Disciplining our Daydreams (When Writing)

Here’s a few photos from today’s coffee house: Papaccino’s. Complete with a shot of a fellow who tried to flirt with me awhile back (sleeping guy). Sometimes I’m clueless; now he ignores me.

Just now, I left a comment on the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management May 6th blog post. And there for all to see is a real-life example of how compulsive we writers can be. Rather than let my original comment with its dopey typo stand as is, I HAD to leave the comment a second time with typo corrected. (Did you find it?) Now I appear more daft for leaving the same comment twice, especially since I’m a client — eesh.

I’ve been meaning to answer a question from “lactatingbookworm” because, unfortunately, it got me thinking:

Hopefully, new ideas will pour in whether we outline our novels or not — and this is good, more to work with. Choose your most-comfortable writing method and know that “disciplining your daydreams” (or, revising, to translate your words into my vernacular) is part of the process.

If the goal is to write a coherent and enjoyable novel, then pruning away those wondrous ideas and plotlines that don’t work is a must. You can choose when to prune: after you’ve written the first draft, while you’re developing an outline, while you’re writing the first draft, all along the way. I’m an all-along-the-way person these days.

Sounds like you’ve got a partial outline completed. Personally, I don’t need to know every last plot point before I start (though I write in-depth character analyses; have you tried this?). At some point, you just have to start — or re-start in your case. You can stop at any point to outline further.

This is my take on your question, lactatingbookworm. Hope it helps.  Truth is, anyone with staying-power, an idea, and the urge to write can complete a first draft — but does a first draft a novel make? Nah. You gotta have revision. And this is liberating! You can filter a muddy awful mess into a clear flow.

I imagine some seasoned novelists don’t revise much, but let’s not count them, okay?



Full of Questions Today: What’s Your Take?

Last night I was flipping channels at around 11:00, not quite ready for bed. I landed on a talking head with big, shiny teeth and tightly coiffed hair. I stopped and listened to the Christian fella, who must be popular to have his own television broadcast. His name was Joel Osteen. Anyone ever heard of him?

I would have rolled my eyes except that he was talking about overcoming adversity (I think). Not letting the struggle get us down. Having faith that God (I don’t think in these terms but this was Osteen’s message) has everything figured out for us. That adversity and struggle are a sign that there’s all the more good coming to us at the other end. We need not worry so much.

This morning, a surprise: I heard his echo in my head when I woke up! In particular, something about not talking about our feelings all the time and instead staying quiet with contentment and certainty that all is well and will be well. To me, this message especially makes sense in a Buddhist context. Mindfulness. Living in the here and now.

But I didn’t like his follow-up: Given that our good is waiting for us, airing self-doubts about obtaining that good can delay or halt its arrival. Could this possibly be true? Are our thoughts that powerful? That possibility scares me. Do we have to already be enlightened to live our dreams?

These days, I’m most likely to feel angst-ridded, doubtful, and frustrated about my fiction career. I so want a book deal and oodles of happy readers! I’m not that mindful all the time; I often air my downer feelings as a way of letting them go. In and out. Emotions are so transient.

Does giving these emotions airtime lend them more power? Do I self-sabotage my chances at a successful fiction career by indulging in them for even a moment on this blog or to my friends?

This is all very woo-woo, I know. I don’t know the answers. What’s your take?

P.S. The eerie thing is that on Saturday I bought a book with the word “mindfulness” in its title. So maybe I was “meant” to land on Mr. Osteen last night?


Groggy But Writing…

Last weekend, two friends mentioned that they read my humble blog regularly, and I was (absurdly) pleased to hear it. The point of these blogs is to be read, but still, I was surprised: A few people out there in cyber-ether keep up on me? One of them went so far as to mention that I have an exciting life. Hah! That goes to show that I’m a fiction writer — I can dramatize anything. My life is pleasantly dull, but if I can fool all of you then more power to me!

I have no deep thoughts today, but in honor of Jen and Carmen I thought I’d write anyhow. I know I’ll come up with something off the cuff, because writers can do that as well as dramatize…

Last week I didn’t write. However, yesterday was a gangbusters day, so I guess I did need a week to marinate. My friend Liz put in nicely in her comment to last Friday’s post: “It’s easy to outpace one’s creativity, especially toward the end. The mind needs some down time to assemble all the pieces correctly.”

Yep! Thanks, Liz!

