Friday, August 15, 2008

I Used To Lover Her...

I have a problem. Really, I do. No, it's not your normal, mundane, run-of-the-mill problem that every average person has. It is only a problem that we writers have. Seriously, I have a problem.

I know not everyone cares much for the term 'muse' but mine has been nagging me a lot lately. She has been telling me to write a novel. (Yes, my muse is female and she has a way of yammering at me when I am not writing, telling me that I am wasting time and I will never be a good writer if I don't do it with every free moment I have.) Keep this in mind.

Over the last few months I have started, stopped and started a novel or six. The idea would be really good—even cool—but, for the life of me, putting it together has not been an easy process. I seem to have developed a mental block when it comes to the novel writing process. I have even scrapped ideas just because the concept would mean it would be a novel. When I say scrapped, I mean I wrote it in my Great BIG Book of Ideas and have pushed them as far out of my mind as possible.

This got to the point of utter frustration. I have several novels "in progress," but none of them are near complete. Why? Because I almost loathe the novel writing process. If you know me at all, then this is way out of character. I love to write. I write everyday. I breathe it, talk it, dream it. It's what I want to do when I grow up.

But, for now, I'm stuck. Or, I was stuck, but that would be getting ahead of myself here and I do that too much as it is, so I will try to stick with the idea at hand.

I sat at my desk a few weeks ago, my outline for a novel sitting beside me. I read over it, leaned back and tried to envision the story unfolding. That was the easy part. Then I sat down to write. The first 3000 words were a breeze and I started to get all excited. There was a hook right at the beginning. It felt good. It flowed from my mind to my fingers and onto the computer screen.

The next day I started again and got about 5000 words into it. Then it happened. I lost interest. No, I am not ADD—though if I were, it would make sense. I saved the document and went online to one of the many forums out there. There was a prompt for a contest. I read it, wrote the story, read over it and put it aside. The story was just over 3000 words. I felt good, like I had accomplished something that night.

The next day I sat down to write on the novel and my mind drew a blank. So, I closed it and searched that same forum for ideas. I came across one in a discussion thread about things we used to do as children. The comment I got my idea from was . . . oh wait, I can't tell the comment yet because I am in the middle of that story. Now, here is where it gets a little odd. I started a short story with the intent of it being between three and five thousand words. That story has morphed and is now sitting at just over 12K words and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight. It may well end up as a short novella.

After the story reached the 6K word mark I sat back and read over it. It's actually decent. I made notes in a book by my computer on things to make sure and add or clarify or bring back into the story later. While I did that I noticed that the story wasn't going to be no less than about 15K words. Now, sitting at 12K, I don't think it will be less than 20K.

And you know what? I'm fine with that.

I took a break on that story to work back on my novel. I figured with the creative juices flowing, I would write on the novel, get a few thousand words out and make my 'muse' be quiet for a day or two. Ummm . . . no. The thoughts dried up, my hands couldn't seem to hit the right keys and my frustration mounted.

My muse was not happy with me when I shut the program down and got up from my desk. I needed to work on something else or at least go outside and get a breath of fresh air (if there is such a thing as fresh air anymore). I watered my garden and stood in the tranquility of elephant ears, four o'clocks, honeysuckles and wisteria. All the while, my muse complained that I was wasting time again.

"The plants must be watered," I calmly said and pushed her aside.

As I watered the plants it occurred to me just why I have a hard time writing novels. For me it's simple. I like the idea of completing projects. Most of my projects, including story ideas, have short term goals. I write between three and five thousand words a day, excluding weekends, so at a minimum of 15K words a week. I lean more to the maximum of 25K a week, but it's not the amount of words that count right now.

Well then, what is it? For me, it is the completion of the story that counts, that makes me press on and finish short stories so I can get on to the next one. That is my muse's fault—she got me doing flash stories and then working my way up to longer pieces, but she wouldn't let me stop writing for more than a day or two before she fussed at me again.

But, back to the thought at hand. Completing tasks is something that I try to do as quickly as possible. Writing is the same way for me. I start a story, I want to finish it. I can't say that always happens but I can say it happens over three quarters of the time. And what is easier to complete? A short story or a novel?

You guessed it: A short story.

I realized then that if I focus on the novel—the sheer size of it—then the task is daunting for me. It makes my muse happy, but the words are pure crap. However, if I approach it like it is a short story with a lot of information in it, it may work. Kind of like my novella about . . . oh, you almost got it out of me. Nice try. That novella was only going to be a short story, and look what happened. It is constantly growing. I love the character and what he went through and how he overcomes his adversity.

So, I thought I would try to write the novel without thinking about the big picture. I know where I want it to go and I know all of the main characters as well as the scenery and some of the middle story. I know the problem and the resolution. I know how to get there. Now, I just need to write the story. I started that this past Monday.

I took two other steps to try and get this novel process going and, hopefully, complete the book. The first of these things was to enlist some help. I have a few friends who I asked to stay on me about it, every day, excluding weekends. One of them has been totally faithful about it and the others have been on the ball as well. Each day I check in with them and tell them how far along I am. I have made myself become accountable for writing a novel by enlisting these Novel Buddies to nag me in the real world and not just in my mind.

I started the novel on Monday and now, here I am, four full days in and I have over 7000 words under the belt and I can feel the story living, becoming real in my head. I think I am going to be able to do this. I haven't written my minimum of 1000 words yet today but I will soon. I feel confident that I can finish this novel now and I can honestly say I haven't felt that way about writing a novel since I wrote Unbroken Crayons in 2006 for NaNoWriMo.

I'm AJ and I'm . . . what's that? I said I took two steps to get the novel process done and I only mentioned one of them? Well, I guess you are right. What was the other one? Oh. I killed my muse because she wouldn't stop nagging me. :)

I'm AJ and I'm out.

Now, out of good fun, I give you this video, in memory of my muse. May she rest in peace.

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