Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Naked Raconteur Beguiled

Writing a novel feels like filling an ocean one drop at a time.  Truly, it does.  I guess you could say I actually started with true intention around the beginning of January.  I'm halfway through chapter 2.  Yeah.  Most of the story I already know.  I've already written the last few paragraphs.  I know most of the plot twists and some of the Easter eggs I'm hiding.   But telling the story, for me at least, is like sculpting some brand new masterpiece for every single paragraph.  I'm a perfectionist.  I know I am just supposed to let go and write.  I know I need to just take off all my clothes and pop some stream of consciousness until I fall asleep.  I should do that.  I agonize over almost every word.  I have even been known to sit for 20 minutes waffling over "a" versus "the."  What the hell?  I get paranoid that I am repeating words, especially when I get a kickass one stuck in my head.  I get paranoid that I am rambling.  I get paranoid that I am allowing my main character to ruminate too much instead of barreling through some fast-paced action.  Then I get paranoid that my main character isn't showing enough emotion or the right emotion.  I am thoroughly concerned that my main "bad guy" isn't bad enough, horrible enough, scary and cruel and sociopathic enough.  Or perhaps it's too much, making the story unrealistic.  Oh shit.  The one thing I do know is that I am passionate about the story.  I have had many story lines in my head over the years.  None of them got very far until I lost the passion and found that I no longer even cared about my main character.  With this story, I am completely invested.  The story is there.  Somewhere.  It's percolating.  I feel it.

I've tried distracting myself every once in a while.  Writing other things.  I thought it's what I needed.  Wrong.  Worst thing anyone can do.

I've been reading autobiographies of people who have gone through a similar circumstance as my main character.  I call it research, but I really think it's just another excuse for a distraction.  Now, I am paranoid that I am going to internalize it too much and, unconsciously, just retell their story.   Matter of fact, that is exactly why James Ellroy doesn't read.  I hear all the time, writers who say that you must read in order to write.  I always wondered about that.  I read for fun.  But I have always been concerned about the internalization and regurgitation problem.  When I read that about James Ellroy, it made total sense to me.  He also loves sentence fragments almost as much as I do. 

My writing style is very different.  Very different.  It is almost so unique to me that people can recognize it even without my name attached to it.  And I worry that it won't be accepted because it is so different.  Yet, I refuse to change it.  It is mine.  It makes sense to me.  It speaks the way I want it to, the way it sounds in my head.  I don't just want to tell the story, I want to sing it.  I want to paint it.  I want to push it at the reader, pour it on top of him, trap him in my mind until the last page.  Not many people write like that anymore.  The emphasis is on getting the story out, and writing down to the least common denominator so that it can be read and understood by a much bigger portion of the population.  I refuse to write down to anyone.  The delivery is just as much of an experience as the story itself.  I want the reader to feel smarter for having read my story.

I've never been one to take instruction gracefully.  But I have actually been subjecting myself to "how to" articles of late.  The Weekend Novelist- perfect little info bites for my flickering attention span.  I've been on Red Room, and a pretty funny article I read today The Ultimate Guide To Writing Better Than You Normally Do.   Sometimes, I read new and useful information.  Other times, I find that the techniques and advice I read simply puts a technical name to things I have done all along but didn't realize they were a "thing." 

Anyway.  I don't know what my point of this post was.  I have an awesome BFF and my son who have been tolerating my "read this and see if it sounds okay" emails with so much grace.  And I am eternally grateful for their ability to calmly read my bullshit without running away and changing their names.   My poor son.  Every time I get lexicologically constipated, I say, "Hey, Jake.  What should happen next??"  And 9 times out of 10, he busts out with some mind-blowing scene that I never would have thought of.  I am starting to feel as though I am just his ghostwriter.

The Word file stays open perpetually at the bottom of my screen.  I'll think of a great sentence.  Write a sentence.  Or fragment.  Get up and do something else.  I'll write something for a Trifecta or Write on Edge or Studio 30+ prompt.  I'll write something for no other reason at all but that it was begging to be written.  Then I'll write another sentence.  Minimize.  Watch a documentary called "Jesus Camp" about evangelical kids speaking in tongues (one of the most disturbingly exploitative things I've seen in a long time, by the way).  Write a sentence.  Minimize.  Read an article on the theories of the origin of the moon.  Write a sentence.  Minimize.  Scientists have proven through studies on the titanium found on both the Earth and the Moon that the Moon came from Earth alone, by the way.  No more 3rd planet collision theory.  Strange.  They're still working out the logistics of all that.  Interesting.


I think I am going to take my laptop and go hide in the crawlspace of my house for a while.  See what creeps up.  Creepy crawlies and whatnot.  Hot and dusty.  The sound of water running through the pipes.



1 comment:

  1. I have some of the same fears as you do, about my writing style. Whenever I find myself getting more and more distracted, I allow myself a break and then come back refreshed. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. The key, I think, is to keep writing -follow through, finish.