaginary world.

The challenge is writing our stories so readers outside our world believe it too.

The challenge is developing our characters so that they react in a believable way to the circumstances they are put into.

Would Mickey Mouse make a good Superman? or Homer Simpson ever be the president of the United States? Or if Homer was, how would the author make the story believable?

You can imagine the Hulk squeezing water from a stone, not Romeo in Shakespeare or the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. An alien world can have ten moons and a couple of suns with dragons flying or transporting from here to there, but in that world the characters (no matter what species they are) still need to act and react in a believable way.

No matter who, what, where, when or why, authors must understand their characters, what motivates them and how they will react to situations in the story.

Writers must make it believable.

I’ve been reading a few short stories and studying how settings and story lines are developed quickly and keep moving with tension and conflict towards the conclusion.

Short and sweet.

Actually most are not on the sweet side at all. More like short and dark. Or short and heavy.

A few ideas have come to mind. I’m challenging myself to write a short story with a surprising twist. For me, that means surprising myself at some point during the writing process. Often this happens when I’m “in the zone” and let the thoughts flow from nothing to something.

As long as I can make it believable.

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Perspective Photos:

tomatillos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jocelyn basketball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/5/5 word count: half of two short stories written. Don’t know why I’m doing it this way, but often what I write isn’t in sequence, so why should my stories be from start to finish before I start another?

Hallowe’en treats eaten: I was unselfish and let the 300+ visitors to our door take all but a rather big handful I snatched from the bowl.

Happy writing!

Life is a mystery story

halloween

Silk’s Post #144 — Today, which happens to be Halloween, also happens to be my birthday. In my heart, I really own Halloween. I’ve always considered my birth date profoundly lucky. And, somehow, significant.

All Hallows’ Eve (or holy evening) is the night before All Saint’s Day. It’s Pagan and Christian. To ancient Celts, Samhain celebrated the end of harvest season, a liminal time for welcoming the souls of the dead who were apt to cross the threshold between their world and ours at the cusp between summer and winter. To early Christians, Allhallowtide was a time to honour and pray for dead saints, martyrs and the faithful through nighttime vigils and daytime feasts.

Sound similar? Of course. Both observances invest meaning in the turn of the seasons from warm to cold, from light to dark. And both ritualize the greatest of all mysteries: the cycle of life and death. Scary, big ideas. As the Northerners would say in Game of Thrones, “Winter Is Coming”.

As a free bonus, my birthday came along with a treasure chest of rituals, traditions, myths, symbols and celebrations, some historical and some modern. Really good, spooky ones, especially for kids. Costumes! Witches! Black cats! Ghosts! Jack-o-lanterns! Bonfires! Trick-or-treating! Mmmmmm. Candy.

But this post is more than just a walk down memory lane and a shameless plea for birthday greetings. It’s a musing on the purpose of storytelling. And Halloween – the Pagan new year – is a perfect time for contemplating the mystery story of life.

So here’s my theory: life is essentially a game of survival for all the creatures on Earth. We’re born, we live, we die. Cats and hedgehogs and oysters and giraffes probably don’t think much about the meaning of life, beyond the next meal and the urge to multiply.

But humans … well, we’re burdened by this generous, three-pound lump of gray matter sloshing around in our skulls (thanks, Eve!), which compels us to ask questions and seek meaning in everything. Why is the sky blue? Where did everything come from? What am I doing here? What’s the point of life? And what comes after it?

And so we try to explain reality to ourselves, largely through our imaginations (and, relatively recently, through science). That’s where storytelling comes in. Not only do we make up stories to explain what we actually see and experience, we fill in the unknowable blanks by creating spiritual world views that explain the remaining mysteries. Because it just doesn’t seem right that life might not mean anything in the context of the universe. It must. Right?

This need to discover and create meaning has spawned most of what we know as human culture, from the arts to the sciences, from religion to politics, from philosophy to birthday parties.

Wait, what? Birthday parties? Yes, special occasions are important expressions of meaningfulness (if that’s even a word).

Look at it this way: trotting around on four feet grazing the savannah every single day is an existence for creatures who don’t contemplate the meaning and mystery of life. They simply live it. Totally in the moment, every moment. Internal needs and external conditions dictate behaviour. Special occasions are not self-created, but are delivered by nature. Think floods, fires, meteors crashing into the planet. That’s survival (or, in unfortunate cases, extinction).

We, on the other hand, live in the past, present and future. We make rituals, and build monuments, and celebrate occasions, and organize knowledge, and create art, and write stories … all, at the heart of it, to elevate (or invent) the meaning of life. That’s something beyond pure survival. It’s a form of creation. (Science fiction, and probably NASA, have even given some creative thought to overcoming the meteor-collision-extinction scenario).

Of course, we also do a lot of other things that are destructive, rather than creative, but that’s another discussion entirely. It’s creativity’s evil twin, which can only be brought to heel through enlightenment.

The heaven and hell story is one way to understand it all, but there are many themes and variations. And so the mystery story of life continues. I believe the need for storytelling grows, rather than diminishes, as the speed of progress increases.

