Archives: first draft

What is True for Your Story?

 

Truth is a tricky word. It is especially tricky for writers. Some of you may think truth is only relevant to non-fiction. Some of you may argue truth is fact. Truth in writing is a kaleidoscope or crazy quilt. There as many truths in a book as there are characters. Our job is to write characters or memories (another tricky word) true for each personality, in keeping with the story told. Is it factual? Did a hurricane happen on June 12, 1956, at noon or at 6:00 p.m.? You can look up facts online but the said search will never relate how you felt during that storm or how your character reacted to immediate danger in an intense situation. The fact cannot convey the terror, the cruelty, and wonder of the act. It does not define a family’s reactions as their home is destroyed by a fickle wind while their neighbor’s house escapes damage. It cannot convey the grateful sense of survival when life is measured as greater than tangible goods.

 

Truth plays another role in writing. As we write we may decide to include topics that make us uncomfortable. We may worry about what others will think when they read the material or we fret that we are going too or not far enough. The concerns can be evidenced by our physical reactions: a headache, tightness in the chest or a queasy stomach as we write. Often we avoid topics that cause us to feel vulnerable.

Vulnerability is where truth in writing resides. When you have a physical reaction to your work, meditate on the reaction. What is at the root of the fear, the tension, the sense of dis-ease? When you write a section that challenges your intellectual ideas of truth, it doesn’t mean that the words are emotionally invalid. Truth in writing is more complex than facts. Truth in writing may not be equivalent to truth in your daily life, but it can be true for your character, the plot and the outcome of your writing.

Remember your draft is about creation. A draft is a free fall. The time to let go. The time to trust you, the writer. Ignore the voice that urges you to cut and refine as you go. Simultaneous edits have a vampiric effect. The corpse appears alive but it has no lifeblood.

Surprise yourself by reviewing a full draft. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and create your strongest work. This is your free pass to get all of the truths, feelings, and reactions of your story on the page without internal or external critics.

 

Cara Caras, Baking, and Readers

Cara Caras, Baking, and Readers

 

I am a writer and a baker. When I feel stuck in my writing, I bake. I recently made a new recipe: Cara Cara Cake. A Cara Cara is a seasonal orange available in the northeast from late January until almost March. The bright rind is a color once limited to circus clowns. The semi-sweet, juicy flesh imitates the dark pink of Blood Oranges. I stumbled upon a recipe for a Bundt-type cake that included two whole unspecified oranges. I chose the Cara Caras to adapt the cake  chttps://food52.com/recipes/75095-sunset-s-whole-orange-cake as I choose the identity markers of a character, accessible and yet unexpected.

I don’t believe a recipe has to be followed to the letter for a good outcome. I am a pantser as a writer and as a baker. Recipes are concepts rather than scripture. First drafts, like a new recipe, are a test of imagination and skill. Submission-ready manuscripts are concepts tempered and coereced into final formats, like batter that becomes a fully iced and decorated cake.

 

Despite experience in both arenas I have yet to learn which of my creations will be a hit with my audience. I expected my new cake to be good, but I did not expect it to elicit rhapsody from the various audiences served. The response was so great I was asked for the recipe by a dozen people. Every event after the first serving brought a request for a re-bake. While flattering, I try not to repeat recipes just I try not to create stale characters. Yet, I have come to learn that an audience is a collaborator regardless of what I create. I have to trust that that the taster of my deserts or the reader of my work has accepted what I present and that in some way it touches on what is good food for him or her. I also have to accept when collaborators withhold feedback or give flat responses. Thank god for tasters, editors, and readers.

What is NANOWRIMO?

November is the month you challenge yourself. This is not a competition with others. This is a personal challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. Why?  November is National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO). Login to https://nanowrimo.org

Write 1667 words a day for thirty days. At the end of November, you will be well on your way to a first draft. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? As you read these words your internal editor is screeching, “Are you crazy?” Perhaps.

Let’s say you commit to the challenge but only complete 10,000 words. This is still a win. At the end of November you will have more words than you did at the end of October and if you truly ignored your internal editor, you might have a fertile seed for a new book.  Trust your creative self. Give it a try.

The Bogeymen in the Closets of Writers

As writers,  there are two boogie men in our closets. The first is our internal editor, the voice that criticizes as we write. For most of us, that voice is reminiscent of the first teacher to grade our writing. I’ve yet to meet a writer who doesn’t shudder at red comments splattered across a manuscript. There is a place for that voice but it isn’t during the writing process. What do I mean by the writing process? In this instance think of it as your draft. The draft is the no rules – free zone, with one exception: page layout.

Page layout is not the time to be creative. If you plan to submit your work, set up page layout to meet publishing standards: one-inch margins, top, bottom, left and right, Times New Roman font at 12 pitch and one-tab return at the beginning of each paragraph.

Start Writing.

Really? Yes. Let the words come without judgment. Allow yourself to push your boundaries to achieve story. Write until you hit a wall or paint your characters into a corner. Step away to clear your head. Come back when you’ve recharged. Don’t need recharging have your character make a sandwich, stare in a mirror or make a call. Nanowrimo refers to this trick as a plot ninja.  Move the action move the story.

Image result for sue grafton writing yourself into a corner quote

 

Write and write and write without your internal editor. Write when your stomach churns or your chest tightens. Both are signs that the current writing makes you uncomfortable. A hard truth to accept is that your best writing comes when you are vulnerable. Surprise yourself and your reader.

Stay tuned, next time we let your editor out of the closet and put her to work.

 

 

 

 

© 2018 Lee Heffner – Author