The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, June 6, 2017:

 

Nothing else does quite as much [as imagination] for most people, not even the other arts.  We are a wordy species.  Words are the wings both intellect and imagination fly on.  Music, dance, visual arts, crafts of all kinds, all are central to human development and well-being, and no art or skill is ever useless learning; but to train the mind to take off from immediate reality and return to it with new understanding and new strength, nothing quite equals poem and story.

Ursula LeGuin

WORDS ARE MY MATTER: WRITINGS ABOUT LIFE AND BOOKS, 2000-2016, WITH A JOURNAL OF A WRITER’S WEEK

 

 

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The Prompter Room

For Friday, May 12, 2017:

 

A poem or story consciously written to address a problem or bring about a specific result, no matter how powerful or beneficent, has abdicated its first duty and privilege, its responsibility to itself.  Its primary job is simply to find the words that give it its right, true shape.  That shape is its beauty and its truth …

Art reveals something beyond the message.  A story or poem may reveal truths to me as I write it.  I don’t put them there.  I find them in the story as I work.

Ursula Le Guin

WORDS ARE MY MATTER: WRITINGS ABOUT LIFE AND BOOKS, 2000-2016

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, May 17, 2016:

 

” … The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Sylvia Plath

“Your only responsibility as a writer is to be true to the story that has chosen you as its writer.”

Jean Little, via LiteraryLighthouse.com

A story sits before me right now: the hardcopy proof of my novella.  This is my last chance to catch typos and make changes before it’s released to the world, so I’ve been going through it with what I hope is the editorial equivalent of a fine-toothed comb since Friday.

I loved the story and its characters as I wrote and when I went over the digital proof.  I still do.  Now, though, as I progress through the physical copy, I find myself wondering if it’s any good after all.  Is the writing as good as it can be?  Is it effective?  Does the storyline make sense?  Did I tie up all the pieces, connect all the dots?

This is where I have to trust.  I have to trust my early readers, all of whom say it’s a good story – and yes, according to them all the pieces come together, everything makes sense.  I have to trust my instincts now.  I have to trust the characters and their parts in the story.  They definitely chose me, not I them – and they’re still speaking as I embark on the second story in their collective series.

Another thing I have to do is not compare this story to other novels.  It’s not a thriller, it’s not jam-packed with action or brilliant technological details or sex or horror or … whatevers.  I can’t write those books and I don’t want to.  There are plenty of others who can and do, so I’m not going to get stuck wishing I could.

I can edit such books – I have, and I enjoy doing so – but I’m just not called to write them for some reason.  Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, but I tend to hear the voices and the stories of the shy, quiet ones, and that suits me fine.

Well, there’s a new insight – I’ve never thought of that before!  If I’d not been talking myself out of my self-doubt, I don’t think I’d have reached such a realization.  Thank you for bearing with me as I wrote through to this point.  Now I can say with conviction that the story is good, and that it seems to have chosen me for a reason – perhaps to give voice to some of the more reserved and taciturn among us.  I can do that.

That being said, I’m not sure how quiet I’ll be when it’s time to announce the book’s release in a week or two … but that won’t happen if I don’t finish going through the proof.  It should go a little faster now that I’ve worked through the doubts.

The Prompter Room

For Friday, May 6, 2016:

 

“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story.  You never quite know where they’ll take you.”

Beatrix Potter

Rather like the first words of a poem, the first sentence of a blog … Where am I going with this?  Where can I go?  I think one of the first things we writers learn is that it’s not ‘I,’ it’s the words.  They decide the direction.

And the characters, too, of course.  And ‘my’ characters are talking to me again – kind of.  They’re all assembling anyway, even in my dreams last night.  Which means it’s that time.  The first book is done (and almost ready for release!).  Two clients’ book manuscripts are edited.  Now it’s time to go back to the first words of the second novel in the series and see where I’m supposed to go with them.

I’m going to take the weekend off from here, then, and try to get back into their story and stories, to try to get out of my own editor’s head so I can immerse myself in the characters’ words again.  Who knows, maybe there will be a feast put on by all the assembled.  At the least I know there should be a delicious tidbit or two since one of the characters owns a diner.

So it’s on to Book Two of the Arlington Town series (you saw it here first, folks).  Hope everyone has a good, blessed, and productive weekend.  Paraphrasing Anne LaMott, may you and your words be surrounded with and by traveling mercies!

The Prompter Room

For Monday, April 11, 2016:

 

“Write the happiest story you can using only four words.”

ProjectHappiness.org (on Facebook)

Here’s a little something different for this Monday morning, thanks to a friend who shared via Facebook.  This feels like a good way to ease into the week, so I thought I would share it, too.

My little contribution is obviously influenced by the Zen koans I’ve been reading.  I wrote ‘Rainy day: snoring puppies.’  Not bad for first thing in the morning, with only half a cup of coffee in my system :-).

This is a great idea, to start both the day and the week, and easy enough for every day.  Thanks, Traci!

The PrompterRoom

For Monday, January 18, 2016:

 

“Focus on the story, not the sentence.”

James Patterson

For the first draft, yes.  And most of the second, with perhaps a tweak here or there, or a note to change a couple of paragraphs around (or delete them altogether).  The story’s still coming together at this point, so it’s too early to worry too much about things like sentence structure or spelling (unless mistakes change the meaning).

Once the third draft rolls around, the focus can shift more toward technique.  Now is the time to ensure the sentences move the story along, so they have to be in better shape.  They still don’t need to be perfect at this point, but it’s a good idea to start honing in on tense agreement, for example (do they agree?), and if those paragraphs need to stay or go.  If you’re writing fiction and suspension of belief is called for, is it crafted in such a way that it’s believable, where the reader could see such-and-such happening?  What blanks or holes need to be filled in?

After you’ve finished the third draft, you can – if you so desire – hire an editor to start working on the story and the sentences.  She or he will work to make sure the sentences benefit and enhance the story.  S/He will go line by line to ensure the grammar and spelling and tenses are all correct.  Then s/he will look for paragraphs that need to be moved elsewhere, for holes that need to be filled in and developed.

Now that the fourth draft is completed, you and the editor work to fine-tune everything.

Then it’s time to ask the hardest questions: Does the story hold together now that all those changes have been made?  Have the two of you made it easy – not simple, mind you, but easy – for the reader to focus on the story that you focused on in the beginning?

 

The Prompter Room

For Saturday, December 26, 2015:

 

“The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air.  All I must do is find it, and copy it.”

Jules Renard, ‘Diary,’ February 1895

In the full moon-drenched hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I was wide awake.  The characters in my second novel, still in draft formation, were awake, too, and talking up a storm.  They’re already ready, it seems, to go forward and were giving me idea after idea almost too fast for me to catch them and take dictation.

It was exciting, to be sure, and I finally turned off the light with an inner smile.  This has never happened to me before — seeing an almost-complete novel in my mind before the work-in-progress ahead of it is finished — so the trick is going to be to translate all those ideas, crafting dialogue and developments, into a story the characters will approve of.

Part of me wishes there were a way to print out what I saw in my mind yesterday morning so I could just copy it down and add an ending.  Then again, that wouldn’t be as fun and there wouldn’t be any surprises.  I do like surprises, so I guess I’ll just proceed the old fashioned way: word by word by word.