On Writing: Finding the Words

I always thought I would be an author. I loved reading, and I had an affinity for words. I would spend days perfecting a six line poem, finding the perfect word to say what I meant, finding the perfect layout so the visual aspect of the poem adding to the meaning. I also wrote short allegories (that masqueraded as children’s stories). But what I really wanted to do was to write a novel. So I quit my job, stocked up on paper on pens (this was pre-PC), and sat down to write the story of a love that transcended time and physical boundaries, told with sensitivity and great wisdom. To my dismay, I discovered I had an appalling writing style, little wisdom, and absolutely no talent.

Back then I thought that to be a writer, one let the words flow from mind to pen to paper, like a medium transmitting messages from the spirit world. (Puts a whole new meaning on the word medium used as a vehicle for ideas!) But few words came to me. And the ones that did come, conveyed little of the story I wanted to tell.

And then one day no words came. Gone out of my head. Kaput. I lived with that sadness until many years later when I decided that, talent or no talent, I would write. So I did. I put one word on the page and then another. To my surprise, I finished the novel, but it is so terrible that I do not include it when I count the number of books I have written. (It’s a novelized version of my life, written more as therapy than literature, with a single benefit — I no longer have any desire to put myself in any of my books.)

After that, I started to read books about writing, which depressed the heck out of me because I couldn’t understand half of what they said. Rising conflict? Show don’t tell? Beats? The information gradually seeped into my subconscious, and so I learned.

After starting my fifth novel (or sixth if one counts that first autobiographical one) I discovered the internet and so wasted my words on commenting and blogging and emails, which is why I declared October as MyNoWriMo (My Novel Writing Month.) Unlike NaNoWriMo in November, MyNoWriMo does not require me to write 50,000 words in the month. The words do not flow out of me; I have to pull them out one by one. What I do expect from MyNoWriMo is to get back into the habit of writing, to find again the joy in building a story word by word.

And it’s working. Last night, for the first time in months, I felt that excitement of being in the story. I only wrote about 500 words (typical for me) but they are good words. I can hardly wait for tonight!

Finding a Reason to Write

Okay, here I am. The fourth day of My Novel Writing Month. I take a deep breath, trying to remember why I wanted to write, why I needed to.

Several years ago, when I couldn’t find the books I liked anymore — story and character driven novels that can’t be slotted easily into a genre — I decided to write my own. The one obvious flaw to this reasoning is that if publishers weren’t publishing non-genre novels written in a genre style (as opposed to a “literary” style), then how did I expect them to publish my books? But I did. And they didn’t. When I’d written (and rewritten) four novels, adding another didn’t seem compelling. Four unpublished novels were bad enough, but five seemed . . . pathetic.

Now that two of those novels are about to be published by a small press with looser definitions of genre than the multi-national publishers, I am down to two unpublished books. And all of a sudden, that seems too few. So now I have the need to write, and I have the itch, but I am out of the habit.

That’s what MyNoWriMo is supposed to give me — not the 50,000 words necessary to complete NaNoWriMo, but the habit of writing.

So here I sit, waiting for the words to come, and they do. But not the right ones.

I’m supposed to be getting my hero back to his neighborhood (after finally letting him stop running from the volcano), yet here I am, writing about writing rather than writing. Though I suppose it depends on one’s definition of writing, because technically, I am writing. Or am I blogging? Either way, I am not working on my novel.

So, I got the poor guy away from the volcano, let him drink his fill at an hour-old river, let him indulge in a bit of light-headed musing (after all, it’s been months since I fed the poor guy), and now he’s on his way home.

The shadows are lengthening, and in this strange new apocalyptic world, anything can happen . . .

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