Why are writers always beating themselves up? I don’t get it. Writing is a choice. It’s a passion. It’s something we presumably cannot live without. But alongside the passionate love notes that writers offer up to writing, there are the inevitable self-hating notes. Are we masochists?
Side-note: Masochist is a word named after–you guessed it–a WRITER. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was a nineteenth century Austrian writer who described the gratification he got from his own pain and humiliation.
So do we get gratification from the suffering we endure in the name of craft? Is that why people go on and on about the love-hate relationship they have with writing. Frankly, I see more of the hate than I see love. I often wonder why the hell some writers even bother. Between a strong desire to tell them to shut the hell up and a strong desire to lecture them on the good points of creativity I end up just feeling tired and cranky.
I enjoy writing. I don’t really suffer for the craft. A bad day of writing is better than a good day of roasting at the spit. No wounds. No antiseptic needed. I emerge from my writing relatively unscathed every single time. Sue me if you don’t like that I enjoy writing and being a writer.
What I can’t imagine is NOT having a creative outlet, not needing a creative outlet. I count my lucky stars every day I wake up a writer. What a passion to have! I can’t imagine it hurting as much as some writers complain it does. For the love of candy, let go of the animosity. If you are experiencing pain writing, you’re doing something wrong. Stop equating writing with misery. Go knit if you can’t take it. Or weave baskets. Find another outlet.
Just sit. Just write. For the love of all things writerly, be kind to yourself. Enjoy that you get to play with words. This isn’t a job or a chore, it’s a passion. Treat it that way. Be passionate. Be happy. Write.
I will be slipping into the blog cone of silence once again. (-: Today I head to Paris and the LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to go to Paris. It’s at the very top of my bucket list. In fact, a visit to the Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris IS the #1 item on that list. And guess where I will be heading while I’m in Paris! (-:
I will be taking small workshops every day while I’m there…little exercises in the exploration of all things writing. On the menu is; poetry, finding your voice, place as character and more. PLUS—we will be exploring Hemingway’s Paris AND F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Paris.
Do I wish to retrace the footsteps of Hemingway? Absolutely. His A MOVEABLE FEAST is one of my all-time favourite books. I’m going to attempt to re-read it on my flight over tonight. Although I tend to do nothing but sleep while on airplanes. I can’t seem to keep my eyes open. I’m not too worried about it, though. I have practically memorized the book. (-;
Some of my favourite Moveable Feast quotes:
“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast
“By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast
“For a poet he threw a very accurate milk bottle.”~ ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Moveable Feast
I’m going to Paris for Hemingway. And for Paris itself. I believe it to be a beautiful city. I’m about to find out if reality matches my belief…
Everybody needs it. When you’re a writer, it can be the difference between writing and not writing. I’m talking about momentum, that thing that keeps you going.
“If I only could, I’d be running up that hill.” ~ Kate Bush
Momentum can be achieved any number of ways. For me, a book sale goes a long way. It’s a form of validation that really helps to keep me putting words on the page. But there are a lot of other things that can happen in my writing life that motivate me to keep runnin’ up that hill. A good review, a newsletter from a writing organization of some kind, booking a writing retreat or conference, communicating with other writers in forums or in person. All these things serve to get me pumped and ready to keep writing.
Once you sit down to add words to your manuscript-or poem-or journal-or article-or grocery list, you’re well and truly in a vacuum. It’s just you…and maybe your characters. This can be daunting. I find it helpful to get out into the larger writing community prior to sitting down. It fortifies me. When I talk about my writing, it feels more alive. It makes me want to jump back into it.
Don’t forget to interact, set goals, treat yourself to writing related outings, etc. And one of the great motivators is the simple act of SUBMITTING YOUR WORK. Do this often. You’re not risking anything if you’re not submitting. To submit is to motivate yourself. And remember, a rejection isn’t totally negative. It’s proof that you are doing something about your writing. You should wear rejections as badges of courage. You put yourself out there. That’s reason enough to celebrate.
