Sunday, April 4, 2010

I'm finding out, just like my child, I have very little control over how my books are going to grow up.

I've written a total of four and three quarters novels at this point, not including my current WIP.  The first three and the three quarters ones have been permanently shelved for various reasons, but writing each of them was a different experience from the others.  However, those experiences weren't as disparate as what happened with my most recently completed novel and what's happening with my WIP.

My fourth novel, Seeds, the one I'm currently submitting to agents, was an absolute joy to write.  My mind dwelled on it almost constantly and my brain was forever coming up with new scenes to add and new ways to tweak old scenes.  I opened my computer every night with a sense of anticipation and couldn't wait to see what my fingers churned out next.  I loved to immerse myself in the world and in the characters and usually had to tear myself out, bleary eyed and dizzy with exhaustion, around two in the morning.  When I finished it I handed it off to my beta readers with a sense of excitement, hoping they'd enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And they did.

My current WIP is turning out to be a very different kind of writing journey.  For one thing the inspiration for the story slammed into me one day while I was cleaning my kitchen and not even remotely interested in coming up with a new idea for a book.  By the time I worked my way through my house in my weekly ritual of Saturday cleaning, I had the entire plot worked out in my brain start to finish.  I don't write like that.  I'm not an outline kind of girl.  I get an idea.  I start a story and I discover the twists and turns of the plot along the way.  This book, though, has a two page long outline, hurried and harried and sometimes a little incoherent, but an outline nontheless.

This book draws from a traumatic time in my life.  It isn't the first thing I've written that does that, but it's the worst. I know the world that my WIP is set in, know it intimately because it was my world for several years.  I don't like revisiting that world.  I don't like my protagonist because there is so much in her of the me that I was before I got my head screwed on right.  I have to go deep to remember what I felt like and experienced then so I can truthfully and evocatively bring that to my hypothetical reader. It's hard and it hurts.  I also have a sense that I'm holding myself back from the story because it's too difficult and frightening to go all the way in and I know that will show in the finished product, so I force myself to go as deep as possible.  I don't write every day because I can't stand to.  I have to write a chunk then give myself a few days to recover.  Usually within three or four days my brain will inform me, by coming up with a good piece of dialogue or an excellent metaphor or fleshing out part of the chapter that I'm currently working on that I'm ready to write.  Then I dive in and start the whole process all over again.

The strange thing is, on the surface, these two works of fiction are essentially the same; words strung together to form sentences, sentence to form paragraphs, paragraphs to fill up pages until the novel is complete.  But their insides, their guts, the things that my experiences inject into all those words are so very different.

For awhile I fought against that difference.  I tried to force myself into the same sort of writing schedule I had with Seeds.  I refused to give myself those days to recover between writing bouts and opened my WIP every night regardless of the reluctance or downright loathing I felt for the idea.  It's only been within the last week or so that I realized trying to do that is like trying to make little blond person a fan of football and having dirty hands and wearing jeans instead of tutus around the house. No matter how hard I try, it's not going to happen.  I just have to let it be what it's going to be.

17 comments:

Jen said...

I have an award for you over at my blog!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and let your writing come as it will. I also know that certain stories are harder to write then others, more emotionally draining. But I suspect that these stories are the ones that we will feel the most connected to. Good luck with your current submissions and with the new WIP!

angfla said...

Jen, thanks so much! I'm kind of new to this blogging thing. How do I get the award image onto my blog, so I can pass it on to others?

Carolina, yeah I'm kind of learning that the flow is going to take me whether I fight it or not, so its just easier to give in. Thanks for your good wishes!

Lola Sharp said...

Great post.
Go with the flow that works!

~Lola

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

A story has a life of its own, one that's futile to fight against, shape, or deny. Best of luck embracing the story your WiP wants to be -- has to be.

Thanks for sharing this post with us!

angfla said...

Lola, thanks for following my blog. I loved the thing about your name on your profile because my sister named her daughter Lola and we all said she was going to spend the rest of her life explaining that no, she wasn't a showgirl.

Thanks Nicole. I'm doing my best to let go of expectations and just let it grow into what it is.

E. Elle said...

I can relate. I'm going through a similar experience right now with my WIP. I took a few days off and am aiming to get back into it later today. It's painful and what makes it really stink is that, if you do it right, the reader won't even know how painful it was for you.

Good luck!

Saumya said...

Your posts are so relateable; I love your blog!

Sometimes, it helps to just take a few days off and observe your manuscript with a fresh pair of eyes. In this writing workshop, we're learning about a "felt sense", which is the inner voice that tells you what feels right and what doesn't in your writing. I also learned, from a published author, not to write for a reader. Write the story that's in your soul and it will inevitably resonate with readers.

Keep up the great work!

angfla said...

That's one of the things I love about blogging. It's so nice to know that there are other writers out there working through the same sorts of struggles I am. Thanks E. Elle and good luck to you too.

angfla said...

Saumya, I didn't see your comment when I wrote my response to E. Elle. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I'm so glad you like my blog. Your workshop sounds great. It would have saved me much hair pulling and teeth gnashing if I had a teacher tell me about the 'felt sense' when I started my WIP.

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

I find that the relationship I have with my WIP changes every day. Just when I get used to one "flow" it changes! So hang in there and try to enjoy it if you can.

angfla said...

Rebecca, I think that's the key to everything in writing, perhaps everything in life. Just hanging in there and trying to enjoy the parts that you can.

Joanne said...

Each story is different, with its own rhythms. Maybe when you get further into the work, the schedule will change. Maybe not. Listen to your heart and write what follows.

Talli Roland said...

Hi Angie! Thanks for droppping by my blog and being follower!

Looking forward reading more of yours!

angfla said...

Thanks Joanne and Talli for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

Matthew Rush said...

Hi Angfla, I forgot to return your follow the other day so here I am. Thanks!

angfla said...

Thanks, Matthew. Welcome to my blog!