I need to break out of being so self-critical, but I also need to free something my writing is lacking, and that’s liveliness, spark, spontaneity. I’m writing too much out of my conscious mind and not going deeper and connecting with my unconscious and subconscious, where the Muse lives in glittering caves lined with crystals, deep underground. Oddly, she’s all in purple and the crystals are amethyst, though I suspect they change colour.
LOL that I can see her there, now I need to let her speak instead of overruling her all the time and telling her what I think she should say. I do need to write wild. Write down the bones. Let myself write those silly and crazy first drafts like I used to. Because that’s where the good story is. That’s where the interesting stuff is.
I can see what’s happened. This is part of my writer’s journey. I wrote this wild and crazy stuff just for myself to start with. Then I tried to edit it into something else, or wrote something from scratch to fit a particular box. Because I told myself I wanted to write for this line, or enter that contest, so the story had to fit a specific shape. But what I’ve done was write with my editing brain in control, or force a story to be something it never was meant to be.
This means dead writing. Staid formal writing. Writing that lies on the page like a killed butterfly pinned down by a collector. Compare that to the beauty of the live butterfly flying free. That’s what I’ve been doing to my creativity. Pinning it to the page and expecting it to fly.
Ain’t gonna happen. That butterfly there on the page is dead, killed, an ex-butterfly. No miracle or electric current or blue parrot sketch can resurrect her once the life has been pulled out of her.
The problem with a lot of my writing now is, the life was never there to begin with. I’m writing totally from my head and not from my heart and guts and genitals. I don’t know how but I need to reconnect with that wild creative self who wrote for fun. And still keep what I’ve learned about craft.
The main reason I lost touch with that part of me and started writing from my head was because I could see what she produced was fun to write, but unsaleable. I wanted to sell my writing, so it needed to change. As it was, I had no structure. No cohesiveness. No real plot, no cause and effect, just stuff happening. Yes there were some fun lines and some good scenes, but it wasn’t really a story.
That was a big issue that needed fixing. My characters didn’t have goals or motivation, things changed in their lives they had to deal with, but their best goal was usually just to get things back to where they were. Which is a good enough goal, but doesn’t always work so well in a story. Passive characters aren’t so engaging, aren’t so sympathetic. My story people need to want something, bad. So I need to understand goals and motivation and how that feeds into conflict, both internal and external.
I always write my way in. Just gotta accept that and work with that. Don’t stop first draft to fix things. Just accept that I’ll need to ditch or at least heavily cut the first one or two chapters. I do want to write stories that will get editors reading beyond the first two pages! I need to understand starting a story with a bang, with characters immediately in conflict- wanting something and meeting obstacles.
But that doesn’t need to be there in my first draft. My characters went on strike and refused to talk to me for days when I looked at my first couple of chapters and said they had to be cut. They sulked. It took me another week, when I could have got the whole first draft of the novella done if I’d kept writing, to figure out how to start the story. I still don’t know I have it right. Where I went wrong there was not respecting my writing style. I did it wrong last time too. I can’t write polished first draft and tidy it up as I go. I know writers who can, and write superbly. I just can’t.
Or I end up doing what I did last time, submitting something with a first chapter that’s well written and beautifully polished but that isn’t really story. It’s backstory. It might work in a single title (and maybe it wouldn’t there either), but it definitely doesn’t work in a category novella! I imagine the lovely editor stopped reading after three or four pages when the story still hadn’t started.
I can see what I need, a marriage. The wild and crazy feminine muse needs to be given space to do her thing. The red pencil wielding male editor needs to take care of her. He needs to make sure she’s fed and housed and kept safe. He needs to set some boundaries, to stop her going too far off track, but they need to be loose ones.
And once she’s created first draft, he gets his turn with the story. He’s wise enough to know he has to shut up while she’s spinning her yarn and weaving it into fabric. He knows his job is to cut it into shape and piece it into what it’s supposed to be. If he messes with the weaving process, he’ll just produce a mess. If he waits till she’s done her work and hands it over to him, he can take that raw material and turn it into all it has the potential to be. And she lets him, because she sees that both their skills are needed to produce true beauty.
I think many writers do this instinctively, it can feel like it happens all at once. Or they write a chapter, then cut and shape it. But it looks like and feels and sounds to me like I need to do it as separate processes.
They both still need to grow and develop. She needs to channel her wildness. She needs to be willing to come out to play more often, be less temperamental and capricious. He needs to be less controlling, more nurturing. He needs to learn how to cut and shape and form the raw material better so he’s not cutting all the beauty out of the fabric. Too often he tries to turn a soft fluid fabric that will make a gorgeous draped dress into a boxy structured jacket!
I like that marriage metaphor. I like the sewing metaphor. I’m a sewist, so it makes sense to me- I’ve done that using the wrong fabric thing too many times and ended up with something unwearable, just plain wrong, too wrong to be rescued.
The wonderful thing about writing is- it I cut and shape it wrong, I still have that raw first draft to go back to any try again. I can give it a different shape If the story gets rejected by one editor, they may accept a total rewrite and resubmit, even it they did a flat rejection not an R & R. Or there are other lines at the same publisher, or other publishers.
Fabric, not so forgiving. I’ve rescued things that went wrong, cut off sleeves and resewn them, on used the fabric to make something completely different, like cutting a top out of a dress that just didn’t work. I can’t make it bigger than it was, only smaller.
Sometimes with writing there are stories that can’t be fixed as they are. Sometimes instead of slogging on, it’s about knowing when to stop. But the time for that isn’t first draft. For me, first drafts need to be lightning drafts, written fast and messy and furious. They need to be finished, even if editor mind is standing there tapping his red pencil telling me “This is crap.”
I need to tell him to shut the f up. Get back to doing his job, and let me do mine. Write the mess. He can steer me back in the right direction if I’m getting too far off course, but he can’t criticise. He has to trust that the creative self knows what she’s doing.
Interesting right now I relate to the creative self. She is “me” now, because I’m first drafting. I will have to let him be “me” next week when I’m editing.
I love this adventure!