Well, people do stomach crunches, right? Why not writing crunches? Let’s face it–more writing time is not going to descend from the heavens, wash up on the shore, or get left on the doorstep. Every time a writer says, “I’ll write it when I’ve got more time” that Party Girl Time blows another noisemaker and a book angel drops dead. We will never have more time. And even if we did, we’d be too tired to know what it was and we’d just give it away. What? Give you a ride to the airport? Sure, I’ve got time. No. You. Don’t!
So, here’s a new experiment in time. Keep your novel at the ready. Have you got ten minutes before you need to leave to go get the kids? Before the nap craving kicks in? Before the supposed love of your life wonders when the hell you are coming bed? Write something. One sentence if that’s all you can manage. That will be one sentence you didn’t have ten minutes ago. Train yourself. Jump in. Jump out.
For many of us, this is the only time we’re going to get.
I’m lucky that I get one night out a week to write. Sometimes I get Friday mornings too. But it is never enough. I always want more, and so I’m going to eek those minutes out where I can even if I have to wring Time’s neck to do it.
How much time do you think you need to write?
The last post was about loving your work, and a reader left a comment about becoming deeply involved with her characters, and it just hit me…I don’t know how I’m ever going to leave these people.
Several characters write on their own blog. Two of them are on Facebook. I write something of their story almost every single day, and I’ve been doing this for months. In the case of some characters years because several characters are in more than one book. That’s four books in the same town…OMG
They’ve taken over my life, haven’t they? Well, perhaps I just gave it to them, idiot that I am. How will you feel when you break up with your characters?
Last week love was in the air. Or rather, on the page. Like the tree in The Last Unicorn that falls in love with Schmendrick the Magician, I just wanted to hug my own words and say, “Oh, love, love, love, love, love…”
Oh, but a fool and her words are soon parted.
How does a writer stay level-headed? You need to love your story, but like the jerk who loves the sound of his own voice, well, you’ve got to know when to shut up.
But you love your story! Sigh. We all know people who fall in love with bores, jerks, losers, criminals, cheats, abusers, and parasites. Everyone says, “God, what does she see in him?” or “What the hell is he thinking?” But that little idiot is in love and though the idiocy is clear to everyone else, that little idiot shall not be swayed. “No one understands! No one has loved like this before!” Maybe this time, however, you are the little idiot.
Everyone is standing around shaking their head and sighing and wondering who if anyone should tell you that this love affair with your novel will come to a bad end. Years wasted. Money spent. Friends neglected or tossed aside. And you’ve taken your novel out and embarrassed yourself and your family at that big party. Oh, you won’t be invited back again. No, siree.
As I get deeper and deeper in this relationship with my writing, am I lucky in love? The envy of others with their broken story lines and forsaken characters? Or am I the little idiot?
How do we ever know?
Sure, getting some real work done might be a better use of time, but since when has time wanted to be used wisely? Why, maybe it isn’t Father Time at all. No serious, gray-bearded man towering over us, tapping his yellowing fingernail on his ticking watch and saying, “Well, get on with it then.”
Maybe Time is a the original party girl. She’s forever pretty and winsome(because she has all the time in the world) and she is grabbing at us and pulling us into the fray, the throng, the eternal shopping mall of earthly distractions, and she is pointing at shiny things and funny people, and when you try to find the clock to figure out how much time you have left for this nonsense before you need to go back to work, she flutters her wide eyes (always wide eyes–the better to see the whole wide world with) and says, “Oh, but you don’t want to leave me all alone, do you?”
And if you’re a fellow, or for that matter a girl who likes girls too, you stay because who wouldn’t want to be seduced by Time? And if you’re a girl, or even a fellow who likes fellows, you stay because, well, hell, you’d like to be seduced by Time too. Then before you know it, the midnight chime is sounding and you’re being told to leave because, really, you’ve taken more than your fair share of Time and others are waiting to come in after you, and you say, “But wait! I was invited!” But you can’t find your invitation because who has time to keep things in order? And you say, “But I was having so much fun!” But the hangover to end all hangovers is beginning to gnaw at your bones. And you say, “But Time loves me! She said!” And everyone will laugh because Time loves everyone and what were you thinking?
