For years I have said that I don’t write fiction, much like many housekeepers say “I don’t do windows”, and then something happened and I have for the last two weeks been doing what I said I don’t do—only not really as my fiction is really more non-fiction than my non-fiction. That said, I now know why I have been resisting fiction like a root canal.
As you can see from the novel writing word count widget( which I highly recommend), located on the left margin of my blog, that I got from A Cat of Impossible Colour( a lovely blogger who I also highly recommend), I have written 12% of my novel. Just FYI, writing fiction is hard. I thought you might want to know that just in case you ever thought about doing it. Derrick Jensen had it right when he said, “Writing is really very easy. Tap a vein and bleed onto the page. Everything else is just technical.“
That is what is what I have been doing. I have been sitting at my laptop five days a week and I have been tapping a vein and bleeding onto my laptop. I am telling the truth 1000 words at a time in a more honest way than I would ever dare to tell in non-fiction. Here is how I do it, and I don’t advise this method of writing for anyone, I sit and think of all the things that think I can’t write and are the most painful and unspeakable bits and I start there and I just write it all out totally unedited and I keep writing until the tears come. I often tell the truth so honestly that I am crying the whole 1000 words and am typing with my eyes closed because the Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara has gotten in my eyes and obscured my vision. And, lucky for me, all this writing has triggered even more material to take to Igor and when I take the material that is triggered by the writing then my work with him gives me more material for the book. It is a circle of pain and progress.
Carolyn See, the author of “Making a Literary Life” wisely suggests that “your thousand words are best when they are not just an outpouring of raw feelings. Sometimes those raw feelings suggest what you really want to be writing about….What if you look for the raw emotion in your own world and then, instead of dissipating it in single-spaced howling, just for the hell of it, write your own story?”
She goes onto recommend as you are writing your story to keep a post-it note near your writing space with the following: Character? Plot? Geography? POV? Time and space? Building a scene? Rewriting? Dialog vs. description? “And without looking at that list until later (maybe five days later, or six months later) you dash off a thousand word, remembering in a vague sort of way, that what you’re writing should have characters, that they have to do something” and that the novel requires the other things on your post-it note list. All these things will need to be decided, but not now. For now, I just have to keep writing.
I have over 10,000 words of total unedited hot mess. When I tried to explain to Igor how bad it is he said “Are you saying that it is so bad that I would have to wash my hands after holding it?” Yes, that is what I am saying. He seems to think that my sense of the book and my frustration with in its current state might have something to do with my mother’s anal retentiveness and how something is not okay unless it comes out perfectly formed and the book is not that. Really, it is the most unorganized document of chaos I have ever credited. I just write a 1000 words—and there is no beginning, middle or end and intellectually I know that is okay. I know that when I am done with my 80,000 words I can go back and organize, shape, rewrite, and edit like mad. It may even take another 80,000 words to tell my story and that is fine. But, let me assure you that as I write the 1000 words I often wonder what the hell I am doing and if I will ever manage to turn this into anything. I hear that voice and then I keep writing.
If you have difficulty allowing yourself to write a bad first draft I highly recommend Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Anne might also have a mother with a complex that Igor might diagnose as she wrote of the importance of “shitty first drafts“. I think of Anne’s wise words when I start to panic that my writing should be less shitty. I imagine that she will be much thought of through all 80,000 words and well into my shitty second draft.
Another important companion in the novel writing process beyond Igor, French roast coffee and Vitamin W is my novel notebook which I keep with me nearly 24 hours a day. I just can’t take a chance that when I am driving, at the market, or getting my nails done that some insight or idea might come and I might miss it. It even comes into the bathroom with me just in case inspiration should hit when I _ _ _ _( I think Igor maybe onto something with his anal analysis). The only place I don’t take it with me is into the shower and that is only because the pages aren’t waterproof. I am constantly writing in my novel notebook little thoughts, words, phrases or pieces of info that I will want to include in the book. If you saw the notebook it would look to you like the ravings of a loon but I cannot tell you how much my notebook helps me when I have the appearance of a block. If I can’t come up with 1000 words to write I turn to the notebook and look at one of the entries and then I just start writing about that until there is nothing left and then I move onto the next one until I have met my word count quota.
I am off to do another 1000 words. I will need another cup of coffee, some Kleenex, and a strong stomach. Igor has stirred up plenty of raw material that is just waiting to be turned into a shitty first draft.
If you would like evidence that I can inspire great writing, even if I can’t often manage it( at least in the first draft), please click here to meet un lapin blanc. I would love it if you would be so kind as to pop over and welcome my francophile white rabbit friend to the blogosphere with a warm bienvenue.
Totally unrelated to writing but about a writer: Braja friend, a frequent commenter and a dear bloggy has been in a very serious car accident. If you have a deity please pray for her, her husband and the driver who were all seriously injured. If, like me, you are deity free, please think good thoughts for all in
volved. Updates about her condition are posted frequently here. Braja we miss you and hope that you return very soon to the blogosphere.