Veronique Darwin

Posts Tagged ‘Writing Process’

Do Not Feel Alone

In Inspiration, Thoughts on Writing on August 18, 2016 at 6:40 pm

Do not feel alone when you write: remember that one day someone will read this, and will not see you lonely at your desk, your hair undone, the tissues piling up. Feel transformed by the words you write, as though they are sprouts or moulds living inside and feeding off you. Pretend you are surrounded by people watching you, waiting for the unique vocabulary and visual imagery pouring out of your finger pads. One day someone will read this and if they think it’s good they’ll want to be your friend. Do not feel alone alone when you write.

Do not ask yourself questions when you write: know that there is nothing more important than trusting instinct and believing that the word you chose out of nowhere is the very best word. Let the winds of poetry roll off your back and the craziness that possesses wolves at full moon time possess you too. Move forward, like a blind woman with a purpose that she has since forgotten. Trust that the answers will come to you as you reread the words you littered behind you. Do not ask yourself questions when you write.

Do not check Facebook when you write: guess that there is probably someone you know minimally in an incredible place you will never visit because you live your life inside your head. Miss a whole day of group wedding photos and baby videos; use that energy not wasted to write fictional versions of these things! Don’t answer a friend request because you are making friends in your stories, and you can make these friends do and say anything. Do not check Facebook when you write.

Do not read someone a passage: like when you recount a dream, you can be sure that this person will not think the passage is as great as you do. Spend time instead making the writing better, so that person will one day want to sit down and read what you’ve written as though you are a real writer whose book they were given to read for a school assignment. Write that person to whom you don’t want to read your passage into your passage in a venomous way, to supercharge your writing. Do not read someone a passage.

 

 

Do not do any of these things when you write, but do them all when you edit.

Feel alone! Let it seep into your psyche until you become a better writer for it, more cynical and isolated, the world your very specific oyster of which only you and the words that you strung together are trapped.

Ask yourself questions! Let the questions become answers become changes, big and small.

Check Facebook! Editing’s boring!

Read someone a passage! See where they wince and where they laugh; where their eyes light up and die down. Even ask them for a suggestion.

In my summer of play-acting again as a writer, I’ve noticed that sometimes I’m not a very good writer. In trying to identify what was going so wrong, I realized that I was acting as an editor while also trying to be a writer. To separate the two parts of my job into creating and cutting is a distinction that works for me in theory, but hey, if I want to check Facebook, that’s a good time to place my editor’s hat on, and if I want to write down whatever comes to my head, which I always do, I am free to call myself back to duty as a writer.

The whole thing is unworthy of categorization until I decide for myself that I need to be more productive and proficient at my job, at which point I might block out times for writing and times for editing, or choose to only edit on paper and only write on the computer. But as the laziness remains, I’m free to continue on this path of two-headed destruction, writing a sentence, rereading the sentence, hating and loving the sentence, changing the sentence, deleting the sentence, and somehow, at some point, my life becoming the sentence.

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Finding Time from Time

In Inspiration, Thoughts on Writing on February 23, 2016 at 10:03 pm

Whenever I have a day to myself I imagine the writing I will get done and the reading I will indulge in. But everyone knows that the busier person is more productive, that the vacuuming will only ever happen minutes before the guests arrive. We find time in the most unlikely of places, squeezing any last drops, draining it out of impossible taps. I’d like to propose an alternative. What if we found time in time itself?

A five minutes in front of the mirror, smiling at the face you once knew but have recently forgotten to take care of. A fire is made for watching, but when did I last sit, as my cat does, in front of it for hours? That moment where you’re leaving and remember you needed to put that thing away for the fifth day in a row but there’s no time now? There’s time in time. What if we made time for time.

I ask you to indulge me in a fantasy: an hour being 60 minutes, each of those minutes 50 seconds or more. What could you make of that, if you lived it?

I’m learning to play the ukulele. It’s been a while I’ve been learning, but not a while were you to tally up all the minutes of playing. I play ukulele the way I live: it’s a thing I’m constantly doing but not always actually doing. I joined an advanced class thinking that might kick me in the butt, in whatever way, and it has so far in several. Being inspired to practice more, I notice the blooming of time when I’m practicing, as though it’s just opened up and offered itself from itself. Where was that hour before? It just appeared, seemingly, out of every day life.

It helps to watch a cat live. There is no time. There is no apparent purpose. There isn’t, like, enormous heaps of joy either, but there is a life there. There is a life there worth considering.

