Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time to get serious or A journey begins with the first step, unless you turn around and don't take the second

(Photo by Marion Ettlinger)
I am a writer.

It took me several decades and more than 100 articles published before I could say that without feeling like a fool or even worst like a fraud. For years (decades) I wanted to add the title of novelist to my name. But I have difficulty getting past the feeling of wasted time whenever I venture into my characters' world. And when it doesn't flow for 100,000 words and form itself into a marketable (saleable) product, I stop and lament the wasted time. Yet the feeling never goes away that I MUST write a novel!

What I hear from writers such as Mary Higgins Clark and Joyce Carol Oates and other successful members of the publishing business boils down to: persevere.
These two women especially say how dreadful, how much they hate those first few weeks of a new project. They are angry and anxious and frustrated and totally convinced they cannot write. And then after several weeks. Joyce Carol Oates suggested six weeks. It begins to work and they find their footing and the fog clears from the landscape and they begin to get acquainted with their characters and the story begins to unfold with less fighting and wrestling and fewer tears.

Up to this point I have successfully written 1000 or 2000 words and sold them without difficulty to well respected markets. There are examples of my essays on the sideboard here. But when I begin something longer I get bogged down and give up in confused frustration.
Organization obviously is key in a longer work (how else do we keep characters and scenes straight?) and I'm deficient in that area -- one look at my 'crap room' will send you screaming out of the house. My first and only to date garage sale was a marvel. Buyers would come in and look around and exclaim, "My goodness, this covers three or four decades of fashion, of stuff."

I'm a keeper, and I believe, firmly believe, that I will use everything again one day. And then like Ralph's barn, the layers build up and up and I can't find it when I need it and then nothing gets done. I throw up my hands in frustration and quit.

Ralph's barn, by the way refers to a man who worked construction and would drag home truck loads of leftovers and castoffs from the worksite. He would store everything in his barn. It got so full that you literally walked across the barn on top of boxes of stuff. And whenever he needed something for home repairs or projects, he wouldn't go to the barn. He would mutter, "Its in there somewhere," and then head to the hardware store to purchase whatever he needed. I believe the barn eventually fell down. Although it might have fallen down years earlier if it hadn't had all of that stuff inside holding it up.

My brain is also like Ralph's barn. So many stories swirling around in it. So many characters. So many scenes. And yet I can't seem to find the parts to fit together into something complete and compelling.

But, since only about eight of us read this blog at any given time, I hope you won't mind that I change the direction for the next few months. There will still be synchronicity discussions since it seems to be these kinds of strange comings together that spark my writing. But, for the moment I want to use this venue to help me stay with one project at least through the slogging, frustrating, hair pulling "I'm gonna give up" stage and see if I can actually get to the ahhhh its working state of grace in a novel.

So today I vow that I will begin to act like a professional writer complete with crying fits and self flogging. But I won't give up.
I will attempt to write each day. If it is only to explore characters or do research or figure out the rock structure under the city where my characters reside. I will continue until I have something that resembles a novel. A readable, marketable novel.

Are you with me?

I have listened again and again to Diana Gabaldon's talks about how she began writing Outlander (by the way another book is due out any day!) and she laid down two rules for herself. I've paraphrased them below:

1. Write the best I can.
2. Finish it.

She doesn't write in a linear fashion. She writes whatever scene comes to her. I believe that is a style that will work for me and I want to give it a try. So if I post anything here please know that it may not be in order of how it would appear in the book. And I will be working on more than one project because I keep running into stone walls and can't seem to find my way around them, but in an effort to keep writing, I'll start or continue on another project.

Here's a piece of what was fresh in my brain a week or so ago before I hit a wall. I eked out almost 3000 words and then nothing.

Working Title: Chalk Lady

Simultaneously, with as much force as she could muster, she brought the side of her fist down on the toes peeking out of the strappy white sandals while turning her head to spit on the exposed ankles above the Birkenstocks. The two women screamed and jumped back. Their attacker resumed her work without any lingering malice, repairing the damage the gawkers had done.

Slowly, thoughtfully she replaced a cylinder of chalk onto the battered metal tray. Her hand hovered above the dusty yet colorful array before choosing a subdued sage green and applying the color to what gawkers like the sandal wearers realized was a face – a haggard, careworn, devastating visage that made their hearts hurt just to see the pain in the eyes. It was a female figure. Beyond the gnarled fingers, straggling hair, fierce eyebrows and burning eyes, one could see a hint of a gentle curve and female nature. A reminder of breasts that might have once been voluptuous rather than sagging, lips that might once have smiled invitingly. (c) Dawn Goldsmith 2009

For some reason I awoke one morning with the vision of this street artist in my mind and I rushed to the computer to try to capture her in words. She's an elusive figure, this woman, yet I think I know what she's about. Can I accurately represent her and her life and the story she wants me to tell?

And for years I have been friends with a group of characters who inspired the name of my other blog: Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles. Here is a snippet of what I've written about them. But the story keeps beginning again and again and I can't quite decide which group is the one I want to write about or which setting or which conflict....I think there's a series here.

Working Title: Subversive Stitchers

Knowing something is not nearly as satisfying as sharing it. That was Alma Wright’s motto.

She peered through the twisted metal Art Nouveau grillwork. It separated her workspace from the tiny post office lobby. She looked out onto the government green walls and scarred black and green linoleum floor. She could also keep an eye on the bank of copper antique doors that secured each mailbox for citizens of Clarion, Ohio. Being postmistress not only gave her keys to the back room of the post office, but also opened up access to everyone’s business. She was the first to read their picture post cards, the first to know when a bill was overdue and the first to see who was corresponding with whom. Email had curtailed much of the personal letter information, but in a small town there was always gossip and she was well connected on the grapevine. Her whole world had shrunk to the size of the tiny post office. (c)Dawn Goldsmith 2008

I welcome comments and encouragement, prayers and lit candles. And I WELCOME ways to get my writing organized so I can easily find what I need and finish this project and begin a whole new chapter in my life. And if you wish to discuss the fiction I'm writing, even better!

1 comment:

Ann Hite said...

Thanks for this post. I found it inspiring. I think all writers grapple with this problem. I look forward to more posts.