Summer’s practically here in southeastern Alabama, but the days are still pleasant enough, not yet the anvils of humidity coming in July and August. The lovely spring with everything blooming and fruiting isn’t quite over. I’ve been busy with my Short Fiction Workshop–a self-designed writing workshop that I do Monday to Friday, from about 8 (or 9, if I make breakfast) till noon. The goal is to write more short stories, read more short stories, and improve my ability. It’s been fruitful. I’ve written three new short stories so far and edited two previously written ones into better shape. Two have been submitted and two more are on the launching pad.
In her book about writing, the Six Month Novel Writing Plan, Caitlan Jans quotes George R. R. Martin, one of my favorites, who said there are two types of writers: “…the architect who lays out the novel as if designing a building… and the gardener who digs the hole in the ground, puts in the seed and waters it with his blood and sees what comes up.”
I’m the gardener type and pretty much approach writing fiction the way I garden: I know what I’m planting and where I’ll put it. I dig a hole and drop in the seeds, add water and cross my fingers. Lately though I’ve tried to become more of the architect as I wrestle with A Fall of Diamonds. I’ve cut 40,000 words from the manuscript. It’s fully outlined, has a beat sheet, and yet still I’m mired in Part 1, trying to write my way into Part 2. I know what needs to happen yet can’t seem to get it written. Best I can do is keep pushing.
Today, seeing as it’s a sunny Saturday morning, think I’ll make myself another cappuccino and settle down to read through the latest print out of A Fall of Diamonds and do scene-planning notes.
Meanwhile I’ve got hailstones of thought for future books that I hope I live long enough to write.
I don’t think writers should suffer restrictions on how they use the tools of creative writing. In my opinion, with the exception of the rules of grammar and punctuation, in creative writing, there are no rules.
Writers should know grammar, punctuation and spelling–the essentials skills of clear communication, drummed in to us during our school years. Once you understand these things, you can have fun with deconstruction, meta-fiction, avant-garde creativity and all the tricks of style and voice you want. In short, once you know the technical rules, you can break them in the name of artistic license as long as you know how to break them in the best way.
But when it comes to writing fiction and the use of fiction’s techniques, it’s an open universe. The techniques of narration like exposition, point of view, dialogue are tools for the creative writer’s use. As long as the writing is clearly conveyed, as long as the reader is not confused or discombobulated, the writer can use the tool in whatever way best fits the narrative, and you don’t have to be famous or a literary genius to “break the rules.” Be good at what you’re doing and know the reason why.
There are no rules. Write freely. Be clear. Be bold. Be beautiful.
Wednesday didn’t start off well. I spent another night shortening my life–no sleep–so long about 3 a.m. in the hollow hours of Wednesday morning, I gave up, got up and watched a documentary about child stars on YouTube. It was a fascinating round table discussion by former child stars. By the time it was over, morning had come. Foggy-minded as I was, I made coffee, frittered around a bit–no good going to bed ’cause I wasn’t going to sleep, the adrenalin had kicked in.
I gathered my stuff and settled down to revise a short science fiction story, Second Intrusion. Somewhere around nine o’clock, I picked up my cell phone to check e-mail and discovered I had no service and no Internet! What?! This derailed the morning, threw me in a confused tizzy while I tried to figure out what had happened–but it dawned on me that something must have gone wrong somewhere. I felt like a character in a Twilight Zone show floating in the black of space amid the distant gleam of unreachable planets.
Power came back on about 3 p.m. I’d finished my revisions so the day was not a complete loss. This morning’s paper explained what happened: a fiber optic line had been accidentally cut. Well! Hate when that happens!
Rain this morning, pleasantly cool outside and quiet, except for the occasional hooting call of a bird somewhere in the neighborhood. I’m going to type-in the revisions and set the story aside for 3 days before giving it a read-thru. I’ve got my submissions list ready. This one is winging away as soon as I deem it worthy.