And really Time wants someone who can keep up because she just keeps going and going and going…
All this nonsense is to say that I wrote my epitaph thanks to this headstone contest. And I’m a sucker for a time waster–whatever form it comes in.
For My Headstone
This Gentle Reader, she did find
that too much reading makes one blind.
Too much reading she did learn
gives hellfire more to burn
Too much reading she did know
gives the earth a world to grow.
Too much reading she failed to fear
and that is what did lead her here.
If you write one, please share. (I didn’t follow the instructions, by the by, and so this definitely isn’t winning anything. Writer Rule Number One: Follow Submission Guidelines! New epitaph–Here she lies under deconstruction for she could not follow plain instruction.)
What is a scene you love? Not book. Scene. A scene that when you read it, your heart moved–rushed, zipped, jolted–to another part of your body. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I take that scene of the shelf and read it again. If I really loved it, it still gives me a rush.
That rush carries inspiration–not that I’m always able to jump into the flow, but at least it reminds me what the flow looks like.
I don’t believe taking the scene apart ruins the magic. Perhaps breaking it open spreads the magic around. If I’m trying to write the heartbreak of love that can’t happen, I read about Lilith Bascomb who changes her place in the world by cutting off her red hair and shows Harley Wescott and everyone else that he picked the wrong sister. I love that scene. Bonnie Jones Reynolds sets the party, the many characters distracted by a thousand other things, shows us how Cass, the sister and wife, believes she has won, lets the gossip run madly around the party-goers, and then brings in Lil, shaking on the inside and yet proving her powers on the outside. Just the right people welcome her in and just the right people gasp. (You have to read The Truth about Unicorns to really know.)
I love the scene because of the conflicting emotions–the you-go-Lil coming against but-they’ll-never-be-together! Of course, I’m sucker for tearing true love apart. I’m mean that way.
Just thinking about it makes me want to write. What’s a scene between two loves that moves you?
Do you have healthy attitude about your writing? Now, if you ask me what I mean by healthy attitude, I’ve no idea. I was hoping you’d know.
Here’s the thing. I’ve crossed a line. Drunk the koolaid. Swallowed the hook, the line, and the sinker. Whatever–but do any of these things sound healthy to you? Let me know if they do.
But in this writing madness I do happen to be a mom. Please, for the love of all that you hold holy, do not label me a mom-writer. It makes me break out in issues. Mom issues. Mother guilt. Mom rage. Breaking out in mom-issues is worse than breaking out in hives. At least if you show with hives people say, “Try this ointment.” Break out in issues and people say, “Change your attitude.” Ointment is cheaper and easier to apply and can be applied without the help of a therapist.
Nobody goes around calling men, “Dad writers.” Men have their own issues–and having been raised by a single dad, I know several of them, but really, there is no men’s fiction. There is fiction, and there is women’s fiction. I have yet to figure out exactly what that means beyond–men don’t read me fiction. And this is not to say that women’s fiction is bad. I’m not talking about the content of the book but the label. The bloody label. Labels are really good for wine–less good for novels. Or maybe…hmmm…wine…
Take this wine bottle I just pulled off our shelf–Clayhouse Vineyard Adobe Red 2005
41% Zinfindel, 26% Petite Syrah, 18% Syrah, 10% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
I could write a label for my novel like that–The Labyrinth House: A Novel 2008
39% love, 35% absent father, 9% supernatural, 10% friendship, 7% mother/daughter tension.
I’m going to have to work on those numbers, but you get the idea.
Back to that crossed line. On one side of the line is normal life. On the other is the writing life. I had Friday off–kid and student free!–and I spent it writing. By 3 o’clock I was hungry, but I ate chips, a tomato, and a popsicle. Fixing more than that means writing less than I did, and I don’t get a day off to eat. Or to wash dishes. Or to remember birthdays. Or whatever happens back on the other side of the line.
I’m not saying this is right. It’s just that one day, I’d like for someone to pick my book up off the shelf, read it, and have it mean something to them. Why this matters to me, I don’t know. Character motivation is a much more pressing concern.
