Is There One Way to Write?

When I started this blog, I promised to be honest.  Of course, being honest doesn’t mean saying whatever the hell is on my mind, either.  If I’m not getting along with someone I love, I’m not going to go public with it.  My relationships mean more than my audience reach or edification.  But I can talk about me, if I’m losing my mind, or losing my shit, as I prefer to say (or did prefer until a few people challenged me for having my characters cuss too much) then I might as well talk about it with you.

I used to write this mind-bendingly honest stuff when I started my Facebook Page.  8,000 fans later, I wonder if maybe I’ve lost myself in the never-ending search for greater popularity.  This need to find an ever-greater number of LIKES on my page speaks of hubris and dependence on others to define my own self-worth, so I resist it, oh man, how I resist it.  Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate being liked.  In fact, I love it . . . right up until I find that I’m forgetting what makes me—me.

And that’s where I am now.  It’s not just my Facebook Page, or even my blog here, which is much smaller.  It’s my book.

I’m almost done with draft three, which consists of fixing inconsistency in POV (point of view). Mostly this is an easy fix.  I have three main characters and each scene either needs to be written from the perspective of one of the three characters or it can be written from third-party omniscient POV.  The thing that is confusing me to the point where I want to send the entire manuscript to the trash is if I’m in third party omniscient, how much can I show of each character’s thoughts and feelings?

I’ll figure it out, no doubt.  But I don’t want to lose my mental stability in the process.  I’m trying so hard to hold onto the essence of what makes these scenes true and real and (I hope) beautiful . . . and now I hold this Exacto-knife to each scene, cutting the excess.  But I’m scared, so scared, I’m cutting the essence, the muscle, the dimples that make a face special—OUT along with the fat.

I’ve studied both the science and the art of writing and I’m an artist, not a scientist, when it comes down to it.  I write according to feel and I try to hear my characters in each word I fashion.  I think great writing is almost a mystical process, one that unites mind and heart and soul with a seamless tap of fingers on keyboard.  There are some right and some wrong ways to go about writing, but if I had to define what makes a book great, I’d have to respond that it sounds or reads or even feels right.

Some people speak of magic formulas and objective guidelines to writing novels.  And for sure, there are rules and guidelines, but so often, these rules and guidelines exist to be flouted.  For me, citing and obeying too many rules and techniques can reduce the magic of writing to a mathematical formula, or what my friend The Monster in Your Closet calls “The Dread Writamatician.”  And when I try to apply these formulas to my manuscript, I skate into a place of angst and frustration that feels all too close to mental instability.

That’s why I quit writing so many years ago.  I could not reconcile objective standards with my inner definition of beauty, and I fucking lost it.  Really—lost it.  I made it through all of that, but only after I chose surviving over living my dream, and if I have to make the same choice, I think I’d choose a balanced, sane life over art again.  But it’s not an easy choice.  I love my art that much.

So where am I?  This third draft is pretty much making me crazy.  I’m scared and frustrated and for some reason, angry, and I don’t know why I’m angry.  I think I’m angry with myself, to be honest.

But that said–I’m fine.  Well, no, I‘m not at all fine, but I will be fine after I get over this funk.  I know I’m putting too much pressure on myself and I’m closer than I’ve ever been to sending Ripple to the trash bin.  I won’t.  Instead, I’ll go for a run and I won’t stop until this pain of creating makes me feel too much like destroying.



28 comments on “Is There One Way to Write?
  1. vigaland says:

    Ah, know that feeling so well. Have started by tome from several different spots. The first started with my background ie. where I grew up, what I was like a child etc etc. I then decided it was taking me too long to get to the nitty-gritty, which those who want to read about incest might want to get to faster. So I started there (that is the hardest and most jarring place to start!) Then I ran a segment of the 2nd effort past a friend who said “Whoa ..you’re not going to start there are you? I want to know about the kid behind it all…” Duh! Back to the drawing board. And so it goes. But one thing is easier for me than for you: I’m not writing fiction and having to create a character. So point of view is easier: there’s only one point of view: mine … in first person. I feel for you :))

    • Grinning–I know exactly what you’re talking about!! I like starting from a different place actually–knowing either background or where the writer/survivor is doing now to thrive, then going back . . . but hell, the main thing, my friend, is making it your book, yes? xoxo

  2. vigaland says:

    Ah .. should have re-read that. “by tome” is “my tome” LOL

    • vigaland says:

      That’s exactly it El. Only goal is to get it written or let it write itself. Just let it happen. I have worked, interviewed published writers and they tell me they just let it roll and let the character take them where he/she wants to go. Actually, writing is probably the easy part. Editing sucks LOL.

