Rusty Water

Habitat For Humanity volunteers constructing a...

I'm Building Me a Home... Image via Wikipedia

During my lunch hour yesterday, I pulled out a couple sheets of lined paper. I wanted to write something during my lunch hour, so I pulled out the digital recorder and played the first thing that came up.I listened to a recording of possible chapters for the memoir I’m finally beginning to work on. While nothing really stood out to me, I decided to make some notes, then try to recall details about that particular time. For some reason I decided to write part of the “Building a House” chapter.

I began detailing the fact that when I moved back to Michigan, Habitat for Humanity was building a house across the street from me, next door to my half-great uncle (another long story). I meandered into my previous experiences with Habitat for Humanity, and ended up at my aborted Spring Break trip to Slidell, Louisiana to rebuild houses after Hurricane Katrina my junior year.

All of a sudden, I had a flood of images to work with and all of these different directions to go in. My pen was moving faster and my mind had found a groove. The various lunchtime noises around me–a microwave running, another microwave beeping, Contessa on MSNBC, chatter amongst my coworkers–began to fade as I fell deeper and deeper into the writing. When I looked up, I was alone except for a co-worker checking Facebook on her phone with a bored expression.

This is what I learned about writing: you could say writing is like riding a bicycle or starting your car on a cold morning. You never really forget how to ride a bike. If you let your car warm up a bit, it runs the same as always. But what I would say is that writing is like a faucet that hasn’t been turned on in a long time in an old home. There’s still good water there, warmed and ready to be used, you just have to turn the tap on. When you do, some of the water will come out brown from rust and unusable, but if you let it run long enough, it will clear.

I’ve been writing nothing but blog posts (and plenty of them) for weeks, and I must admit my other writing skills are still a bit rusty. The goal is to continue to let it flow until it’s clear again. Some of what I write will be disjointed, littered with sloppy transitions and poor word choices. Some of it will be so bad I’ll question if there’s anything usuable in me. But the point is to continue until the writing is fluid and life giving again.

I keep seeing this quote on my twitter feed exhorting me  not to worry about writing well; just write. I’ve always had a problem with crappy first drafts, but I’m trying to take that advice. The longer I keep writing, the cleaner the writing will be. I can clean up the mess later.

I have no idea how I’m going to get back from Slidell to Michigan, nor from Christian college students building homes on Spring Break to college students building Habitat homes into the bitter cold of late autumn. I have no idea how I’m going to “build” this literary “house” either. But what I do know is that I’ll try to enjoy the journey, and that brick by brick I’ll build the literary powerhouse I want to be.

How do you get back in the creative swing of things? How do/did you come back to writing after a hiatus? Any tips or suggestions?

Advertisements

Roses by Other Names

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

My story isn't this campy...nor does it has as good of a tagline...sigh... Image via Wikipedia

You can never underestimate the power of a good name. Maybe a rose would smell the same, but would as many people shell out fifty bucks for a bouquet of Pukes or Drivels (assuming all words held the same meaning save rose)? A name should in some way describe what something is at its core, whether the connection is obvious right away or reveals itself over time–like Oranges or Killer Bees.

Seeing as names are so important, it’s no wonder I am wrestling with naming this NaNoWriMo Novel. When I ponder pitching my book to an agent in a query letter, the current title is one of the things that bothers me (never mind I’m not even finished with the first draft, let alone ready to query; this is just how my brain works). After quite a few attempts at tweaking it, it still doesn’t fit.

Usually, I’m pretty happy with the titles that I come up with for my works. They usually say something about what I’m trying to convey with the piece, or focuses on something central to the plot or main character. In this instance, I know what I want the title to focus in on, but I have no idea how to convey this without being…cheesy.

I know that Chick Lit can stand a little cheese, but my writing is one of the few things I don’t want cheese on! Even though a lot of the story is fun and sweet, there’s a real message I am trying to subtly get across. I want this book to be one you wouldn’t mind passing along to a friend. A cheesy title isn’t going to cut it.

The feel I’m going for is something class reunion/class related. Feel free to ramble about how you were when you were in school, or how your high school reunion went, or who you dreaded seeing. Maybe by hearing how it went for other people, something will be sparked in my brain that will eventually lead me to the right title for my masterpiece.