That Friday night was my turn to put our son to bed. We did the usual routine, and after I read him stories and tucked him in, I stayed in the room with him. This must be a bad habit, but he doesn’t like to fall asleep alone and we’re suckers. So he and I made a deal (because I was obsessed with a scene). When all was quiet and he was beginning doze, I could write in his room. There next to his bed I tapped away on my laptop. I ended up in there an hour after he’d fallen soundly asleep. I written a few decent paragraphs too. Maybe my son dreams of typing and the computer light.
And maybe one day that reader of mine will say, “Gosh, she’s a good writer.” For the only person who can decide if I’m a good mom is my son.
Well, fellow writers,
What have you written for me lately? What do you need? What would get you back in that chair–assuming you aren’t there (or you are there but you aren’t writing). Tiny badger is considering his options.
Option One: throwing tiny but sharp objects at you if you leave your desk. Don’t underestimate tiny badger’s throwing arm.
Option Two: roping you to your chair. Tiny badger rope is akin to dental floss. Do you really want to be tied up in that? Alone with your internet connection severed?
Option Three: gathering up entire tiny badger family to shine their pointy teeth in your direction hoping you’ll get the message–their teeth are sharp and they like gnawing! They find makers of lame excuses especially tasty.
Option Four: dropping your computer on you while you sleep and keeping you pinned under it for a week.
Option Five is still under review.
Look. Remember that moment in your life when you wrote something you loved? Remember that love of a book that made you say–I want to be a writer? Remember? Don’t make tiny badger drag out evidence of old lovers just to prove that it can happen. Come on. You won’t love your novel if you don’t show up for it. Show the love! Show the passion! Your novel is sitting there missing you and wishing you’d just show it a little scrap of love. Come on now. One night. That’s it. And if the fires don’t burn brightly after that–try harder.
That’s it. Tiny badger is going to invent viagra for writers. One pill and you can write all night long.
I think I should end this here.
There is no other word like giddy. Happy? Gleeful? Cheery? No. Excited? Pleased? mmm…no.
For the first time in a long time, I got to spend almost the entire day writing. Not staring at the page, but writing. The feeling I used to get when I was 18 and spent a few minutes talking to my first love–it feels like that. I hope that doesn’t mean heartbreak is imminent. It does, doesn’t it?
NO! Don’t take this away, too.
So, I went over a scene I’d written and–sorry for being an egomaniac–but I laughed and clapped for joy. Such a rush! Such joy! Yes, it may well be dangerous to fall in love my own words (bad writer!), but I did it anyway, and I was giddy. Giddy, I tell you. This is why I write–that giddy, spastic feeling of love for those words on the page. This is my dance of joy. This is great.
Sigh. Why doesn’t this happen more often?
Probably because we can’t take the heartbreak. Kind of like when that first love admits that he’s got a fiance, your words can show themselves to be not what you thought.
Do you admit to loving something you wrote, or do you fear looking like a fool for showing a passion that everyone else can see is meant for someone else?
Well, I love what I wrote today, and if it calls me at four o’clock in the morning to tell me I’ve got it all wrong, I’m not answering the phone.
The angst has got to stop. What better way to stop self-obsessing than to turn the page to somebody else? So, let’s take Dorothy Gale on the farm in Kansas, fresh faced and about to go a witch-killing spree. Okay, maybe two doesn’t count as a spree, but she’s a killer nonetheless.
Why has Dorothy stuck with us after all these years? What makes a character memorable? A favorite? Someone we want to be on Halloween? Do we (and I’m roping you in here whether you like it or not–forgive me if you can) love her because of herself or because she gets to go to Oz, have adventures, and wear cool shoes? The adventure itself ought not be enough to make the book loved. Character alone doesn’t drive the love either. How did L. Frank Baum find the point where the plot met the character and a passionate reader was born?
I loved Dorothy because she was fearless, straightforward, and she got to kill the bad guy, all while never once falling and twisting her ankle just so a cute, personality-free guy could scoop her up and carry her away. Dorothy was an ordinary girl from an ordinary place and at the end no secret birthright was revealed. If she could get survive a twister, save her friends, take care of herself, and speak her mind without needing princess blood in her veins, then any of us could.
Who was the first fictional character you loved? And if you’re writing a novel, do you have a character who can compare?