Mostly, you probably need to go deeper. Deeper, deeper, deeper. You should know everything there is to know about your characters and your settings.
I had a post all planned out for yesterday, but a deluge of the white stuff wiped that all out, so instead, hopping in the wayback machine to continue my Duluth post:
Sometimes, a girl (or guy) has to read. For girls (and guys) who write, that goes double. Not that it’s less important for those who read for pleasure only, because it’s certainly up there on the list of crucial things for maintaining life, along with breathing, food, water, rest, shelter, all that stuff. It should be noted that a decent bookstore or coffee shop should have all of the above, which is why I recommend visiting both as often as possible, but I digress.
The importance of reading for the writer goes double because it serves a double purpose. For most readers, reading is a break from everyday life. I say break, not escape, because when I close the covers of a book or power down my reader, the bills are still due, health isssues are still there, somebody still doesn’t get along with somebody, etc. I have to go back to what others may call “real life” but it’s with the knowledge that I carry some of the story I have read with me, and I can go back to it, or the next one, in the near future. It carries me through. True enough for all readers, but for those who write, we need to gorge, because we’re going to spew it all back out.
Seen those bumper stickers that say “no farms, no food?” We saw a good deal of them in the town where we used to live, as we were close to farm country, and it’s true. In the same way, “no books, no writers” could apply. Before any of you say it’s not the same, or ask if it shouldn’t be the other way around – “no writers, no books” – let’s put that aside for the time being.
Remember, whether you are reader or writer, that first book that invited you in. I say invited rather than sucked, because, unless there was a gun to your head or a rabid gorilla smacking his fist standing behind you, you had the option of putting the book down…but you didn’t want to. Staying with that book was an act of will. The rest of the world was going to have to wait, because what was in that story was more important.
Writers have to be, consistently, at that place where we can generate stories we hope will have that effect on people. While there are times when writers do the “just one more chapter and then I’ll stop” thing when at the keyboards (and we all want to be at that phase most of the time, I’m pretty sure) there are other times when we need to take in before we can put out.
Life, for anyone, can be exhausting. Things are going to happen. Natural disasters, injuries, illnesses, a sudden diagnosis when a loved one goes to see a doctor for something and then it turns out to be something else, which affects the entire family in ways nobody ever expected. New friends come. Old ones go. Sometimes, they come back, but it’s different than it was before. Work is crazy. Work is gone. Annoying situations grow to a point where they become unbearable and then every fiber of one’s being, every hour of every day, is focused with pinpoint accuracy on that one detail because nothing else can happen until that particular monster is penned and dispatched to the great beyond.
Now, do all of the above, in one year, and then put out a book, damnit. Preferably more than one. Oh, and be happy about it. Yeah, right. If it worked that way, cupcake, I would hop on my sparkly pink, winged unicorn and gallop through the clouds to Mount Olympus where I could have tea with Scarlett O’Hara, Darth Vader and the entire cast of Lost. (by which I mean the characters, not the actors) It doesn’t. Think of a series of life disruptions all happening basically at once like a car versus pedestrian car crash.
There the writer is, minding his/her own darm business, walking along and having mental conversations with imaginary people, when WHAM! Hit from behind. Get up. What happened? WHAM! Hit from the front. Well, okay, maybe I can get out of…WHAM! Sideswiped. Wham! Wham! Whamwhamwhamwhamwham! Before you know it, it’s a ten car pileup, and then, for no apparent reason, a piano drops on top of the writer like it’s a Looney Tunes cartoon.
We’re going to have some bruises here. Some blood loss. Some broken bones. Unless medical science has made dramatic advances in the last five minutes, we do have the technology and we can rebuild him/her, but not in an instant. Nope, it’s going to need a transfusion and bandages and some surgery most likely, and after that, after alllllll of that, we start the physical therapy. Not anyone’s idea of fun (except for masochists, and for them, hey, let them have their moment) but neccessary if the writer is ever going to get out of that bed and back to the land of the living.
Think of it as climbing up and down those same three steps in the physical therapy room. They don’t look like they’re going anywhere at first sight. In fact, they can be easily picked up and stashed in a cabinet at the end of the day, and by the tiniest of nurses, too. But up and down them a zillion times a day for however many days, and know what happens? Our writer is finally cleared to go home, the medical staff confident that he/she can traverse the three steps onto the front porch, and more than that, the thirteen steps that connect downstairs to upstairs. Time for a return to business as usual.
To be continued…