Writing What you Fear

Embarrassing to admit, but two nights ago I awoke in the small hours of the morning to a nightmare revolving around zombies. I have always wondered if it is just the writer in me, or if I dream more frequently, vividly, and with the ability to remember them than others anyway. After awaking a few times, I finally had to get up completely to try and dispel the fear that was overtaking my logical thinking. Why zombies? No idea. While the rest of the world goes on Zombie walks and enjoys all manner of movies/TV, I leave lights on and avoid them.

So there it was 5:30 in the morning, still full dark without Fall Back yet. And I finally sit up, trying to shake off the sleep and fear addled brain. And all I could hear was this licking noise from the recesses of the dark room. My cat. That’s it, out to the living room I go so my husband can still sleep. I turn on the light and proceed to do anything to keep my mind off the dream.

But I have to go back to sleep sometime.

I’ve learned over the years that my mind will quiet down if I come to some sort of conclusion. It’s not too picky on what, any ending will usually satisfy. So half-awake, half-daydreaming, I Mary-Jane an ending good enough to sleep until 9 am.

All of this leads to the true point that as I tell my good friend and writing buddy about this night, he thinks the idea is merit-able. That its writable. That I could really do something with it.

And now I have a Scrivener file for a zombie novel….What the hell?

Case and Point: Brainstorming session today in broad daylight of 7 PM, my friend suggests we watch the first episode of Walking Dead. For those in the know, I barely make it past the part where he gets out of the hospital and ends up with the guy from Snatch and son. For others, probably not even half way.

How the hell am I supposed to write a zombie novel (that I can’t even deny I am slightly curious to try…) when I can’t go out on the my porch to watch the wind whistle through the trees because of hurricane Sandy in the dark without waiting for a rotted hand to reach between the bars…

I don’t know if I can write a zombie novel, especially because doing the research for the genre may well kill any restful sleep I get for awhile. In a morbid way, I want to try. Maybe if I can write through this fear that keeps the hall light on at night for a 27 year old, than maybe I can make it through a show without walking away.

 

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Tangental Lines

Writing is my catharsis. It really always has been since I can remember putting pen to paper that very first time with the thought, “I am going to write my own story and it will be the best story.” I was in 3rd(?) grade… and the best story ended up looking very much the same as Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of Unicorns. Yet I have scraps and notes of emotions (very rarely all collected in the same location) that document my life and the emotions going through it.

But I find myself unable to write about this moment:

Inside of me, there a rustle-drag that echoes through my head. The scratch of wood on soft, sandy dirt. It’s the mental equivalent of the line being drawn. There is a part of me, an emotional part, that I am learning was always there. But it never had a name or a title. Without these things, it was a wayward thought. Now, I am beginning to learn it is so much more.

All I want to do is ask others… Others who have lived and made decisions, and found love, only to find that who they thought they were is incomplete. That to deny any longer would actually begin to cause more strife than simply dragging the revelation blinking into the sunlight.

I wish to shout to the world, “I am _____ !” But whispering it in the dark is all I can say for now.

Then one wonders……

If you were raised as <noun 1>. And something you’ve always felt was only a coincidence is suddenly proclaimed as <noun 2> to you, with reasons and documentation and the complete non-judgement of your coincidences. Then would this be reasonable to accept, with your own soul-searching and research, that maybe you are <noun 2>? Finally, if so, how do you then explain to everyone you know that what they all assumed, which was <noun 1> like normal, actually isn’t who you are?

What next?

The Countdown

According to the NanoWrimo website there is 09:09:36:… at the time I start writing this. Can it really be just 9 days? Wow, the time flies.

Do I have the outline I wanted to have? No.

Do I have the hordes of notes I had last year? No.

What do I have? An idea, a character, and a place to go. Discovering writing at its best.

But, I did come up with an intriguing theme as I mused last night. Speaking of which, I have absolutely fallen in love with Brandon Sanderson’s Writing Excuses podcast. I just finished the one on character death and due the briefness of the podcast (one of its finer points if sometimes you wish there was more) they left it vaguely pointed in the direction of if you kill them, kill them well, kill them meaningfully, and make it fit within your genre.