There are great opportunities in the writing life to BE THE WALLFLOWER. I would even go so far as to say it’s often NECESSARY for a writer to be a wallflower. Especially during the cultivating stage of your work…when you’re collecting grist for your writing mill. BUT…you can’t always stand back against that wall and be the bystander in your life. It doesn’t get you anywhere. Sometimes you need to take life by the throat. Before you sit down into that vacuum of DOING WRITING, collect yourself some reasons to write. Get excited about writing.
Let review. Ways in which to jump-start your writing and gain the momentum needed to carry on carrying on:
ATTEND CONFERENCES & WORKSHOPS
REGISTER TO ONLINE WRITING FORUMS & BE AN ACTIVE MEMBER OF SAID FORUM
ATTEND SOCIAL GATHERINGS FOR WRITERS IN MEAT-SPACE
SIGN UP FOR WRITING ORGANIZATION/WRITING SITE NEWSLETTERS. READ THEM WHEN THEY ARRIVE IN YOUR INBOX
CREATE A SAME-TIME-EVERY-DAY SCHEDULED WRITING TIME AND STICK TO IT. WRITE OUTSIDE THIS TIME ALL YOU WANT, BUT CREATE THIS DEDICATED WRITING TIME
CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORIES, ATTAINED GOALS, ACHIEVEMENTS, ETC
ENTER WRITING CONTESTS
JOIN A LOCAL WRITING CIRCLE/ORGANIZATION
FIND A BETA READER PARTNER AND SHARE YOUR WORK WITH EACH OTHER (THINK OF THIS AS SIMILAR TO AN AA SPONSOR—CARRY EACH OTHER WHEN NEEDED)
There are all sorts of things you can do once you’re outside that vacuum. Things that will enrich your writing life and cause you believe in yourself more fully. Do them. Anyone can write. The trick is to keep the momentum going. Be excited every day. You don’t have to be sitting and writing to be cultivating your writing life. Think outside the box. Fuel the passion…
When I first discovered Matthew Quick, I was at an interesting crossroads in my own writing journey. I had written a couple novels for adults and I was pondering writing for the young adult market. For some reason, I got it in my head that I couldn’t do both. One could either be an adult author OR a young adult author. I don’t know why I thought this, but I did. I’ve made it a point throughout my writing journey to always remind myself that THERE ARE NO RULES. There are guidelines, there is good advice and there is bad advice…but there are no steadfast rules. Writing is what you want it to be.
And yet, here I was…trying to make this decision. And while on the fence, I really sweated about it. I loved the darker issues I could explore writing contemporary adult novels, but I also loved the idea of exploring dark issues in a teenager setting…the coming of age in the high school environment novel. I was weighing the pros and cons of the two markets, because, as I said, I thought it had to be EITHER OR.
Enter Matthew Quick. No…I’m not going to be so bold as to call him my savior, or anything as nutty as that. I’m just gonna say that he reminded me of my own first rule of the Writer Club. The first rule of Writer Club is that there are no rules in Writer Club. He didn’t do this right away, mind you. At the time, I was mass-consuming YA novels…as part of my research in the market. Well, that’s what I was telling myself. Truth be told, I LOVE reading YA. But I was reading solely YA to get a feel for the landscape of the market. I was dissecting books for themes, formula, what-have-you.
I picked up BOY21 for several reasons. Because it seemed to have strong male and female ‘leads’. Because it was sportscentric. Because the blurb really caught my fancy. Sometimes, I’ll admit right here and now, I am sold by a cover. Or, at least, I am gripped by the cover and moved to learn more about a book. BOY21 had an awesome cover. Anyway, I picked it up and I read it. And I fell in love with it.
You know when you discover a novelist and then check out there other books and get excited because you get to spend more time with them? Well, immediately after I finished BOY21 I searched to find out what other Matthew Quick offerings there were on tap at the Kindle store.
HOLD THE PHONE!
The Silver Linings Playbook. Can it be? A contemporary ADULT novel?! Oh my God! He writes for adults AND young adults! YES!
Okay, so Matthew Quick may not be the first author in the history of authorship to do this. But he was the author I discovered doing it when I needed the permission to do it myself. When I needed to realize that it could actually be done. And not only was he writing for both markets, but it would seem he wrote quirky characters. I wrote quirky characters, too. I immediately purchased The Silver Linings Playbook. And I devoured it. And I thought it was a masterpiece!