I love the symbolism of Halloween, with its rich cultural depth and vivid life-versus-death lore, as an enduring example of how we tell ourselves our own story. How we explore the mystery of life’s meaning by creating a narrative for the things we perceive and experience and imagine, but don’t always understand.

As long as humans seek meaning, storytelling will remain one of our most powerful tools. The way we’re built, we can’t resist mysteries, and we can’t put them down until they’re solved.

So don’t worry about what the future holds for writers. The truth is out there, and we’ll need someone to tell it.


5/5/5 challenge scorecard for the week:

Sorry to report, I’ve been a very guilty truant for the past couple of weeks. Not only did I miss my blog post last week, I made little progress on my novel while on the road – best intentions notwithstanding. I’m hoping to piggyback on the jet stream created by all the (even crazier) writing colleagues out there who will embark on NaNoWriMo in just a few hours’ time. I’m thankful I have 90+ days left to complete my first draft, and not the 30-day deadline the NaNo’s are working to. Special thanks to 5writer friend Paula, who delivered a beautifully written and well-timed butt-kick in her post Write on!

New pages written:  Let’s not go there

Word count:  Still 9,320

Rewrites:  None

Blog posts written:  1

Research done:  Yes!

Best new thing:  A wicked good Halloween birthday, with thanks to my wonderful tribe of well-wishing friends.

Apple progress:  Piemaking tomorrow!

What is a short short story?

Karalee’s Post #126

My fellow 5’ers have stated in their blogs that they think that writing 5 short stories in 5 months may be as or more difficult than a novel. To put things in word perspective, I came across this table in Wikipedia:

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In fiction
Classification Word count
Novel over 40,000 words
Novella 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story under 7,500 words

Word count – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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So in effect if I write say, 7,000 words for each short story it would be 35,000 words. That’s close to a short novel, but about 30% of the length of a typical novel.
I’ve found that it’s common for many short story contests to set the word count somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 words. If I did this then I would write somewhere between 15,000 to 25,000 words.
Then there’s the short short story. What in the heck is that?
short short story
Apparently a short short story is under 1,500 words. Not an easy task.
Writing a short story or a short short story sounds like it should be a whole lot, I mean a WHOLE lot easier and certainly faster than writing a complete novel.
And, truth told, in the end (pun intended) it is, in my opinion.
Certain challenges are the same. There needs to be a beginning, middle and an end. There needs to be a story to tell, some conflict, some changes, and an ending to make it all work and make sense. What makes a short story easier and faster to write is the confines that the length of the story dictates. The “shortness” doesn’t allow a whole lot of character development with growth and changes. Heck, it doesn’t allow a whole lot of characters period. There aren’t enough words to give many to a sub-plot or to introduce more than one or two conflicts. Long descriptions take too many precious words that are needed to keep the story moving.
What a short story does command are strong characters, conflict up front, concise descriptions and quick flow of story.
In a short story the end comes quick. Make sure the story ends in time too. That’s the hard part.
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5/5/5 challenge this week:

Short story word count:   Story 1 –  still at 1000 words. Maybe I will have to do a couple short short stories…

Candy eaten:  All I can say is that it’s a bad idea to buy Halloween candy before the aforesaid event.

Gratitude for:  Connecting with my daughter that lives across town with her husband. I always appreciate when she calls for a check-in chat. With social media these days, it is refreshing to hear her voice.

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Perspective Photos:
mist in park
bee on flower
Happy writing!

Write on!

when the clock strike midnight,

In retrospect, the title of today’s post, “Write On” seems more than a wee bit hypocritical, since my exhortation to ‘keep writing’, which was actually written last week, fell through the cracks, interrupted as it was by my week at USTA Nationals in Surprise AZ.

Ah, well, another road, paved with good intentions.

But I did get that blog post written last week, even though being on the road and other issues meant I didn’t actually get it posted.

Perhaps I will make up for it this week, by sneaking in a remedial post before I’m once again, ‘on the road again’.

Written Last Tuesday, at YVR International Airport:

One of the looming perils we unpublished writers must constantly be on the lookout for is that ubiquitous menace known as ‘evil wee beasties who lurk in the dark’. Half-formed, unseen creatures who slink behind us, dogging our trail, snarling, ready to lunge at the slightest opportunity.

Creatures who feed on ‘self-doubt’.

Omnipresent, like wolves trailing a wagon train.

These evil wee beasties and they’re related brethren lurk in the woods, at night. They hide in the shadows, crouch behind rocks, yipping and howling, until our dreams turn to nightmares.

When we wake, things look brighter.

For a while, the beasties seem safely at bay. You go about your morning in a delusional state of cheerful optimism. I’m safe, you think.

At least for awhile.

But do not fool yourself.

You make a fresh pot of coffee, maybe answer a few emails, settle down into your ‘writing space’ and then, just like that, it happens: you read what you wrote yesterday and you see in an instant that the wolves are back, scratching at your office door, howling to be let in.

