Catching My Groove

I find myself, while writing, going back and forth between plotting and free-writing. I’ve found comfort recently in plotting only a few scenes ahead at a time. I know basically where I want the story to go but most of it is up in the air. I’ve gleaned this new way (for me) of writing after a conversation with writer friends.

I would love to paraphrase what my friend, Deanna, said but it hit me as a light bulb moment. and shifted my thinking, but I can’t remember the exact words. I still catch the voices in my head telling me to plot ahead further than I am ready, and remind myself that if the specific idea is not present in my thoughts, that it can wait. To capture the moment of writing what is  there, while it’s fresh and flowing, is more important to me.

I’m still writing during the bits and pieces of time that I can grab between mom duties and find myself relating to what some authors have written about … while having full-time jobs and writing in-between jobs and sleep, or while the kids are still sleeping in the morning. I doubted that any meaningful work could be done that way but, slowly and surely, I’m seeing that it can.

Today, as I was doing my Morning Pages, I realized how I’d been getting to know my characters better. It made me wonder how much richer they’d be if I could spend more time during the day with them, on the page. It got me excited to think about how much more they would be telling me about themselves, how much more they’d show me of where they’d like to go and what they’d do.

I feel them calling me and I need to listen because right now, I only have three or four more scenes plotted for them, and some holes that I need to fill in, before I am going to panic and think, “now what!?” (See? those voices are wiggling in there). I actually have a page in my Scrivener project file called “Where next” that I use for brainstorming “what if” questions. You’d laugh at all of the extemporaneous pages I’ve written just typing conversations with myself to puzzle something out. It helps give the helpful voices in my head a place to be acknowledged and worked with and it’s a nice change from those that work against me.

Is learning copying?

As I go along in the writing process I do what I usually do when I want to learn something–I set out to read everything I can on the topic. I read about writing. How to plot, how to go with it and not plot, structure, grammar, character development, etc. I enjoy reading about the experience and process of other writers and I enjoy reading good works by others. I’ve also read about grammar, although, it doesn’t show from my blogging.  I’m ok with that. My blog is my conversation with myself and flows as it comes to me.

My way of learning is to see what is out there, try some out, and gain some experience. Knowing multiple ways of how something can be done helps me to build a base of knowledge and I believe that that, in turn, gives me freedom in the end. It gives me more ideas to pull from. I will be reading something and think, “Oh, that will never work for me! But this one over here, totally my way of doing things.” So I try it. Then later, after I’ve gone for a while I realize, “Wait. That thing back there that I wrote off? Maybe there is something to it,” and I incorporate a little bit of that. I find my own style from what I’ve learned from others.

I consider this way of initial learning to be my survey, 101 classes. I don’t have to sit through a semester of writing exercises taught by one person with a set way of doing things. I can blow through many methods, and take what I need, not having to spend time hashing out something I’m not interested in. I’m not saying that there isn’t value in learning from others who have different ways that what I think I don’t want. But this way, I’m not stuck in time and commitment when I don’t want to be. I can always go back to those other methods to explore. I know I can learn anything I want to, on my own.

I have moments when I think that this is copying, or not being original, and have always been reluctant to put it out there, to the extent that I don’t put all of the writing books I’ve read on my goodreads account. I mean, what kind of creative person scours other peoples techniques? A true creative just sits down and lets it flow, and it’s genius when they’re done, with no help from anyone else, right? They’re naturals at it if they’re really an artist.

Then I tell myself, that is ridiculous. Everyone has to learn somehow. Great if you’re one of those that just gets it and does it. We often think, when a new sensation hits the big time (in anything) that it’s magic. They somehow just have the gift, and while that may happen, I believe that behind that breakout novel, or incredible artistry, there is still years of work behind it. Somehow they learned it. Maybe they took classes, maybe they’ve studied others, but the bottom line is, they’ve worked hard. They didn’t just sit down one day and think, I’m going to write a masterpiece and boom, here it is.

So, I’m outing myself. I study others. When I read a book and a great sentence or paragraph grabs me I think, “I want to do that!” I don’t copy it, but I study it. When a plot takes a twist I think, “YES! I want to get the reader like that too!” I seek out advice and soak up everything I can find. I file it all away. I don’t sit down and go line by line trying to emulate a person, or their style, but I take it in and try to remember what it is that I, personally, like. I let it percolate in my mind so that by the time it’s my turn, it’s jumbled enough that it doesn’t come out the same.

The Flow

I have been chugging along like the Little Engine that Could on the new book. Part of my practice is to write Morning Pages. They’re supposed to be longhand but, being me, I don’t follow instruction and type them. I can’t get my thoughts out fast enough and my hand cramps when I write longhand so, I’ve modified my technique. I’ve done enough automatic writing in my life that I know this way is working just as well for me.

Sometimes it’s just whining about feeling stuck, sometimes it’s a rambling of what I need to get done, and other times I start to work out ideas that I woke up with about the book. If I feel the flow going towards writing something that fits better elsewhere I’ll either come here to put it down or go right to my Scrivener program (my writing software of choice) and open a “to do” file and jot down what is coming to me so I don’t forget. Maybe I’ll even dive in and actually write the paragraph or scene.

Whatever it is that comes out on my Morning Pages, I know that it’s clearing my head and getting me going. I used to do these years ago and oftentimes did them in the evenings before bed. It doesn’t quite serve the same purpose of clearing my head to face my day but it was beneficial that way too.

One of the things that Julia Cameron talks about in her book Right to Write is, in your morning pages, putting out there to the universe what you want, and it happens. I realize that sounds all new agey woo woo but, I’m a new agey woo woo kinda gal and, it works.

Recently I’ve been putting out there that I want to be in the flow. For the words to come through me easily, to produce a story that engages the reader. I’ve asked for it to come with ease, for me to enjoy the process, and for it to come out well-written the first time. That is, not a usual first draft dump that needs lots of reworking and rewriting. I realize that that will need to be done, but my first manuscript overwhelms me when I go back to look at it on the page, so I’m trying this. Trying to find my personal groove and method for writing.

Asking the universe plants the seed in your subconscious. If you can see yourself doing what you are asking for it plants it even more deeply, since our brains imprint images.

Last night I woke up dreaming about my story and characters. A few lines I had written came to mind, and I saw where I could provide more impact by using different words. I saw the next two scenes that I want to write and saw the characters acting them out. The words formed in my mind of how to translate it to the page. I laid there and thought, I should be writing this down because I always forget these dream state ideas! But I didn’t. I’m happy that I remember them this morning. Something about watching them play out, like a movie in my head, made them stick.

I’ve also been working on my time issues. I have always felt that I never have enough time. Pretty absolute statements in that one little sentence. Always and never, and neither of those are ever true so I knew I had some things to work through. I’ve been working on changing my perception that I need big chunks of time to get into the flow, and if I don’t have them then why bother? This has been one of my major stumbling blocks to achieving personal goals.

Yesterday, before I left for yoga I had about 30 minutes and I thought, you know what, I’m going to give it a try. I also know that you can put it out to the universe but if you don’t show up to do the work, it ain’t gonna happen. So that is what I did. I showed up, skeptical but open. I bet you can guess what happened. I got 200 good words down. That might not sound like much but considering that I’ve only been getting about 300 good words a day total, I felt pretty happy.

When I say “good words,” I mean those that will need very little editing to make them impactful. Not just a telling account of “he did this, then he went over there,” but a showing that draws the reader in. The perfect descriptive words that make you feel like you’re in the story, make you like (or dislike) the character. Make you shudder when you picture the scene.

THAT, is flow. THAT is what it’s all about. Nothing compares to that experience.