One good thing about it being too cold to walk for very far/long outdoors is that I’m spending more time at my computer writing. I’ve lost track of how many drafts and edits I’ve done to my novel but that’s not the point – I’m working at it.
When I look back on what I delivered to my mentor Sam six months ago – 500 pages of dense prose, over-described activities, too much backstory, boring events that didn’t engage the ready but were easy to write, I cringe. He admits it was interesting but unsellable. Sort of like coleslaw past its ‘best before’ date.
I like linear stories – this happens, then that happens, and here’s where it happened and these are the folks who were involved. Working with Sam has changed the way I approach my craft. I’ve accepted though that writing – particularly novels – is more like cabbage – layered, mysterious and multi-coloured.
When he’d finished reading draft one, Sam said that utilizing things that happened in your life is good, but it’s not enough. One time he actually said that’s a lazy approach. Damn it, I’m not lazy, I was following the advice ‘write what you know’. Right. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it.
I remember he gave me an eyee roll and said few readers are actually interested in autobiographical renderings – they want to understand the visceral reactions an event had, what you learned, the depth of your reactions. Action has to be compressed like the layers of a tort to keep the reader engaged, curious, scared, aroused. I can do that. Otherwise, it’s just a diary.
Like Hub, one of Sam’s favourite phrases is, “who cares”, which is not a negative comment, but actually pushes me to get deeper into my work because I have to answer, “why should anyone care”?
Last year I was all about mindfulness and getting healthier and cranking out more words. Well, I’m still doing that. Walking every day has become a habit because that’s my ‘me’ time to listen to audiobooks. I stroll the mall thinking about writing, open to new plot points or character interactions that will fuel the momentum of the plot.
I people-watch for ideas and eavesdrop for useful snippets of conversation to enrich my characters. But it’s been hard work.Good work. The words I type are different. I’m less florid a writer than I was, I still love what I write but it’s become easier to prune with impunity to get to the heart of my stories. And damn, but that feels good.
I’ve tried longhand – some folks swear that helps the flow of inspiration – and find that it slows me down so much that I lose my train of thought. There’s too much to say. Once I’ve made the effort to actually put pen to paper, I find it more difficult to edit properly.Sure, when I get a burst of inspiration while waiting for a stoplight to turn from red to green I whip out my idea-book and jot something down, but as a regular practice, why bother?
After last year’s focus on health and productivity, Ive gotten better at parsing out my time. Multi-tasking. I’ve grown to loathe television. Instead, I listen with half an ear while Hub watches something but I’m usually on my laptop writing or on my iPad paging through Flipbook and Feedly (technology, recipes, writing, recreation) and gathering ideas.
I marvel at folks who ‘never have time’. Feel sorry for them. I wonder how they fall into the trough of not doing much and choose to stay there because there’s just so much to do and see and not enough time to cram it all in.
But that’s not my journey. I accept that I’m a runner (metaphysically), not a turtle.