Time with those I love feels precious. Why doesn’t time alone have that same quality? I cherish writing, reading and daydreaming as some of my favourite and most important things I believe I should be doing. So why do I do them so little? I think if we all put a bit more effort into stealing time away from itself, not into slowing it down but into expanding it, we’d notice the special effects of relativity: that the experience of time depends on the speed of the observer, and not the other way around.

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The Rules

In My Writing on August 1, 2013 at 11:16 am

Must write one hour a day.

Okay to write at any time, but the hour must be sequential.

No cheating!

Must start at a 5 or 10 minute interval.

Must end at the same 5 or 10 minute interval one hour later.

Okay to do laundry or dishes.

Okay to eat or drink (encouraged!)

Not good to close eyes.

Must have document open on computer for the whole hour (but can close it a few minutes early if need to think about things).

Can write in notebook as writing (this counts).

Can read book that helps (i.e. writing book or research book).

Okay to write blog post instead of novel if feeling crappy.

Okay to end ten minutes early if feeling crappy.

images

(from macrobusiness.org/au)

That’s fine that there was one time where only wrote for fifteen minutes because of “extenuating circumstances.”

Must be nice to self. Must remember no one is making self write novel.

Okay to pretend that hour started five minutes before hour actually started if feeling crappy.

Good idea to read or sleep after or before hour because this stuff is exhausting.

Shouts from your editor

In My Writing on July 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm

5451092339_f2567fb4e1

(photo from flickriver.com)

WELL, COULD IT BE SOMETHING RECOGNIZABLE THAT TELLS US SOMETHING IMPORTANT ABOUT GIL?

WHAT WAS THE PAMPHLET?

THEY ARE ALWAYS FACING EACH OTHER

THEY ARE ALWAYS TAKING CARE OF PARTS OF EACH OTHER

WHAT DO THEIR EYES DO IN THE PRESENCE OF THE OTHER?

JILLIAN HASN’T NOTICED THAT GIL IS A PART OF HER!!!!!!

JUST TAKE ALL THIS OUT. MESSY.

PARIS

JOB INTERVIEW

WHO MEA IS

EAST VS. WEST COAST

AND HAVE THE TWO OF THEM MOVE AS THEY TALK! AND DO GESTURES! THAT ARE REPRESENTATIVE OF WHAT THEY’RE FEELING!

HOW DO THEY RUN?

WHAT MAKES IT LOOK LIKE A LIMP PIECE OF CAKE? IS IT TALL AND SORT OF LEANING?

WHAT DOES JILLIAN FEEL WHEN SHE PICKS LI UP? WHAT DOES LI LITERALLY FEEL LIKE?

THAT PEOPLE ARE FROZEN ON THE SPOT AND MAGICALLY TRANSFORMED WHEN THEY MEET SOMEONE NEW (WHO THEY WILL COME TO KNOW VERY WELL AND WITH WHOM THEY HAVE A SPECIAL CONNECTION). SOMETIMES COULD THEY JUST NOT REALLY NOTICE THEY ARE MEETING ONE ANOTHER?

WE NEED TO LATER SEE WHAT SHE MADE FROM THE MIXING BOWL

MEA DOESN’T CLEAR HER THROAT.

AND WHY IS JILLIAN SO LIFELESS AND CAVALIER ABOUT THIS!!!

AND? WHAT DOES SCOTCH DO TO HER?

WOULD IT BE BETTER IF PEOPLE WERE SCANDALISED? WHAT’S THE POINT OF NO ONE BEING SCANDALISED?

BE ATTRACTED TO GIL! OR NOT ATTRACTED TO GIL.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? WHO WANTS WHAT AND WHO IS GETTING IT?

WHY SUCH A SHITTY ENDING?

Dreams to write

In Dreams, Thoughts on Writing on July 21, 2013 at 8:17 am

I wrote a short story out of one of my dreams. Is that allowed? It seemed like cheating, like the story came out of somewhere magical instead of me. It’s about a blind woman who listens to birds, and a husband who has learned to imitate her favourite bird call. I can’t dream that stuff up. I don’t even know the name of any birds!

Dreams are great because they come pre-packed with thematic content. I have a sixth sense when I exist in dream world: I know why everything is happening. I know what everything means.

 

There was a while in which I didn’t dream. I was too busy with school and I guess I just forgot. I made a sign (“Dream!!”) and put it on the ceiling of my bed. I started writing down my dreams and they came back. Isn’t it funny that it’s that easy to get in touch with our subconscious?

IMG_0966

 

I’m experimenting at writing at different times of the day. Right now it is the morning and it is awful. Evenings I am sometimes tired. Afternoons I am SO boring. So we’re trying things out. I wonder whether I age throughout the day? I start the morning off stumbling around, speaking in a soft, childish voice, eating cereal. I end the day an old man, drinking a glass of wine alone, falling asleep in front of the TV, wise, maybe.