Then it’s on to A Fall of Diamonds. Last night I broke it into chapters. I write in scenes while drafting, and when I have a good long list of scenes and I can see sequences developing from my non-linear writing and I start to lose my mind and the brain is on fire, I create chapters. Not sure how the work will go today, but I’m looking for a way out of the mines of Moria.
A warm, playful wind has been buffeting the trees and pushing clouds about the sky all week. I’ve been buffeting my brain and keeping my hands full of words.
For A Fall of Diamonds, wrote character arc notes and now have at least 3 new scenes to write and a way into each. Scene planning is proving fruitful. I hate sitting down to write with a head full of ice, like the plains of Antartica.
Today is edit day for my most recent scenes for A Haunting of Roses. I’ve restricted my editing to once a week on Sundays where I read over the scenes I wrote during the week, edit and make notes and figure out exactly what the scene is about. While writing I’m all too aware of the flaws and lacks, but the point is to get it down and keep moving. I think about that scene in Pitch Black where the survivors of the spaceship wreck must run the gamut in the dangerous dark strung with a few lights to keep off the voracious creatures populating the planet. Their lights had limited power so they had to keep moving. That’s me. If I pause, my savage internal editor will eviscerate me like those clawed, vicious creatures in the movie so I keep my hands full of words to light my way from sentence to paragraph, and on Sundays I can look at what I wrote. I wrote an AHR scene on Friday that lacks emotional punch so I’ll be looking at it today.
Sunday is also my short story workshop day when I fiddle with whichever piece of short fiction tugging on my mind. These 3 articles, https://tinyurl.com/n8zwnnx, https://tinyurl.com/kuyukbf, and https://tinyurl.com/l9xuvs8 written by Michelle Knowlden at ocwriters.network are the lights in that particular darkness.
Time to get to work.
Yesterday’s plot meeting with two writer friends cleared the debris cluttering my mind about A Fall of Diamonds and I’m ready to pick up the writing again.
It’s all about emotion, the engine that drives my characters through their actions, yielding consequences that must be explored.
How do you consume an elephant? In small bites. I realized, reading through my summary, each paragraph, each sentence opened up whole chapters of story that I would have to break into scenes and refine those scenes into the emotional beats that would carry the reader through the book.
A Fall of Diamonds is only one of what I know will be two books, possibly three, a trilogy. A daunting challenge for me, but I’m taking it on.
This morning a warm wind blusters through the freshly-leaved branches of the pecan tree, the young leaves flutter, the squash plants lift and sway, boxed about by the wind, the lacy branches of the tree near the shed bob about, the birds call, the wind wooshes, the air is scentless. A dull light suffuses the sky, gray and sunless.
It’s seven o’clock. I’ve got my coffee, Trader Joe’s Monsooned Malabar, a gift from my best friend, there are no TJ’s in Alabama. I plan to write as much as I can today. Tomorrow I’ve a plot meeting via FaceTime. A Fall of Diamonds has been at rest for the past week. I’ve got plot issues I hope to resolve during the meeting.
I’m very happy about my progress with A Haunting of Roses, writing 3,215 words this week, but I want to hit a higher benchmark.
Seeking a way to make aspects of the plot for A Fall of Diamonds work together. The ideas I’ve got are good but the edges are jagged so I can’t get a smooth joining yet I feel they can work together. I found this article inspiring, and the points made me think, https://tinyurl.com/mjrwbma. The first point the writer, Betty Krasnik, makes, “Take the risk and choose the bolder choice, even if it seems there is no way it will work.” certainly applies to what I’ve done already by trapping one of my main characters between a rock and a hard place where he has no control over the rock and the hard place can ruin him. I’m trying to combine that particular idea with another “between rock and hard place” idea. I have a resolution but my resolution throws a monkey wrench into the logic and continuity of the plot and I’m trying to blend the rough, raw edges so that it all works out, but still causes more trouble. My characters are not out of the woods yet.
Spring in southeast Alabama is lovely, dulcet weather, occasional rain, and everything is blooming. Yesterday I did my writing in the backyard beneath the pecan tree. Might do that again today too.