It just clicked

It clicked.

Uncertainty has been my version of a tormented hell for the past sixteen months working on this book. Something clicked tonight and I think it is finally over.

I just spent almost two hours banging out a detailed outline for the alternate plot line for my novel. As it turns out, it is more or less a completely different novel. Many of the characters are the same or at least based on ones I wrote in the original version. But for the most part, it is quite different.

It is especially different in the fact that, from start to finish, the plot actually works. And it’s good. I genuinely believe this is a REALLY GOOD story. All of a sudden, I am feeling confident about what this book is going to be. That is a strange feeling to have. I like it.

I’m going to sleep well tonight. Even though I can’t wait to start writing and revising portions from the original version and I can’t wait to make this happen, I’m going to sleep well.

What if

What if?

What. If.

I brainstormed an alternate plot line for my novel that could make all the difference. Actually, brainstormed is too strong of a word. It was more like I stumbled upon a fleeting, tangential thought at an unexpected moment. It was entirely unintentional. I have no idea how and why it came to me when it did. But it did.

And it might be brilliant.

It also could be a total stink-bomb of an idea, but that’s beside the point. The point is…this randomly sparked light bulb shone for a moment long enough to inspire me re-write and finish the first book I wrote this past year. The one that has been on pause for months, floundering due to a story line that just wasn’t right.

Today, I may have uncovered the key to make it right.

There is much work to be done. Research. Outlining. Cutting and chopping. Re-writing. And always my favorite: storytelling.

Day 343 – The importance of the “where” in writing a story

Day three hundred forty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I have been working on my second book (fiction) for a couple of months now and while I am certain about the “who,” the “when” and the “what” in the story, I am completely undecided about the “where.” This is ridiculous to me, since the “who” and the “what” aspects are typically more complex. The “where” should be the easy part. For whatever reason, I keep changing my mind. So far, I have flip-flopped between three different states. And maybe starting in one state and ending in another. Or maybe three or more different states. See what I mean?

My indecision – while in the middle of writing the book – has led me to the profound understanding of how important the “where” actually is. Where the story occurs not only dictates scene background, it also dictates the voices of characters, cultural characteristics, experiences of characters, weather events, climate in general and countless nuances along the entire spectrum of details. As is the case in life, in a piece of writing the “where” touches everything.

To be undecided about location puts the writer in a position of writing sections she knows will need to be changed. Some of the writing thus becomes a string of contingencies. If happening in location A, it will be this. If happening in location B, it will be that. For instance, I wrote a colorful memory from my main character’s childhood that involved sweet grass. In the location I was imagining at that time, it worked. But if I change the location, it will have to be omitted if sweet grass is not indigenous there. This would be a minor change. However, major changes throughout the story might also have to be made.

For instance, a key thread in the plot centers around the protagonist’s ongoing efforts to flee the political and religious views of her upbringing. They are conservative, hard-core Christian views. This works very well in a location such as Alabama, but not as much in a place like Vermont. If a change in location means changing or omitting this thread in the story, well, then I’m changing my whole outline and likely resigned to writing a very different book.

The longer a writer remains in static indecision the more muddled her creative process becomes. Choose the location of your story at the same time you outline the “who,” “when” and “what.” And do your best to stick to it or you’ll end up changing far more than you anticipated.

Trust me, the “where” touches everything.

Day 336 – Take your moments as they come

Day three hundred thirty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Some nights I barely have enough energy to brush my teeth after I count the minutes to a socially acceptable time to go to bed (not that anyone other than my husband and kids would ever know when I turn in). Other days I battle through a project – be it painting a room, writing a good story or working – until the wee hours of the morning, hardly aware of the hours passing by. This ability to hinge on opposite ends of the nighttime-energy-spectrum (NES) is what I call, “evenings in the 40’s.” If you’re in your 40’s, you can bet on your evening productivity like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.

I take my writing moments as they come. If involving the NES, I wallow and soak up those moments whilst making the most of the creative energy that might evaporate in a second’s notice. When I have time to write during the day or in the morning: Whoa. Watch out.

I was able to write for an hour yesterday morning while in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. I not only didn’t have to worry about being plagued by fatigue, I was devoid of the distractions of home. I experienced a lovely combination of energetic creativity and uninterrupted focus. Where and when can you find that, especially during the NES? On a wing and a prayer, that’s when, and who has time to wait for that? Not this writer.

I take my moments as they come. Whenever they may be.

Day 323 – Longing to write

Day three hundred twenty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Book two is limping along, slowly but surely. Lately I am too drained at the end of the day to write much. Life is busy. Work is demanding and stressful. I curse the day job. Except for the regular paycheck, I curse the day job. Well…except for the regular paycheck and the continuous conveyor belt of delicious writing material laid out before me, I curse the day job.

All right, I admit it. As much as the day job adversely affects the time and energy I have left in a day to write, it does have its benefits. I get ideas for stories all the time. Some of my experiences are so wild and colorful and unexpected and puzzling and crazy and just plain interesting, I can only defer to the old saying: “you can’t make this stuff up.”

It’s the stuff great stories are made of. It’s too good. And some day I will write about as much of it as I can, in the context of fiction and complete anonymity for those who may be connected to the material. Until then, I long to write. The ideas keep coming, and I long to write about them.

