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Posts Tagged ‘my writing process’

Reading Like a Writer

(From the Archives)

When I read as a writer, what I read — no matter what it is — but especially if it’s fiction, becomes a whole different Book stacksanimal. I realized this after reading a particularly fabulous short story that completely enthralled me for the course of several thousand words. And when I came back to the real world, I found myself not only analyzing what made the story so amazing, but analyzing how I as a writer read it differently than I would if I weren’t a writer.

I don’t think any writer can approach a story without viewing it, at least to some degree, on the level of the writing. As I analyzed my story reading style, I realized two things. First of all, I always think back over the story after the fact and try to figure out what made it work for me or not. That process within itself can’t keep from changing the story. In a way it becomes a story of multiple plots and constructs the writer never intended, but my mind can’t keep from creating. If in my analysis there are lots of changes I would make, things I would have done differently as the author, at some point it becomes my story, the one I’m writing in my head, and no longer the story the author intended.

Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020For me, the big clue to how I esteem the story is the point at which I begin to analyze. If I’m analyzing the story as I read it, then it’s clearly not going to get five stars on the K D story critique scale. The sooner I begin my analysis while I’m reading, the fewer stars the story or novel rates from me, until at some point it becomes an exercise in editing and recreating it as my own story rather than reading for pleasure. When that happens, the whole process becomes a different experience than the one the writer intended.

If, however, I get totally lost in the story, then my whole internal landscape changes. The writer in me is temporarily replaced by the fascinated little girl who simply loves a good story. When I am pulled in, rough and tumble, to the world the writer has created for me, the story becomes multi-dimensional and experienced twice, sometimes thrice over, sometimes even more. When I’m in the queue at the supermarket, or in bed waiting to fall asleep, when I’m waiting for the bus, I can have the secret pleasure of reliving that story over and over.

Being pulled in is the first part of experiencing a great story. The second part, the analysis part, happens after the fact.books_xl_4571699 When the story moves me, excites me, changes me, then my analysis of it is a different process. Because I don’t feel I can improve on it, analysis then becomes taking the story into myself from a write’s point of view. In other words, what is it that makes this story so fantastic, and how can I incorporate some of that fantastic -ness into my own writing?

A perfect story, a story that pulls me in and devours me whole is a lingering experience. I’m a firm believer that a good story should somehow change the reader. But a good story should also change the writer. A good story should be like discovering a view from a mountaintop that we didn’t know was there before, a view that changes everything, the waterfall we didn’t see, the storm we never expected, the castle that dominates the landscape. A really great story has the potential to make me a better writer, a better weaver of story, a better seer of nuance, a better wielder of my craft.

But a good story should change more than just my views of my writing world. It should touch and stimulate in ways I would not have expected. It should open up the landscapes in my unconscious and my imagination. In some ways, a good story acts as a Muse, and that is the pinnacle of what a writer can glean from a story. I won’t say that doesn’t happen with badly written stories as well, after all the Muse chooses her own time and place. But with a good story, somehow the appearance of the Muse seems more numinous, more dressed for the occasion.Sleeping woman reading181340322466666994_IswNAb85_b

For me, the most powerful element of any story is the key relationship and how it expresses itself. That expression is
often sexual, and a well-written sex scene carries with it the weight of human emotion. It carries with it the drive to reach that magical point where two become one, where we are as close to being in the skin of ‘the other’ as it is possible to be. The power of sex and relationship in story can hardly be overstated. Even in mediocre stories, the power of love and relationship can still pull me outside of the editor-me and into the roil of the archetypal story of human need. To me, that means we erotica writers wield one of the most powerful tools in the writing craft; sex in story. Use it poorly and it just sounds stupid and crass. But use it well and it will be the moment in the story that the reader remembers while in the queue at the grocery store, while drifting off to sleep, while waiting for the bus. And it will be remembered with that ache of commonality of all humanity, the driving force within us all. Keeping that in mind, I don’t think it’s any wonder that so many writers fear writing sex.

 

Small Flashlight, Big Darkness

I’m sharing a little something from the Archives with you today, because I’ve been truly In The Zone the past few coming up from the depths
days and when I’m not writing like a mad woman, I’m thinking about characters, about plot, about why what’s happening needs to happen. That all brings me back to the intense, sometimes frightening, position we writers all face  on a regular basis — shining a small flashlight into our big 
darkness. (This post first appeared, with modifications, on the ERWA blog October 2012)

Today’s post is a hard one for me to settle into because it could so easily devolve into navel gazing, and one of the promises I made to myself and to my readers back when I wrote my very first ever blog post was that I would keep the navel gazing to a minimum. There must be a gazillion writer and write-hopefuls blogging, and each one is convinced that their journey to writing success is totally unique and must be shared. Well maybe not each one, maybe I’m only speaking for myself, in which case, I blush heartily and apologise.