So I’ve been wondering if we need dreams to write, if they are our most primordial writing coach. They have awful plot structure. Characters are not distinct (in fact they often morph into other characters). Setting is often interesting but impossible. But the feelings!!! Dreams exist on theme and emotion and that’s what I want out of a story.

Falling out and in

In My Writing on July 18, 2013 at 8:18 pm

 

I read this on the bus this morning. I was supposed to be reading Harry Potter 2 (The Chamber of Secrets) as per a roommate Harry Potter reading challenge, but I had also brought along this book, On Becoming a Novelist. It’s my third time reading it. I’ve started developing a habit where I keep it next to me when I’m writing. I thought that maybe instead of looking at Facebook I could look at a book called On Becoming a Novelist.

 “If the promising writer keeps on writing – writes day after day, month after month – and if he reads very carefully, he will begin to “catch on.” Catching on is important in the arts, as in athletics. Practical sciences, including the verbal engineering of commercial fiction, can be taught and learned. The arts too can be taught, up to a point; but except for certain matters of technique, one does not learn the arts, one simply catches on.”

So this explains it: I’ve lately begun to feel that I’m catching on. The feeling came from writing every day for one hour. And one full hour! I could fold laundry or eat a snack in that hour if the temptation so struck me, but I would keep my mind immersed in my novel for that hour. Then Monday came along and I broke tradition. I wrote for forty-five minutes. On Tuesday I broke the hour into two halves. And I have since lost the feeling of catching on, and instead I’m catching up.

It’s weird that I’m writing a novel! What better, more regular things I could be doing with my time than trying to remember a secret world I have created and am trying to express to you through poorly turned phrases. And then I go back and I try to make the phrases turn nicer. And why should you even care, I made up this world! It is of no interest to anybody, including me. I have to force myself to live in the world for an hour a day, and still I fold laundry and I eat snacks! Shouldn’t I be spellbound by this magical world I have created?

I wonder how JK Rowling did it – I mean how she really did it. Yes, she thought up the story on a train, and yes, she planned the whole series of books out before beginning the first, but really: how could she have done it? How could Snape’s character and story line be so complete from the first book? How could clues and minor characters be introduced so early and then play such a large role later on? How the heck did she think up the Voldemort-Harry thing? Most importantly, how did she possibly invent things like a whomping willow or howlers? Did she not have Facebook? Did she write for more than an hour a day?

Harry_Potter_and_the_Chamber_of_Secrets

(from en.wikipedia.org)

There was a time last Spring where I stood at my dad’s drafting desk with this repetitive playlist on and papers spread everywhere. And I loved it! I worked for four hours at a time.

I think I forget about what it is to catch on when I feel like I’m catching up. It’s like love: how could that possibly be a thing? It’s like childbirth; it’s like the Grouse Grind. You don’t remember how bad or good something is when it’s a completely immersive experience. It completely owns you and you are in it. I need to go write a novel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fake prose

In My Writing, Thoughts on Writing on March 10, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Sometimes I can write a page of words without them meaning anything. It’s a problem (or blessing) that arose from the take-no-prisoner’s writing style I used as a kid: I must write a story, no time for thinking. Sentences would drop out of the sky with fully-formed stories behind them. The fully-formed stories would turn into my story. But since I hadn’t written a story yet, since I only had one page of words in front of me, it was meaningless, all nonsense.

Sentences like “she walked through mud without caring about the time that she had been dragged through it.” Sentences like “she believed in the worst of times.” Sentences like “she lived in tribes, she ate in a cafeteria.” Nonsense sentences like these all mean something to me when I write them down, the same way dreams make sense when you are in them. Then you wake up and you remember that there was a whole story behind that part of the dream you can remember. Then you try to tell somebody about the dream and it all falls apart. That wasn’t real. I dreamt that.

I taught myself to write by writing non-writing, by writing fake prose. I did a first draft of a novel this way and got a nasty shock when I revisited page one. But having gone through that unconscious writing phase where everything and anything meant something and should be written down let me get to where I am now: with a novel that’s actually a story. The holes are filled in and sentences are now used intentionally.

Journals- Keeping Your Memory_2

(photo from West Island Gazette)

Then a few nights ago (fake prose is always written at night) I lay down (fake prose is always written on one’s back, with a computer up against the knees) and hammered out a two page story that I’m sure isn’t a real story. I have yet to read it again, but I know it contains sentences of the aforementioned kind, where things are suggested and things are interesting, but they’re coming from a place inside my head that isn’t really me.

