Michaeline: Finding Writing Hope on the Internet

A young woman weaving with ships' sails in the background

Odysseus travelled, but Penelope had to make her journey in one place. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

As I mentioned in the comments yesterday, I tend to look for approval from the outside, not quite trusting my own judgement when I approve of something from the inside, so to speak. I think a lot of creative people do.

Before Jeanne’s excellent post popped up, I also ran across the latest installment in The Atlantic’s series on writing. This month, Anna North says, “Writing is the Process of Abandoning the Familiar.” Well, she actually talks about a quote from the Odyssey, about how our hero should take an oar, walk inland, and when people ask, “What the heck is that thing?” he should offer a sacrifice to Poseidon. And, then she meanders around in an entertaining way until she gets to a paragraph near the end which made me feel much better.

She said:

It might sound cheesy, but I think writing is a kind of a journey. For me, especially if I’m working on a novel, it takes at least a year of fumbling around before I really get anywhere. As you try to imagine yourself into this world, it’s a process of writing stuff, throwing it out, writing, throwing it out. You’re trying to create this place for yourself inside your head; it’s very hard to get to that place, and it takes a long time to get there. But then, finally, there is the sense that maybe you’ve arrived, though you’ve had to discard a ton of stuff along the way.

And that made everything OK yesterday. I’ve been fumbling around for about seven months, but I have been fumbling every day. I’m finally at the point where I’m letting go of the stuff that isn’t working, and allowing stuff that will work – and work harder – to come in.

A decade ago, I often wondered how it was that writers needed to spend a year writing a book. (-: It only took me five hours to read it, after all. Now I know – the writing is one of the easier parts. It’s building the story that takes a lot of time. Time that can be frustrating and bogged-down and just stand-still at moments – but time that is generally well-spent.

Maybe someday, I won’t need another writer to tell me those things, to give me the permission to explore and journey through my book. But it was very welcome yesterday. Hope it helps you today.

8 thoughts on “Michaeline: Finding Writing Hope on the Internet

  1. Michaeline – I too used to wonder why it took my favourite authors so long to write each book when it took me so little time to read it. Now I know better.

    Glad your journey of exploration is working for you. I think that’s part of the fun of the writing process – the discovering, playing, fumbling around, and then finally figuring things out.

    Keep up the good work.

    • You are absolutely right. I love the research. I love writing (when I’m writing and not just wondering what I’m supposed to write). One of the things I hate is not being where I think I ought to be. So, this is my big revelation this week: I am exactly where I ought to be. And I should make the most of it.

  2. I started a new book this week, and after I wrote one scene, 800 words, I was stuck. I could have wept. But, yes—it’s about discovery. Back to the drawing board. Try again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    • Ouch! I know that feeling. All of my earlier (pre-McDaniel) novels were four to twelve pages of character development. (Except for my jr. high collaboration (-:. I had good friends and teachers counting on me to do my bit, and my partners could really write/edit. I was basically the one who sat at the typewriter and slogged out the first draft.)

      It’ll come! And unlike Marvin the Martian, we won’t blow ourselves up, either (-:.

  3. Perfect timing, Michaeline, thank you for this post 🙂 . I feel as though I’ve spent the last three or four months fumbling around. I started Cam and Mary’s story. And then again. And then again. Then I decided I didn’t know enough back-story to write them on the page together properly. So started a novella/prequel from earlier in their relationship. One false start (good content, wrong players, wrong conflict). One not-so-bad, but still not right.

    The good thing is that I now know a lot about the main Cam-and-Mary story, which I did not know back in February. I know how Mary came to Scotland and why she’s still there, and what happened between her and Cam, and that’s been bugging me for ages. I also figured out yesterday that there’s a bigger question I have to answer, for this book and for the whole series. Dunno the answer, but at least I’ve managed to excavate the question. That’s good. I think. Ask me again next week.

    So I think I’m making progress. Fumbling, blundering, slow, inefficient progress. Feeling better about it now!

    • (-: Not false starts, but research — or what at one point in class we termed “making lumber.” I am pretty sure you’d been thinking about Rent and Cornflakes for several months before you even started class. The parts you showed us in the second course were already well-developed. I’d been thinking about my story for at least a year, and thought I’d had a first draft thanks to my first NaNo. And then, I learned about Goals and Character Arcs. LOL, someday, I’ll go back to that story, when I have more practice at working with a cast of thousands.

      (-: Since my current work is simply a cast of dozens, almost all humans or former humans, my task before me is a little easier than The Djini and Ms. Jones . . . . .

      Let’s keep slogging! We are great writers, and we’ll write something nobody has ever seen before!

  4. Thanks, MIchaeline–your timing is perfect. Last weekend I attended a plotting retreat with the amazing Mary Buckham, where I tried to lay out the plot for the next Touched by a Demon book, only to realize I had no idea what that book’s about. By the end of the weekend I was supposed to have the whole book plotted. That didn’t happen, but the good news is, I think I know who the main characters are, their external arcs and their internal arcs (jumping from inciting incident to resolution, not much in the middle yet). Now it’s time to sit down and start writing a bunch of stuff I’ll later throw away as I figure out what happens in between.

    The best thing for me has been realizing that what I learned at McDaniel–about giving them external and internal goals and about conflict–has given this book a much stronger start than the previous one.

    • Hurrah for stronger starts! Did you find this makes you more of a plotter than a pantser now, or were you always a plotter?

      I am coming to suspect that I am a plotter. But I have to be a pantser until I come up with the plot (-:.

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