My point is that all of the energy, angst, fear, adrenaline, exploration of dark places, exploration of forbidden places that used to go into the pages and pages of that gargantuan navel-gaze that was my journal now go through that strange internal filtering process that takes all my many neuroses and insecurities, all my deep-seated fears, all my misplaced teenage angst and magically transforms them into story.

That was sort of my little secret — that I alone, in all the world, suffered uniquely and exquisitely for my art. I took all the flawed and wounded parts of myself, parts I wasn’t comfortable facing, examined them reflected through the medium of story and found a place where I could view them and not run away screaming.

Where is all this borderline navel-gazing leading? There was a BBC article some time ago asking the question, is creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness?’ I shared it on Facebook and Twitter to find that lots of other writers had shared it as well and the general response was simply that it sounded about right. There were some very moving conversations that came out of those sharings of that article along with the realization — something I’ve long suspected — that I am not all alone out there in my vibrant unique neurotic bubble. And really, it comes as no surprise that one has to be at least a little neurotic to be ballsy enough to try to bring, in one form or another, what lives in our imagination into the real world and to attempt to put it out there for everyone to see. Or secret exhibitionist is alive and well.

As the article was shared around and the responses mounted, I found myself thinking of C.G. Jung’s archetype of the Wounded Healer. The healer can only ever heal in others what she herself is suffering from. The archetype of the storyteller is alive and well. And I believe writers live out the archetype of the wounded healer on a daily basis. Empathy goes much deeper than sympathy. The human capacity for story is as old as we are. Before the written word, story was the community archive. It was our memory of who we are, our history, our continuity, our triumphs, trials, sufferings, joys, all memorised, filed away, and kept safely in the mind of the story teller. That had to do something to your head, knowing that you were the keeper of the story of your people! How could storytellers be anything other than neurotic?

It’s a lot more personal now that we have the written word. No one has to dedicate their lives to memorising the story of their people. It’s just as well because that story has become way too expansive for one person to ever manage in many lifetimes. Now we tell our own story, the story of the internal battles that wound us, the story of those wounds
transformed. We all tell our stories in our own personal code. What may well start out as a navel gaze into the deep dark wilderness of Self can be transformed into powerful, vibrant story, and we’re healed! At least temporarily, or at Writing imageleast we’re comforted. And hopefully so are those with whom we share our stories. When I journalled my navel-gazes, I wasn’t interested in anyone else seeing what was on those pages. It was a one-sided attempt at a neurotic house-cleaning. Sharing the story is a part of the healing; sharing the story is a part of the journey. The Storyteller had no purpose if she didn’t share the story with her people.

Most of the time I write my stories because I can’t NOT do it, and it’s a lot of fun. That’s the truth of it. I seldom consciously dig deep to find those wounded, neurotic places. Really, who would want to do that deliberately? But the wounded places find me, and they end up finding their way into the story. And what surfaces is never quite what I expected, always more somehow, even if started out to be nothing more than a little ménage in a veg patch.

 

Sleepwalking the Dog: More Morphine Dreams

S6302679Drugs, hospital stays, going under the knife. I’ve only ever had that experience three times in my life, and once was when I had my tonsils taken out as a very young child. Frankly it was a lot scarier as an adult. Things go wrong. People go under anesthesia for a simple surgery and there are complications. I’m a horrible patient under the best of times, but when control, everything, ALL OF IT, is taken out of my hands by anesthetists and surgeons, even when it’s for my own good, I wonder how I’ll come out on the other side. I wonder IF I’ll come out on the other side. I distinctly remember waking up in the recovery room after both my surgeries as an adult and my first feeling being an incredible sense of joy. Maybe that was just the drugs, but my first real thought, both times was, ‘I made it!’

There are no dreams under anesthesia or at least I’ve never dreamed. It’s like I’m conscious one second and then for however long the surgeon works on my, I no longer exist. I’m just not there. And frankly recovery afterwards demands too much attention to really consider the thought of where I went while I was somewhere else. Perhaps the anesthetist took ME out of my body and put me in a Mason jar by the side of the operating table until the surgeon was done, and then she stuffed ME back into my flesh.