Today I’m off to a slower start (time-out to write this post is the big clue). In fact, here’s an example of typical me on a typical writing day:

This morning, in bed, groggy, eyeballs gluey, stewing about today’s scene. I know its premise: two men looking for a woman who has disappeared, one of them the brother, one of them the love interest; plus, a dog they’re hoping has a decent tracking nose (it doesn’t). But what about this scene? I already know they’re not going to find her (yet)…So, what’s it all about? It feels boring — so is it meant to be a set-up scene for more to come? Is that kosher? What actually HAPPENS in this scene? What’s its plot? What’s going on? Why am I writing it? What the heck am I doing? (And so on.)

That was my groggy mind this morning. In the midst of these thoughts, the phone rang, a high-school buddy calling to remind me that I was supposed to have met her for coffee 20 minutes previously!

There you go. My hapless writer’s life in a nutshell.

Okay, So I’m an Addict and Other Tidbits

No deep thoughts today, so I’ll get my schizophrenic groove on with an interview…

Mini-me: How you doing?

Me: Wow, great interviewing skills.

Mini-me: Just answer the question.

Me: It took me all day to write four pages, one tortured paragraph at a time, and I’m sick again to boot. My throat’s at it; my lungs are congested; I haven’t been sleeping well; I’m headachy and parched—

Mini-me (whispering in an aside to imagined audience): Get out the violins. (Louder:) Right then, tell me about the scene you wrote today.

Me: It was a lighter scene centered around two clerics and a parishioner who lets his dog defecate on church grounds.

Mini-me: Sounds plain silly to me; I trust you wrote this scene for a reason.

Me: Of course, what do you take me for? The dialogue hides a bigger point. In fact, in my previous posts about dialogue I could have discussed this — that dialogue is best when it functions on more than one level.

Mini-me: Enough with the dialogue blah-blah-blah already, yeesh. If I read between the lines correctly on this blog, you suffered a rough writing patch during the holiday season. The writing is flowing better now, I take it?

Me: Slower than I’d like, as usual, but steady. In fact, this week I broke 200 pages on my first draft. Woohoo! (Momentary break to get coughing under control.) For me, that’s a significant milestone — the halfway mark, the light at the end of the tunnel — you get the picture. I’m already looking forward to revisions. Now, THAT’s fun stuff.

Mini-me (sighing): You don’t get out much, do you?

Me: I’ll walk out right now if you don’t quit with the attitude.

Mini-me: Will not.

Me: Yeah, you’re right. Next question?

Mini-me: In a post earlier this month you mentioned your moratorium on reading novels until your first draft is complete. How’s that going?

Me: Okay, so I’m an addict. I fell off the wagon for about a week because I’d forgotten about my book group, the Sassy Lassies. We convened last Saturday to discuss Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children (don’t ask). Long story short, while in the library to fetch the book, I had to peruse the Latest Arrivals shelves…and, well, you know. But I’m back to nonfiction again. However, I’ve decided that I was a little extreme; I’ll now be a weekend fiction warrior until the first draft is complete. 

Mini-me: Good luck on that. Next up, I heard through the grapevine that you spoke to a writer buddy this week—

Me: Wow, news travels fast. J– said something interesting about her current project. Namely, that she realized that she was writing her novel with her agent in mind. Basically, J–‘s creativity went haywire because of thoughts such as: Will her agent like this novel? Will she still want to represent J–? And so on. Luckily, J– found a way to disentangle herself from these external considerations. She’s since restarted the novel and likes this version much better. Our conversation stuck in my head — as you well know — because it was a vicarious learning lesson for me.

Mini-me: And, last but not least, do you have a favorite quote these days?

Me: Funny you should ask, because I do.

       “The secret of happiness is freedom;
           the secret of freedom, courage.”
                                         —  Thucydides     

Plugging Another Novelist: Patry Francis

theliarsclub.jpgThanks to BigD for pointing me toward Patry Francis’ popular blog. Her debut novel, The Liar’s Diary, just came out in trade paperback, but she is too sick to promote it. Her blog is worth reading, and her personal story, courageous. However, what moves me to write this quickie post is that yesterday was The Liar’s Diary Blog Day. Check out Backspace, The Writer’s Place for the scoop on an amazing example of how the Internet can band people together in a life-affirming and inspiring way.

Her novel, by the way, sounds most intriguing. I’m gonna have to read it (poor little old me).

Okay, back to my writing now!