Inspiration…..waiting…..waiting…..when are you going to swoop down and write my blog post for me? That is what usually happens when it’s my turn but this time not so much. Oh, yesterday I wrote enough words to comprise a post. But they weren’t anything I would reread in a few months and wonder if I had actually written them or if my name were mistakenly attached to someone else’s writing.
Yet it’s been hammered into my head that I shouldn’t wait for inspiration. I need to be disciplined, sit down at the same time every day and write. Treat it as though it were a job–unpaid, but a job nevertheless. And some of the members of my writing group do that. They are the ones who produce, who eagerly volunteer to submit their writings for next week’s critiquing by the group.
Where would I be without my writing group? We celebrated our sixth anniversary at last week’s meeting. Six years!! Of the seven attendees, five are charter members and two are “newcomers” We toasted with port, indulged in a multitude of desserts and snacks, and reminisced. I left feeling reinvigorated, ready to tackle (and finish!!) “Claire.” Again.
The next day the four ladies of the group met for our usual Friday lunch. Heidi provided me with an idea for “Claire” that I absolutely will use. It’s a tweak to the story line that started the wheels in my mind turning and whirring.
Three full days later and I haven’t written a word. But I will.
In addition, the three ladies listened patiently as I outlined, off the cuff, my concept for the upcoming NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. I know what you’re thinking: 1) it’s only September and she’s already started her plot for NaNoWriMo? and 2) she’s going to attempt NaNoWriMo again? She doesn’t need a new writing project, she needs to finish something she’s already started. What is she thinking??
The answer is, for me writing isn’t about thinking. It’s about feeling. That’s what makes me a better pantser than a plotter.
Also, I mentioned in a previous post that without agreeing to submit to my writing group and posting to this blog, I wouldn’t write. I neglected to include committing to NaNoWriMo. It’s potentially 50,000 words that I otherwise would not write.
My proposed story for NaNoWriMo has a personal foundation going back to my grandmother in Germany. Unfortunately, she’s not alive so I will have to rely on the memory of my eighty-seven year old mother to provide the background for my NaNoWriMo novel. In addition, it will involve research about World War II, something I can do in advance of November 1. “Can” doesn’t necessarily translate into “will” I have found.
Linda, Heidi, and Eleanor were supportive of my concept. And of my writing ability. What a wonderful feeling to enjoy a cup of clam chowder with people who have become good friends, talk about writing–and leave with my ego pumped up just a bit.
A few nights ago I attended a Willie Nelson and Family and Old Crow Medicine Show concert at Meadowbrook in Gilford, NH. (In case you were wondering why I was there, my friend’s husband backed out and I was asked to go in his place.)
Thousands of people applauded and cheered after each song. Some were inspired by their ingestion of alcohol and other substances but a genuine appreciation of the music permeated the air (along with a sweet odor). There is no disputing the fact that attending a concert is a social activity for many people, in addition to an opportunity to enjoy the music. The majority of the songs performed by Willie Nelson have been sung or played many times over the span of many years yet the attendees reacted as though he had dedicated the last five or more years of his life to creating and perfecting them and that he was performing them for the first time.
What if we authors got that same reception every time someone read a book we had written? Would we be motivated to spend even more time writing?
Different abilities and talents are required for singers and writers (unless the singers also write their own lyrics). Would I as an author be comfortable on stage under bright lights in front of thousands of people reading from my novels about Claire, Anne, or Olivia? Hell, no. I have a hard enough time sharing my writings with my writing group. Yet I couldn’t help being jealous of the accolades the performers received at the concert.
Reading is generally a solitary pastime. Any cheering and clapping is done in the privacy of your home. The author, therefore, receives limited direct feedback. So what drives a writer, especially one who has yet to be published, to keep producing? Maybe that is a question appropriate for Siri, along the lines of “what is the meaning of life?”
Speaking of Claire and her cohorts, I offer my sincerest apologies to them for being out of touch these past weeks. You have to believe me that they’ve been in my thoughts. I know what they’ve been doing and thinking and even planning to do. But I haven’t taken the time to record any of this. Everywhere I have been—the hotel in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, the Cape Cod Inflatable Park, the swimming pool, the Mayflower Beach—I’m thinking of them, feeling their presence, the same as when I’m reading a book with a main character with whom I identify. I know she isn’t real yet it’s as though she is my companion.
