Down the Rabbit Hole

Holy moly, I didn’t realize until tonight that it’s been nearly two weeks since my last post. Gah! The main reason for my disappearing act is that I’ve been deep, deep, deep in my story world — I’m not sure how many words I’ve written because I’m not tracking it any more, but I know it’s been a lot. The ms. is 209 pages and nearly 64k words long. Most of what I’ve written in the last month is going to need overhauling, but I’m learning I’m okay with that. I’m starting to think I might be the kind of writer who needs to figure out her story by writing it. Who knew?

I’ve also been baking — the madness continues. I’ve made brownies and pancakes from scratch, (in the usually-make-it-from-mix category), and I’ve made lemon-cornmeal cookies and cornbread (in the revisiting-old-favorites category), and I’ve made orange-cranberry scones in (the baking-something-for-the-first-time category). So far, nothing’s been bad, and I’ve had friends willing and able to help me eat everything.

Of course I’ve been reading, too. Asking if I read is like asking if I breathe. I’ll try to post my thoughts on what I’ve read this weekend.

So Busy! (In a good way)

I didn’t realize until just now how long it’s been since I had something to say here. Yeesh. The interesting times in my personal life have become duller–thank goodness!–but I’m still scribbling quite a lot. I’ve written well over 5000 words since January 6, which is crazy-mad productive for me.

I think a change to my process is behind this new productivity. More

Attacks of Creativity

I was just at one of my favorite blogs — Already Pretty — and it struck me how into playing with clothes I’ve been lately. I’m mixing and matching pieces from my wardrobe in ways I haven’t before, and I’m very aware of accessories, thinking about how this necklace will change the look of that ensemble.

I’ve also been subject to attacks of baking: cookies, scones, quick breads. I don’t know where that’s coming from, but I’ve baked and baked and baked in the last couple of weeks. I went food shopping this afternoon, and came thisclose to buying pie crust. Fortunately for my weight management efforts, I’ve been able to give away most of what I’ve made.

What I realized a few minutes ago is that all of this is about creativity. I’m expressing myself with all of this. The odd thing is that I still find it surprising that I’d be creative. Apparently, I don’t think of myself as being a creative person, despite over 13 years of writing seriously.

When will that sink in, o universe? When will I finally see creativity when I look at myself?

The Reality of Balance

Today, I realized that part of the reason I haven’t been writing like a mad, possessed thing is that I’m not a mad, possessed thing when it comes to my writing — or anything else in my life. I’m in a place where everything is pretty much in balance — family, friends, diet, exercise, creativity — and it’s throwing me a little bit. Being able to spend time and energy on everything means I don’t give all my time and energy to any one thing — and it means I’m not as productive when it comes to some things as I have been in the past.

When I realized that, I had a moment where I considered throwing things out of balance again, giving more time and energy to writing, for example. I was tempted — I would really like to feel as if I were being productive and making more progress — but then I considered the cost in dissatisfaction with the rest of my life and decided it’s not worth it.

KaBraiMo

Today began NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, where participants aim themselves at writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I can’t tell you how many of my writing friends do this every year, including this year. Because I’m a competitive soul who hates to be left out of everything, I’m always tempted by this. I’ve never done it, partly because my writing process doesn’t really lend itself to doing this kind of thing.

However…

I’m at a crossroads with the wip. I don’t know what happens next — I don’t even have an inkling. Well, I did figure out the meat of one scene, but other than that? Nada.

While I was mulling things over yesterday morning — which is when I got my one scene idea — it occurred to me that I could do my own version of NaNoWriMo. I could take the month of November and just write whatever: snippets of scenes, thoughts, ideas, whole scenes if they came… The key would be that I wouldn’t edit, I wouldn’t even read what I’d done. This is pure brainstorming: Katy Brainstorming Month, or KaBraiMo. (I hear echoes of “Ka-boom!” when I say it to myself, which I kind of like.)

One of the things that’s always stopped me from doing full-on NaNoWriMo is the fear — or maybe concern is a better word — that I’d write a whole bunch, but that fixing it all would take more time than if I’d followed my usual path. That it would be counterproductive.

The difference here is that I’m stuck. I can mull and think and write notes to myself, or I can just write whatever comes into my head, with the idea that even when you’re heading in the wrong direction, you’re not stuck, and I’m much more likely to recognize a wrong direction if I start heading toward it, than if I stand here and think, “Maybe…”

Anyway, I’ll see how it goes…

Fingerprints, or Writers Who Have Influenced Me

The other day, I had a powerful urge to re-read Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree. It’s been years and years since I read it — years and years since I read a Mary Stewart romantic suspense novel all the way through, in fact. My copy is decades old — the price on the cover is $0.75, the glue holding it together is dying, so the amber-yellow pages are loose, and they’re crumbling at the edges. I’m afraid to handle the thing, so I bought a new copy.

I’m about halfway through and one thing I’m noticing is how much I owe the flow of my own descriptive writing to Stewart. Her fingerprints are all over my writing. I’m surprised by that, somehow; I guess I didn’t realize until this week how influential she’s been.

This isn’t the first time I’ve read a beloved author and thought, “Oh, that’s where I get that from…” A few years ago, I opened Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven, read the prologue and realized that I’d absorbed her prose rhythms.

What I’ve done — absorbed ways of handling language — is different than plagiarism. Plagiarism is taking someone else’s work — their words and ideas — and using them as if they’re you’re own. The words I use, the ideas about plot and character and setting, are my own. It’s just that I’ve absorbed ways of managing those words to express those ideas from writers who’ve come before me.

