Storm…how fitting. Storms play a prominent part in the next installment of the Pack/Pride’s adventures. Emotional storms, natural storms, figurative storms…storms everywhere. Good thing I like me a rollicking, powerful storm.
And that’s what it’s like when the story hits. You feel it building, nudging at the corners of your awareness, the air is changing, the barometer dropping, the wind picks up. You see the clouds on the horizon, maybe a flash of lighting inspiration reveals a split second of clarity, or maybe the fog rolls in first and you’re still trying to keep from crashing on the rocks.
And then the air turns green and you are touched by The Finger of God.
We crashed alright. A whole year’s worth of crash as we chased down a storyline that refused to fit. We were stuck and frustrated. But once that fog cleared, hoo boy! The answers were right in front of us.
A lot more happened; amazing things, scary things, things that ripped our souls out or made us pump our fists in the air and jump on the bed for joy. Through it all, I had moments to reflect on what I was learning.
Wrote a list about it. Want to see it? Here it goes:
- Write without Fear. Come not to the page timid and shy. The moment you try boxing in your story or your characters’ reactions to fit how you think things should go is the moment the life goes out of your story. Scenes become flat, contrived, forced. Sadly, I am guilty of this. Wendi finally said, “Just write the truth.” Was it hard? Yes. Very much. Although in our heads we see clearly what experiences we’re drawing from, we have to remember that the whole rest of the world doesn’t. You’re baring your soul to yourself, first and foremost. The blank page isn’t so much an opaque white sheet of paper as it is a mirror we hold up to ourselves. This is the truth of “write what you know”. It isn’t about occupations, locations or anything in the physical world, it’s about what we know in our hearts. Its the ability to bring raw emotion to the surface and face it without fear, to use it, channel it, harness it, and then let it go again.
- Kill Your Darlings. I forget who said this first, and again, like “write what you know”, it’s not something to take in the George R.R. Martin sense of the phrase. Many writers get emotionally attached to their characters, and I am no exception. I rejoice with them, hurt with them, bleed with them, cry when they scrape their knees, want to protect them and keep them safe. The depth of emotion you feel when I tell you a story is very real, because I’ve felt it all first. I’ve mourned deaths, suffered through depressions and sleepless nights wondering what was going to happen to them next. It’s sad and strikes me ridiculous at times when I look at it and think, these are just people in my head, dammit! This is crazy…I’m crazy…stop it. But, you have to kill your darlings, you have to let them get beat up, or killed, which leads me to the next lesson…
- Have Faith. Have faith that your characters will survive, grow and come out better for it. You know how the story ends. You see where you want those characters you love so much to end up. You will find a way to get them there, but you have to allow them to learn their lessons along the way. It says something about ourselves too. If you can SEE where you want to end up, hold to that vision! See it, feel it, be attached to it, but at the same time, realize that how you reach that point may not be how you expected to in the first place. Your own journey through life isn’t that easy, why should theirs be? Trust me, the pay-off is so much sweeter in the end if you let this happen.
- Don’t Write Tired. Did I hear you laugh at that one? I hope so, I sure as hell did. Poor Cole, usually sharp as a tack with a razor wit to match, came out sounding like a blithering idiot one night when I could barely keep my eyes open anymore. I can only imagine what Wendi’s face looked like on the other side of the monitor (not to mention Regina’s and Cole’s faces) when she said, “What the hell is he talking about?” Seriously, don’t write tired, or drunk, or high. Get your rest, take care of yourself and live to write another day.
- Write the Story First. Plotting or pantsing…the debate rages on. Notes are good, research is good, but all of that crumbles the second you hit the front lines and start hammering out the words. Let the story happen. Over-thinking a complicated plot, or trying to drive home an overall theme only limits you. You may think you know what you’re trying to say, but you really don’t. What you started with may become something completely different and take on a much deeper meaning after you’re done and start seeing the overall patterns emerging. Why is a character acting a certain way time and time again? Why do certain themes and symbols keep popping up? Why is the focus here and not there? The only way you’re going to see it is to vomit out that story and then put it down, let it go, and return to it and read it with fresh eyes. Will you cut scenes, chapters and dialogue you thought were sheer brilliance? You bet your sweet tushy you will. You’ll also see the holes, you’ll add things too. Glorious things, things you hadn’t thought of before.
The lessons are still coming and I’m sure I’ll have more to share in the future. Suffice it to say, it’s back to balance now, letting the Muse come out to play and enjoy after work is done.
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