I’ve been doing a lot of writing these days, or at least editing and re-writing. I wrote one short story, a post-apocalyptic love story where people are living in trees, for the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Contest deadline in November on the 15th. I’ve been working with another writer on editing and he’s been giving me little things to fix. That’s been an interesting process that I’ve tried to work on daily.
As I finished that one, three characters showed up in my head – two angels and a demon, all in human form. (Hey, at least the angels outweigh the demons, right?) One angel is a middle-aged, rosy-cheeked Italian priest with thinning hair who has more questions than answers but trusts in his faith; and the other angel is a slightly younger, scruffy-looking, chain-smoking, cynical construction foreman. The demon is a fairly normal guy who grew up fundamentalist Christian, with a wife and kids and he is having a bit of crisis about who he is. (I’ll give you a hint, he doesn’t know he’s a demon.) Anyway, there’s a whole lot of humor to this piece but I see some tragic and painful stuff to balance it out.
I put that aside and tried to focus on editing the first story. Then my editing friend went for a major change and my brain balked. I’m wondering though if the real problem isn’t that I stopped creating and started just editing. Maybe I need to make sure I get a little original creative time in? Try to find some balance between the writing and editing so that both get done daily.
So, then, another story popped into my head that’s sitting there wanting to be written now. It’s a romance and I see some real potential in that one because it’s very truthful to my own experience as a teenager. I sat down this morning and wrote some notes so I could focus on work today and start writing it tonight.
There’s a whole lot of characters swimming around in my head right now, but I’ve also had the realization lately that I need to work a little harder on figuring out what the central story question of a piece is and making sure each scene adheres to that so that my characters don’t run off and leave me without a story. I’m very character driven, I think, but you need a plot too.
Maybe because I’m in this great creative space, I’ve started getting excited about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) I have to ask myself why I want to do this – 50,000 words in one month? On one level, it’s completely insane. With my schedule, there’s very little chance I’m going to write anything intelligible, let alone good, in that short a time period. In the past, I’ve gotten a few short stories or a giant outline.
On the other hand, the pure creative exuberance of it can be intoxicating. Plus, there is the chance I’ll end up with a draft. I’m beginning to understand the true nature of re-writing and editing. It’s a long process, but it lets you turn something you think might need burning into something worthwhile. If nothing else, I’ll enjoy the creative flight into fancy.
I started a NaNoWriMo calendar today to hand out to my writers group. (I’m happy to share if anyone would like a copy.) It’s basically encouragement/ inspiration and the countdown of where you need to be with your word count to finish on time. I wanted to make it fit on cardstock so my quotes had to be fairly short. Here are a few of my favorites that I couldn’t fit.
Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either. ― Meg Cabot
The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself. ― Eleanor Roosevelt
If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world. ― Ray Bradbury
Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. ― Franz Kafka