And I have to say, I think I picked pretty good role models.

Vindication

I’m completely reconciled to the fact that I have no conscious clue where this story is going. One huge factor in reconciling me to this is how clear it is that my subconscious has the map and knows how to use it. This morning, as I dozed on the bus, Ennevel’s hinge — and with it, her whole story — bloomed in my mind. Bloomed, opened up, revealed itself. I wasn’t even thinking about the story; I was listening to the architecture of some song. The craziest thing is that when I opened up the scene to make the changes to accomodate the new insight, the clues and hints were already there.

This just goes to prove that I’m right to trust myself and not get myself in a bunch when I’m unsure. If I relax while I wait for the little nudges that say, “Do this” — like the one that said, “Write Ennevel” — and if I pay attention to what they say when they come — the way I did when I started to write Ennevel even though I had no ideas for the scene, then the answers will come and the story will move forward.

Vindication, pure and simple.

A Couple of Thoughts

First thought: I should not be surprised that my imagination is sometimes pigheaded. It’s my imagination after all, and I’ve been known to be a bit stubborn from time to time. This time, my imagination has decided that it would much rather work on the Ennevel scene, even though I know a whole lot less about it, than on the Ilsabet scene.

I could fight it, but all that would do is waste time. Because, in the end, I’ll do whatever my imagination — and the Girls in the Basement — want.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Second thought: Just recently, it’s become very clear to me that there’s a world of difference between a book I don’t like and a book I think is bad. There are any number of books out there I don’t like, for whatever reason, and most of them are good books. Just not books for me.

I’m not sure what this has to do with anything, though I think it relates to reviews. How many reviews out there give a book low grade — whatever the grading system — as if the book were badly done schoolwork, when the truth is, the reviewer just didn’t like it? I’ve always known how subjective reviews are, both from having written them myself and from comparing my responses to a given book to reviewers’ responses to the same book. But somehow it’s different today.

What To Do, What To Do…

Is it stuck when you’re not entirely sure what to do next? I’m inclined to think not, mainly because I can feel what to do next simmering away in the back of my mind.

The scene I’ve been working on is, for all intents and purposes, finished. I’m not entirely satisfied with the very end, the last paragraph or so, but I don’t have to be in order to move on. The bulk of the scene is where it needs to be, Ilsabet’s first turning point, the hinge on which her story swings for the first time. I’m happy because I can feel the story turning in the scene; things are not the same at the end as they were at the beginning. Best of all, ‘the beginning’ can mean either the beginning of the scene or the beginning of the story, which is what you want for a story turning point.

So, what next? I actually have two options: I can write the next scene in Ilsabet’s point of view, the beginning of the first half of the second act, or I can write Ennevel’s turning point scene. I know how both scenes begin and I know who the players are in each, but they both have stumbling blocks. In the case of the Ilsabet scene, I know what the outcome is, but I don’t know how to get there in a way that includes believable and story-related conflict, and I don’t feel as if I can begin the scene without some sense of that. (Which is probably silly; half the scenes in this story were begun when I didn’t have much more than, ‘Here’s how it starts and here’s what I think should happen.’)

The Ennevel scene is even less developed; all I really have is who’s in the scene and where, roughly, the scene takes place. I’m not sure what happens, what the outcome is, and since this is Ennevel’s hinge scene, I kind of need that.

Heh. I think I figured out what I need to do: Figure out where Ennevel is, in terms of her emotional and story arcs, in the scene after the hinge, and then back-fill. This was a suggestion from when I was in the land of stuckness, but I couldn’t use it then. However, it’s perfect for this problem. Oh! And I can use a modified version of it for the Ilsabet scene–how does that scene shift her emotionally (since I already know what the external outcome is)?

Now I just have to be still and patient with these two thoughts resting in the back of my mind, where the Girls can work on them. If nothing comes tonight, that’s okay. I’ll have it in a day or two.

The Land of Stuckness

I’m once again visiting the land of stuckness, when I don’t know what happens next in my story. I’m working on Ilsabet’s hinge scene, and I don’t know how to answer two key questions about the scene:

  • What happens as a result of the scene?
  • How does the scene change things?

I have the questions posted on my desk, nagging me whenever I sit down in my office. I think the second question is the one I need to focus on, because I think the key is that it changes things internally. The scene is the second half of a single event. The first half was in Narthé’s POV, and I think dealt with the external change.

I keep thinking I have this solved, and then when I settle down to write it out, I discover I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not one of those writers who writes to find out how the story turns out — I need to know where I’m going. The surprise for me comes in the details of the journey, not in discovering the destination.

I’m goal-oriented and a control freak; I wonder if my need to know where I’m going before I start writing comes out of that. Or is it that I can noodle pointlessly for hours, never getting anywhere near the place I need to be, wasting time, toner and paper?

I think it’s the latter, since I do let go of control when I’m up to my elbows in creation. Accidents happen all the time when I’m putting words down on paper — stuff falls out of my head onto the page that I didn’t expect, don’t understand, but won’t let go of. If  I were a complete control freak, I wouldn’t let that stuff happen, or I’d get rid of it when it did. But I don’t. I trust the magic, I trust my gut when it says, “No, leave it.”

I’m living in the land of stuckness because my gut is silent. I’m considering all kinds of ideas, waiting for my gut to say, “That one”, but nothing’s happening. There’s silence. I’ve tried writing my way out of stuckness, but I’m truly spinning my wheels when I do that, so I’ve stopped.

What’s different for Ilsabet at the end of the scene? That’s the question I need to answer. Once I know that, I’ll have traction again.

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