If it’s not really my thinking process coming up with the prose, then the writing process becomes an interesting one. It means that I am interpreter, rather than a composer. It means I’m looking for meaning in language rather than trying to use language to expose meaning. It acknowledges the notion that stories fall out of somewhere complete unto themselves and that it’s the writer’s job to mine them. And since that’s what I believe about stories, then I’m happy that I write in a way that can deliver them.

I hope that when I think I’m writing fake prose I’m really writing magical prose. We all know I’m just writing bad prose and trying to pass it off as something else, but there is something undeniably magical about a first draft, before the words realize where they are.

How to Write a Novel in Pieces

In My Writing, Thoughts on Writing on January 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm

 

I feel like a lost a friend, but the friend just cut her hair and stopped communicating with people. She still has a complex inner-life, I assume, but she’s been really out of it lately and though I feel bad for her and I sort of want to see her, she’s just too much work. And then I’d have to apologize. And she has all these problems I forget the nature of and this new boyfriend who I can’t figure out.

My novel has been on a stand-still for months now after a one-year passionate love affair. I’m back at school and ignoring it. Then again, I feel it’s living on without me, because every time I return to it it seems to have evolved.

I’m trying my best to figure out the formula for how to work at a novel when I don’t have time for a novel. How am I supposed to write a novel in pieces of twenty and thirty minutes? How am I supposed to write a novel that has fallen into disrepair?

Puzzle_pieces

(from Wikipedia)

First, I think I have to acknowledge that my novel is a living thing. It’s not being led by me anymore. I created it and it’s constantly living in the sinews of my body. It’s living in notes on the backs of store receipts and in endless disjointed notebook entries I try to convene under the header “Journal of a Novel.” It is living in this blog and it is living in it chapter documents I open up and write notes on, like I am God and my novel must listen.

I tried a strategy today I would like to name flashwriting, because it happens quickly and it resembles writing. It’s all about going into one moment in my book and writing about it, all the while forgetting there is a book that exists around this moment. It’s about creating a book out of images. If I created two thousand beautiful postcards, because I had two thousand periods of twenty or thirty minutes in which I wrote, then that’s almost a novel.

 

Another strategy I’ve been doing is larger, an all-encompassing strategy. Unfortunately, this method involves direction – a compass – and I only have this kind of confidence on certain days. It’s a clear-sighted method of editing, where I rearrange chapters, write out scene plans for scenes that were already written but suck, where I see things in ways that suddenly seem obvious.

This is the beauty of leaving my novel aside – it falls into pieces, yes, but sometimes those pieces scattered out in a new way show me something I didn’t know before. Before, I knew nothing, so anything is always an improvement.

 

 

Journals of a Novel

In Literary Events, My Writing on November 17, 2012 at 11:24 pm

I might have already written a post with the same name! That’s an exciting thing that happens when you’ve written 100 POSTS! I took a picture of my computer screen yesterday when WordPress announced this milestone. No I didn’t take a screenshot, I don’t know how to do that. I used an actual digital camera to take a picture of my computer screen. Like when we used to pause the television to take pictures of Tommy from Power Rangers.

(image from rangercentral.com)

I called my blog A Novel Journal because I wanted to call it Journal of a Novel. That is what I call pages in my journal where I take notes about my novel. I took this idea from a book on writing called Write Away by Elizabeth George. She quite clearly took this concept from John Steinbeck, who actually has a book called Journal of a Novel.

(image from Wikipedia)

So every once in a while I open up one of my two notebooks (one stays at home, one travels with me if my bag is big enough) and I open to a blank page. At the top I write Journal of a Novel (like this is the first journal, but like I have many novels on the go). Then I write down the reason why I opened up the notebook in the first place. For e.g., “Medicine Wheel”. Then I close the notebook and not once ever again do I look at the pages called Journal of a Novel.

This is my next step. This is what I should be doing. I need to take my Journals and apply them to my Novel. I need to find the place where the idea of the Medicine Wheel can be applied and then I need to just apply it. I need to stop thinking of my novel like Point A to Point Z and remember that actually Points D to Z need to be rewritten so I should just get in there. I should stop rewriting Points A, B and C and congratulating myself and trying to show them to people. Points A to C are not a novel! They are like an awful short story with no ending!

I really like that I write these pages called Journal of a Novel. The notes actually give me a lot of clarity. When my ideas aren’t tied up together in prose, I am better able to see how they are connected. The ideas in my novel are closely woven themes, and it’s only by writing little notes and discoveries about these themes that I realize they live on without me. It’s these themes that are ruminating and building upon one another as I let my novel sit. I keep rediscovering these themes in other pieces of literature – in life even – and feeling like I’ve caught on to something real.