Click on the book covers to read my reviews of these two Matthew Quick novels:
I later went through Quick’s full catalogue and loved all his books. I eagerly await his forthcoming THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW! I have it pre-ordered. And on February 11th, when I wake up, it will have been magically delivered to my Kindle! I know what I’ll be reading that day!
Click on the book cover below to read the synopsis of Quick’s latest offering:
Okay, so on the surface this post may seem like a commercial for Matthew Quick’s books. But I swear to you, the whole purpose of the post is to tell writers to keep reminding themselves of the fluidity of the rules they should live by. When you find yourself questioning whether or not you can do something, DO IT. Try it, anyway. Don’t listen to people who say do this, don’t do that. I was very close to saying goodbye to one of the markets in question, even though I loved both! It was through my discovery of Matthew Quick’s novels that I found the permission to carry on carrying on. Because I saw that he accomplished writing for both adults and young adults, I knew that I could take the same path. And I did. And I for one am extremely grateful for Matthew Quick.
But seriously, check out his books. You’ll love them! (-:
You wanna know something that DRIVES ME MENTAL? I can’t count on one hand how many of my writer friends have admitted to me that they use some kind of bullsh*t service to provide tweets for their Twitter stream. Their confessions usually go something like this:
THEM: “Twitter. Yeah. I still have an account. I don’t tweet, though. God, I haven’t actually been on Twitter for months!”
ME: “But I see tweets coming from your account precisely every 13 minutes, all day long every day. What do you mean you don’t tweet?”
THEM: “Oh, those. I just set it up to tweet automatically for me. No fuss, no muss.”
For argument’s sake, I’m talking about WRITERS. Most of my social media contacts are writers. As are most of my real-life friends. I am a member of an extremely vibrant writing community. We are about 300 members strong and we meet on a regular basis. It’s not always the same people meeting up, so over the course of a few months I easily cross paths with 200 members of the community. Some of them are extremely tech savvy. Some of them are not even online. The spectrum is WIDE.
From time to time I see some of these people on Twitter. Let me say right now that I’m quite active on Twitter. It’s my go-to social media network. It replaced Facebook as my fave quite a while back. I try hard not to inundate my followers with blah, blah, blah…otherwise known as verbal diarrhea, but the truth is that I’m addicted. I love the instant connection ability that Twitter has. You agree with a follower, you say so…you RT them. You engage in conversation.
So when I hear that some of the writers in my community have mindless programs spewing out a WHOLE LOT OF CRAP ABOUT NOTHING on their behalf, it irritates me beyond comprehension. They are basically SPAMMING me and all their other followers. Twitter, when used properly, is for communicating. Yes, it’s a great marketing tool. But sometimes the best way to market yourself as a writer is to engage. What Twitter doesn’t need is people hooking up to computer generated tweet-feeders. Please, God! If you do this, STOP!
Some writers think their fellow Twits are too stupid to figure out that their tweet-stream is actually unmanned. Guess what? They’re WRONG. I can tell just by looking at a user’s tweets if they are behind them or not. You’re not fooling anyone. Log in to Twitter once or twice a day. Compose personal tweets and send them into the stream. Read a few of your followers tweets while you’re there, and respond to them in a thoughtful way. This is how Twitter was meant to be used. Don’t clog up the tweet-stream because you’re far too important to actually create 140 character tweets yourself. NOBODY thanks you for doing this. Eventually, you will be labelled a BAD NEWS BEAR, if you continue to use Twitter improperly.
So, in case you didn’t get the gist of this rant…please schedule some ACTUAL REAL-LIFE TWITTER TIME and interact with people.
ETA: One of the BIGGEST no-nos in the land of Twitter is the DM Welcome Message. When someone follows you, please-for-the-love-of-God-and-all-things-holy-and-unholy…DO NOT Direct Message them thanking them—or sharing your links. That’s not what DMs are for. There is NOTHING more useless than a SPAMMY DM thanking for a follow…and asking the person to read your books or follow you on Facebook. JUST DON’T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Interact with people! Don’t be a Twitter Spambot!
