The Doldrums

I was so excited a week or so ago. I was writing like there was no tomorrow, rattling out a few connected scenes for the next installment in Valerie and Daniel’s story. There’s lots more to be written, but it’s not easy like it was. Let me tell you, I was on fire, I was getting great feedback and ideas from my writing buddies on the forum and it was clicking like my knees when I get up in the morning.

Alas, it is no more. I’ve been busy with work and meetings and watching my bank account dwindle between paychecks and my scaly, sulfurous muse has abandoned me for greener pastures, or maybe cooler climes. (It is hotter than Hellfire right now and I hate it.)

What to do?

Well, I’ve fallen back to my old standby, re-reading old stuff. Hell, I’ve got most of what I’ve written pretty much memorized. But, it’s part of the process and it led to a nice online conversation with an old online buddy. His character plays a large role in my fantasy story and I asked him  some questions and gave him examples of what I’ve written to make sure I was doing his character justice.

I think I’m doing okay. Our ‘talk’ got me thinking about the Behemoth Disjointed Fantasy Epic that I’ve been writing for years, and you know what? I got excited about it again.

Which leads me back to my meandering path. When you’re stuck, when the wind has fled your sails and the ocean around you looks like a mirror, do what you have to to get that ship sailing again. Getting away from it for a short while is okay, like I did by setting up a blog for our work-related learning, but don’t take too long getting back to your fiction. Read other stuff, talk about it with like-minded people, harrass your writing buddies, but make youself stay involved. Don’t let the latest wildly-popular-piece-of-shit novel get you down. Get angry, get determined, get writing!

(This has been a public service message from the Off Your Ass and On Your Feet Method of Writing. Send small bills, unmarked, in large quantities. Thank you.)

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The Loom of Dreams
I broider the world upon a loom,
I broider with dreams my tapestry;
Here in a little lonely room I am master of earth and sea,
And the planets come to me.
I broider my life into the frame,
I broider my love, thread upon thread;
The world goes by with its glory and shame,
 Crowns are bartered and blood is shed;
I sit and broider my dreams instead.
And the only world is the world of my dreams,
And my weaving the only happiness;
For what is the world but what it seems?
And who knows but that God, beyond our guess,
Sits weaving worlds out of loneliness?
– Arthur Symons
Why all the mystical dream references?
That’s where I get some of my best ideas for stories or scenes for my writing.
I have a theory about my writing. I am an only child. I had myself for companionship growing up and I role-plyed while catching minnows in the ditch. I put sawhorses together and they became real horses. The yard and surrounding dirt road were anything from African savannah to South American jungle. I swung from the trees like Tarzan (and dang near hanged myself), I ran through the pastures and woods and I was never alone, not really. I had friends in the characters from TV shows that I loved and insinuated myself into the plots lines as I played. Only one imaginary friend? I had/still have hordes, of every race and species.
The time between going to bed and going to sleep are prime creative time for me. I run dialogue through my head, think about whatever scenes that are harassing me at the time and doze off hoping to have that dream. You know what I’m talking about, the dream that’s like watching a movie, that takes an idea you’ve had, turns it over and hands it back to you, giving you a different perspective. Or, better still, a dream that conjures a whole new idea to run with.
The danger in those kinds of dreams for me is my inherent laziness. Once I’m in bed I am not inclined to get up unless, say, the house is on fire. My side of the bed is against the wall, so I have no bedside table to place a pen and paper on. So when a dream really gets my attention, I tend to lie awake and try to commit it to memory, when, it would be much more efficient if I would just get my lazy ass up and write it down. I hate waking up all the way and losing that tenuous grasp on the dream itself. It’s just not the same once you’re fully awake, no matter how much it captures your imagination. But, if you do write it down, maybe you can conjure a little of the sense that you got while in the dream. With luck it can be the spark that leads to a whole universe of ideas.
No wonder I don’t sleep half the time.

Shipbuilding (a.k.a. Writing and editing)

So, in lieu of writing something in my multiple works-in-progress, I am instead updating my long-neglected writing blog with another one of Jill Ciment’s brilliant analogies about writing, before it slips my mind forever.

Not dissimilar to the Jane Goodall approach to writing that I shared awhile back, it goes something like this.

When we write, we’re trying to convey ideas, a story, something, to someone else. Think of yourself on one side of a wide river, with the people you want to communicate with on the other side. Your information, your story, has to cross that expanse of water so that those people can marvel at it, and perhaps even come on board. You start by building a raft. That’s yout first draft. You work on it and think to yourself, “That’s pretty good, I can make it across.” You set sail and that booger is leaking. (With any luck you have a crew of readers and writing buddies to help you find and plug those leaks.) So you turn around and limp back to shore and you take the materials and you build a bigger vessel, sturdier and more watertight. That’s the second draft. You try again and get about halfway before turning back because it sails crooked or tries to capsize because of something you’ve added or left out. Lather, rinse, repeat, only this time, when you get about halfway across, it’s just as much trouble to turn back as it is to keep going. Now you’re getting to the finish line. There’s your potential audience, waiting on the shore, admiring your ship as she sails into port. This is when you start to market your writing, and polish up the things you discovered need attention during your maiden voyage. The book probably isn’t done, but you have a vessel worthy of attention at this point.

My point is, to keep going, keep writing, keep improving on that raft until she’s the Queen Mary. You may have a Titanic now and again, but every writer does. The point is to keep bailing and keep plugging the leaks. Get help, the biggest issues with our stories is we’re often too close to them to see the glaring errors/plot hole that is making our story take on water like she’s rammed into an iceberg.

Just keep writing.