My Journals of a Novel let me realize my novel is good. It’s a complex story with important characters and human discoveries. It’s almost a piece of art. Though the prose isn’t yet the prose I want to be reading, there are moments where paragraphs and lines could stand their ground. My novel has a few characters who are fully-formed and others who are getting there. There are moments where I reread bits of my novel and I feel pride. I feel myself thinking, I wrote this?

My journals of a novel help me remember this. They help me realize I’m making something real. At least I can open up to a blank piece of paper in my notebook, write Journal of a Novel at the top, and feel like my thoughts are productive. They are a part of something bigger, something that though not yet done, will someday be great.

Back At It

In My Writing on November 12, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Sometimes I complain about how I’m writing a novel and sometimes I just write it. Today I realized something really important: the simpler I make my novel, the easier it is for me to come back to. So I started cutting.

I so dearly, so naively keep the writing I cut in documents called “ThingsRemoved_Draft5,” “Extra_Things_Novel,” or even more tender, “Bits for Later.” Cutting does something incredible: it zeroes in on the core. And if the core is really the core, it’s usually pretty good.

So today I cut big things. Chapter One is now three pages, which I understand means nothing to you, but which you can tell is short. I’m back at it. Chapter One now sounds good. I read it out loud a few times, boastfully.

Coming back to my novel requires a necessary perusal through the folder I call “Jillian.” I worked on my novel straight for one year and this is the first time I’ve let it sit (and is it ever sitting). Looking back at it now is like finding a cute card I made when I was little. I’m impressed because it feels like someone else did it.

These are some finds:

A strange file called “Character Introductions” where I’ve made a cast list like you might find on imdb. I actually specify “in order of introductions,” which I should change to “in order of appearance.” Then I find things like this, which I’m happy I made on rainy days where I felt like writing peripheral things:

Peter’s hands were those of a musician. He used them to explain things, then hid them down next to his body, so they would stay, so they wouldn’t run away with the circus. Peter’s hands seemed to be the only adventurous part of his body; the rest seemed ready to give up: his receding hairline, his tall, slouched frame, the various fatiguing gestures he made in response to words or moments that exhausted him: hands on head, eyes closed, body sighs.”

One folder is called “extra material,” which ends up being three truly superfluous documents. One is called “bits I haven’t yet used” and contains one paragraph from my very first draft. It’s a horrible paragraph. Another document is called CHAPTER 0, which I can’t wait to open. It’s a phone call, as though I would start my whole novel with a phone call. The third line is “Okay Danny Tanner.” What? The third document is called “themes/philosophies.” I don’t find a gem, but I find this (formatted this exact way):

“-you have to find yourself in order to be creative             you have to lose everything first             you have to have some kind of discovery            then everything comes together and you can be truly creative”

I delete the three documents, losing everything first in order to be truly creative.

I like the images I saved in the Jillian folder. This one is how I imagine (and hopefully get you to imagine) Jillian’s house:

And the poplar tree outside of Jillian’s study:

And then Cape Breton, where Part 2 of my book takes place:

I like this folder of stuff I’ve made up. I like that there is a document titled “GIANTToDoListforJillian” which contains a list that is only two pages long. I like that I attempted to call a document “Leitmotivs.” I like that I did this weird thing called “Green Add Ons” where I highlighted things in green on my third draft and then went back and wrote little descriptions to insert in those spots. For example,

Mea’s closet was like a bag of jellybeans.

Mea adopted things like children do: she read about something, or had some gossip told to her, and suddenly it might as well have happened to her for the level of factual detail and intimacy you’re going to get from the story. This caused problems when the story was yours, and Mea seemed to have usurped it.

Li and Gro moved like a windstorm.

This type of man wears his emotions on his manicured stubble, his gelled hair, his ironed dress shirts: I am available, his items say, and I am not very complicated.

I tried to prepare an answer for people asking me what I did: I do, I thought I’d tell them, a lot. I do so much. I do things on weekdays and weekends. I do them a lot. I just do it.

I like looking into these weird little folders I made and realizing that they’re a part of my novel writing process but they’re not necessarily apart of my novel. I like knowing that I can cut my novel down to a new novel and still these folders and documents exist to prove I’ve been working at a process. Now these documents might not exist forever – I do have a 2007 MacBook – but I will soon buy an external hard drive and I will soon finish my novel. Then I’ll get to look back at these, shamelessly, thinking that it was super cute when I was scribbling nonsense but I’m so glad that I worked at it and really learned how to write.

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