This weekend I had to clean the office. My mind felt as cluttered as my closet, my body felt overwhelmed with the weight of half-finished paintings, papers and articles saved and never looked at again, and the assorted flotsam of the past few years.
Funny how some focused housework clears the path to your brain. I don’t mean the everyday, never over, lifetime drudge of cleaning. This is the personal, I want this clean, just for me cleaning. It sounds odd to go on about throwing away stuff and moving things around, but I think, in a strange way, this is how you retake your space. This is how you regain control of that illusive creativity that’s crushed behind old magazines, cassette tapes, and sketches of the characters, towns, and battles you write about.
The first hour or two I felt as if I was re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic but, after a while, I saw the light and it wasn’t an iceberg! Look, it’s the top of the table, the ream of paper once lost, now found, and the second draft of chapter three I looked for a year ago!
Now, I can finish Lesson Six.
Lesson Seven I have you in my sights!
It’s been pointed out to me that to be a better writer I need know why I write.
I love playing with words, learning their definitions, unearthing their subtle nuances and putting them to use in an understandable sentence.
That’s how it started.
Now, I have stories to tell. I love feedback and the knowledge my readers care about my characters. Bringing my worlds to life takes work, but it’s worth it.
The challenge of writing is a daily, necessary part of my life. Sometimes I write because I have to, sometimes because I want to. If I’m lucky, the have and the want are on the same day.
I’d love to be published. To do that you have to write.
But honestly, I’m compelled to write because of the moment when I look at a sentence or a paragraph so perfect it could have only come from pure inspiration. And I can say, I wrote that.
Ok. They are kicking my butt. There is so much more they haven’t told me about their thoughts and emotions and so much I haven’t told my reader. Now, in Lesson Six, every scene in every chapter is up for character examination.
Questions to answer: why is each character in the scene, what do they do, how do I feel when I read it, what do I want the reader to feel??? OMG.
I did a fast count of the characters in the novel, from the one line walk ons, to the main trouble makers, and I came up with four main characters, two secondary characters, and twenty-one lesser folks. Gosh. Think that’s too many? I’m not sure yet. Since I only have to mention one line folks once, it may not be as immense as it feels now.
But – I just finished Chapter Two so only 23 to go.
I just finished Lesson Five, conflict (or lack thereof) in your scenes. This lesson went quickly, just two weeks. I’m exhausted.
Tonight, I’m not coming near Lesson Six. It’ll take me a day to recover from Five, a day to review Six, and another day to work up my nerve to start again.
But, I will. The part of me dreading the hands-on revision to come is screaming, “STOP! Give up now before it’s too late.” But the part of me that can’t wait to give birth to an honest-to- God novel is hollering back, “Don’t you dare wimp out now! Onward!”
I’m itching to write something new now, but I’ll restrain myself. Too much distraction isn’t a good idea during a revision, at least for a rookie like me.
So, I’ll go do my next favorite word thing, reading somebody else’s stuff.
Thanks, brother, for recommending Steven Saylor.
I’m reading Roman Blood now. Fascinating place and time, but I sure wouldn’t want to have lived there!
Lesson Five is finding conflict (or lack of) in each of your scenes. Without conflict, you have no scene.
Conflict can be as big and scary as Vanessa vs the evil Military- Galactic Complex, or as simple as Vanessa vs her own guilt complex. Apparently, I’m like most people. I think conflict means violence, raised voices, and general chaos. In a scene, conflict can be something that isn’t Earth shattering. But it has to be there, because without conflict you can’t have the twist (hook) at the end of the scene that makes the reader want to keep reading.
Sounds simple, right? Well, most of my scenes have conflict, but in almost every one I see something more or new I can adjust to punch things up a little. And in a few, I find the dreaded TSTL (too stupid to live conflict) which is certain death for that scene. Some of these deadly scenes can be salvaged, but some are out of here.
I have two days to go on this lesson and then on the Lesson Six, Sharpening up Your Characters. In this lesson, I get to terrorize my characters instead of the other way around. I decide how much they add to the plot, how they can add more, or if they need to disappear.
And, for those of you who may be wondering how many lessons are in this course — try seventeen. Yes, it is a lot. But, when this is all done, my novel will be much better and, I can guarantee, my second novel will be written more quickly and with a lot less pain and suffering.