Monday, July 28, 2014

Because I Am, Because I Must

Thank you to the lovely Ellen Morris Prewitt for tagging me at Creative Synthesis to share a slice of my writing life. Ellen is an incredible asset to the writing community in Memphis and at large. She is an award-winning story writer, novelist, and (near and dear to my heart) she facilitates a weekly writing group for people with a personal experience of homelessness. More than that, she is kind with her heart, generous with her time, and so very, very good with her words. You don't have to take my word for it: read her post Spinning Plates, or The Writing Life for a picture of how she makes it all happen. While you're at it, head over to Cain't Do Nothing With Love to listen to her collection of award-winning short stories. You will want to thank me later, but instead, donate to one of the worthy charities she has paired with each of her stories.

My Writing Process


The one on the left has a story to tell. I know it.
A friend once told me, "You could find significance in a paperclip." She was kidding me about my habit of philosophizing everything, but she had a point. Well, maybe not a paperclip exactly, but binders, peanut butter, and trips to the post office are fair game. The point is, I'm a thinky-type person, and it doesn't take much for me to get an idea. Having the time and energy to use them is another matter. As Neil Gaiman once said, "You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it." It is so true, and that is why I can never be caught without a notebook somewhere on my person. I never know when a provocative paperclip might cross my path, and I sure wouldn't want to miss it.

Those notebooks are a crucial part of the process in all my work. I've got more novels in progress than I can count on both hands (even with the help of a few toes), and every single one of them started with some tiny little germ of an idea that I chased around long enough to grow it into something worth reading. This is usually accomplished through a combination of guided daydreaming, good music, and miles of unusable meta-writing. I write in the notebook until I feel that I'm chasing my tail, and then I pull out the computer, fire up Scrivener, and start typing things in a more final form. My notebook is my palette for mixing colors and sketching, my computer is my canvas where it all comes together and starts to feel real. 

It is also worth noting my ongoing participation in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. This involves writing 50,000 words of an original novel in 30 days. I have participated and completed the challenge every November since 2007. I have done the challenge a couple of extra times as well, once with a friend in a random August, and I also took the challenge in the very first Camp NaNoWriMo. I'm not gonna lie, a lot of the stuff I have cranked out under that kind of pressure has been pretty crappy, but on the other hand, those challenges left me with some sizable lumps of clay with which to work. It's good for my discipline, but I'm starting to think I need a challenge to work on my discipline for finishing work rather than starting it.


What I'm Working On 


Currently, I have a few irons in the fire. Because of my habit of writing half a novel and then moving on to the next shiny-object idea, I always have plenty I could work on, either drafting, revising, rewriting, or submitting.

Right this minute, I'm working on my nine-thousandth rewrite/revision of one literary fiction novel, my first major revision on a YA novel, submitting one short story for publication, and completing two other short stories I've had outlined forever, but haven't finished. It sounds like a lot when it's out there like that, but I tend to work on things in spurts depending on what I'm feeling at the time.

The lit fic novel is my "kitchen sink" novel. I am working on turning it into a workable piece from a lot of fractured rewrites. There's not much to say about it at this point because it's still growing itself a backbone and is nowhere near taking its first steps.

The YA novel is called In My Place, and involves teenage boy who is killed in an accident and finds himself a ghost wandering around his old life. He ends up possessing the body of a classmate and must navigate the other boy's life, finding it very different from his own. This project began as one of my better NaNoWriMo efforts, but I never got the ending on it. I am tweaking the beginning (of course) so things will fit better with the end I have in mind. It is my goal to have a completed draft of this one before the year is out.

 Why I Write


I devour stories. Anybody's. I just love them, all shapes, all sizes, all flavors. Whether I'm sitting with you while you share some part of your life with me or I am reading my new book-of-the-month, I am already panning for gold in what you're telling me. Even something as simple as an unusual turn of phrase has a way of wriggling up in my mind and aggravating things. It keeps me thinking, and sometimes, when I'm lucky, it breaks my heart just a little bit. I like things that way.

Knowing this as I do, deep down in a place somewhere just to the right of my spleen, I realize that I must write. I want to be understood. I want to aggravate people's minds. I want to break their hearts just a little bit.

Just a little bit.

Tag! You're it!


Next week, please check out the next stop on this blog tour!

Kim Messer blogs at 40 Year Old Re-Virgin. Kim has vast experience as a professional editor and freelance writer, and she is basically just a wonderful person. Trust me. I wouldn't lie, because then Kim wouldn't like me and I'd be sad. Her blog is a brave one, full of heart and reality. Please spend some time getting to know her there. You will be so glad you did.

Jennifer Sudbury. You will never meet another Jennifer Sudbury, and that is just as well because the original is all you need. She is starting a new blog at The Other South and you should be happy about it. Read it, love it, but whatever you do, "don't bless her heart".

Stacey Gamble is my long suffering writing buddy and friend-at-large. She is one of the most creative people walking the planet, and you would know that if you had been reading her blog Searching for Wonderland. She splits her creative time across a number of endeavors, and I'm hoping she'll find a few spare minutes to share some thoughts on her writing life.

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