The Creativity and The Business

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I should be writing now, at least editing. I have a block of free time, a coffee, good wifi, perfect surroundings. Truth be told I’ve been drinking a bit and writing a blog seems more fun. Okay that isn’t entirely honest. I’ll dig a bit deeper. I am struggling to focus this week.

Forever Falling, my second novel is getting down to the nitty gritty end of the first draft. I finally got the photos off my new camera and I’m able to fill in setting description from a my summer travel. I took about 500 photos of houses in Asheville and I chose one to be the home of my female lead’s father. There are also scenic shots throughout the city and mountains of Asheville and Park City. So I went back to page one, word one, to fill in details and touch up dialog. The story has a nice shape for a first draft.

Meanwhile I am trying to focus on this mad business of publishing so I can set Circling somewhere, permanently. The choices are endless and they are all right. And they are all wrong. How much time do I want to devote pedaling my words to the world of traditional publishing? To agents? If I didn’t have a publishing background, the answer would be ZERO. It is a lot of work and one thing I know about myself is that I SUCK AT WAITING. I fucking suck at it. Sure, get back to me in 16 weeks. My reflux will eat a hole right through my esophagus and I’ll be a raging alcoholic in 16 weeks. I can only get so many refills on my Xanax.

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Or independent publishing? There are a LOT of ways to do this. The research required makes me what to lay my head down on this table at Starbucks and take a nap. It does not make me want to buckle down and finish Forever Falling.  And what on earth is worse for creativity than business. I’m a Marketing (un)professional.  I totally get the business is creativity philosophy, but it is a little bullshitty. It is what we creative types tell ourselves so we don’t put our heads in the oven Monday – Friday during business hours.

So writers. Feel free to weigh in on your experience with this process? I am wowed by you all. This is a labor of love and those who stick with it have my undying respect. How are you choosing to share your work? How are you birthing this labor of love?

(Please forgive incoherence and typos. It’s Friday night and I found a really good Malbec.)

For Worse Or For Better

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A rainy Saturday is the perfect day to write. Unfortunately yesterday I had to attend a work event. Yes, it was outside, and mostly tented, but truly it was miserable. The tent sucked. The parking sucked. The traffic sucked. I am sure there was a place to pee, but I chose not to venture there.

My second novel, Forever Falling, is nearing the end of first drafting. My characters and I have about 10,000 more words to journey together, before I let them rest awhile. Shit is getting real, as they say, in this land of fiction.

This has been an excellent writing week. Two or three pivotal, very challenging, scenes are finally taking shape. When they started to unfold, the action was fairly clear, but the internal and external dialog were a bit muddled. I wasn’t nailing it. I wasn’t getting near enough to it. I was seeing it, but not feeling it. Then my week got weird.

I was having some fluttering in the area of my heart. It was absolutely nothing but still required an EKG, which failed after three attempts. It reported that my pacemaker is functioning perfectly. No, I do not have a pacemaker, but I appear to be a cyborg. This all required me to share way more of my anatomy with my slightly too cute above the neck doctor, than I typically choose too. Topless horror.

Then there was the annual celebration at work. Suffice to say I was standing in the middle of 160 sitting co-workers taking photos. My dress wrapped my foot and you can guess the rest. There are two ways to go from there, you can cry and run out of the room or understand that you have a captive audience and perform some standup. I chose the latter and while my material was off the cuff, it wasn’t terrible. My newest Facebook friend deemed me the next Jennifer Lawrence. Somewhat of a triumph. Still miserably stressful.

And then writing went to a very different level. Oddly this week I have been writing a humiliating experience for my male main character, Callum. Then the great work face plant happened and Callum’s feelings of shame and embarrassment became much more accessible. He was exposed (much like my breasts) and degraded (much like looking up at 160 co-workers from the floor). The timing on this was fantastic.  As much as I like writing from beautiful landscapes and listening to the pounding of the surf, there is something to be said for inserting the shitty day to day into the lives of your characters.

Long live the bullshit. It keeps this land of make believe more real.

Finishing Your First Draft

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Welcome to my first attempt at ADVICE FROM A WRITER!

As of late, I have had many discussions with writers about the complexities of finishing a first draft of a novel.  While my credentials as a fiction writer are still developing, I have learned that comparatively speaking, I have an exceptional pace with first draft writing and a good understanding of the revision process.

Many writers (me included) start with a fantasy scenario that their first draft is their book.  Over time we all discover that -THE END- comes a bit later. Completing a first draft is an extraordinary accomplishment, but no one is publishing first drafts. I heard somewhere that an early draft for the screenplay of Good Will Hunting included aliens and a space ship or something. That award winning screenplay was somewhat of a different animal. In my first draft of Circling one of my characters was almost a murderer. Who she ended up being, was very different. In my writers workshop, we discussed an average of six full revisions for a completed novel. SIX! Circling is on it’s SEVENTH revision!

Why?

Finding a story is one thing. Creating complex, interesting characters within a cohesive, well developed story is quite another. I can’t sit down and start writing with a fully formed character in mind. Some writers begin with a very formal character study before developing a plot – physical description, likes and dislikes, quirks, habits, car make and model, favorite ice cream, sexual preferences, etc. This is not my way. I like to feel my way into the plot and see how the character acts and reacts to the circumstance as they develop. My Book 2 male lead is exhibiting some unusual character traits. After 25,000 words, it became clear that his mother was abusive. This developed out of words and scenes written, not out of a preconceived notion of a character that I want to fit into a box. This is my way. You can find your way.

That being said, for successful first draft writing – that means letting the words out – THERE MUST BE A WILLINGNESS TO SUCK! This is the most important part of first drafting. I’d love for every word I write to be considered perfection, but it is far from it. Perfection (always a dicey word) comes from editing and revising and examining and rethinking and reordering and editing and revising. Rinse and repeat.  I could mull a sentence for thirty minutes in my head to perfect the word choice and the flow to communicate an idea, before letting those words onto my pages. But that doesn’t get a work written. Let it out. Let it breath in the open air.

I visualize my first draft process as a spiral. Here the story starts to unfold and then I discover something about a character on page 26 that requires and adjustment on page 12. Then a scene on page 40 explains what motivated an action on page 17 so I have to go back and expound on that there. It is a fluid back and forth of ever forward motion.

Remember, if you write you are a writer.  Completing a first draft requires you to forgive your writing the imperfections required to, in fact, be a writer.  Relax. Open a bottle of wine, pour a cup of coffee or whatever your are into.  Turn your favorite playlist on repeat. Don’t move. Just type and type and type. Leave perfection for a rose on a rosebush or a cloudless blue sky.

Write your first draft, because you are a WRITER.