Ten years ago. That was when I did my first reading at a microphone. I was a complete and utter mess. Walking to the mic was equivalent to the walk to the gallows. Even thinking about speaking into the mic had me hoping and praying for a lightning bolt to take me from this mortal coil. And yet, there I was, walking up to the mic and preparing to read words that I myself actually wrote. The horror!
I neglected to mention that when I get myself into these pickles, it’s usually all or nothing. It’s a BIG BAD PICKLE! My first turn at the mic was actually in a recording studio at CBC Radio. Yep! Someone who hyperventilates at the mere imagining of sharing his words was stepping into a recording booth to–are you still with me here–SHARE. MY. WORDS! On a national scale. With people at a soundboard watching my every move. With the producer of one of the station’s most popular listener-contributed shows on CBC Radio1 (FIRST PERSON SINGULAR) smiling at me from the other side of the glass.
Go big or go home.
With that dip into the world of reading under my belt, you would think that it would begin to come easier to me…right? You’d be wrong. I was asked later in the same month to read the same piece in front of an audience of writers at the (WCDR) Writers’ Community of Durham Region’s monthly Breakfast Meeting. The request sent me into a tailspin of panic. I mean, I was ready to call 9-1-1 for myself. What did I do? I said YES. This only increased my anxiety. I thought of many ways to get out of this. I would tell them a taxi ran over my legs, so I’d be unable to make it to the meeting. I would tell them I was stung by a Brazilian Wandering Spider, and I only had a few short minutes to live…so I’d be unable to attend. Or, I could tell them I fell down one of those wells everybody always seemed to be falling down. These may seem like ludicrous alibis now, but at the time each one was viable. ANYTHING to get me out of the horror of reading my words in public. It was a double whammy of anxiety stew. Public speaking AND sharing my words. The horror!
I did it. I sat down with my back to the audience, but I did it.
The whole time I’ve been on this writing journey, I understood that public speaking and the sharing of my words were both necessary. I could not get out of either if I were to progress to anyplace of any significance. So, I hunkered down and accepted my dismal fate. I bit the bullet. I read. In public.
I think I’ve come a long way since that first audience interaction where the audience remained out of my field of vision and I sat down so that my wobbly legs were not forced to hold me vertical. I know I’ve become more comfortable…or that I’ve become more adept at hiding my discomfort. I’m not sure which one it is, but does it matter? I’m biting the bullet whenever I can, now. It hurts! I won’t ever pretend it doesn’t. But I’m doing it.
In today’s world, the writer is a self-promoting machine. It’s no longer enough to sit in a candle-lit garret room and write the next Gatsby. One has to take that work on the road. Even the shyest most introverted writer would do good to get to open mics and spread their words. Believe me when I admit to you here and now. I AM THAT SHYEST AND MOST INTROVERTED WRITER of which I speak. It’s me. I’m it. And if I can do it, anybody can.
Wherever you live, I’m sure there are open mics happening in your area. Do yourself a favour and sign up. Attend. Read at the mic. Listen. You will never get good at it if you don’t keep doing it…especially if you’re an anxiety ridden lunatic like myself. Keep this in mind before you attend your first one–people are there because they want to hear writers read. Upon arrival, you already have their support. All you have to do is read.
One more piece of advice. Whatever you write–read it aloud. Whether you intend to stand up in front of the mic and read it to an audience or not. READ IT TO YOURSELF. OUT LOUD. A writer who reads their work out loud will discover that this is one of the best editing tools in the writer’s toolbox. Hearing your words will help you to hear what works and what isn’t quite ready. The writer’s ear knows.
So, I’ve been writing the ten minute play for a number of years now. I’d like to think I’ve been doing it with a bit of success, too. Though one could never be sure. I can attest to the fact that the audiences seemed to like my work. Being in an audience when they’re laughing during the unraveling of a comedic play you wrote is extremely rewarding. I consider myself blessed to have experienced that. But I’m rather hard on myself, as a writer…so I tend to allow the actors and the directors to take the blame for the laughter. (-: After all, the script is merely the scaffolding. Right?
