Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Essentials Of Writing

I'd made the jump from commercial to creative writing while sliding feet first into middle age. So I took my first novel class at UCLA Extension Writers' Program in the spring of 2002 because the advanced short story class was full. I had no intention of writing a novel, rather, Novel I was simply going to be a look-see into an area I'd never considered. Through a series of exercises designed not so much to give us direction on 'how to get published" but to slow us down and teach us about the craft of writing, we had plenty of time to explore. Needless to say, I was hooked.
Looking back at the papers I saved from that period, there were exercises on stream on consciousness writing, dialog, taking postcards and writing a scene based on the picture. There were more, and through this I learned the three most essential things for a writer are:
  1. Quit thinking so much. Inspiration is at your fingertips everyday.
  2. Patience is a necessity of writing.
  3. It helps to have friends.
But I haven't worked on the manuscript for the past six years in a row. No, I did other things. The writer in the studio only writing is only a fantasy. I had to work. I have kids. There's a house that falls apart. Some years, I took classes in other things, like poetry. For a year and a half --or maybe it was two, life took over and the novel just sat there untouched. I also read a lot. My advantage has always been (and maybe it's because I was raised in a small town) --I understand there's a time for everything.
But, a wonderful thing happened almost two years ago. I met my friends and we formed The Writerly Pause. There's a core of about 5 people, and we --John Yelverton, Sovann Somreth, John Louis Peters, David Cossaboom, and myself have all taken turns being Indiana Jones.

For the past year, amid some daunting familial and financial upheavals, I've been working sporadically on the final rewrite of my novel. There were times when I forgot the story line, when I couldn't remember the names of characters. Now, I understand that this was caused by the stress of the tumultuous times. It was never a matter of me being stuck in a rut --I would have loved a rut, but the day's schedule could literally turn in a moment. Often I had to write in short bits --stolen minutes of time between disasters. Through it all, I was encouraged by people like Frank Schaeffer and Patricia Wood as well as all my friends in The Writerly Pause.

This blog was a lifeline on the days when I couldn't write because the stress of being a caretaker was utterly disorienting. These were the times when all I could do was blog...blogging is a form of conversation. And boy, did I need to talk! So thank you all!
Scene 74 was finished today. It is the final chapter. As it turns out, I like my book.
Tomorrow I'll follow the example of Frank and Patricia. I'll print it up, put it in a binder, read it through, make notations and then, in a final flurry... make the changes and then send it out to a few well-chosen readers. No it's not over. A new part is just beginning. But yes, this is a really great step.