Though I hate to do it, sometimes it’s for the best. I’m working on book three of my Ysabel series and was stuck trying to fit in a long scene that I liked, but it overly complicated the story and trying to make it work was pushing a boulder uphill.
Once I got rid of it, the story stood up in my mind and I could see it in its entirety, which has never happened to me before.
That was a great moment and that is the prize, to see the story appear, sound and whole.
Raising children, working a job, having relationships, when do we find time to write?
A good way to start is to write a mere 15 minutes a day. Those 15 minutes soon will fly by and you won’t want to stop. You’ll feel anxious and irritated when your normal life interrupts your reverie, but that’s ok, because it’ll impel you to find more time to write.
And then there’s where to write. We need a safe and quiet place. I’ve written in my car during my lunch break, on the city bus (where I’ve seen every one of my characters), during meetings, which is a great opportunity to capture people looking anxious, haggard, or bored, and best of all, in the generally empty government periodicals room in the library.
The main thing is to make daily writing as important as anything else we do in our lives.
I read a recent Esquire interview with Michael Keaton and was struck by his comment on being authentic, of his efforts to create something original:
“Over the years, I think, people—actors, writers, whatever—lose their frame of reference. Their frame of reference is based on somebody else who did this or did that. Performances. So it just becomes a reflection of what already works. Like a warm-up. And that’s an invitation to be inauthentic. Everything becomes, you know, the work of somebody who did that before. Then somebody becomes a version of a version of a version…I always wanted to be the version. You know, the thing.”
A writing friend sent me Wired for Story, which is another book about writing. I have a stack of these books; some are filled with helpful advice, others have at least one good thing to say. Wired for Story said something I’ve heard for years, but in a way that I finally understood, and that is every story must have the hero’s journey, an internal goal, and that the journey isn’t part of the story, it is the story. When the journey or goal is missing, the story has no focus, no direction, no heart; ultimately it’s lifeless.
Another point from the book is that every story has a moment when the story begins for the main character, when he/she decides to enter the story. Everything that happens before that moment is background/ scene setting.
I’m watching old episodes of the Sherlock Holmes with the incomparable Jeremy Brett and found an interview he gave about how was able to create such a memorable Holmes. He said, “I’m like a sponge, I squeeze the liquid of myself out and draw in the liquid of the creature I’m playing.”
It’s the same with writing: becoming a character allows that character to live and the story to come to life. This immersion requires uninterrupted time with no distractions. Pacing around is ok, talking to myself is necessary, but no wandering into the kitchen to look inside the fridge, the cupboards..oh, popcorn, I’ll make popcorn! And no checking the devil email.