Friday, November 21, 2008

Clothing the bones.

Wednesday night I was not in a good place. There's something really wrong with my ears, I don't feel good, Jenny's car broke down, work is stressful and when I sat down to write, nothing was happening.

No, that's not exactly true. Something was happening. Words were getting put on the screen but nothing felt right. The scene was flat, with cardboard people saying uninspired things. I felt like I'd seen this scene a gazillion times and I was just typing. There was no writing going on, nothing original was being said and the story was becalmed in a sea of noir cliche.

Part of the problem is the time frame of the novel. It's 1941 in Washington DC. Needless to say, I've never been there. So I have to make up everything. Yes, the streets are still there and I've done a lot of research on the time, but all the viscera of life, the smells, sounds and energy of the period is something I have to imagine whole.

So here's the scene: A man walks into a nightclub before it's open. He's stopped by a bouncer and asked questions. His boss overhears the interaction and let's the man in. You've seen it before. I've seen it before. And it probably won't stay this way for long.

But last night, I went back to it and suddenly the three men were talking, and acting, like real people, and it felt great. I'm still sick, my ears still hurt, Jenny's car is still in the shop and work is still stressful.

But the writing went well and that makes everything else worthwhile.

I've been doing this long enough that you'd think I wouldn't have to relearn these lessons. Some days are going to suck. Some days aren't. Some days you just write down the bones of a story and later, you get to dress up those bones with original clothing, and then the skeletons start to take on flesh and dance on their own.

I'm impatient. Beneath A Panamanian Moon came out four years ago. Other writers who had their debut alongside me, writers like our friends J.D. Rhoades and Stuart MacBride, are on their fifth or sixth novels. Not that it's a competition. I celebrate their success and try, in my own small way to support these guys.

But it does remind me that I'm not holding up my end. So I get impatient to get this manuscript done and out. I'm too slow and take too much time with the work. On nights like Wednesday, I wonder if I'll ever get this, or any other book, done and published. Then on nights like Thursday, I relax and just enjoy the fun of creation.

I know I'm not alone in this frustration. In fact, if you're going through some tough times, here's the place to vent.

That's it. No punchline. No revelations of epiphanies. Just a story of a writer writing. This is why movies about writers are usually boring.

So, in the interest of entertainment, I leave you with this great little dance. Enjoy.


Anonymous said...

So how many times did you start with "The night was so very sultry"?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have been at the same endpoint in this WIP for six weeks. I add in the middle but no forward movement. My ears hurt too and I think it's from clenching my jaw. I'm allergic to leaf mold and the streets are covered with leaves. I am worried about the economy. Worried about the car workers. Worried about Michigan and the rest. My knees hurt. My husband is sick of my negativity. Do you have another hour?

Anonymous said...

I'm freezing to the face on the current WIP, so I've been working on smaller pieces, staying seated. Staying seated and writing everyday is saving my sanity. I no longer worry about whether the WIP will sell it or not, who else is selling and why I'm not where I wanted to be when I started bec it's all useless drain of energy and I only have so much.

On bad days, I think it'd be better bagging groceries at Harris-Teeter. On good days, I feel so in flow with inner self.

But I don't think I want to adapt anymore to life crap. I gave enough and I'm done. Care-taking and living month to month, week to week not knowing if the big lay-offs will finally hit us has taken its toll.

I do appreciate your humor, David -- never fails to give a lift.


Leo said...

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