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Sunday, July 8, 2012

thoughts of a novice novelist

     Calling in the recruits (inviting the muse, asking the guides, etc.) to assist in the new imaginary world, my thoughts turn to story and worlds created in mind and emotion, blending the pros and cons, making choices.
     I might want to have this perfect eden -- a utopia. It's how it began. And yet, I am not ready to live in that world and neither are other readers. We are still learning how to Be -- be present, and content, compassionate and wise.
     Instead, the world I create is a microcosm of that which I am still working on within myself, the aspects that resonate with me and the situations that challenge or scare me or make me feel unable to cope in the world.
     The protagonist is on her own journey -- some of what she experiences I have been through and have become perhaps a little wiser, and others I am still experiencing. And I'm sure many lessons await me just around the bend. And that is okay. Even novel writing is cathartic -- maybe more than journaling in some ways because I move the characters through all the scenarios unfamiliar to me as well as those known! And that's exciting and fun but also a challenge just as the real world would be. Except that in my written stories I have the time and space to pause, think about the different responses available and play them out a ways instead of reacting quickly in one direction with no way back. Perhaps if I can embrace this perspective more fully, I will be able more easily to let go of a scene or passage and try a different direction or response. I can always return to my original scene if I find that it remains the truest to character and plot and theme.
     I continue growing into all the components of writing, learning not to fear changing a scene or adding something new. To recognize myself as the author of the story and not the reader. This is a shift that becomes more apparent the longer I continue writing. To realize that what emerges initially as the story can be changed. Repeatedly, if necessary. To realize that as the author I am not locked into one path for the story or even one footstep. All is open. I could potentially change one thing, everything, or nothing!
     It's that simple and that complex because I feel this obligation of sorts to remain true to what came out originally. To love it as it is.
     Where is that loyalty coming from? Fear? Stubbornness? A rigidity of form that resists change? Do I feel it is control or a lack of control to venture away from the birth of the idea and storyline? To add and remove? Or do I simply feel I can trust what emerges initially more than I can what my mind tells me to do later to change or disguise the original story? The past nearly two decades of my fifty years have been a huge learning curve to trust intuition rather than negate it; is that influencing my resistance to changing my 'baby' story into something that I 'think' is better or more appealing? How to wed the revisions to both imagination and intellect, to create a hand-fasting that binds intuition with craft yet leaves both free to give and receive?
     Writing is a journey of Self, whether fiction or non, and I am enjoying the process, the opening, the melding of worlds and psyche, of lives unreal and real experiences. None of the people who populate my imaginary world are insignificant, they are all vital, and I feel myself opening further to that same realization in 'real' life, too, on deeper/higher levels. Everyone is key and all parts are vital. Setting is as important as character, for it becomes a character in its on right. Or at least it does in what I am writing and in how I live. No separation.
     I feel everything that happens, not just in my mind but in my body, because I have to feel what they feel or this entire thing becomes just letters on a page with no heart or purpose and no rhythm. I hear their song, the melody of the story . . . sometimes only faintly in the background but there . . . and how well I write, how true I am to listening determines to some extent whether someone else reading it also hears the entire orchestra and not only the string section.

The first thing I read later in the day, after writing the above stream-of-consciousness piece, was:
"The idea running through these lectures is by now plain enough: that there are in the novel two forces: human beings and a bundle of various things not human beings, and that it is the novelist's business to adjust these two forces and conciliate their claims. That is plain enough, but does it run through the novel too? Perhaps our subject . . .  has stolen away from us while we theorize, like a shadow from an ascending bird. The bird is all right--it climbs, it is consistent and eminent. The shadow is all right--it has flickered across roads and gardens. But the two things resemble one another less and less, they do not touch as they did when the bird rested its toes on the ground."

(E.M. Forster's "Aspects of the Novel" - emphasis mine)

This "ascending bird" is a good touchstone for me, something to return to when I become lost in a single aspect of writing, or become confused in contemplating the minutia of the journey. Whenever I feel myself flying further apart from the core of the story, I shall land and reconnect with the whole--the big picture.


  1. Wow, Forster really does have such a unique way of expressing himself---what an image!

    Well, I haven't yet had a great deal of experience novel-writing (in fact, I got a bit stalled on the one I started), but one of my biggest problems in writing fiction has been my reluctance to let go of parts that don't really work. Sometimes because I spent so, so long writing that part or maybe because it has some nice metaphors or something else that I think is brilliant...lol

    By the way, have you thought of getting in a writing group, Darla?

  2. OH boy, I hear that, Beth...I become quite attached to my writing, and the further I move into my current novel manuscript, the more I realize that at some point I will need to drop certain scenes (oh no!) or, even worse, drop a character or two (OH NO!) ...

    I was in a small writing group for a couple years in Maine; I loved the "prompting" aspect of the group, but everyone was SO nice that there was never any constructive suggestions. Which was probably a good thing at that time since I was extremely sensitive about sharing my 'real' work not including 'free writes.' That said, I'm not sure I've become tough enough yet to share in a writing group that provides honest constructive suggestions, so, no, I'm not currently seeking a writing group. I still feel somewhat fragile when it comes to my novel-writing. However, this is my third novel, and the first one that I feel strong enough about to start the extensive revision/re-write process (which it needs), so . . . who knows?! Please email me privately, Beth, if you want (my email is on my profile page) -- would love to correspond in more detail with you! :-)

    I so much enjoy YOUR writing . . . are you in a writing group, Beth?

    1. Darla...I've been meaning to get back here and respond, but we've got so much going on here right now that I let it slip my mind. No, I'm not in a writing group and I'm not sure I ever will be---mainly because I'm not very good at knowing how to express critiques, so I wouldn't be able to contribute my share of feedback. Sometimes I think it's just my fear of hurting feelings or maybe it's just something you have to learn. Ariel told me that that was something she got better and better at with each writing class she took, so maybe taking a class would help. I really do hope to do that someday. I wish you lived nearby---we could take a class together! We really do seem to have so much in common. By the way, to answer your question over at my blog--I'm older than you. 54, as a matter of fact.

  3. The protaganist has many roads available to her. Perhaps the writer also has many roads available to her. 'One false move' is a concept for those who believe in one 'right' way. Thank goodness for unconditional love and acceptance, and the ability to change a story.

    I, too am so glad for intuition. I think it goes hand in hand with patience and trust.

    1. Indeed, do we reflect the stories or are they a reflection of us?

  4. I enjoyed reading your thought processes, especially about intuition. I think you ask important questions. Lovely, mesmerizing colors and patterns in your image. :)

    1. Thank you so much, Diane ... I ponder a lot! LOL


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