The Gift of Confidence

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...

One of these days, I'll at least have a writing desk like this! Image via Wikipedia

I again sat and read the beginning of my NaNoWriMo novel (which is in need of a better working title) this past week. I was expecting to be bombarded with mistakes and plot holes, to be blindsided by changes in tense, and to find that the way I manipulated time in the story was confusing instead of opening up the possibilities of what could be done with the story. I wasn’t expecting to find much useable material.

As I sat on my floor (still need that writing desk/computer desk), editing my work in the reading mode of Microsoft Word, I was pleasantly surprised to find there were many strong points in the story. Even though I’d felt I had a good story as NaNoWriMo was underway, I expected to feel differently about the writing once the rush was over. I didn’t have an excessive amount of filler words that were written just to meet the requirements (which is probably part of the reason I fell short). It gave me a boost of confidence in my writing to see how well it’s held up to proofreading.

Even though I’d promised myself not to proofread until I actually finished a first draft, I’m glad I broke my promise. I know now that there’s a reason to continue. I didn’t do any extensive editing, just fixed a few typos and let the material stand as; I suppose this was an effort to compromise with myself over editing.

On a sad note, one of the pages of the handwritten draft is missing. It’s a page I hadn’t transcribed yet. Hopefully a good organizing of paperwork will yield the missing page. I hate when I misplace pages and have to recreate things. Either I don’t remember what is missing or I can’t recapture the magic of the moment. It’s much easier to get the jist of a thing down and craft it out of this rough material than it is to start from scratch with only a general idea of what the jist might have been.

It’s going to be easier for me to go forward with my writing goals in this new year because I’ve restored a bit of my confidence in my writing. I’ll share my writing goals with you as it gets closer to the New Year. I hope everyone finds the courage and the confidence from somewhere to continue to persevere in their writing.

NaNoWriMo Postmortem

A Ford Escort automobile that has been involve...

Image via Wikipedia

I wonder if failing is like lying. Can you fail by omission? Does it matter if you’re closer to success than failure? What constitutes failure? Is it up for debate?

NaNoWriMo ended yesterday. All of us participants are now wearily coming out of the basement to access the damage this tornado has wrought in our lives. Perhaps yours didn’t end up too bad; you got a good first draft of a novel and kept your sanity. If you made it to 50,000 words, according to NaNoWriMo, you succeeded. I know a few of you who discovered your novels weren’t done at 50,000 words, so maybe you view it a little differently.

I didn’t make it to 50,000 words. I wasn’t even close. So, in that sense, I failed. I knew, in the back of my mind, that with all of the things I had pressed into last month that I would fail. So the goal for me was to learn and let the experience teach me about myself as a writer.

Here’s what I learned:

  • There’s no such thing as a “dead story” when the idea and characters work. I thought because I hadn’t been able to write on a story in a while, or hit a wall that it meant the story wouldn’t work or I wasn’t a good enough writer to write the story. But using an old idea and characters for NaNoWriMo taught me that sometimes I just need to let a story simmer until the ideas are fully cooked.
  • There’s no such thing as a “writing mood.” I don’t have to be in the mood to write. I don’t need a writing desk and the perfect lighting. I can write anywhere at any time. Even when I feel like I have nothing to say, if I sit down and read where I left off, I can usually fall write back into the story. I have no excuse not to write now.
  • I can’t let my deadlines choke me. I’d always heard that if you aren’t published by the time you’re 25, you haven’t got it. I don’t know why I believed that. So many people in literary history have proven that wrong. But, I was so obsessed with getting published this year, while I’m still 25, that I was choking my creativity. I didn’t want to write down anything I couldn’t publish immediately. NaNoWriMo forced me to write everything. Even if I wasn’t sure or didn’t think it worked. Even though I didn’t make the deadline, I am OK with that. I wrote some great things; I wrote some silly things. I didn’t let the deadline bother me. I can still finish my NaNoWriMo story. I will still finish it. In my own time.

How was your NaNoWriMo experience this year? Were you successful? What did you learn about yourself as a writer? What will you do with your novel now?