But if I really was somewhere else, and it wasn’t a Mason jar by the operating table, then where was I? Surely I had to be somewhere. And that begs the next question. Wherever I was, was I there alone? And if not, is it possible that just maybe I didn’t come back alone? Sorry! I’m having a goose bumps moment here. Both times following surgery, I’ve come back to myself wondering if I’m still the same me. There are parts missing, parts repaired, parts bruised and stitched and stapled, BUT that’s just flesh. The first surgery, there was blood – someone else’s blood, transfused into
my body, but surely that’s just flesh too. I was just as gone then as I was this last time, and for a whole lot longer. And it only now occurs to me that it was after that first surgery that the stories began to flow fast and furious, and I couldn’t write them down fast enough. Oh I’d always written, always been good at it, but everything I wrote up until that point felt more like stuff I’d just made up. After … well after that first surgery it was different. Afterwards, wherever the stories came from, more often than not it felt like it wasn’t from me. It felt like someone opened up a place in my unconscious and dumped them into me, and I became the conduit, the scribe, nothing more. Sometimes I was a good scribe. Sometimes I could have been better because the material dumped into the conduit made me uncomfortable, made me squirm, and I didn’t want to write it. But if I didn’t write it, if I didn’t get it right, well the characters haunted my dreams, and they weren’t always very nice about it either.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-abstract-black-white-writing-pen-image20156020Strange that it took a simple knee surgery to bring all this stuff back to me, to make me think about where I go, where I’ve been, and what that has to do with how the ideas get in my head. But maybe it’s not so strange at all, since the first surgery was major and all of me was much more taken up with recovery. But so many of the pieces fit together now. Where do I go when I’m not there in my body? Well at least this time, I went to Vegas, where I communed with a big-ass dog, a dark man who was brooding and beautiful in a scary as hell way; and a woman with the most incredible hair I’ve ever seen. Surgery, jet-lag, pain meds, and I find myself sleepwalking that big-ass dog through the streets of Vegas.

Well, actually it’s more like the dog is sleepwalking me. I wake up in the Elara, where I always wake up, and it’s late. It must be long toward morning because some of the brighter lights on the strip have been dimmed, and Vegas is as quiet as it ever gets. It’s the dog licking my face that wakes me. And the next thing I know I’m wrapped in a sheet toga-style and I’m following the dog down the Strip heading toward Caesar’s Palace. I don’t know why I keep following the dog. He’s not my dog, and he clearly doesn’t need me to look out for him. He clearly outweighs me, and his teeth are a lot bigger than mine. But I keep following him. It seems essential that I follow him. The Strip is strangely quiet, and dark, and then I realize it’s because I’m not actually on the Strip any more, but I’m down below it, in some strange tunnel.

I dream of tunnels a lot, so that doesn’t surprise me, and neither does it surprise me that though it’s pitch dark, I can see enough to follow the dog. I notice the smell of ozone, like you smell just before a coming lightening storm, and the fine hairs on my arms bristle. The dog stops, and I’m standing next to him peering out into what looks like a large ballroom. People are dancing to strange music, slow dancing, close and sensual, and my skin prickles all over. Then I realize I’m standing right behind the dark man and the woman with the hair, who are watching the goings on of the dance floor. I’m standing there, and I’m listening.

‘You promised me anonymity when I came here,’ the man says to the woman. There seems to be some sort of breeze coming from somewhere, teasing and caressing her hair and making it dance and sway against her back.

She laughs softly. ‘Surely you don’t think it’s your story I want to her to tell. Your story has been told ad nauseum.’

I can see the man bristle with her words, and I know his pride has just been stung. His response is soft, and I feel it more than hear it. ‘They’ll be telling my story long after you’re gone.’

She laughs again, and I find myself fascinated by the sway and shift of her hair with the movement of her body. I find myself wanting to reach out and touch it. ‘No doubt,’ she says, ‘but nonetheless, it’s not your story I want her to tell.’

At first I think it’s the dog growling, then with a shiver, I realize it’s the man. ‘You bring her here to my realm, where you know damn good and well she doesn’t belong and then you tell me it’s not about me?’

‘She’s a scribe,’ the woman says unperturbed. ‘That means there’s no place that she doesn’t belong, no boundary she can’t cross, and right now she works for me. If I want her to tell your story or the story of your mangy dog, or the story of some reclusive blood sucker across the pond, it’s not your business. You’d do well to remember that.’

