Just half of a fully forgotten memory

I collect things. Anyone who knows me in person can probably tell you something I collect. Ask ten different people, and they probably tell you I collect ten different things. The truth is, I just keep stuff, not in a deadly-hoarder kind of fashion, but in the “this is useful or interesting or taught me something valuable and I must retain it until it no longer serves that purpose to me” kind of way.

Books, and video games (spanning well over two decades of production), DVDs and CDs flow out of a dozen shelves in my house. I have small wooden boxes and large vintage suitcases, collections of wool, yarn, thread, and scraps of fabric for sewing and creating. Tumbled gemstones, Tarot decks, notebooks and little paper and fabric gift baggies that I usually find another great purpose for.

I also collect quotes and inspiring stories. My favourite is collecting writing advice that doesn’t tell you any of the specific things, but rings that clear, pealing bell inside me, the one that says, “TRUTH!”.

Now, I don’t have the best functioning memory in the world. I usually attribute that to replacing memories too frequently with new information, new ideas. I don’t recall specifics of things I’ve read very well, and that is a kind of blessing. Some days when I’m feeling really lost or uninspired, I might decide to browse through my interesting writing file. Just see if I’ve got anything in there that will remind me why I should do any of it.

I’ll usually find something. Rather, I usually find this blog post by Merlin Mann: Making the Clackity Noise. I can’t remember where I first found this article, or why I read it. It came from somewhere.

It rang true to me in all the right ways. And even if I don’t always end up writing something significant afterwards, I’m happy, because just a little bit of a story fell out of me. I think we get way too caught up trying to do it “right”. There isn’t a right. There is, however, a write. That’s what I’m going to briefly remember to do.

~A

The plan, the challenge

As you may know, I’ve switched to working on the potential-novella referred to as M. I read the opening I wrote several years ago and felt somewhat overawed by how awesome the idea was, and wondered why I stopped. I can honestly say it was because I hadn’t plotted any of the story out besides the general idea; it slowed me right down, and I can see that, now. At the time, I just drifted onto other projects that had more immediate appeal, without ever realising what was holding me back.

While the ideas for this story were still there, they needed a lot of developing. And as my last blog entry covered, the strange little ideas I’d worked out, and the interesting plot directions I wanted to use have finally started to make sense as a whole story. I got excited and I have begun planning out the plot properly. The best part about doing this is always knowing what to write next. Once this is sorted, I can sit down and throw whatever words I want at the page. Editing will be challenging, but the important part is always finishing that first draft.

My plan is to have the overall plot finalised, to whatever extent I usually do, by the end of this week. Then starting Sunday, I intend on writing like a maniac (or if you’re a fan of Dear Sugar, writing like something else!). Novellas clock in around 40,000 words in length. I want to hit that in two weeks. Madness? Oh, yes. With my lifestyle, most certainly. And that’s precisely what draws me to it.

I have always been inspired by challenges. Put some kind of ridiculous deadline in my head and I want to tackle it wholeheartedly, just to see if I can. Looking over my writing records for TDM, I don’t often reach 3,000 words a day, but where’s the fun in it if I already know I can manage ~2,000? I could do it in a month, but two weeks? We’ll have to see.

There’s always the distinct possibility that I will get directed, bored, or grumpy with this whole plan before it’s finished. You guys can always call me on it if my happy little word counter isn’t rising daily.

~A

When suddenly, it all makes sense

My writing has been on hold while I try to untangle the vast reserves of ideas I have. I needed to put everything in place for this story, because it’s been years since I worked on it, and despite knowing the general plot, I never came up with too many specifics. Ahh, the days of literally making it up as I went.

I have been sorting and compiling ideas for a couple of weeks now. It feels like forever, and I’m an impatient sort. I’d prefer to be writing than planning and plotting, but I can recognise that one must come before the other. Little ideas, big ideas, strange notions that don’t seem to fit into this story have all been running through my head. For a while there, I intentionally avoided even thinking of any of it, because I was getting so frustrated at how none of it was slotting together nicely.

Then yesterday, it clicked. The parts fell into place. Even the weird things that I didn’t think were relevant to this story had a specific and important role to play.

