Sometimes the day goes wrong and you just can’t write.
Well, in a fit of exhaustion, I managed to delete tonight’s blog entry. I can’t believe it. I need a nap.
Basically what it said was:
Bob was right when he said I had to fix that plot point. I offered a compromise, he tweaked it and made it better (but NOT a tac nuke), and now I have a great ending because of it. So Bob is a hero.
Because of that, the first and fourth acts really pulled together and now make sense. The Mess in the Middle is still a mess, but I’m getting closer.
Trudy has a complete four act character arc that makes sense and will pull the whole novella together.
Nolan has a first and fourth act chartacter arc, and I’m sure there’ll be movement for him in Two and Three once I solve the Mess in the Middle.
There are two motifs for sure: Santa Baby sung by four different artists and the phrase “Maybe it fell off the sleigh.”
The settings are still a structural problem–toy store, street, cab, outside of warehouse, warehouse, outside of warehouse, home–but if I make the transitions tight, I might be able to get a kind of hero’s journey going there, or at least a Red Riding Hood thing, with Trudy trying to get her basket home past all the wolves.
And I’m generally feeling much more optimistic. Except that I just lost this whole blog entry which had much more detail. Definitely time for a nap. Or maybe some time on the treadclimber, that often jumpstarts my mental processes.
I can’t believe I lost an entire blog entry. I was using it for notes for the story, too, so it’s really bad. Must learn to hit “Save As Draft” when I wander off.
Oh, and I wrote nothing today. Not a word. So I have two days left to write 8,000 words.
Bob pointed out earlier this evening that I am rejecting all his help on Trudy without even considering it. He’s right. I look at everything he says and think, “Background story, not Trudy’s,” without considering that what’s in the background might illuminate Trudy. And in fact, it did, although Trudy’s starting to turn into the Expostion Fairy. It’s like that scene in Gremlins where Phoebe Cates talks about how her father dressed up like Santa and got stuck in the chimney and died and that’s why she hates Christmas. Funny as hell in the movie, but not quite what I was going for here.
Maybe it’s a tone problem.
But the problem Bob and I are struggling over is one plot move that I think is essential and that he keeps pointing out, rightly, makes the rest of the story very difficult to motivate. So I’m creating my own problem here because I’m clinging to this plot point and I can’t really tell him why. Well, I can, but as he pointed out, rationally and cogently, I can accomplish the same things in other ways that won’t make my plot ridiculous.
So I should try to plot this by taking out that point and approaching it the way he suggests. Except that approach knocks the plot off, I think. It just feels wrong. And while it is true that I am stubborn as a pig (he did not put it that way), I think when I hold onto something this instinctively, it’s because it’s important. I can completely understand why my pig-stubborn insistence on that plot point while asking him for help is making him want to drive six hundred miles with a shovel (he didn’t write that, either), but I think when you know something is right, you just go with it. Even when your professional better half e-mails you and says, “YOU’RE WRONG.” (He did write that.)
But then, of course, you solve your own problems since you’ve driven your writing partner to ALL CAPS in his frustration with you. And then pray he’ll forgive you when you come back later and say, “Could you look at this action stuff to see how lame it is because I really am bad at this and you’re great at it.” Fortunately, he’s a very patient and forgiving soul. So I have my hopes.
You know, it’s always hard, but every time it seems worse.
Okay, this plan-by-scene thing is not working. Evidently I don’t write in scenes.
I do, however, seem to write in acts. That’s the good news. Oh, and I’m at 10,000 words. In theory, halfway done with the rough draft.
The bad news is that there appear to be only three acts. And I’m pretty sure I need four. The first act set itself up nicely. The fourth act seems to know where it’s going. But as usual, it’s the mess in the middle that’s going to get me. Probably because I had this entire novella planned to take place from six PM to six AM. Not a lot of time to develop character in there let alone a romance.
So I’ve dragged out my trusty white board, scoured all the Don’t Look Down notes off it, and started diagramming Trudy. I know the turning points, but that does me no good if I don’t know the people. The key is to make Trudy determined and unyielding without making her dumb as a rock for not just giving up the toy when all these dangerous men are trying to take it from her. I have to make the reader say, “Hell, I wouldn’t give it up, either.” Which goes back to motivation. If they love Trudy and they believe that she believes she has to get that toy, they’ll take the ride with her. Otherwise, she’s a TDTL heroine: To Dumb To Live.
Write this down: Character is the soul of fiction. Yes, I know that’s obvious. But it appears to be a lesson I learn all over again every time I write.
So I’m at 8500 words, and I’m wondering: Do first drafts always suck?
I don’t remember my early stuff being this bad, but then all I remember from early stuff is the final drafts. And once again, I’m writing 95% dialogue, which I was hoping writing with Bob had broken me of. Radio plays, I should write radio plays.
