Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fiction frenzy

I have been in a fiction frenzy of late. When it comes to writing, all I want to do is work on my fiction. Being a teacher of writing and the author of a book on writing, and a coach, too, who advises writers on ways to get through blocks and make headway on projects, I'm examining why it is that now I'm in a fiction frenzy as regards my novel.

I've been working on it for a long time. I did freewriting for a year and when I came to about page 270 of 300 pages of freewriting, I discovered my story. The rest, as it turns out, was backstory.

So a year ago January I started on the draft. Now I'm on page 251 of the first draft. Well, it's not really the first draft. I do a draft and then I go back and tweak a little and then move on, go back a little, tweak, move on. Kind of a one step back, three steps forward dealybob.

I've passed the midpoint of the book--at page 251, one would hope I've passed the midpoint. And now my various subplots--and plot--seem to be coming into focus. The hardest part of the writing, for me, is figuring out what happens. I'm not an outliner or plotter. I tried once. I spent so much time on the outline and character biographies that when I was done, I no longer wanted to write the book. So I don't do that anymore.

But now, all the pieces of the story are in motion and when I sit down to write, I can pick from a handful of plots/subplots/characters and begin with them, and progress the story.

Doesn't hurt that the scenes I have been writing take place in Pennsylvania in the winter. In my book, it is snowing. Snow in winter is my favorite weather, so while I can't have that here, by the beach in Orange County, California, I can have that when I work on my book. The other night on my show Kathryn Davis, author of The Thin Place (she was also an influential writing instructor of mine), said place is everything for her in her books. Without place, she's unrooted, cannot go on. Now I see why. (By the way, that show will be podcast any day now--maybe even today. Go to http://writersonwriting.blogspot.com/ for updates.)

I had a deadline of April 1 but yeah, it's not going to happen. Maybe I should have picked a day other than April Fool's.

So, the point to all of this is, when you're into a draft and find yourself dragging your feet, just keep going. Know that there will come a point when you will feel excited again, as you did when you were first starting your book, and you will feel as if you are flying. It's like driving cross-country from coast to coast. If you've ever done this, you'll know what I mean. You are just about to Kansas and you think, I can't do this anymore. It's too far. But you've come such a distance to turn back now. You've got to keep going forward. What's the alternative? You've got to keep moving toward your destination, and soon the landscape picks up, there are mountains and interesting things to do and to look at. And then you are there.

It surely is about the journey, but you do want to get to your destination, too; to see your journey realized.

14 comments:

Leslea said...

I very much relate to this. I do feel like I'm flying--but it's so far to go, as well.

My trouble right now is not being satisfied w/ the small fragments of time in which I'm allowed to write. I wish I could take a leave of absence for a week or something--I'd be through Draft version 2.0 with a week's solid time to work (and no internet).

Jordan said...

Good blog because it goes to the nuts and bolts of the writing curse. When you sat down to begin your current fiction story - what was it that was the initial motivator - the "place", the "situation" or the "character". There are so many ways to approach a story. Which was it in your case.

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett said...

Leslea...Funny thing about time. When I have too much of it, I don't seem to get nearly as much done as when I don't have enough. Still, wouldn't it be nice to have a good stretch of time with which to write?

Jordan, I believe my book began with the situation and the characters. The story stems from something I lived through and has taken off from there. I would never call it memoir, though (haha); too much has been fictionalized. But when I locked into place, I felt a vague thrill, especially when it began to snow. I placed the time of the book in winter, because I just find winter a more interesting time, and love the winter, as I said, esp. when it's snowing. Writing fiction is an act of love. Hardly any novelists get advances for unwritten books, or even on the basis of a few chapters, the way you do for a nonfiction book proposal. So when I write fiction, I want to go to that fictional territory, because in the end, if it doesn't sell--and so many novels do not--I want to have enjoyed the trip.

What about you--does your writing stem from place, situation, or character? I remember the strong sense of place in your story about Minnie and San Pedro.

Jordan said...

Actually it started with character because in that particular case, "place" was "character". In the end, it's all about character because we write about people and the human condition. At least I hope we do.

~jolene said...

Barbara,
I have a question. Does the weather you are in the midst of motivate you to write? For example, when it is raining (not often enough lately!) I tend to get into my creative mode easier.
Any thoughts on how your environment inside and out influences you...

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett said...

I do feel more like being in and being creative in the rain--or snow (ha!). But I'll tell you, if I'm in the chair and letting the words out, it doesn't matter what the weather is like. So many days, esp. when I was working on Pen on Fire, when I just stayed home when everyone else was heading to the beach, or for a hike. The writing itself motivates me. I'm not sure I answered your question....

pishydish said...

I agree it is about the journey and i am on a 15 year trek it seems. So i guess i am right on schedule then. I am 2/3 through the book i guess and 10 years in--look for Swimming in a Pool without Water in stores near year 2011--

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett said...

Oh, sweet Peter, if only you didn't travel and socialize so much! : }

jordan said...

Good title, Pishydish

Leslea said...

Oh, it ate my comment from earlier. :(

What I wanted to say was that if it weren't for my lunch break at work, I'd never write at all...so the deadline of "must type for 20-25 min, then gobble down lunch" is totally working right now.

The weather, though (still a little grey here in Louisville) has me wanting to curl into a big cozy leather coffee house couch w/ my draft and a Uniball roller pen, and edit, edit, edit all day.

Hopefully spring/summer weather will be more conducive to making me want to type that draft in! :)

Great podcast this week, thank you.

~jolene said...

Barbara- Yes, you did answer my question :)

I suppose I get more into a creative mode during rain because I feel "less guilt" (Oy!) about staying in and shutting the rest of the world out.

Speaking of 'weather' - wasn't the hail 'storm' awesome this afternoon! I took photos, if they turn out well I will post them on my blog! Oh so So. Cal..a little weather and I get EXCITED. :)

Jordan said...

All of this talk about rainy weather being condusive to writing has some basis in fact. When it rains the air is full of positive ions which are relaxing. Try writing during a hot desert wind storm and see what you get.

Therefore, if it's serious writng one wishes to do, one should move to Seattle Washington or better yet the Amazon Rain Forest. This is my second attempt to post this comment as a public service.

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett said...

Actually, Jordie, the sky is positively full of negative ions when it's raining. I never did get why they're called negative ions when they are positive.

Jordan said...

Actually you're right, Barbara. In my rush to publish I neglected to edit. However, I must tell you in all sincerity that at the time of my writing the sky was a blinding blue with wind that seemed a harbinger of ill things to come. In short, there wasn't a negative ion to be found anywhere in Huntington Beach.