The “meaningfully” and “well” caught my attention more than the genre. I will probably be revisiting that one later. But, to kill a character meaningful and well… That seems like a tall order. So I began to dig around in my memory like a child in a closet tossing items behind me as I picked them up and examined them for likeliness of a good example. Besides, I was looking for something specific. Not a major character death. But a secondary character death that makes you cry and jump up wishing you could be the one to pull them from harm’s way. Finally, I found the gem I was looking for.

*  *  *  S P O I L E R   A L E R T   F O R   W H I T E   C O L L A R   (T V   S H O W)   I F   Y O U   C A R E  *  *  *

Second season, Mozzie is shot. Who is Mozzie you may ask, not knowing but still not caring about the Spoiler alert. He is the quirky, conspiracy theorist friend who has bailed the lead and co-lead out of many a jam. Oh, don’t worry, he complained the entire way, but he never once said no when someone needed him. Then he ends up shot, on a park bench, the gun with a silencer, and almost no one caring about the slumped over guy on the bench.

That’s meaningful. Wait, no that’s well. Meaningful is going to be that without this death the lead wouldn’t ever find out what man was actually pulling the puppet strings.

For those who know, Mozzie makes it. So it’s not my best example. But honestly I hate killing characters.

So why I am going on about this then…? Because for NanoWrimo 2012, I am going to kill a character. And I want to make the reader tear up, like I do — sappy me, watching this death happen.

Ah, but the tangent returns me to my intriguing theme: Trust of necessity and trust of generosity. You can trust someone out of need, and it goes so far. But real trust, the kind given in solid relationships, that generosity. It’s a trust that one gives for the sake of giving. Not for further ends.

And that, my friends, is how you make the death meaningful and well: Loyalty. No really, it makes sense. Look at your own examples. Hell, look how most people react when the Pet (mainly dog) has to die in a film: Old Yeller and I am Legend.

Next goal…write loyalty…. Wonder if there’s a podcast on that.

Write long and prosper. ;-P

The Courage to Write

ImageI am reading a new book. I found it in a sporadic stroll I have started recently of “how-to” books for writing. As I slowly wade through, picking my way on each word and paragraph like an explorer through swampy land, I am realizing things. The sedate pace is not because the book isn’t amazing — it definitely is — and I recommend it for any who are struggling to believe in their writing. It’s because something about each phrase resonates so profoundly within me that I cannot rush. There are a hundred things clamoring for my attention right now, and I continue to come back to this book.

“Faulkner had the courage to accept that flawed work (flawed to him anyway) was better than none at all.” – Ralph Keyes, pg 27

That line accompanied by the facts that I respect Faulkner’s work, the section in the book on writing about what you are afraid to write about, and the crazy response to a short, throwaway post here on the emotions I needed to let out to sleep has thrown into sharp relief what I have been hiding from.

Book 1 needs rewriting not editing. 

Let me outline the differences for my own frame of mind. What I wrote last night was emotional and resulted in a gripping snippet. The opening chapter of my book 1, no matter how I edit it, falls flat. Is it bad? Essentially, I don’t think so. There are elements and emotions there that work well, but it was written by a complacent girl who didn’t live or die by her writing. Alright, that’s a bit melodramatic but truthful enough. I lost my job over my writing, I refuse to lose my heart too.

Right now, I am prepping for NanoWrimo 2012. It’s probably cheating to rewrite the book again. But I was worried about having enough prep to write book 2 on a shaky book 1. I think my old-standby will work instead: writing out of order. I will write 50,000 new words for this November, but they officially don’t have to all come from the same novel.

So I will rewrite the first chapter, and hopefully have enough courage to maybe post some examples of the before and after here. Either way my writing has improved and simply re-editing the same words won’t add my heart back into that opening chapter and it needs to bang.

Write what I should write. Write the way I know how. The rest will follow.

