Monday, February 22, 2010

Apologies For My Brief Absence

Sorry to have been away for awhile. I've been furiously working on my "new thing" for a week or so and have been too absorbed in it to think of much else (including laundry, dishes, dinner, family or sadly my husband). Luckily, everyone has been very good about my sudden disappearance and neglect of my regularly scheduled duties. My husband has been happily eating take out for the last several days (I hope this unexpected pleasure is not an indication of the quality of my cooking). I have been slaving away and in the last week have been hitting the big numbers and surprisingly enough I think it all is quality. At least it feels good. At last count I was up to an astonishing 38,000 words this month and February still has six more days left. Needless to say I'm ahead of schedule and pretty proud. A lot of this success I think has come down to the support of my own planning and organization.
I've been diligent with my notebooks and binders this time, rigorously preparing character bios, chapter outlines, setting maps and sections. It has been more prep work than normal, but I think it is really paying off in my confidence in my words and motives. The plot is of course important and I had that firmly established long ago, but the development of characters, family groups and dynamics has been essential for this one and I'm trying hard to earn every ounce of progress. It is really wiping me out at the end of the day...explaining feebly the present state of my house.
I've been doing some reading on novel length lately and am happy to report that I seem to be on track for an average novel. The online advice I've found so far can be found here. However, there does seem to be a lack of consensus on page length; with some critics suggesting 250 words per page and others stacking it up closer to 500. Any thoughts or feelings on the subject would be gratefully received. J.A.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Joys of Snow and Insomnia

Well, this is the third day we've not been able to leave the house and after hours of shoveling snow, I found myself for the first time in months dealing with a bought of insomnia. Did I lie in bed, tossing and turning? Did I spend hours
staring at the minutes on the clocking droning silently? Well, yes I did for awhile actually. Then somewhere between toss and turn I found myself daydreaming (yes at night) about what I'm writing at the moment. I allowed my mind the right to tick along when it could have been sleeping and in those restless hours lying prostrate, I worked out most of the immediate obstacles to my imagination. The joy of fiction writing is that there are no problems than cannot be ironed out by applying and expanding one's imagination. The limits of your imagination are the only real limits there are; this is probably one of the reasons I enjoy writing so very much.
By 3 am I had worked out just about everything I had been struggling with in the last week. Then came the choice: allow my mind to drift off to sleep or commit the cardinal sin of recovering insomniacs and get out of bed. Well folks, I'm a sinner. I slid out of bed, careful not to disturb my snoring husband (who seemed to be having his own sleep issues last night from the discussions he was having with himself) and made my way down the darkened hall to my moonlit office. It was wonderful to see the results of the nearly three foot dump of snow we'd received yesterday. By the late afternoon the clouds disappeared revealing a wonderfully orange sunset, but at this early hour of the morning the big bright moon overhead left a light over the woods around our home like something akin to a fairy land. So I sat in the darkness, lit only by my computer, looking out over the magic below and felt even wider awake, but somehow more at ease and in sharper focus.

Bleary eyes cleaned away, I was ready to sit down and spill the last several hours of hard thinking out on the electronic page. And I did. In the next hour I had written ten full and thick pages (nothing polished or beautiful, but complete).
I returned to bed happy and satisfied as if I'd just finished Thanksgiving dinner and slept like a baby until 9 this morning. Murdoch's character Moy has a period of time every morning (she calls it her white time), where after dressing she lies on her bed for half an hour and stares at the ceiling preparing for the day. I have a feeling that this was probably Murdoch's habit as well (though we will probably never know). I think hours spent simply planning and thinking about things are the most important habit a writer can get into, besides writing obviously. The more I've planned the fuller and thicker the pages are, the more confident I am that I am doing the right things for the progression of my characters and the story. When writing works it is the best feeling in the world, but when it doesn't it is a misery. Those miserable times for me come from the fear of not knowing where I'm going. Maybe insomnia is just a part of being a well planned writer. J.A.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Flesh to the Bones

Spent most of today fleshing out characters and working on 'world creation.' This is a funny phrase that was apparently developed by Scifi circles in the '70s, but in my opinion should really be applicable to any sort of fiction writing. I'm working on one word this week: CRAFT. My writing technique will be ever evolving; it can only happen naturally, but something I can work on in a tangible way is my technique for developing ideas into worlds and characters that people will want to read about. I've just about finished Mayer now (though I will keep going back to some of his prompts), but re-read a section today to remind myself that the reason I should be writing (if I want to be published) is so that someone will want to read/buy it some day. With that in mind, I'm looking back over some older work along with the new stuff in hopes of improvement and focus.

I'm also working on a new short story that started yesterday, pretty much out of the blue. It centers around people in my community (ie writing what I know) and a group of people that I am at once connected to and intrigued by in ways that confuse me.

Otherwise, I'm also looking into joining some local writing circles, because so many people seem to suggest that this is a good way to work through problems at an early stage and to figure out which ideas are strong enough to get off the ground. I hate the idea of sharing things before they are finished; I won't even show my work to my own husband. Perhaps, it would be a good step forward to show strangers first. I have to stay confident in what I'm doing or I'll fall into despair and I'm afraid that criticism at this point won't do me any good. Thoughts, suggestions, good will would all be appreciated at this point. J.A.