Category Archives: Writing

The Chaos Of Me

Post It Notes

I outline in a weird way. I have come to this epiphany after reading how other people do it and realized, the way that works for me is. . . .odd. I am a visual creature. When I am writing I see in my mind things and then try and describe what I am seeing. By the time a story is done or, hopefully, my first novel, I have seen it as a movie in my head over and over, each time with slight little tweaks and bits changed. But I see it and that is how my brain works.

I’ve tried the note card method, the free writing method, the rigidly formatted method and none work for me.

What does work for me are sizes, colors, and spreading things out. I start with rather large (11 x 14) paper. On these pieces are the main big fu-fu parts of the story, the things that must happen to propel the story to its end. This is not only the standard turning points of a three act story but also things that I want to be major that make the story make sense to me. Once I have those written down I begin to pin them in order on the wall with thumb tacks.

Next I take 8.5 x 11 sheets, usually a different color than the big white sheets. These are scenes and they are written out in a random order. I need to know why the story goes from point A (the beginning) to point Z (the ending) and for me that is not a linear process. Each big paper is looked at and I replay the things around it in the movie in my mind. I look to see what details I need to make it happen and make it logical (even in a non-logic based urban fantasy setting). I spread out my thoughts from there, slowly weaving what has to have happened prior to each point to what should happen after another point.

The reason I do this bit is to get the scenes as I want them in my head. It is not an absolute for me. Often I pull the tacks out and stuff them in another place. I am also usually too lazy to respreads all the papers so I can tend to get clumps of papers all shoved into one small place. That is ok for me. That visual lets me know that particular area is important to the movie in my head.

Once I have the scenes, the steps from one fu-fu to the next, done I take out the post it notes. Yellow is for name ideas or object ideas. Purple is for emotional aspects I want to bring out. Green is for important information I need to have expressed by then. Blue is for back story that needs to be told by that point for it to be logical. Pink is for action bits. Orange is for questions I have not answered yet.

Now I stand back and look at the chaotic mess I have made all over the living room. Thing is though, it is not chaotic to me. I see the sizes, shapes, colors as the thoughts I am trying to organize. I keep adding post-it notes until I can’t think of anything more but I don’t put them away. If I do, I will have to grab them out again in no time, never fails.

Now I start to tell myself the story, usually out loud. I tell the story just like you’d describe a movie you saw to someone else and I challenge myself on the validity of the logic for everything that is not based in physics or just common sense. Anything that is a dramatic element of the story is challenged like a parent questioning a late child about where they’ve been. I try and poke holes in my head-movie. I try and draw conclusions to spoil the ending. I try and tear the story apart and sometimes it works. Sometimes I realize “That is just stupid” and then I grab up the post its and start to figure out a way to make it not stupid.

Sometimes at this point I rip up some of the 8.5×11 sheets and figure out a different set of steps to get from fu-fu to fu-fu. Sometimes I rearrange things so they make more sense and line up more with the movie. I add post-its as needed until I feel “Ok, this is what I am seeing and it makes sense”.

Then I leave it alone. I go off and do something else and leave the mess tacked to the wall. When I return I start over and think of the movie in my head. I see how it lines up to the mess on the walls and I try and find big holes in the whole thing. I do this for days and I keep adding little bits or moving things or taking things away until one day I look at the mess and I see it. I see the movie in my head.

Then I start writing it all down in an outline to make sure I don’t lose anything.

But it is all seeing it for me. It is all about seeing what I see in my mind in a mass of colored paper and thumb tacks and only then, when I have poked at it for a long time can I start to write it down and make sure I remember it. I have to see it first.

That’s how I outline.

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The Magic Pen

Fountain PenMany years ago I happened to be at an auction house that had a variety of antiques of all kinds going up on the block. I was there with a friend whose family had several pieces for sale. One of the star pieces for sale at the event was a fountain pen once used by Samuel Clemens (i.e. Mark Twain). The provenance stated it had been used during the period he wrote “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and I was spellbound by the artifact.

Here, sitting before me, just a glass pane away was the tool used by this amazing writer. The very device used by the writer that changed how we write, the voice of books that changed American and the world’s literature. A man who never met a boast he couldn’t top or a story he couldn’t stretch to the very limits of possibility.

It was like a magic totem or fetish to me. Of all the items there and all the interesting histories, that item, that pen was all I could see. It was the personification of being a writer. It was a link to genius and a talisman that I was certain would propel me to get off my ass and write like I always dreamed of writing. The price was . . . equally awe inspiring so I just stared and drank in every aspect of it I could before they got annoyed with me and asked me to stop drooling on the display case.