Your thin veneer of safety and security crumbles… self-doubt is right there… right outside the door.

Take heed. You cannot afford to relax for even a moment. You must keep constant vigil.

Even as the evil beasties yip and snarl and howl until you must cover your ears, lest you go mad. Write on! For if you do not, you’re lost.

Instead of starting on Chapter 12 as you planned, you suddenly find yourself back at Chapter 1, rewriting your ‘opening’.

Put it down! Now! Go back to Chapter 12! Write On!

It’s not that I am completely unsympathetic. I know the temptation of lingering over Chapter 1. You know it well. Chapter 1 is your friend. You feel in familiar territory here. Your writing is strong, the wolves far behind.

Why not fix up Chapter 1 just a little more, you think. After all, isn’t it the most important chapter? Don’t all the experts say that if you don’t hook them in with the first word, first line, first paragraph you’ll never get an agent, never sell that book?

Well, to that I say ‘poppycock’.

Your Chapter 1 isn’t going to be worth diddly-squat if you don’t finish the book.

You’re never going to show it to anyone if you don’t finish the book.

Put down Chapter 1 and quit messing around! Your date today is with Chapter 12, or 14, or 42 or wherever you last left off. Your job is to Write On.

Finish the first draft.

But what about Chapter 3?

What if now, in retrospect, you’ve discovered you’ve disgorged way too much back story much too early in the book.

I mean, how can it hurt to just go back and fix that one little chapter and…

No. Write On!

Maybe you’re committed to pressing on, maybe you’ve just flipped back to your latest pages, just to see where you left off and then… OMG!!

You read your latest pages with critical dismay.

What started out so promising last night when you crafted those words at midnight has now morphed, in the cold grey light of dawn into sheer, incontrovertible drivel.

Oh yes, I’ve been there. I know of what you speak.

So, what are you to do? What are we all to do?

Fix it! Your brain screams. For that is your natural inclination, goaded on by what I like to think of as our ‘evil twins’ aka the voice of your inner ‘self-editors’.

Cover your ears. I beg you! You must ignore those voices of self doubt and Write On!

Remember, it is not safe to dawdle here. Wolves lurk in them there woods. And those wolves are hungry.

Press on at speed! Write on! Write on!

Back in the midst of our original 5 months challenge, I expounded on just this theme. I think at that time, I used the ‘Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’ theme song from ‘Rawhide’.

But in retrospect, I think I like the wagon train analogy even better.

Think of it, those wagons are full of your most valuable assets: your characters… your plot… tension and conflict, climax and resolution. Your job, as author, is to get everyone in the wagon safely to the end of the trail, even with those terrible wee beasties, howling in the woods.

Write On! For if you don’t, your first draft will never get finished.

Now, I admit, we are admittedly on the verge of straying into ‘chicken and egg’ territory here.

I hear you.

You say you cannot move forward until you are firmly convinced that you’ve got the right characters huddled in those wagons. And as far as the plot is concerned, how can you ever know that it is all going to work out in the end until you know all the obstacles that might be encountered along the trail? All the antagonists and villains who may be along for the ride?

Well you can’t, of course.

You need to know some of that, sure. But my impassioned argument is that you must, as much as possible, just Write On.

Get the first draft done! Tell the story to yourself, from beginning to end. Find out where your characters want to go, and why. See where they lead you. Maybe you are being led into a swampy quagmire or ‘boxed-in-canyon’.

You can’t know for sure.

But you must keep writing. Because if, in the end, all you do is rewrite and rewrite until your first or second chapter is ‘perfect’, you’ll never get that first draft done.

Now, I still see you shaking your heads.

You think my advice for the day to just ‘Write On’ is just a candy-ass pantser’s approach to writing.

You think that a real writer would have spent hours and hours working out the plot and crafting a rock solid outline, would have no chance of straying into boxed-in-canyon or swampy quagmire.

Well?

That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it?

And the truth is, you may be right.

Because, that, dear writing friends, is the ultimate dilemma.

But I still fervently believe that you have to just Write On, at least in the first draft. Until you get a solid feel for your characters’ dialogue, your characters’ inner conflict and all those other ‘intangibles’ like voice and pacing that every writer knows they must nail, but usually has no idea how to find.

I do think, however, that the faster you can tell the story to yourself, the more naturally cohesive your story should be.

Theoretically, anyway.

Because we are, from time immemorial, natural storytellers. Our stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Our goal, as writers should be to write to that end with as much tension and conflict that we can possibly create in our first draft fiction, without getting waylaid by the temptation to re-arrange commas and semi-colons in the same manner as the doomed passengers on the Titanic rearranged the deck chairs. (And yes, I know that this is most definitely a mixing up of my whole wagon train metaphor, but I couldn’t resist).

So, this week’s post is intended as a gentle exhortation to my 5writers group and also to all our followers, (especially those about to embark on their own epic journey: in the blood sport known as NaNoWriMo): Write On!

Write the first Draft!

Just do it.

PS: You shouldn’t even be reading this post anyway.

Not until you finish your first draft. Remember, the clock is ticking!

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