I like these characters, I just don’t believe them. They’re perfectly nice people, except for the bad guys who do have motivation for being Bad, but I don’t believe they’re real, I’m not worried about them, there’s no blood in their veins, no juice in their scenes. I feel like I’m typing instead of writing.
So tomorrow, I’m definitely putting in time on the collage. I used to just paste pictures and put things from the books around the computer, but people like Jo Beverley and Barbara Samuel and Susan Wiggs kept swearing by collage, gluing the pictures down together, so I thought, “What the hell?” and I tried it. Amazing process, which I immediately lost my grip on, of course, and did these elaborate things, but they work, so I’m good with it. The idea isn’t to illustrate the story, it’s to glue together pictures and objects and words that create the mood of the story so that you can look at it and be sucked back in to that place and time. People usually scoff in the beginning, but then they try it and they’re hooked on it. Well, female writer people. Male writers tend to resist it with every fiber of their beings. At least the male writer I know. But I digress.
So I had this old shadow box that I’d saved for a future collage, and while I was daydreaming this book, I thought of it, and it fit that old toy store the story opens in. So I took the glass out of it and chipped out all the ugly crap the store had glued in and started collecting the Stuff. In this case, the Stuff was pictures from an Anthropologie catalog because their models always look so annoyed (conflict), and a bunch of Christmas stuff including a cherub with a violin, and a toy policeman from Goodwill. There was one sulky model slumped on a couch that looked like Trudy’s sister, except her hair was too big, so I cut some of it off and put that in the background of the box. And there was one model who looked mad as all hell, but she was too skinny so I glued some patterned paper on her for a wider skirt and colored her jacket with markers to thicken her waist. And I tried to fix her face with markers, too, but she’s still too damn skinny. I blame Kate Moss. So I’m looking for a new head for her, and in the meantime, I’ve cracked the wings off the cherub and painted it to look like a little boy in jeans and a red T-shirt for Trudy’s nephew Leroy, and I painted the policeman toy in camoflage so that it looks like the insane war toy doll, Major MacGuffin, right down to the artificial raspberry I painted Army green to look like a grenade.
Yes, I am insane, what’s your point?
My point is that if I can get these visuals in here, I can start to get a grasp on the book. And then as I glue things down, relationships become apparant, and motifs, and the story starts to organize itself. I’ve done them before (if you want to see them, they’re on the website under “Fan Trivia”) and they always help. And this one is so early yet, it’s missing so much stuff, that I’m thinking maybe tomorrow, I’ll work on that before I try to write more.
But I did get my 2000 words done today. 8500. They’re not good words, but they’re words.
Edited to add:
Here’s what the finished collage looked like:
Okay, I HATE writing to an outline. Just wanted to share that.
But . . .
The mailbox stayed painted and looks great.
The collage is coming together which should make rewriting this mess easier.
I did another 1000 words. Yes, I know I’m behind. I told you I hate this.
Some of us were just not born linear. Which is why we collaborate with people who were.
I swear, it feels as though this story is lurking just out of reach of my frontal lobe. I know it’s out there, I can see it moving around in the darkness, and yet . . .
Oh, well, tomorrow is another day, Scarlett.
The new Terry Pratchett is out. THUD. That’s the name of it. It’s sitting next to my couch right now and I CAN’T READ IT. And it’s a WATCH book, too. The agony. If I read it, I’ll start writing in snarky omniscient and my already tentative grasp on Christmas romance will go all to hell. But it’s a NEW PRATCHETT. I’m suffering here.
But Sept. 30, when this first draft is done, I’m reading it. With a liter of Diet Coke and the junk food of my choice, I am going to have a wonderful time with Vimes. And Sybil. I suppose Susan is too much to hope for, but certainly Carrot and Angua. Oh, just hell. I hate delayed gratification.
In other news I have 647 unanswered e-mails to go before I’m caught up. So I ignored them and spent two hours today painting my mailbox which happens to be on a very busy highway (“Novelist Killed in Tragic Mailbox Incident; Friends Say, “She Always Was A Moron”) only to go back to the house and hear thunder. I’ll have to go and look at it tomorrow to see if any of the paint stayed on during the following deluge. The good part is that it gave me time away from the computer to think, which was good.
Because then I came inside and wrote. I’m at 5, 527 words, and some of them are good. This might be working. I mean, technically, that’s a quarter of the novella. It’s going to turn out a lot longer than that, and then I’ll have to cut it, but I made some progress here. The characters are shaping up. I got me some motifs.
This could work.
So let’s see what we’ve learned:
- If you give up sugar for three days, the craving does not go away. I just had a sundae and it was delicious.
- That 2000 word a night thing does not work if the words aren’t in your brain. I reread those 2000+ words from last night. They stink on ice.
- Some of us aren’t linear thinkers.
But I’m on it. I’ve got the collage started, I’ve got people talking in my head, and I’ve got an outline with beats. What I did get done today: Brainstorming for DLD marketing, beginnings of collage, and internet research. (It’s not like I didn’t work. I swear.) Tomorrow I’m going out for more Diet Coke and pretzels and trying this again.
