At the risk of sounding really pretentious, I’m going to reflect on some quotes about writing in this post.
(Yes, that does sound revolting. Maybe “provide some verbal diarrhoea” works as a less supercilious alternative to the word “reflect”.)
So I came across this article by Gladstone, and this quote from J.D. Salinger jumped out at me:
Novels grow in the dark.
Gladstone suggests that “if you see the scenes too clearly, the magic disappears and you (or at least I) feel like a mere reporter of events. But if you stop while there’s still a little left — if you don’t record every known thing in your imagination, but keep thinking about it — something happens.
“Each newly formed idea will lead to another, slowly building. Then you can go back and edit to more fully understand your journey and focus it just enough toward the future.”
That, I think, is what makes writing a novel so terrifying. You don’t know for sure where you’re going. At first, I tried to compensate by planning EVERYTHING. But then, like Gladstone said, it got boring. I felt like I was just trying to get from Point A to Point B. It was efficient, but it was also incredibly dull. My writing was flat and characters moved like 2-D characters.
So now, I just write the query letter, i.e. the blurb. That little paragraph on the back of a book that entices the reader to read the book, but doesn’t give away the ending. So I write with an IDEA of how the story will end – I know how I want my characters to have changed by the end of the story – but I don’t know exactly how. Sometimes, this can be a problem. But once you push through, the process (read: angst) becomes all worth the sweat and tears, because you discover and learn about your characters as you write, making the journey all the more rewarding.
It reminds me of this quote by E.L. Doctorow:
Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
It’s scary, but I guess that’s part of the fun.
Paul Graham weighed in on doing what you love:
You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.
But I’m not one of them.
I’m afraid of having too much of an opinion about things, of caring too much about a certain cause, because there’s too much assertion of myself, too much commitment to perform an identity. I am what I am. I like romantic comedies and fluffy chick-lit novels most of the time, I like to write contemporary YA romance, and I shouldn’t have to feel like my stories are inferior to those with heavier themes (maybe in writing quality, but not in theme or genre).
So I should aim to write a novel that brings a cause to light or inspires my readers, but I don’t. Because I like character-driven YA, I like writing stories that concentrate on a few characters and their growth/transformation. And these type of stories shouldn’t be deemed inferior to “serious fiction”, because each piece of fiction is the reflection of one person’s experiences. Who’s to say one person’s experience is less important than someone else’s?
My god. I don’t even know what I’m rambling on right now. I woke up in the middle of the night last Saturday and stayed awake, scribbling down ideas for Neverland in my notebook for two hours before conking off again. I think the effects are catching up with me now.
Nathan Bransford on why distractions can be good for writing:
You can’t write if you don’t live. You can’t write good books if you’re a writing machine who doesn’t take time to live life fully outside of your work.
Some of the best inspiration comes precisely while you’re distracted, while you’re actively not thinking about writing and just noticing life.
Let yourself be distracted. It can be your most productive time.
I feel like lately I’ve just been rushing to churn out words with Neverland. And this is not how I want to go about doing this. It’s supposed to be fun! I was so excited to write Gemma and Cole’s story at the beginning! It was all bright and shiny and carnival lights and Peter Pan magic! Why do I feel like this is dragging on now? Why are my sentences getting flatter and less varied now? Why am I repeating more tired cliches? Why am I relying on pointless banter to fill up the pages when I should be injecting more action and conflict? And why are my secondary characters hanging around like limp sods when they should be playing the role of the antagonist?
Is this the mid-story drag? Or do I need to step away from this for a while and work on something else? Speaking of something else, I’m really missing Blood Promise. I was halfway through the final FINAL edits before Neverland came up and I flung myself into it.
No. Do NOT get distracted, Joyce.
But Nathan said –
NO. Cool off a little, but do NOT get distracted. The first draft is always the hardest.
Okay, I need a perk-me-up. Or maybe just some sleep. (Note to self: go easy on the tea right before bedtime!
Hope your Monday is less drowsy than mine! :0)