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Newsletter Dated: 1/31/2010 3:15:39 PM
Subject: random thoughts about writing
Have been reading an old book, ĎShop Talk,í which is a compilation of thoughts from authors about different aspects of writing. Most writers have a Puritan ethic about writing---write daily no matter what; set a daily quota and stick with it; maintain a routine. Donít wait for inspiration. Write.
When I tstarted writing fiction, I thought I would need a similar discipline. Afterall, the academic wirting I did in the past called for the kin dof disci-line described in 'Shop Talk.' But my experience has been different. I've learned that I cannot write fiction every day. Perhaps more acurately, I can't put words on a page every day. When I have a story in mind, I write all the time, but mostly it's a mental process. I play with ideas, discard them, try new ones, sometimes I avoiud thinking too specifically about an idea or a character because I'm afraid I'll think the life out of the idea. So I'm writing all the time, but I put words on paper in spurts.
Once the story is in my mind, it never leaves me. When I wrote 'Pumpkin Hill,' I got the idea in 1990 and wrote some character sketches at the time and put them in a folder. In 2005 I opened the folder again and it was like I had written the ideas yesterday. Sometimes the story has to age or simmer or mature into words that will go on the page.
I know that when I write several pages in one day, that usually it wonít make sense for me to write the next day. I would be pushing the river. I can edit, but not add more. At other times, though, I can write daily for a period of time because there is an entire section inside of me and I have to let the words arrange themselves on the page so I can see what I have.
I donít like to stop writing at the end of a chapter or scene, because itís like leaving a car in the mud, hoping youíll still have traction when you need to drive it again. Instead I write a few sentences into the next scene so the engine is left in idle with the gear shift in drive so itís always urging forward, never completely stopped. Iíve even stopped mid-sentence if I thought that would help me keep going when I sat down again.
I have been in idle for a while now regarding my next novel. I consciously decided not to divide my attention while I shopped Charlie around. But even though Iím unsure of how much work remains to be done, I feel like itís time to start a new story. Iíve had the opening scene in my mind since last summer. I donít have the story mapped out; I donít have meat for the charactersí bones, but I have a feeling that the time is near and I should sit down again. I donít know if I will have the time I want during February break (weíre planning to go to Pa.), but that might be the best time. And all Iíd want is a page or two. Thatís all. Then Iíd know I will finish. If I start, I finish.