So, now that I have had seven 10-minute plays produced…I feel I may be able to offer some advice for others considering the 10-minute play market. It is a favourite of mine. A good 10-minute play can contain the world within its rigidly timed existence. You just have to work like hell to contain it.
1. I learned the hard way that there is a world of difference between a sketch and a play. If your characters are not transforming and going through some kind of self-revelation, you could very well have written a sketch. A play is a complete story, whether that play is 10-minutes long or two hours long. You need an arc. A conversation where nothing really happens and no wisdom is gained and no change takes place is simply a conversation. A lot of first time 10-minute playwrights make the mistake of creating a sketch when they attempt a play, myself included. Last year, during the InspiraTO Festival in Toronto…there was a last-minute call for a play in one of the festival’s satellite locations. As I already had a play in the festival, to take place on the Alumnae Theatre stage, I received the call automatically. I jumped on the opportunity. By the end of the day of the call, I sent in what I mistakenly thought of as a play. Fortunately, it seemed to have some good bones. The Artistic Director, Dominik Loncar, worked with me to flesh out my idea and bring the sketch into the realm of play. I think working with Dominik to create this play was one of the most educational experiences I had in the playwriting process. So, always make sure your play is a full story which culminates in a character change.
2. This one is so easy, it seems self-explanatory. But I have often struggled with it myself. So, I know it needs to be said. For those of you who follow guidelines to a tee, this rule should not be a surprise to you at all. For those of you who think it’s perfectly natural to send a 7,000 word story into a magazine whose submission guidelines clearly state ‘stories should be no more than 3,000 words’, please take heed. There are guidelines for a reason. Ignoring them is the first opportunity the publisher/producer/what-have-you has of culling the pack and rejecting you. Don’t make it easy for people to reject you. ALWAYS read and follow the guidelines. I know from personal experience that well over 50% of submissions are sent in by people who prefer to think of themselves as above submission guideline parameters. As a past acquisitions editor, my job was made quite easy by those who ignored guidelines. I’ve gone on long enough. I tend to get ranty when I discuss writers’ inabilities to follow guidelines. #2 of my advice is that you ensure your play is 10-minutes in running time. NOT ELEVEN. NOT TEN AND A HALF. TEN. End of story. I ‘perform’ my plays over and over again to ensure they meet this criteria.
3. Stage Direction. Use it wisely. Actors are brilliant. While developing their character, they soon learn everything about who that character is. From that place, they can see how that character moves. You don’t want to fill your play with minor business (BUSINESS is the term for what is happening within the play that is not dialogue). If there are necessary directions you feel would move your play forward, by all means include them. But please trust implicitly in the actors and director. They’ll know how to include the right business. I’m sure it infuriates these people no end to be told through stage direction each and every step and movement they are to perform.
4. Give your character a WANT/DESIRE. And then put obstacles in her way. This will create tension. Tension is good. Tension is necessary. Your character needs to propel–be propelled–into the heart of the play. Nothing moves a character more than a shiny carrot dangling just outside of their reach.
5. I think there’s a fine line between KEEP IT SIMPLE and GIVE IT PIZZAZZ. Keeping it simple is required. You only have ten minutes to tell a full story, to bring a character from one place in their life to another. This is not a movie. You can’t have extraordinary props. Your goal is to get to the audience’s raw nerve–be it through comedy, drama, fear, what-have-you. Leave the glitz of the movie world on the silver screen. But this is not to say you can’t give your play pizzazz. You want to make it theatrical, larger than life. You can do this without explosions and special effects. You need to find a perfect balance between simple and exciting. Think of simple as budget-related. Often, you’re working with bare-minimum stage props. Think of exciting as character-related. Give your characters great dialogue and a great compelling story the audience won’t be able to tear themselves away from. Make the walk to the climax a dazzling crescendo.