Writing a book is like reading a book. The characters get under your skin, into your head.
Only it’s a million times harder.
Fantasy–not my thing, I cover my ears in my writing group whenever this genre is discussed. Yet I believe in the fantastical notion that what I think about in the middle of the night when I get up to pee–or to put it more politely to “answer nature’s call”–I will remember word for word in the morning. You know how this fantasy ends.
Except for last night. At 4:30 a.m. (I suppose that makes it this morning and late enough that I could have gotten up for the day) I grabbed the little notebook and pencil on my nightstand and wrote out four pages of diverse thoughts. Some were for my book “Claire” and others for this blog.
Or at least that’s what I wrote. It would be incredibly rewarding if only I could decipher what all those scribbles are. Or, of the ones that I can actually read, what they mean.
For example, my first note is: “This was the time, Claire thought.” Underline.
Hmmm….time for what?? Time to get up and go to the bathroom? Time to get married? Time to iron? (You’ll have to read the book, I suppose, to find out. And I’ll have to finish writing it to figure it out. But I will use that line!)
At our last writing group, I was asked to focus on Claire’s emotional backstory. I’ve been thinking about that during my “free” moments on our recent overnight trip to Ogunquit, Maine, with two of our grandchildren and my eighty-seven year old mother. One germ of an idea managed to surface somewhere between the frigid ocean waves and the heated excitement of Chuck E. Cheese’s.
However, the best one came from one of my middle of the night jottings. It connects the bruises on the bride for whom Claire is making a wedding gown with long sleeves to Claire’s wedding gown with long sleeves that is stored in her attic.
These two ideas have reinforced the fact that I have been writing “Claire” on a superficial level, unwilling or unable to delve into what is happening in Claire’s mind to cause her to act as she does. I finally get it that her actions will not be acceptable to the reader without a better understanding of her motivations, especially her internal ones. As usual, I know what those are, I simply have failed to commit them to paper. Basic “Novel Writing 101” and something John, our facilitator, has encouraged me to focus on. I can’t wait to get to work on that!
I’ve hit the wall, thrown in the towel, given up on my Camp NaNoWriMo project. Oh, I still plan on completing my novel “Claire”—just not in July. If I believed in writer’s block, I’d have to say this is what I am experiencing. But I know deep down I’m just being plain lazy. And that I set too ambitious a goal.
After all, it is summer and we did just buy a Jeep. A toy that we have gotten maximum pleasure out of in the few weeks that we have owned it, tooling around the scenic roads of Vermont and New Hampshire every available evening, anxious to stumble upon some wildlife, or, absent that, feel the freedom of the wind blow through our (my) hair, removed from the necessities of mowing the lawn and painting the trim on the house. And working on “Claire.”
John, our group’s facilitator, has requested (“suggested”—too passive) that I bring in an outline of the book to the next writing group meeting in two weeks. I readily agreed. Deadlines are my allies. And the outline is half-written anyway. Which may be my source of writer’s block. Assuming I believed in it.
I am a “pantser.” I start writing with a germ of an idea for my work of fiction and then I write. I usually don’t have an outline when I start—that would make me a “plotter.” I prefer for my plot to evolve organically. (I just learned that there are also “plantsers.”)
I’m not alone in this approach. But the plotters will tell you that this only makes more work for us pantsers in the long run, that I’ll need to write a few rough drafts to be where they are after their first rough draft.
Hang in there—I’m getting to my point….
Which is that for Camp NaNoWriMo I decided to write more like a plotter than a pantser, outlining before adding to the 10,000 plus words I had already written for “Claire.” Seemed like more than a good idea. More like a necessity. After all, this is the first book in a trilogy and a thriller. That worked. For a while.
Now that I have a half-finished outline, I’m unable to get back to the story and write. Or even finish the outline. So I’m stuck. Writer’s block. Lesson learned: I am definitely a pantser. What I really want to do is just write the damn book.
I’m relying on my writing group to jump-start my writing. Bring it on!!
Meanwhile, I’m waiting for July 31 so that I officially can announce that I did not win Camp NaNoWriMo 2015.