You Want to Sink

Another day, more words. We continue to trudge forward, I suppose, but as Mary always says, the time is going to pass one way or another – might as well pass that time with writing, with a mission to continue to get better at what I love doing. I’m reading a new writing book that I’ll talk about in the coming days, but in the intro he says that writing books can help a writer to get better (I agree), but also that he believes just sending words out into the void can’t make one a better writer. I’m not sure I agree with that second assertion, because the act of writing – just solid writing – for the last seven months has certainly caused some huge growth. When I look back at works from that period I can see how I was not only rusty and needed the regular work, but that my style was less polished and…hm…how to put this?

When I came back to writing in November, I was still following a very strict outlining and drafting process, and it was certainly necessary – I couldn’t trust in stories to tell themselves, for character motivations to reveal themselves, for themes to bubble to the surface. As I’ve gone on writing on a regular schedule, these things have become not only easier to plan on the spot, but also to see a way through. I’m still not quite capturing what I mean, so let me use an example. Yesterday, in the middle of a heated dictation session, my characters set off for a destination, one that I had planned for a few weeks ago, one that the story pointed toward. In the process of going toward this destination, the main character decided she didn’t feel safe going with the group as-is, and wanted to make sure everyone was armed, so she decided to stop at a pawn shop and try to get the guns from inside.

Not only did this introduce the possibility for new conflict, it also presented organic character development. When I came back to this, I would have pushed the character away from making that move for fear that it would derail the story – and it likely would have been the right call, because I didn’t trust the characters. These characters had been created as cardboard props in a story that I directed. Now, I feel, there is a bit more of a rapport with the characters, and I know that they will do the right thing in a given situation. So the scene is being written into the story and has already resolved itself in my head. It added a nice little opportunity to show the main character’s continuing growth from selfish introvert to a more compassionate, balanced person when she’s presented with a situation in which she faces the enemy.

I had a thought yesterday afternoon about this being the true key to breaking through for my career – learning to balance the character-directed moments and allowing characters to live and breathe within the framework of the overarching plot that I’ve outlined. It was missing from the first take on this novel, but keeping at the daily writing will keep it alive in my fiction. Just have to hang in there.

Have two featured items today. First is Lewis Shiner‘s Fiction Liberation Front. I learned about Lewis from my friend, Rob, who introduced me to the novel Glimpses, which is about the main character’s attempt to reconnect with his father through revisiting great lost musical works, like the Beach Boys‘ “Smile”. The book is part of a “pantheon” that we created as a joint effort – a set of books that are interlinked thematically and provided a blueprint for changing my life in my early 20s. We speak a little of it in this week’s forthcoming podcast, and are tossing about ideas for maintaining the list online. Anyway, Lewis’s site is a “liberation” of his works, offering all of his stories – including Glimpses – as free downloads, released under the Creative Commons license. I salute Lewis for this!

Second link is to Galley Cat, who brings all the latest news from the publishing universe. Sure are a lot of celebrity memoirs being signed these days. Hmmm….

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