The best advice I could give someone who aspires to get into the 10-minute play business? Surround yourself with people in the know. Approach theatre groups. Take in 10-minute festivals in your area. Nothing teaches one more about writing than reading. Nothing teaches one more about 10-minute playwriting, than watching 10-minute plays. Don’t be afraid to write a play and submit it. There are 10-minute festivals all over the world, now. You don’t have to have the title of playwright to write a play. That comes after. Just dive in!
(I’ve had some great opportunities from people willing to take a chance on an unknown quantity. 10-Minute festivals are a great way to get your foot in the door of live theatre. Without people like Jeremy Smith of Driftwood Theatre and Dominik Loncar of InspiraTO Festival, I’d still be dreaming about being a playwright…instead of being a playwright. Go forth and find your way in.)
Photos are from PERFECT TIMING, one of my 2 InspiraTO Festival plays. Those involved in bringing it to life include:
Dramaturge / MC Thompson Director / Kim Sprenger Cast / Liam Doherty (Carl) Cast / Jennifer Gillespie (Melissa)
MOST OF MY 10-MINUTE PLAYS ARE POSTED HERE ON MY BLOG AND AVAILABLE TO BE STAGED FOR FREE. MY ONLY REQUEST IS THAT YOU ASK ME IN ADVANCE AND LET ME KNOW WHERE YOU’RE STAGING THEM. I CAN BE REACHED BY EMAIL AT: email@example.com
You can check out my novels at my AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE They are: Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, The Reasons, Burn Baby Burn Baby, and, Half Dead & Fully Broken. The horror anthology Purgatorium, which includes a short story by me, is also listed there.
My first forays into writing were stories that always seemed to end with a fridge door opening and a head being chilled on a silver platter inside said fridge. I guess when I was seven or eight, I saw myself as a sort of horror writer. After all, who scared us shitless more than Stephen King? Although, for the life of me I can’t recall if I even read his works back then. Could I have simply heard of King and aspired to write like what I imagined he wrote like? Who knows. I just knew a good severed head was best served up, well, cold.
I still remember my first ‘novel’ too. Marjoram. Great title, eh. Yep. Marjoram was a honkin’ huge used-to-be garage band. The main characters were embarrassingly fashioned after Bruno & Boots, the main characters of Gordon Korman’s Macdonald Hall series. Korman had just made an appearance in my Grade 7 or 8 classroom. This was in the late 70s. He helped reignite the love of words that Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl had instilled in me in my earlier life. And, I suppose, Stephen King (in spirit, if not in any other way). Marjoram was painstakingly written in pen. A whole spiral notebook. I actually received an A+ for the story, so some well-meaning if exasperated teacher took pity on my Korman-bedazzled eyes and gave me the mark for effort.
Fast forward through all the trauma, joy, sorrow, bad decisions, good decisions, craziness, zaniness, depression, elation and all the other ion and ness words…somewhere along the way, I well and truly lost my way. I didn’t find my way back to writing until 2002. I’ve been writing ever since. Non-stop. Once you teach the parrot to talk, you cannot teach him to shut up. You merely await his death.
With all that writing, I still haven’t really learned the handshake. I don’t know…maybe it’s the trauma and bad life choices…the lack of strength in my early years that allowed me to fail so totally as a normalian…but something stands in my way. Is it that I didn’t get a card-carrying membership into the League of Writers through some inexplicably random series of college or university courses. Is it that I am blinded by my own stubbornness to accept failure as a default that I don’t see that I’m actually doing fairly well? I don’t know. I can’t pinpoint what feels ‘wrong’ about this. I write every day. I no longer put pen to paper, but I definitely churn words out through my fingers onto the computer screen. Christ, I’m doing it right now. I just…I guess I still don’t know why I’m doing it. I feel as though I’m constantly pushing my books on unsuspecting readers…but as I reach out to them in one way, I pull away from them in another. I hope they won’t read my words. I hope they will read my words.
I’m nearing the end of my umpteenth novel. I use the term umpteenth because I’m too lazy to actually do the counting on my fingers. I haven’t a clue how many I’ve written. You see, I’m fairly disconnected. I’m sometimes so numb, I have a hard time remembering the character names on the novel I’m actually working on. Have you ever had to scroll back to find your main character’s name? I can’t have an intelligent conversation with a reader. They asked me where I came up with the idea for, say, John Doe, and I can’t for the life of me remember what novel John Doe was a character in. I’m hopeless.
