Thursday, July 18, 2013

Method to the Madness: One

(This is from my public Facebook page The Monster's Daughter and Company.) 

I like writing quickly. I don’t think a piece is better—has more quality—because it’s written slowly. In fact, a novel can be overwritten if it’s created too slowly (in some cases) and/or it’s rewritten too many times. I’m speaking of my writing, of course, although I have read some novels by other writers that were devoid, and I found out later the writers had rewritten these books again and again. 

One of the first books I wrote quickly was Swans in Winter which I completed in about 17 days. I did rework it a bit but not much. Some of my readers say it's their favorite book of mine. Church of the Old Mermaids is a perennial favorite of my readers, and I wrote it in about four weeks. I did edit it, but I did very little rewriting, if any. A lot of the power of these books comes from the fact that the stories came out of my consciousness in a rush of pure storytelling.

Novels don’t require perfection. Every sentence doesn’t have to be perfect. Every word doesn’t have to be perfect. Novels are about storytelling; they are about transporting readers to a place and a time and allowing them to be part of the tale. In that sense, the readers become co-creators. Novel writing is about creating a tapestry where reader, author, and characters are all threads woven into this great story, this wonderful experience. Or it is about the reader, author, and characters all walking down the same path and ending up at a destination that will be different for all involved. We—the writers—provide a kind of map or loose instruction for this destination and travel experience. (Ah, three metaphors in one paragraph for you!) 

For me at least, when I listen to an oral storyteller—a good one, one whose singsong doesn’t put me to sleep—she doesn’t have every word memorized or every sentence perfected: She lets the story she knows flow and change as part of her interaction with the audience. It’s not about perfection. It’s about story and connection. And that’s what I try to do, too.

That said, some of you may want to know how I write quickly. A great deal of that comes from experience. I’ve been writing stories since I was in grade school, novels since I was in high school. It’s also about trust. I know I’m good at it. I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, not every book I write is the great American novel, but basically, I’m pretty good as it. I trust the stories I hear from the Imaginal Realms. If I start feeling unsure—and this happens—I give myself pep talks. It's important that we encourage our creativity not denigrate it. Nothing will send creativity scurrying away more quickly than nasty self-criticism. And then it’s butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard, as Jane Yolen says. 

And if none of that is working? I ask Mario to give me a goal. So he’ll say, “I want 1,000 words by the time I get home for lunch.” Or if I’m having a really difficult time, he’ll says, “How about one page by the end of the day?” I can’t believe how effective this is! Even if you’re not married to a writer, you could ask someone in your household to give you a goal for the day and see if it helps. The most important thing—at least for me—is that I don’t beat myself up if a project isn’t going well or I’m not writing up to my goals. The most important thing is for me is to be a participant in my life, and the writing comes second.

But that’s just me. As Mario says, “All writing advice is memoir.” And he’s exactly right. Every writing book you’ve ever read is about what worked for THAT writer (or his students, etc.). In other words, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. All writers have to figure out how to go with their own creative flow...

(Artwork by John William Waterhouse, "Sketch of Circe," in the public domain.)

1 comment:

MaryKate said...

Thanks! This post was perfect this morning :D. I need to take a day, sit down without distraction and just write. My story has been brewing around in my head for a while now... I just need to give it the time it deserves and get it OUT and quit rewriting the first chapter1 *LOL* <3

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