The questions I ask myself

If I asked myself why I write, the only answer I could give is that I need to set free the stories that haunt me. If I don’t write them they keep coming back and dance at the edge of my imagination. I like to be haunted by them, but I also like to see how they end. When the stories are doing their haunting-thing it is usually only the middle bits and I always want to know more.

If I asked myself why is it important that I get them published, well that’s a question I don’t find so easy to answer. It feels like I just want to share them with others. I enjoy them, so I think others will too. In a genre where it is considered a ‘good sale’ if you get $20 for your short stories I can definitely say I’m not doing it for the money. I just want them to be read by other people. It’s like giving them life again.

I sometimes wonder if I quit writing would it all go away? I’m not just talking about the haunting, but the guilt when I don’t write, the desire to share my ideas, the joy at watching a character develop. Could I be satisfied with a life bereft of those things? I don’t think so, I’m certainly not willing to try it.

Will I one day find a balance between doing what I love and earning a living? I hope so. I don’t want to have to wait for retirement to get the bulk of my writing done. Often the most important things are only gained through risk and sacrifice. I think it might be time for some long, hard thinking about what is important…

Pantsing – the journey continues

I’m writing my first 100% pantser novel. I never realised how much planning I did for a novel until I tried to write one with no plan at all. None. I started with an idea and a vague thought about where it was going. I was wrong, of course, it stopped going in the direction I was expecting at chapter 3.

Never one for writing character back-story or studies, or even plotting out chapters, I thought my approach to novel writing was pretty fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, but I always had a strong idea about where the characters would end up. So far, for the novels I’ve finished and nearly finished, they have ended approximately where I expected. It was the character journey to get there that was a mystery.

This current novel is only revealing itself to me about two chapters before it happens. I can’t help but worry that I’m writing myself into a black hole which has no end and no point. I won’t know though, until I get to the end, assuming there is an end. Apparently that’s how these things work.

Talking to other pantsers this is what happens; you give your characters life and you just document where they go. Sure they might take a few wrong turns along the way and you have to backtrack, but supposedly that’s the fun. Fun? Pantsers clearly have a different idea of what constitutes fun. I feel like I’m on an out-of-control train and I’m a little bit scared.

But the thing is, I am on a train, this novel is powering ahead so much faster than most of my planned novels. My weekly word count is currently higher than it has been for years. That feels good.

There is a little bit of me that really hopes my novel gets a good end, not because I want it to end well (that goes without saying), but because I want to know that this pantser thing works. It is more than a little bit addictive and I’d like to try it again.

Writing Longhand

In an effort to free up more writing time on the weekend I’ve started writing my blog posts on a week night. The problem is I work with computers all day so when I get home the last thing I want to do is turn on a computer. My solution has been to write longhand into a notepad.

I don’t normally write a lot by hand (shopping lists, notes, that’s about it really), but I know a lot of writers who always write their first drafts longhand. A writer friend of mine said she preferred it for first drafts because she didn’t feel the urge to go back and correct or edit like she does when she is typing.

Maybe one of the reasons I don’t like longhand is because I do go back and edit as I go. Even this short post was covered in cross-outs and microscopic inserted text by the time I got to this point. Squiggles and arrows rendered the draft almost unreadable.

Freehand writing makes me feel limited, not liberated. So I think this week’s post may be my last longhand writing effort. I might just have to fire up the computer on a week night. Who knows, I might even end up writing.

Our secret lives

This week I watched “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and, like many imaginative people, I saw a lot of myself in Walter. But this got me wondering; does everyone have a bit of Walter Mitty in them?

I think we all entertain fantasies in our day to day life, often negative ones if what people admit to is true (what you wanted to do to that person who cut you off, you know you had a moment there). How important is this un-reality to our mental wellbeing? And if it is fundamental our health, what role does the fantastical world of TV, movies and books play?

I am sure that imagining what we should have said to that rude person probably does salve our egos, and often our enjoyment of the fictional story of a film or book does leave us feeling like we have lived through those experiences and come out on the other side a better person (assuming your fiction of choice has something of a happy ending). I would even go so far as to say that fantasy is a kind of visualisation, and this has been proven to have huge benefits to the mind when employed in the right way.

My ‘visualisations’ range from how my work day would be impacted by the arrival of aliens on earth through to the more ‘normal’ imaginings of how I’ll react when the Boystown Lottery people call to tell me that I’ve won the prize home (I think I’ve got this one mastered now, so any time they want to do this I promise I’ll react correctly). I don’t know if either of these visualisations are beneficial to my mental health, but I do know that my secret life is definitely very entertaining, and I guess that’s enough for me.