Friday, February 03, 2012

What is the opposite of writer’s block?

So I finally decided to write a novel.  People have been telling me for years to do such a thing, although they have also been telling me to go into stand-up comedy and take up knitting and since the knitting project was an abysmal failure, I think I'll pass on the stand-up act.

Anyway, back when I was preggers and starting all kinds of projects, like a quilt which ONE DAY I WILL FINISH I SWEAR TO GOD, I also began a fantasy novel based on this crazy dream that I once had that ran for several months and was all kinds of interesting (no, JanetLin, it was not the one where I dreamt up the reason for Senator Palpatine to become the douche bag that he was, speaking of which, hey, Lucas, call me, we gotta talk) but never had a proper beginning until one day I was in the shower and it came to me.  Showers have long been a place of inspiration, many of the best parts of my dissertation were written in the shower.

Well, not literally written.  My computer would short out if I did that.  But you know what I mean.  So there was that novel started.  I pounded out quite a number of pages before I got stuck in the minutia of “what in god’s name is my main character’s NAME?” And then I gave birth.  Babies are so not conductive to writing novels.  Just sayin’.

That novel is currently languishing on my hard drive.  I know NaNoWriMo - that novel writing competition that several friends have enthusiastically taken part in - would be a fine time to wrap it up. Even if the rules say I must start a new novel, I could at least use the month as a challenge to just get it out on paper… er… screen… er… out.  But I swear that November is just the worst month ever for me to write.  Every time I sit down and say, right, I’ll write! I get distracted and then dismayed and then depressed.  No good. 

But then this last December (I know, you think I should write about November, since I brought it up, so maybe now you are thinking that there’s no way in hell that I should be writing a novel, my blog posts are disconcerting enough) while driving up the my MIL’s to get a car (long story, unimportant to the plot of this post, which does have a plot, maybe not much of a climax or dénouement, but it is what it is - a damn blog post) I had this mad vision.  The entire plot of a novel, not the one I had partially written, but another one, beginning, middle, and end, went BAM! in my head.

And then I had to wait five days before I could get to a computer to write it down.  I don’t know about you, but when I have a good idea in my head, it is imperative that I write it down as soon as possible before it escapes into the aether or worse, someone else’s head.  (I believe that brilliant ideas bounce from head to head until someone has the gumption to do something with it.)  It was the longest five days EVER!  And I wrote the ending first.  Because that way I could refer to it as I wrote the rest of it - that was the finishing line that I needed to reach.  Wherever the plot takes me, because it might decide to go wander off at some point, I realize that, it needs to come back and land THERE.

It’s not a fantasy, shockingly, since that’s my favorite genre to read.  It’s not a mystery novel either, sorry mom.  It’s just the tale of a small town and the people in it.  Yeah, there’s more to it than that, the characters are quirky and include a cross-dressing schizophrenic (self-diagnosed) and a scatter-brained hairdresser as well as other normal (what is normal anyway) people.

I only get to write every now and again.  I’m trying to keep the blog going and there’s the daily to-do list of things that need to be done or at least ought to be done or that have been put off for so long that really what is one more day, between friends, eh?  But when I do, the words just come flying out of me.  I can’t type fast enough and those who have seen me type know that I am rather speedy at it.  (Seriously, best skill ever.)  It’s like the exact opposite of writer’s block and I am trying to use it while I can.  I’m well aware that the dreaded block could come at any time and I’ll be stuck trying to figure out how Hank will come to be standing outside Annie/Andy’s house with a bullhorn demanding that he (or she - so maybe it is a mystery mom!) put the town limits sign back where it belongs.

Meanwhile I’m really enjoying writing for my various characters.  They are so different and it’s an interesting feeling to climb into their skins and see the plot advance through their eyes.  So much so that I was a bit uncomfortable just now as I finished a chapter about Violet.  Unfortunately for Violet, she’s in an abusive relationship and writing her excuses to herself why she stays just gives me chills all over.  Poor Violet!  I want to just grab her up and take her away and let her be free!  I’m the author, can’t I just do that?  Alas, no, she has to suffer.  She’s part of a greater story arc and she can’t be freed just yet.  After writing one of her chapters, I always find it hard to jump to someone else right away.  I need a moment to collect myself.  Especially since I need to write one from her mother’s POV and there’s a bitch on wheels if I’ve ever seen one!  The confrontation she just had with Violet left me all angry and I keep hoping that a house drops out of the sky and lands on her.  That’s not the sort of thing that happens in this town, though.  Even if Nick the journalist would love for that to happen.  He’d finally get something interesting to write about for the newspaper.

The process of novel writing is very different from dissertation writing.  I could write pages and pages of dissertation at a time.  I don’t know how I did it.  Perhaps because descriptions of objects and discussions of iconography, I think, are fairly easy and brainless to write, especially when you are simply citing all the relevant research and your original thought is relegated to one paragraph at the end of the chapter.  Which then your advisor cuts, anyway, because he says that you are wrong.

Novel writing takes longer.  Even with the words and the plot positively flowing out of me, there’s that pause as you rearrange the words to fit the character, the conversation has to be steered towards forwarding the plot or character development and be in the correct voice.  Mary, for example, would never tell Violet to leave her husband, she'd tell Violet that marriage is hard work and that if she gets hit, it's because she's not trying hard enough. 

Yes, I'm worried about Violet.

My god, isn't novel writing FUN?!!


  1. Kel D4:24 PM

    You ROCK man! Keep on keeping on! I find the going gets tough around 30k but it gets a shit load better after that.

  2. YAY! Go you!

    (and I generally think writing is as much fun as pulling out teeth. I don't know why I do it. :p )

  3. Anonymous10:12 AM

    I still remember that one about Palpatine!

    And yay for writing! (The word for the opposite of writer's block is hypergraphia.)


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