Remember how last writing-post I spoke about getting the creative juices flowing by dancing around and whatnot? Sometimes, it just doesn’t work. When I start feeling itchy about linking one chapter to the next, I stop and look at the story as a whole. Let’s say I’m trying to wire the spinal column (remember that whole body analogy from last week?). This is a critical part of the story, the substance, the binding holding it all together.
Spinal construction is definitely not as easy as it sounds.
When in doubt, I turn to research. I don’t actually make a habit of tried and true research, which to some is just shameful. In the same token, I’m not fond of actually labeling a time or a place as setting, so I guess I more or less skirt the rules. I prefer context clues over flat-out, “And today is Wednesday, March 13, 1937, in London, Canada.” I don’t even if March 13, 1937 was, in fact, a Wednesday. I looked; it was a Saturday. The things Ido commit to are lesser known, sometimes not even used facts, like what so-and-so would wear, the condition of mental hospitals from 1920-1950, the treatment and diagnosis for schizophrenia, if international phone calls could be made. Given that, you my dear reader, can probably guess the novel-thing is set somewhere between 1930 and 1950, or somewhere therein. I’m not even quite sure myself; I do know that when I started it in present day, it just didn’t pan out.
The other thing I do is read obsessively. But you do that anyway! Yes, I do, but I narrow my book selections to the vein I’m trying to work within. Chelsea Cain’s Gretchen Lowell series (Heartsick, Sweetheart, and Evil at Heart) were great. I’ve never really read detective fiction, and while my story isn’t quite detective fiction, it helped me hone into the mindset I’m trying to achieve. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, which I was supposed to read for my thesis, is a wonder semi-autobiography of a schizophrenic girl and her experiences in therapy and reconnecting to the world.
It also means I get to do something other than stare at the file on my laptop, watching the cursor blink, waiting for me to start typing. I also feel less guilty. I used movies and television shows the same way. I’ve watched several episodes of Castle, studying the great twists in some cases and where it was a bit lacking in others. Also, Nathan Fillion is always awesome. Always.
I try to feed my mind as much as I can, from old mythologies on monsters to how not to get away with murder. In a way, I’m buying myself time with “research.” I also count flailing around my room to music as research. I’m taking the actor’s method of getting into character. Or that’s what I tell myself.
Bottom is the same: writing is damn hard work. It may get easier as you go along, but it’s never going to be easy. It’s a give and take process, and even though the first draft probably won’t be brilliant, it’s getting the story out that’s important. Revisions and edits can wait. If you need to pop in a zombie flick, do it. If you have the sudden, overwhelming urge to watch cartoons, do it; there’s probably a reason your mind brought it up.
Also, avoid reading articles about writing. If you’re like me, they only make things worse. I’m now petrified I’ve “let the steam out” of my novel-thing by telling someone the plot and that’s why I’ve been so… unproductive. Truth is, if I didn’t tell someone, I was worried it wouldn’t make sense. That’s what happened with the initial draft. No one helped me sort it out. I think I’m ok.
Now I just need to write.