I don’t know how any of this works. It’s some kind of function my brain has had for as long as I can remember. I could attribute it to a wild imagination or half a lifetime of practice in writing, but that doesn’t encompass the fullness of how stories sometimes just “work”. After all that struggling with ideas, after all those days of just giving up trying to put the crazy jigsaw together myself, I can finally see the full picture and why those ideas were connected at all.

Does this mean I’m back into writing immediately? Not quite. I can see it all, but I still need a little time to percolate this as a whole. I’ll probably start by putting down a plot outline with all the major and minor events I’ve already decided on. From there, I think I will be able to fashion something like a story out of it. I have a pretty great feeling about this work. This is going to be fun.

~A

Surprise, this is what you’re writing now

I have been absolutely consumed by a new story.

I was doing so well! A strong start on book two of the novella series, getting through a quick edit on book one, then all of a sudden I’m just hit with this idea. It came to me almost fully-formed, ready to go. Characters popped out of nowhere, with flawless interaction, solid personalities and reason for being. I kept interrupting work to write parts of it, and as soon as I arrived home, I got right back into it.

At this stage, from what I can tell, it’s probably another short story. Horror, maybe a little more “typical” than my other horror works, which tend to be very psychological with minimal blood and gore. I don’t know an approximate word count yet, but I’m hoping it won’t take too long to write. I was genuinely enjoying the novellas. The characters in that series are really exciting to write about, and there is so much potential. This, though… this is just stuck in my head, and I’m certainly not going to let it go to waste by working around it, even if I am somewhat torn between my stories.

There’s a good chance that I’ll write part of the story and come to a point where I don’t need to continue right away; there are plenty of others in my project list that have taken that route. Of course, with it already started, I shouldn’t have any trouble coming back to it at a later date to finish it off. On the other hand, I might just be stuck with the idea until I’ve written it all out.

One of the funniest things about this story? The characters came to me with names already, all except the main character. I have no idea what his name is. Maybe it will never be revealed. Maybe he is to remain nameless. We will have to see as it all pans out.

~A

Lucid writing

I don’t know how it is for other writers, but sometimes I fall into a headspace where I “forget” I’m writing, and the klackity of the keyboard, or the faint crruuu-cruu sounds my pen makes scrabbling against paper just blend into the story-consciousness. The words are happening in my head, and my body can auto-pilot well enough that they appear on screen/paper without me having to be aware of the progression. That is an awesome thing, and I attribute it to thinking about my stories so often that I know all the important parts and they can just come flying out of me as fast as my hands can keep up.

Sometimes, a scene will come to me, or a snippet of dialogue, and I will find the nearest slip of paper and pen (one is usually clipped onto my necklace; yes, writing is an obsession) and write it down for later. Certain ways of wording something can only be written THAT WAY once, and if I lose it, I might never get those exact words back again. Some people might think it’s not a big deal, or if it were so great, how could I forget them? Frankly, my brain is full of too many ideas, and if I don’t physically catch them when they overflow and fall out of me, they might drift off into the aether. That’s just the way of things. Scenes, stories, plot points, I can turn all of those over in my mind enough times to make them stick, but not always so for those flashes of brilliance.

On the other hand, there are times when I am fully aware that I am writing. I have to systematically work through a setting in my mind, often with mumbled descriptions and hand gestures as I work out the spacial layouts, or figure out how to describe a certain movement. This is when my words are building blocks which I am carefully placing one by one to try and fashion a story. I am lucid and actively participating in the creation as I work through it.

I find that editing a manuscript straddles the line between the two. I read through my work, fully engrossed in the scene until something jars me out of it; the trigger that makes me stop and say, “hey, wait a minute…”, and realise that something needs changing. Then it’s a question of whether I’m able to pour out all the right ideas without thinking about them, or if I have to consciously craft the fixes.

The worst is when I have an obligation to work on one project, while the beautiful inspiration for another is ready to bubble over. Usually, I go the way of “artist”, and let the story with the ideas take what it needs, rather than play at being “responsible” and trudge through my work. To do anything else feels like I’m trying to pretend to be one person, do the “right” things for that life, but all the while speaking with someone else’s words, stolen and re-purposed to suit something they were never intended for. Yo ho ho, a writer’s life for me.

~A