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Ever feel brilliant?

April 14, 2009

Some days I feel like I am a genius.  This usually happens on days where I don’t get a lot of actual writing done.  Today is one of those days.

I was once an outliner, using the whole Roman numeral system and everything, just like they taught me in middle school.  I eventually regressed to a bullet system, but even that is often too rigid for my short fiction.  Now I do almost all of my story planning in freewriting exercises (also something i learned in middle school).  It usually just helps me find character motivations, flesh out plots.  Today it worked a miracle.

Okay, it’s probably not the freewriting.  Only so much of it is even me.  I got my inspiration from, of all places, a reality television show.  The rest came from about a dozen of those writing books that line my bookshelf (many described here).  I kept asking myslf the right questions.  Like what?  The biggest: What human truth am I revealing with this story?  According to Kate Wilhelm’s Storyteller, triviality is a regular problem with stories, even at Clarion.  I suffer that problem a lot.  I am pleased to say that this story isn’t planned to be trivial.  How about that, huh?  (Sorry, watching Leno as I type.)

Other questions: Why do I care?  Who’s viewpoint is the most dramatic?  Why would she do that?  How would I accomplish this or that goal?  It’s all basic stuff, but I finally feel like I’m asking the right questions at the right time.

I realize, this late in the post, that most of you probably don’t care.  I sound kind of like I’m bragging.  Maybe I am.  It has seemed recently that everything I’ve been writing has either slipped out too smoothly or bogged down in attempts  be relevant only to end up monotonous.  People keep telling me that making the Clarion West waitlist this year means I’ll surely make it next year (unless lightning hits Jordan Lapp before June).  But I hadn’t felt like the ideas hitting me had the potential to be any better than “Leech Run” or “Glow Baby”.  This one could be.  I’m excited about my good idea and I’m taking it out on you.

Reality check: I haven’t written the first word yet.  I have my main characters (mother and daughter named Evelyn and Kelby Abrams), an opening scene idea (think the opening of The Great Gatsby set in a CEO’s waiting lounge), a POV (Kelby’s), the antagonist’s motvation, the SF plot points, comuppance, a major foreshadowing element, a few minor characters, and that great human truth that so many of us endure…but they are all ideas in paraphrased forms that may or may not play out in words the way I envision them.  Basiclly, I’ve done the easy part.  Next comes the gruesome act of spewing this into narrative form, followd by the painful art of revision and editing.  It’s like I’m looing at Everest from basecamp praising myself for making it this far.

Still, I am thrilled that my brain has returned to me.  I go through phases like this, where I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere just to come out of it a long way ahead of where I fell off.  My monkey paw touched the monolith.  Now let’s see what I can do with this bone.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2009 4:33 pm

    I am laughing as I read this because I feel the same way, and I DO care. I ask these questions, too, about my characters and myself, trying to make things work. Most often lately I’m asking myself, “Is this the best I can do?” and “Where’s that story that has to be told, that’s my life’s work?” I think I’m finally realizing that the pursuit of that one finished novel that’s exactly what I’ve always wanted is a myth, but I have to keep telling myself it’s out there (or in here, *points to skull*). I know I need tons more discipline, practice, trial-and-error, and concentrated thought to get out the most basic work before I get anywhere near THE work.

    Supporting each other is the best boost, I think. Keep it going!

    Oh, and watch out, Jordan!

  2. April 16, 2009 4:34 pm

    Having said all that, I do feel brilliant.

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