Finding the Words

a blog devoted to the art, craft, and frustration of writing

Ah, sweet muse. July 12, 2007

Filed under: writing — itsy @ 10:29 am

I woke up a couple of nights ago I had an intense dream, and on waking, knew I had to get it down on paper. And I’ve been writing it ever since. Besides the premise and four of the main characters, I know little else about the story, or even the world it’s set in. I’ve never quite felt like this before, not even in the giddy moments of Nanowrimo, but the story is coming so smoothly. I usually write things in piecemeal, as a scene comes to me, and then another, regardless of where they might be in the book. But this one, the first four chapters so far have rolled out for me, even before I know what I’m going to write, I’m typing away.It’s a great feeling.

Mary Renault must have rubbed off on me. I definitely hear both Theseus and Bagoas in my style and the voice for this book. I’ll have to watch it–I don’t want to sound identical to her, much as I admire her.

This is also the first fictional piece I’ve written in the first person, and I heartily recommend it to people who are having trouble, as I did, with story crafting and controlling narrative.

Here’s the thing. First person has an enormous amount of power because it lets you play with the omniscient without letting go of a close POV, because your narrator is your character. The very flaw of first person, is also it’s greatest strength.

So some people say first person is doubly artificial in fiction. First, there’s the fictive past, which, in the lives of the characters, is really the present. Then, because the narrator is telling a story as if it’s happening, but if it’s written in the first person, the narrator already knows what’s happened, and they are telling the story. Which is why I think that some of the most compelling and effective uses of the first person narrative are for books that span a great deal of history.

Again, I’m heavily influenced by Renault here, but take a look at her novels The King Must Die and Persian Boy, Steven Pressfield’s The Virtues of War, John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meanie, and Jaqueline Carey’s Kushiel Series. Each of these is told in the first person, each spans many years, and in each, the author effectively weaves the past together with the character’s “present”. It’s a commentary, so we get the benefit of the character’s having lived through the entire experience. They drop in comments–“Had I known then as I know now I would have…” or something to that effect.

I’m having great fun with it now. It really forces you to think about how to plant information, how to form the story structure.

Anyway, this is a lot less articulate than I wanted, but I’m eager to get back to my work. Maybe I’ll clarify this later.


Writing about children? July 10, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 5:02 pm

Okay, here’s another thing I’m having trouble with. One of the characters in my book is a young boy about 8 years old. I want to write a short story about two kids, a girl of, say 5, and a boy of about 7 or 8. So… how do I do it? I don’t have a lot of experience with kids, and so I’m at a loss. How do they think? How do they move? Feel? Act? Emote? I guess I have to spend some time with kids. Maybe I should start kid-sitting again.


A day in the life

Filed under: writing — itsy @ 3:42 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to manage my day. Have not yet managed to come up with a formula. Right now, it’s woefully procrastination heavy. That, and writing new material. The editorial process is what bogs me down. But, of course, that’s exactly the process that will more likely let me get published, unless, of course, I can get it perfect the first time!

So, here’s what I’m thinking. Once a week I think I need to sit down and drum up new ideas for stories, articles, books, characters, whatever. By brainstorming for just half an hour, I can come up with a pretty decent list of material to work on.

To limit idea generation like this is somewhat artificial, since in reality I’m constantly coming up with ideas and jotting them down on little scraps of paper. Which leads me on to the next thing–processing material. I need to collect, record, and clarify all the stuff I jot down on the backs of receipts and jam into my wallet. Probably rewriting the notes, or taping the papers, into some centralized notebook would be a good idea. Maybe once every other week, or once a month, I should go through these and pick out the ones that could be developed into stories, novels, articles, are just have no hope whatsoever.

Okay, further processing. Filling out character sheets and world building sheets once I’ve decided to pursue an idea. I think I should try to do these as quickly as possible, in order to maintain a certain inertia and keep the characters consistent. A few hours a day would probably be good to devote to this.

And now for the writing of drafts. In general, writing the first draft quickly is key for me. Get it down, get it out and done with. I get the feeling once I decide to initiate the draft writing, I should devote as much time as possible. Perhaps only writing just the draft for a period of a few weeks (or a day or two, if it’s a short story). This is the part I love–it’s like a high.

Rewriting… okay, this is what stymies me. I could probably spend forever rewriting, only because I lack focus. I sincerely believe focus is the key to accomplishment. And so, I think once I have a first draft completed, I need more, measured time to devote to a second draft. If I’m in a writing group some the scheduling is already enforced. Otherwise, I think the bulk of my time, assuming I’m not working on a first draft or characters sheets, should be devoted to this. For later drafts, I can devote maybe a few hours a week on a give project.

Critiques–I recently joined an on-line critiquing group called Critters. It’s been fun so far, though I haven’t yet submitted anything, so I don’t know what the quality of responses are. But I do think you learn every time you critique, and so I’ve decided to commit to spending some time a week critiquing. Perhaps an hour a week for Critters, another hour for my writing workshop.

And finally, the business of writing. I want to be published, so I know I need to devote regular time to preparing things for submission, submitting, writing query letters, intiating that whole process. So I think an hour a week, for now (since I don’t actually have anything ready to submit) will be sufficient.

Hm… there is a natural rhythm in here somewhere, I just haven’t quite put my finger on it. I almost need something like a school class schedule, with blocks of time that I can allocate to different tasks, depending on where I am in a given piece.

Did I forget anything? Oh right, sleeping, eating, and life.