So I’m behind what now? 4000 words?
I did 2358 words. They’re lousy words, but by God I wrote them.
Plus I downloaded four versions of Santa Baby from iTunes to inspire me. I can’t find any of my Christmas music, so that’s something else to do tomorrow because I definitely need Christmas music. I’d do Christmas cookies, too, except for that no refined sugar thing. Maybe drag one of the little Christmas trees out of storage just until the novella is done. It’s hard getting Christmassy in September.
It’s also hard writing because this is season premiere month, so I’m missing a lot of new shows. Thank God for Tivo, although the hard drive is filling up fast. I cheated and watched Miami Ink tonight because I’m hooked on it, and NCIS because I’m hooked on Mark Harmon and Pauley Perrette, but everything else on there is untouched and calling to me. I love TV. All those people who say, “I wouldn’t have a TV in my home,” I just feel sad for them. No Buffy. No House. No Bobby Goren. No Lorelei and Luke, no Muldaur and Scully, no Rush and Valens, no Charlie and Don. No Jon Stewart, for heaven’s sake. What are they thinking? They can’t tell Galactica from Serenity or Spike from Angel. It’s just so sad.
But enough about them. I wrote 2358 words. Two scenes that are not well-developed and are going to need major work, but hey, they’re on the page.
This is when I always have grave doubts about the whole writing thing, especially my writing. Seriously, this is lousy, lousy prose, but it’s always lousy in the beginning until I find the rhythm and the characters, until the words start to bounce. So tomorrow I’ll do better.
The important thing is I got 2358 tonight.
So I’ve been refined sugar-free for two days now. I think. I’ve been eating Smucker’s Simply Fruit jam and it occurred to me that manufacturers sometimes lie, so I checked the ingredients and there’s something called “fruit syrup” in there. “Syrup” usually means “sugar,” but then again, fruit has natural sugar in it, so . . . I googled. And some woman is suing Smuckers because the jam is not “Simply Fruit” but is also fruit juices and fruit syrups and fruit pectin. For once, I’m on the side of Big Business: It didn’t say Simply Strawberries, lady, it said Simply FRUIT. And now I’m thinking there’s no refined sugar in fruit syrups, so I really have been sugar free. And it’s been pretty painless, too. Somebody said if you go without sugar for three days, you’ve kicked it. That seemed too easy, so I googled again.
There are a lot of people out there who seem to think that white sugar is The Devil. They want me to give up canned corn for fresh corn on the cob, but honey, I live in Ohio and fresh corn on the cob is only available for a brief time. The stuff in the wrapped packages in the produce section is not fresh. Fresh is when you pick it and bring it into the kitchen immediately and cook it with some of the silk still on it or bake it in the husks. Everything else is Old Corn. That guy wanted me to keep a journal of what I eat, too. I understand that many people find this helpful, but I’m a writer, for heaven’s sake. I can’t waste my writing on a food journal, I have to make a living. Plus he said to write everything down, like five M&Ms. Who the hell ever ate five M&Ms? And you know I’d get distracted and start writing riffs on zen of five M&Ms or something. This guy is just not in touch with my reality. Further proof: He said that if you usually eat ice cream before bed, you should substitute a potato. No, I am not making this up. I can hear Gaffney on this now. She has strong feelings about ice cream.
Then there was the site that said if I don’t kick sugar, I’ll be an alcoholic. Since Maui, I have not had any alcohol because of the distressing lack of little umbrellas in Ohio, but according to this site, “As bodies lose their ability to rapidly metabolize simple sugars cravings begin for ever increasing concentrated sugars, finally ending with alcoholism.” Then I look down and the guy’s selling the cure for sugar metabolism disruption. Always read to the bottom of the page. Then there was the site that said I had to take supplements to balance the nutrients I was losing in giving up sugar; guess where I could get the supplements. Or the smug sugar-free guy who talked about stopping along the Appalachian trail to pick the chocolate pieces out of his trail mix. That has to be one of the top ten signs of incipient serial killer-ism.
None of them said it would only take three days. Damn.
But all that googling put me behind, she said, whining. And I was gone all afternoon doing that maintenance stuff that soaks up so much time, like buying paper towels and picking up prescriptions and waiting in doctor’s offices. And then . . .
You’re not buying this, are you?
Okay, I didn’t write anything today, but I did expand that basic outline so that I have all the scene beats in there. And now I’m going to go through and see what I’ve got there and what I’ve missed. It’s actually the most complete outline I’ve ever done. Well, it’s the only outline I’ve ever done, but it’s really complete. I’m wondering if by the time I get the outline done, I won’t need to write the book. And I know I’ll never be able to do this for 100,000 words. It’s just not happening. But it’s looking pretty good for 20,000.
Or it would be if it hadn’t been for the Smuckers debacle and those anti-sugar freaks on the net.
It wasn’t my fault. Google made me do it.