Things are good, writing-wise and otherwise. I’m learning some things about being a fiction writer.
Rule #1 of being a fiction writer: Don’t talk about being a fiction writer.
Okay, that might be overstating it a little, but I am encountering something that I’d never encountered when I was working on poetry. When I talked to folks in the past, about challenges or obstacles I was encountering as a poetry writer, people listened and were encouraging, but didn’t say much about it. Now, I need to be careful not to say there are ANY challenges- I have had four, lovely, well meaning, amazing friends try to “fix” my novel for me. For whatever reason, poetry was too intimidating, or fiction is too glamourous, but really unsolicited advice seems to have a magnetic attraction to novel-writing. I know some of it is friends wanting to be helpful, but it ends up feeling like having someone try to write your book for you. Ultimately, I’ve learned my lesson. If you don’t want advice, then you must never reveal that there are any flaws in your fiction-writing. (Dear friends who have super-kindly offered advice, I probably could have said something to you at the time rather than being all passive agressive like this, don’t sweat it, it’s not a big deal, I’m learning what it is that I want.) If you only say positive, victorious things about your fiction writing, people will generally only say “I’m excited to read it!” Which, if you are me, is exactly what you want.
Rule #2: Your best characters may well disgust you. That is not to say they’re unlikeable- they just might be people you’d personally despise, people who would get under your skin, people who remind you about the things you hate about yourself. Years ago, I wrote a fictional character in a blog that served as the whole of her existence; we interacted, and because I was her author, she knew all about me, and could push my buttons better than any real human being- without giving her a world she could interact with and change, I made her interact and change me- a weird sort of self-outside-the-self that created some of my best writing, and made me feel like an utter nut. At any rate, take your biggest flaws and turn them up a few decibels, take the things you dislike about yourself, and make them vibrant and powerful, and you’ll have amazing characters who are hyperreal and will drive you batty. They are not obstacles or problems- they ARE the story.
Rule #3: Your mood will change your writing. What you’re reading will change your writing. The time of day you write during, say it with me now, will change your writing. What you’ve eaten? What you’re watching? Where you sleep, who you sleep with, what you did at work today, all of these things: Life will change your writing. Accept it. Ride that wave. You can make edits later. You may find you have to rewrite entire scenes or chapters or everything, but you will have discovered what you were looking for along the way. The chapter that turned out dark because of the thunderstorm, the jittery dialogue caused by drinking too much coffee, don’t fight it, ride it.
Rule #4: Commit to doing something new. This is my personal rule for me. I’m not certain how successful I will be at achieving it- but I am confident that I can tell an old story a new way, or take an old form and stuff something unexpected into it. It’ll come. I’m not without influences of course, but the idea is to be conscious of what my influences are, and how I’m using them.
So, down to what am I up to, writing-wise: I’m working on a novel, set in Minneapolis- the idea is to make it obvious, the stuff that I’m making up entirely, the stuff that’s based on something, the stuff that’s an amalgamation of the two. Well, yes this place is quite definitely the Bryant Lake Bowl, but this Bryant Lake Bowl is one where you could fit a grand piano in the wings of the theatre, which isn’t the case in real life.* That sort of thing. There’s a lot going on, and the story isn’t really started-started, but as I was falling asleep last night, I figured a lot of things out, and managed to actually remember them upon waking. At lunch today, I sketched out what the scenes needed to be to get me through the next chunks of writing, so I’ve got a lot of actual writing work to do. It’s good, if I can keep myself on course to get the writing done.
*for the purposes of legality- the places and people in the book are entirely fictional, obviously- none of the things I’m writing about have actually taken place, none of the people are real people, etc. etc. etc. But hopefully the book will end up giving folks the strong sense of being in Minneapolis.
Non-writing, things are going well, too. Busy at work, busy after work, things are going swimmingly with the boy, I don’t have any more writing/performing dates for the next two months, so hopefully I can get a lot of creative work done. Rob Callahan has challenged me to Literary Death Match in October, which is pretty exciting; it is the right combination of professional and ridiculous. I’m working on fixing up a new-to-me old bike, I am enjoying the lakes and the summer, board games and Misfits, my tomato plants are enjoying the alternating heat and downpours.