Doesn’t Belong Here

Not sure this statement really belongs here. I will justify it by saying that I think Twitter has outlived it’s usefulness, almost no one is on Google+, Facebook is filled with people making asinine comments, and otherwise there is just space. Writing is my cathartic space, so here it goes.

It’s only been 48 hrs and I miss my husband painfully.

He is alive and well in Columbus, Ohio driving back to be home tomorrow night. I went to Jacksonville to see relatives while they were closer than usual. It still amounts to the fact that I hate being the only one awake with the hum of the AC to add counterpoint to my sleepless thoughts.

The bitter irony is that the job I am interviewing for and really, truly want includes 100% travel with a six week stint in India. Did I mention it was only 48 hrs ago?

I want to do this. I am excited about the opportunity, the training, the money – but I am scared about staring into the dark 5 nights a week. How does one rectify two such disparate emotions inside one mind?

…..

Instead you close your eyes. The AC cuts off, and the only sound is the ringing your ears make up as they search for something to hear. A deep breath in, held, out…wait, again. You think of calming memories, “happy places,” anything to be able to trust yourself to the void. That peaceful place between waking and sleeping when you reach out in habit and there is no breathing anchor beside you. The emptiness shakes you from your half dream state and you shift to begin the whole process over again. Only hoping this time you don’t reach for what isn’t there.

Though I Walk thru the Valley

I am back. I have to admit how sad it is that it has taken me this long to come back. I have no excuses really. And, just like a sinner who only talks to God in times of strife, I am back to recount the past few months.

I had found a job. It was wonderful. I carpooled to work every day with a close friend. We had lunch together. I was getting to know people and learning the ropes. It was challenging, it was all new, and it was glorious. Hell, on top of all that, it even paid well. A week before Labor Day weekend, I sat down to lunch with my boss and we talked about my prospects to continue. My contract was going to be renewed. I had the prospect of a full time gig. I had options.

 

Three weeks later I was fired.

 

Excuse me, as I was corrected at the time, my contract was terminated. Fucking semantics.

The reason? The purpose? My writing. No, the irony is not lost on me. And, in the truth of the anonymity, my first draft was bad. It was an attempt at a tone and a topic I shouldn’t have tried. But I was given a chance to rewrite it. I did with every bit of my craft behind me. I even recruited beta readers and critiques to understand where I had gone so horribly wrong the first time. And it hurt, but I went through it all and examined my mistakes and honed my words.

It didn’t matter. After reading through the entire second draft, my boss looks me in the eyes and tells me it’s still horrible. My world shattered, exploding apart like fine crystal in slow motion frames. In the span of 24 hrs, I lost my wonderful job, the time with my friend, and the paycheck that was allowing my husband and I to make progress on our debt. I was damaged goods and the company wasn’t going to keep me if it felt like I couldn’t perform.

So three months before the holidays, I am jobless and searching for meaning. But then, most people are one or the other, if not both. 

My writing…sits. The 76,000+ words of progress I had made on my first, rough draft of my NanoWrimo novel lays unedited. A unknown ground that lays fallow as the farmer has lost the will to deal with the seasons. I can’t even give it a proper title. Ceara’s story is still that “NanoWrimo” work. November itself looms monstrous in my mind. Whereas up to my termination, I was looking forward to triumph again, to continue this novel, and to learn who Nathaniel is and what he means to Ceara. Instead, I dread the 30 days of writing for the joy of writing, because I am too afraid to lock my inner editor away again. I doubt my abilities and the editor keeps me safe.

It’s such a simple thing to doubt, but it grows like kudzu in the heat of a Georgia summer. 

And the hardest part is that to get better I know I need critiques. I need to continue to write, but its something that I hold so dear to myself that it is hard to hold it out for the world to bludgeon. I don’t try to pretend that I am perfect, that I am some artist. I am just a singular soul who can’t NOT write. I only want to tell a story and being told time and time again how wrong the semantics are wear away my foundation to believe I have a worthy story to tell. 

A new job search it is then. Maybe somewhere along the rocky way I will stumble across the sage who knows the words to restore my faith to write again. Ceara deserves that kind of faith.