Chasing Paper

My main character is starting to piss me off.  She’s been fickle lately–changing her mind about her story, blowing this way and that.  I’m having trouble with my synopsis because she won’t stay on point. Sometimes she speaks so clearly to me, I’m surprised she’s not corporeal. But just as often she’s a cipher.

It’s been especially difficult lately. I’m so close to having my novel ready to pitch, or at least I thought I was, but when I try to write the synopsis, the fuzzy bits get in the way.  Each time I try to clarify, the story gets more and more muddled in my brain until I don’t recognize it anymore.

I asked a wonderful YA author once about the critical elements of a successful novel.  Her advice? Shocking and deviant behavior and the occult. It can be about anything, she said, just make sure your character is a vampire. Oh wait, vampires are so yesterday. She said she was having a bad week.

Every class and coach and editor that I’ve worked with has ideas for what constitutes a good story, and I’ve responded by shifting directions ever so slightly, trying to make sure mine is marketable. It’s hard not to think about the desired end result — getting published. I write because I love to write, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the endgame in mind. I feel like I’m chasing slips of paper blowing in the wind.

Anne Wotring, a wonderfully insightful personal coach who I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with, has a blog  — Dare to Think Fresh Thoughts — featuring short webcasts that take the etch-a-sketch and shake it up. Two spoke to me today. One on silence and one on grounding.

I ran without music today and let the story wash over me. I didn’t consciously think about it, I just let it roll about my brain.  I’m not going to say it fixed everything, but it did remind me that the story, when right, tells itself. What I need to do is ground myself in it–the characters and their world, and let it support me as I write. It is there to keep me from toppling when the wind blows, but I have to respect it, and stop trying to make it into something else.

Maybe it’s not that my character isn’t speaking. Maybe it’s that I need to be a better listener.

Check out Anne’s blog — You might find exactly the message you need, just like me.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Perosha © 2007 Creative Commons

6 comments on “Chasing Paper

  1. whimsygizmo says:

    THIS speaks to me. I need more silence. Be still, De. Be still.
    I need ordering info the MINUTE your novel becomes available. I shall be first in line.

    • Thank you De! Ironically, the novel is about listening to one’s own voice. Hard when you forget what it sounds like.

      • whimsygizmo says:

        Ha. That’s funny. The word ‘voice’ has come up a lot with me lately, as I am a little sick of the sound of my own. August is always a melancholy writing month for me, on the heals of all those gorgeous blue Lake days away. I feel as though I am just writing the same poems over and over again. Taking a little break, for the next few days. 😉

  2. Jane says:

    Maybe sometimes leaving her (your character) alone for awhile to work out her shit — Sometimes I have an issue, a problem, a puzzle and the more I try to “think” the more nothing happens. I then go do something else and push it out of my conscience and then “pop” in the shower or driving or walking (no running for me), it comes to me.

    You know this is Andy’s old the man and the file cabinet theory, when you are trying so hard to think of a name that you keep calling your old man up to ask the question that he doesn’t have time to look in your rusty file cabinets. I do beleive this because as soon as I stop thinking about the name of the person it comes to me. Weird!

    I love to hear about your trials and tribulations with your son. Boy, can I relate, But I would also love to hear about what music you are listening to and why. You always had such wonderful, interesting taste in music. It still is one of my joys! Dan always says that there has not been good music written in the last 20 years – bullshit! Although I love listing to BB King as much as Mayer Hawthorne, Warren Zevon or John Mayer. Just different things for different moods.

    Also what books are you reading? What do you love and why. I miss having friends who like good music, books, etc. and like to talk about it. Miss you!

    • It’s so hard to leave it be. In some ways, I just want to be done, to move forward. I don’t want to be working on my first novel forever, but I am trying not to try so hard for awhile. 🙂

      What am I listening to? I go through phases. Right now, I’m in a Brahms phase with a side of vintage Smiths/Pixies. I listen to a lot of Pandora and haven’t bought anything in some time. Of more recent fare? I like Mumford and Sons.

      What am I reading – lots of work in my genre – contemporary women’s fiction. Nothing OMG awesome. I enjoy the books while I’m reading them, but forget them soon after — literary fluffernutter. Not that I mind. Sometimes a good fluffernutter can be very satisfying. I need to dig into a good steak thought–time to pull out some Russo, Atwood, or Kingsolver.

      I miss all of those afternoons in your basement 🙂

  3. Claire Cappetta says:

    Oh I’m so there with you on the synopsis! argh. I think a long relaxing bath, taking a deep breath will conquer it… fingers crossed 🙂

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