I remember that pen though. It’s been close to 30 years and I still remember that pen like I had just seen it a moment ago. I do not covet ownership of it. I don’t wish I had the money to get it. Instead I enjoy the idea it is out there somewhere. Like some mystical beast loose in the world. I think of it as better to be out there, the mere sight of it inspiring people to dream . . . to write . . . to create wonderful things in ways no one ever imagined before.

 

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What We Keep, What We Carry and What We Think We Threw Away

A Journal

I always thought we were like a puzzle box. Intricate and crafted so as to be a challenge to understand but with a core secret little space inside us that we choose what we carry forward with us through life. I was sure of this as a matter of fact and would tell people this philosophy with confidence that what I was telling them was the absolute truth.

Then I was writing my first novel and things I wrote reminded me of things I had long ago forgotten. Emotions I was crafting into my character resonated within me and brought back echoes of phantoms from pages past. Not actual events but mirrors, shadows of things . . . Feelings and thoughts that I would have sworn I had thrown out years ago.

I was wrong.

Writing has been a catharsis in a way. Not that anything is lost or purged . . . Quite the contrary as a matter of fact. We are not a box to hold life experiences in like tiny bits of treasure hidden away but a notebook of all that has been. We are a notebook with a thousand different starting and stopping points and a multitude of covers and ways to open it from different angles and different sides. We carry it all with us.

Everything stays . . . we move on. Like reading a novel, the words at the start do not vanish as you read, we just turn the page. Life is like that. Except in life’s notebook the chapters can be inline or they can be at complete right angles or opposite sides or anything between. They can even be all of the above and other things we can’t describe. Forwards, backwards, sideways . . . we turn the pages however we want to.

The bad we turn the page on and leave behind. The good we carry forward to the next page with us to continue the narrative. Nothing is thrown away though. Blacken it with ink, color it with bright swirls or paste pictures over it. . .it will still be there. Rip it out and the absence will be there like a negative image. You will know what is there by seeing what is not and in that way, it will be there.

We need not look back at those things we prefer to leave behind and they need not color the next page if we choose to move on but, they are there.

So, I was wrong. We do not choose what we carry with us because it is all in the notebook of our life. Nothing is thrown out, nothing discarded, nothing erased. . . but . . .

We choose what we carry forward to the next page.

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A Beginning

Book, Writing, Anxiety

What if I am not good enough?

That is the quiet, ever present whisper in my head as I am trying to finish my first novel. I am confident in the idea and the story. I am sure of the twists and action and the overall story arch and message. I am especially sure of the message which is ironic because that is the major underlying theme of the story.

Yet sometimes the words feel like they won’t come. They feel all bunched up and twisted inside my head so that they don’t flow. Then I wonder ‘what if they are not good enough’. Maybe there is a reason they won’t flow. I know the story is good so maybe it is just the teller of the story that is lacking.

I have published collections of erotic stories that did well enough. I know I can write but what if, in a cruel quirk of fate, I am just not good enough to write something that doesn’t end with a money shot? What if base titillation is the peak of my ability?

I know the advice to just push through and to believe in your own words and not to worry because you can always revise and rewrite. I know those things are all true but still I find myself paralyzed at times by my lack confidence in my own ability to tell a story to the fullness that I think this story deserves. We’ve all read things or seen movies that were good ideas slaughtered by bad writing or, worse still, just left limp with a muddled, lack luster telling. It is like the story was betrayed in the telling.

If I could tell you this story you’d understand why this is so ironic, my own battle with fear. I actually completed it once. I typed out 93,000 words and finished it only to realize that telling it in third person didn’t work. The power of the story is lost if I am not directly linked to the story in first person. I have to own the story even though I am not basing the character on myself in any way; I have to own the point of view. I just feel if I am not willing to put myself into it, to bare myself to it, it means nothing and this story deserves to mean something.

So I am going to be 51 in a little over a month and I am still paralyzed by my fear of not being good enough. I am pushing through, I am pushing the story out because I can always go back and revise and rewrite . . . but it is not easy. Maybe it is not supposed to be.

Maybe the facing of my own fear is the price I have to pay for writing this story.

It is a lot easier to write smut. As long as it titillates, it’s ok. It has served its purpose and fulfilled expectations.

I want something more than OK though. I want this story to be the thing I see in my mind, the emotions I feel in my heart as I write it. I want the power I see in it . . . I want to share that.

I hope I am good enough.

 

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