Someday, I will.

Day 315 – One’s writing pace doesn’t always matter

Day three hundred fifteen of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Keeping a steady pace while writing is an unrealistic goal. It is for me, anyway. I find that some days my mind goes faster than my fingers can keep up, while other days I trudge along word by word tapping keys on my keyboard with slow purpose. What I have noticed about my fluctuations in pace is that – fortunately – they are unrelated to my level of enjoyment. They are also unrelated to the quality of writing I produce.

I wouldn’t mind being more consistent, hitting my stride at a pace that produces both quantity and quality and maintaining it every time I sit down to write. Perhaps that stride is something the more seasoned writers achieve after many years. Perhaps it is never reached by anyone. In all honesty, I don’t think it matters. Fast or slow, I’m writing. And I’m loving it.

Day 307 – A snippet from my second book

Day three hundred seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

In the midst of writing my second book, I’m having a good time. The first draft of my first book is resting. I need more distance from it to be able to do a proper re-write. So it rests, and I write. As I fling myself into the throes of a second book, I have found a completely different voice. It has been fun to explore.

I decided it’s time to share a bit. I gave the first beta-read of this snippet to my seven year-old son. That may be the smartest thing I have done in a while. Well, you be the judge:

I was a young girl once. I remember it. Well, parts of it anyway. I remember the sky was a brighter blue than it ever looks to me now, even on its most beautiful days. I remember the grass smelled so sweet in the summer, my best friend Bea and I came up with the idea of the sweet grass lollipop. We loved that smell so much we just knew it would be the most delicious lollipop we’d ever have. Like too many childhood dreams, it never came to be. But it was sure fun to talk about. I remember climbing trees and skinning my jeans on the rough bark, making my mama so mad I thought she’d tan my hide to purple. She didn’t. She sewed patches on my jeans instead.

I remember playing ball with the boys and running just as fast as them, hitting the ball just as hard. My mama yelled from the front porch, “be careful!” and “don’t get so filthy!” None of the other moms ever yelled those things at the boys.

I remember being sprawled out on the front yard, looking up at the clouds, dreaming about all the things I could do someday. You know, someday when I was a grown-up. I could be an astronaut, or a chef, or own a candy store – the first ever to sell sweet grass lollipops, of course. My mama told me I could be a teacher or a nurse someday. My daddy agreed. “Those are fine choices,” he’d say. “Fine choices for girls.”

Day 294 – At least I’ll always have my imagination

Day two hundred ninety-four of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I waited all day. I waited over fourteen hours, actually. For over fourteen hours, off and on, I thought about writing. Distracted, busy, obligated to fulfill a long list of responsibilities, I had to wait. I was eager to sit down and write today, which is pretty much the norm for me. But it was another Monday I had to go to work when all I wanted to do was stay home and write.

Hour after hour, I couldn’t take my mind away. When I could – when I wasn’t absorbed in one of my legal matters or taking care of my kids or doing yard work with my husband – or maybe even when I was doing those things, I was thinking about writing. Earlier today I described it on Twitter like this:

If I can’t be writing, at least I can allow my mind to tumble freely through the halls of the story.
And that is what it feels like. It’s like my mind is tumbling around ideas, words, story line and characters, with no particular sense factored in. That’s my imagination, like a load of dirty laundry in a front-loading machine; it’s a busy mess in there. So, then what? What does one do with all of those active thoughts about a story? One writes.
I wrote down some of my tumbling thoughts tonight before they vanished. Now, they reside in my outline. Boom.

Day 287 – With an outline comes ease and efficiency

Day two hundred eighty-seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m on the cusp of delving into the meat and potatoes of my new book. Writing it, that is. In light of this timing, I decided to outline the story from beginning to end so I can more readily proceed. When I wrote my last book (which is still in first draft form and hopefully will evolve more later), I prepared an outline very early on. It was a helpful tool throughout the writing process even though I deviated from it multiple times. It helped me stay on track and get my story down on paper. That’s half the battle, right?

Now I have about half of the outline finished, which means I have about half of the first draft done. Okay, not really. What I have is a lot of work ahead of me. With an outline prepared, the work will be easier and much more efficient. Ease and efficiency. I like the sound of that. A LOT.

Writers like to make writing sound easy. After doing a good deal of writing over the last 287 days, I know for certain that it isn’t. It’s hard. So here is a no-brainer for myself and any other writer out there looking to make their process better: Prepare an outline for your book. And eat chocolate. Don’t forget the chocolate.

Day 280 – Know what you need to do, and do it

Day two hundred eighty of my 365 Day Writing Project.

It has been too long since I last posted. As you might have surmised, I have not been writing every day. I have let myself get overrun by other time-suckers and responsibilities. Lately my life has been far more busy than it should be, mostly due to my day job. But that is no excuse. I let it take over. I let it cross boundaries I set two hundred and eighty days ago. I set those boundaries so I could find time to write every day and make it a daily routine. Like brushing my teeth.

I got brilliant at it, actually. It’s time to get that brilliance back. I know what I need to do, and I know how to do it: find time to write and write every day. I have fiddled with writing a little here and a little there over the last two weeks, so luckily, my writing mindset is still present. I just need to get back to setting those boundaries to make sure I have time to write every day. Like I did tonight and will do again tomorrow.