Keep Showing Up

There comes a point in every book where one realizes one is not writing the damn book. The damn book is taking shape under one’s fingers, according to its own will and desires. You might as well just be a tube the words are coming through. Although the story needs the tube to contain it–and to work to put it on the page–it certainly doesn’t, well, obey.

I think this frightens a lot of people who want to write. The sense that they might not be in control, or that the story might be coming through them, is a scary one. It’s like having an alien in your brain. Others fight the organic life of the story and end up with a mess, where the reader can tell the writer fought tooth and nail to retain control instead of letting the story take shape. It’s sad to read–it’s like looking at a limping, broken thing that once used to soar.

Even writing to spec requires some submission to the story’s desires. There’s the focused daydream of planning the story, where chunks of the narrative arc come out of the mist and loom inside one’s head like frigates, and then there’s the day to day writing, where you have to get to a particular plot point, but the pleasure resides in deciding how.

This may be different for other writers, I don’t know. For me, it’s an odd tandem: the discipline to sit down and be present every day and the gift of the story taking shape of its own accord. I decided a long time ago that coming up with the story wasn’t really my job. That’s the Muse’s job. Mine is being present in front of the keyboard every day, ready, willing, and Mabel. I give the Muse the vague specs and she takes over. She needs my hands and my willingness, and I need that damn fairy dust she sneezes out. We’re a symbiote, but it requires work.

Anyway, I’ve reached the point in the current book–around 30K, sometimes a little later–where I sit back to think about what comes next and I realize I am not steering this train. The tracks are laid and they’re taking me somewhere through that wall of fog. It’s equal parts terrifying and downright exciting.

Terrifying because I am counting on this other thing to produce the story needed for me to continue working and earning money. Exciting because it’s a rollercoaster, and you know…she’s never let me down yet. The Muse is a fickle, tricky, nasty little wench. But she is also faithful in her fashion, and as long as I’ve shown up she’s never taken a sick day. There’s a certain amount of comfort in realizing that as long as I’m doing my best, she’s going to keep slugging away too.

So, I’m about to turn on the foglamps and charge forward into that white cloudbank. There’s always the risk of running off the edge of a cliff. But if I haven’t yet, in over thirty finished books and God knows how many short stories and slush bits…well, I’ll take my chances and trust the Muse.

She hasn’t let me down yet. All I’ve got to do is keep showing up.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

Optimism Proceeds Apace

First, the links: there’s a giveaway of Flesh Circus over at NL Berger’s place. And here’s an opinion piece about how the Internet does not mean the death of publishing. Oh, and nuts in Texas might be affecting the textbooks your children will use. (This last one is why I’m so glad I have a great deal of information and supplementary reading for my kids just hanging around the house.)

It’s been a time of big changes here at Casa Saintcrow, and we’ve just accomplished one of the biggest. Which has required a wrenching in our personal habits–now we’re all getting up between 6 and 7 AM. This is not cool for my biorhythms, man.

I have always been a night owl. Always. Given my druthers, I’d be completely nocturnal. Unfortunately, life won’t allow that. So I’m stuck on a schedule that my entire body rebels against. It’s hell for the first half-hour or so of my day, until I can get enough coffee in to trick my flesh into believing that it should be vertical, not to mention ambulatory and thinking.

Fortunately, the Little Prince and Princess are both so excited, they adore the new schedule and are quickly falling into a routine. And getting up this early leaves me with a shoal of time in the early afternoon that’s turned quite productive. (My productivity has also been helped by a number of stressors Going Away.) So, it’s got its good things.

The “make 2010 MY year” Optimism Experiment is going full steam. I’m fitting into size 14 jeans. While this does not sound like a lot, if you’ve ever lost a significant amount of weight, you know what it feels like to hit a milestone. Which this size definitely is, for me. I have even more grounds for optimism, in that there’s been nothing so far in the past two months that I couldn’t handle. I am beginning to feel okay about things, another huge step up.

On the other hand…I think I have to ditch about 1K I wrote yesterday evening. It’s a great scene, but I think it belongs a touch later in the book. This is why having a slush file for each book is so important for me. Of all the slush piles, the one for To Hell And Back is most extensive, because I had two or three different fully-finished versions of the book. That was a lot of work. Damn.

In any case, it’s time for the treadmill now. I am feeling cautiously, faintly optimistic about this entire 2010 thing. Which is way, way better than the alternative.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.