Yet, I continue. There is something in the actually laying down of words that seems to get me through. I’ll take it. You know…I’ll own it. It’s better than not writing. It’s the act of writing I need…not the outcome. The outcome is for readers—potential, constant and imagined.
It just gets to be a lot to handle sometimes. This pre-winter time seems to be the most difficult for me. But you know what…I’m gonna just keep writing. Ever forward… then you don’t have to look back at what you’ve written, right. It’s like I’m dropping all these crumbs along the forest path so I won’t get lost in the darkness. Only thing is… some bastard keeps pickin’ up the crumbs. I’m writing…but it’s too dark in here to see the words…
Sometimes I masquerade as a writer. The costume is cheap…jeans and a t-shirt. Rips optional.
Other times, I almost feel like a writer.
And then there are the times like today. I know I have written. But what does it all mean? If you write every day, are you a writer? And surely you’re an author if you have books published, no?
I’ve been reading over my words and wondering what it is I’m doing. I think it’s time to attempt an outline again. I feel like I have run out of things to write about. I struggled a bit at the Muskoka Novel Marathon a couple of weeks back. I went from speed writing early on to trying to dig up stuff to write about. I ended up writing AND THEN THIS HAPPENED AND THEN THIS HAPPENED AND THEN THIS HAPPENED. It no longer felt smooth. The flow got cut off somewhere during the weekend. I don’t like struggling with words and ideas. It’s not something I usually do. I am going to attempt to outline a novel. I have failed miserably at this in the past. I eventually said that it wasn’t for me…but now I’m pretty sure it just wasn’t for me then. Let the experiment begin!
In the meantime, I’m kind of feeling more like a grandfather than a writer. So…here’s a picture of my grandson, Edward. I took it while we were at the park yesterday.
I found an easy and entertaining way to outline…for those of us who hate outlining. Now I use hate loosely here. Whether you’re an outliner or a pantser should ultimately depend on your project. I always felt this way. I don’t think one should come to a conclusion that they are one or the other. Always be open to new ways to draft your next novel.
Anyway, as I have frequently struggled with outlining, I needed to find a way to make it creative and fun. So, no charts for me. No diagrams, no lines from one scene to another, no boxed miasma of words planned out on chalkboards waiting to be distilled into novel form. My brain just doesn’t seem to want to work that way. I am content to have a large block of clay and just pound away slowly at it and wait for the story to reveal itself to me. It’s more exciting for me if I don’t know what will happen next until I make it happen.
But this one thing seems to be working for me. With Windows Movie Maker, it’s SO easy to throw together a quick book trailer. And this is my new outline. I make a book trailer for my vision of the finished novel, prior to writing the novel. Whether or not you use live action in a book trailer, I suppose is up to you. If you have friends who are competent enough actors for the job, it would be a great idea to film something. I prefer to mix stills, music and plot points in my trailers. And once I clip them all together in the easy to use Windows Movie Maker, I simply watch it a few times to let the ‘story’ soak in.
After that, I start the writing. I have no laboured chaotic mess of an outline to sort through. Just a quick 3 minute video that was fun to put together and hopefully fun to watch. I don’t have to stick rigidly to the video, but the process of making it solidifies the story I would like to tell. You should try it. It’s a lot of fun to search for just the right pictures and just the right words to accompany them. Sometimes, the music I choose even helps me to better envision the story I want to tell.
It’s creative. It’s fun and it really really helps. I’ve tried it. I will be making a book trailer this week for the novel I intend to write for this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon. I’m not sure yet what I want to write, but once something comes to me I’ll make the trailer and then watch it until the gaps are filled in with my imagination and the wants and will of the characters I create for the trailer.
I won’t post any book trailers I’ve created as outlines, as I don’t have permissions for the images I used…I don’t make them with the intent of showing them publicly. I do have the permissions needed for the book trailer for my latest novel, The Reasons. So, I’ll share it now as an example of what you could do as an outline: