Thursday, April 16, 2015

Everything but the Kitchen Sink-- Also known as Trying Every Trick in the Book... To Write a Book

It's weird to write a book.

I've done it more than ten times, and I still think it's weird. I know how it works, how to do it.

[NEWS FLASH: you sit on your butt and you pick up your writing implement of choice, and you write until the book is finished.]

I can give you all kinds of pointers about how to start, where to find ideas/use ideas/develop ideas, how to plug along through a first draft, (and a 2nd draft and a 10th draft), how to outline or not outline, how to reread what you have and reorganize it and revise it, how to plot and develop characters, how amp up conflict, how to edit and polish and blah bi di blah blah.

I can also give you strategies for working through Writer's Block.

[NEWS FLASH: you sit on your butt and you pick up your writing implement of choice and you write--even though you hate what you're writing and hate writing and probably hate yourself. Do that for 20, 30, maybe 56 days, and I promise, you'll break through Writer's Block.]

Yeah. So I KNOW ALL THAT. And yet, apparently, I must bow down humbly before the Muse and admit that I KNOW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING when it comes to writing a book, specifically, the book I am writing now, which is technically a revision, my fifth or sixth complete time through it.

It's a strange complicated dark expansive personal story that seems to get bigger and more complicated every time I pick my way through it.

I heard the brilliant writer and teacher Jane Resh Thomas speak at Hamline University when I visited the MFAC program in January and she said that when you write a book, you are not the same person you were when you started it. You're exploring parts of yourself--some parts, that maybe you would rather not explore. Because I have basically been writing this story for more that 12 years, let's just say that I am doing a lot of exploring of the dark and dusty recesses of myself.

And here's one thing I figured out:

All of my old strategies for writing a book-- the word counts and the daily goals and the typing on my lap top and the index cards-- none of that seems to be working with this one. So I decided-- what the hey?-- why not try something new?

Forget the damn laptop. I've been writing by hand. With a pencil. I'm filling up composition notebooks, something I haven't done since I was twelve.
(two of many notebooks. Plus a to-do list
with the first item:

I hand write in the mornings and type and revise in the afternoon. I take a lot of breaks. When I'm stuck, I clean something in my house or throw something out or clean something and then throw it out.

This book takes place partly in a forest and every time I get to a place where I have no idea what the characters are doing or thinking, I start describing trees. I have hundreds of pictures stored on my computer. Types of trees and leaves and fruit and bark. I have pieces of bark on my desk.

(there are satyrs in my book too. Satyrs are from Greek
mythology and they have tails and they
like to chase nymphs. Look at the one I painted
with watercolors. Note: the privates are modestly
covered by leaves) 
I'm doing yoga again. (wearing yoga pants has inspired me.) I'm gathering stones and creating altars and burning candles and staying off social media and walking the dog multiple times and binge watching Supernatural and painting with water colors.

I'm terrible with water colors and I don't care. I also don't care about publication anymore. Or sales numbers or sequels or self promotion or marketing. I do some of those things, sure, but this book comes first. It may never be read by anyone except for a few close friends. And get this: I don't care. 

In the mornings I change out of my pajamas and into my yoga pants and I park my butt on the bed in my office/guest room where I've been working, and I pick up my pencil and write.


  1. Sounds to me like you *do* know how to write the book!

    1. Oh, Jenn! I am crossing my fingers I've got it now. Of course it's taken me 28 chapters to get to this point : )

  2. I love the # 1 rule, no intent until 3! Jody, we will talk about this soon. I love the forest and satyrs. It's not a YA,but have you thought about looking at Lois Lowry's 3rd book in the Giver series - The Messenger? It has a forest and it's creepy and a bit sic-fi-ish. Might be a mentor text for you,

  3. Thanks, Kathy. I'll look into it : )