      BTW, I love that you reply to your posts. I do that too. So important. Can’t wait till a few more folks find mine and egg me on with their comments. We really need our readers, just like an entertainer needs an audience, to keep going, right?

  3. ‘cutting the excess’ versus ‘cutting the essence’–this is going on my wall of things to remember.

    The joy of the editing process (because editing is so much fun ;)) is that you can edit, let it sit, and come back to it to see if you really did cut the essence. Give it time.

  4. You can do it. Don’t worry. So many of your passages positively sing. Trust yourself.

    But.

    Be open to the idea that readers get confused. So when 3 people say they are CONFUSED, that is when you have to worry.

    Honestly, El. You have this.

    • Thanks Renee, I know deep down I have this.

      Confused? First time I’ve heard that three people are confused. Perhaps all three of those people would tell me in person. No one has ever told me that they find my writing confusing. And maybe this isn’t the place or time to hear it. Usually, I think criticism is best not delivered in public.

  5. Nina Badzin says:

    I hear you loud and clear . . . everything you said here is what made me lose my passion for writing fiction. The exact-o knife? It is the best description I’ve heard. I nodded too knowingly here: —->”and now I hold this Exacto-knife to each scene, cutting the excess. But I’m scared, so scared, I’m cutting the essence, the muscle, the dimples that make a face special—OUT along with the fat.”

    I wish I could help. 🙁

  6. Ok, El, take a deep breath and stop right there. Now read this: “I think great writing is almost a mystical process, one that unites mind and heart and soul with a seamless tap of fingers on keyboard.” The answer to all this is right there – and you wrote it, my friend. And that is ALL YOU NEED. Stop the editing. Today. Right now. You are done. Stop mutilating your MS because you think everything has to be just right and perfect. Stop listening to other people. Leave the cuss words in there. DON’T DESTROY YOUR VOICE! Truth is, your MS will NEVER be perfect and just right – no one’s is. That’s impossible. You are chasing your tail. Stop, drop your MS out of those jaws of yours and start moving forward on how to get this thing published. Some of the best advice I got was, “Know when to let go of one book and move on.” It’ll never be done. It’ll never be edited to your standards. You’ve done enough. you’ve edited enough. now it’s time to shift your focus on sharing Ripple with the world. Don’t make me call you!!!!

    One last thing, if I ever find out that you threw Ripple in the trash, I will personally go all the way to Virginia to hunt you and down. And trust me. It won’t be pretty. LOVE YOU! 🙂

    • Love you too! I am sending my husband the latest draft right NOW (hold on let me do it) okay sent. So if I have a tantrum, all my work is saved.

      Thank you sweet friend. I’m listening. And I am so, so very grateful for your words and needed perspective!

  7. dmmacilroy says:

    Dear El,

    I’ve been writing (trying to write, wanting to write, wishing I was one of the magician writers) for 39 years now and the one thing that stands out is that I will never give up. I love the craft and write by feel and flow and ear. I don’t know the difference between a dangling participle and a galloping gerund but I know what my work sounds like and whether I’ve said well what I started to say when first I put pen to paper.

    Do not ever throw away your work. It remains, good or bad, rough or smooth, dull and dreary or absolutely perfect, a record of who you were at that point in the past. Your children may want to read it one day to draw closer to you and you may want it around as provenance of your ideas and evidence of how far you’ve run.

    As for funks, consider the story of the Sultan who commanded his Grand Vizier to bring him a gift that when beheld, would change a bad mood into a good mood and a good mood into a bad mood. So challenged, the Vizier walked away, only to return a month later to present the Sultan with a golden ring with the following words engraved upon the inside; This too, shall pass.

    The Vizier got to keep his job and so do you. Remember the Vizier’s ring and his simple words, El, as you keep writing, sharing and wondering. In doing so you keep faith with your readers, those wonderful mysterious friends who, because you write well and from the heart, keep faith with you.

    Aloha,

    Doug

    • Hello my friend!!

      I feel much better today. I was just having one of my dark moments. I would never trash Ripple. It represents the best of me: it’s about hope and redemption and healing.

      I love your story of the Grand Vizier. I used to think that quote was a cliche, but I’ve grown to love it. Years bring wisdom. And sometimes the words that have helped generations of others before us also help us now.

      I also like your thought on keeping the faith with my readers. So often, y’all lift me up when I’m low, and I am so very grateful.

      xoxo,

      El

  8. Lady Quixote says:

    I read your post in my email box, then logged onto wordpress to give you words of encouragement. But before writing my reply, I read the comments already here, and, what can I possibly add? They’ve said it all. I understand your frustration (boy, do I!)… let it sit, give it time… trust yourself, your writing is awesome… no manuscript is ever “perfect,” you need to know when to let it go and move on…please don’t throw it away!… and: This Too Shall Pass.

    You ARE a writer, and a damn good one.

    Lady Q

  9. El, the finish line is in sight. One foot in front of the other. Breathe.

  10. You are not going to throw it in the trash bin. Nor will it make you crazed. Point of view is hard, especially when some of this is heartfelt not just stick figures on the blackboard.

    Are you under a deadline (other than one you imposed)?

    Run like the wind. Then come back. Step away play with your children. Then come back. Cuddle with your husband. Then come back.

    Breath. Then come back.

    Your voice sings. Your voice draws us in, comforts us, lifts us up, gives us wings.

    Remember that, if nothing else; Remember that.

    I love you, have faith in you and know this is just a small bump that you will walk over with grace.

    XX Val

    • Aw Val–thank you so much love. And no, I am not going to trash it. I was having one of my self-destructive moments.

      No, no deadline, but I wanna get it DONE!!!

      Aw hun, you write such nice things about my writing, which makes me love you all the more (giggle).

      Thanks for being here for me when I’m down.

      Love you.

  11. Katy says:

    I love how you balance out extreme emotions with running and coming back. Truly i love that, El. You have great perspective on feelings not being facts. And writing is art. And mystical. And vulnerable. Does it make someone feel when they read it? Perfect. That’s all then.

  12. I will Doug–and will respond at length later–much love, dear friend.

  13. I so feel what you are feeling El. I had to drop off for a bit from the ever growing search for popularity. As for your book, your writing is lovely and wonderful and as I can’t give you advice on what will get you published etc, I can say listen to yourself and the beautiful essence of your writing, and your words. Hope your run was good and lightened your load a bit:)

    • My gosh, yes Shannon! The constant search for popularity–wow. It is exhausting. I get lost in it . . . the numbers, the responsibility, the ambition, demands, needs of others . . . but I was thinking today about something. So often, I feel isolated without the ties to other writers through FB and other social media outlets. Before I started my page, I really was pretty isolated, especially where I live. And so often, I yearn for meaningful social interaction AND professional interaction. And there is a side of me — in a pure way — that wants to share my words.

      Sigh. I don’t have a point really. Just thinking aloud. I know you’ve been quiet recently. I’ve missed you and have been hoping you have been enjoying your time away from the online world.

      Thank you for your kind thoughts my friend. xoxo

  14. simplytrece says:

    I love the pieces of your work highlighted in the squares. Simply gorgeous words, dear one.

  15. Donna says:

    Dear E.L.,
    you are so well loved, you may not realize it, but you are doiing something right. Writing, drawing, painting, woodworking, is all aboout negative and positive space. Write what you want to read, what makes sense to you. If you get overwhelmed ask someone you trust and someone with a different POV to weigh in and just listen, you will know whaat is right for you. It is not a competition/ Bottom line, you write for yourself so you CAN’T do it wrong. (I tend to have a problem when I paint, when is it done? We are oour own harshest critics) You write well, thank you!

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