I work for her? It is at that moment I realize the woman is talking about me! Suddenly I have the overwhelming urge to turn and run, though I’m not sure my legs will support me any longer. Besides I realize I can’t begin to find my way back. I followed the dog. I feel like my whole body has turned to ice, and I can’t move. I literally can’t move!

For a moment there’s silence. The music stops, but the people on the dance floor don’t seem to notice. They keep swaying and undulating as though they still hear the melody in their heads, and the rising wind I think I hear in the tunnel is only my own efforts to breathe.

‘Who then?’ The man asks at last. ‘Whose story do you want her to write?’

She leans forward and whispers in his ear, and I see his shoulders stiffen and his whole body convulses.

‘Who?’ I ask. ‘How can I know whose story you want me to write if you don’t tell me?’ But the woman doesn’t hear me. Neither of them do. And I’m shocked at the sound of my own voice. I haven’t agreed to write any story for her. Why would I? Why would I do anything for either of them? And yet I have to know! I have to.

‘Goddamn it, if you want me to write a story then tell me who it’s about,’ I shout.

And then I jerk awake as though I’ve just fallen from a great height. My knees hurt like crazy, and I’m trembling and Sleeping woman reading181340322466666994_IswNAb85_bsweating in the hospital bed. My husband is gripping my hand. The look on his face tells me that he’s concerned, that my dreams have bled into the waking world. He’s called the nurse. She takes my temperature and blood pressure, gives
me more pain meds and tells me to get some rest.

After she’s gone, my husband says, ‘you weren’t dreaming about a waterslide that time.’

I shake my head.

‘Was it bad?’ he asks.

‘Just strange. I was sleepwalking the dog,’ I manage just before I plunge back into drugged oblivion.

 

Sex and Creativity

Sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities.

Erica Jong

(Archived post)

Sex toy incentiveMG00625-20140322-1049My husband knows I’m always looking for interesting articles about sex. He sent me one the other day about masturbation as a treatment for restless leg syndrome (It’s orgasm that actually seems to help. The means is optional.) This led us to an impromptu discussion of all of the other benefits of sex. Sex is a good sleep aid, sex can help with weight loss, sex can improve skin, hair and nails, just to name a few. The jury, however, is still out on whether sex is an aid or a deterrent to creativity.

For the nay-sayers, abstinence has long been touted as a way to focus sexual energy for creative purposes. On the other hand, a study at the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne and the Open University showed that professional poets and artists had almost twice as many sex partners as other people. The study also showed that the number of sex partners increased as creative output went up. The conclusion drawn was that the more creative you are, the more sex partners you were likely to have.

I’m sure that’s a simplification, but I wonder which came first the sex or the creativity? Is it the creative force that makes us horny, or is it being horny that makes us creative? My guess is that every writer, poet or artist would answer that question differently. However, I don’t think there’s any denying the close connection between the creative force and sexuality. Nor do I think that’s particularly surprising. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Freud was right. It IS all about sex. But what I’m not sure of is that we really understand just what sex is all about.

Yes, the basic biology of it’s obvious, but we humans haven’t had sex simply to procreate in a very long time now. We’ve evolved to want, to expect, even to need more from the sex act than just the next generation. Perhaps that goes hand in hand with the evolution of what civilizes us, what sets us apart from our animal cousins — at least in our own eyes. For humans, many of our basic needs have evolved two meanings. First there is the concrete realm in which we’re born, nurtured, thrive, pass on our genes and die. But we develop another level of meaning when we no longer have to use all of our energy just to survive. When starvation is no longer an issue, food and its preparation and presentation becomes art. When keeping out the cold is no longer an issue, clothing becomes fashion, and magazines tell us how we can be walking galleries for the art of clothing. When finding shelter from the elements is no longer an issue, the very homes we live in become an artistic expression of ourselves. Artistic expression, for us, has become as important as function.

But all of these necessities are concrete. Sex is not. In the days of our ancestor, sex was the magic by which two people become three. Today sex is the magic by which two people become one, or by which one person becomes more herself or himself. Procreation has given way to re-creation, on the one hand, but on the other hand, how can an act that has evolved from the very need to create the next generation be rooted in anything but creativity?

How can the process of creating not be sexual in nature? Writing a story is a penetrative act resulting in something larger, something much more alive than the words on the page, than the idea conceived. That’s heady stuff. That’s the writer in full rut. It’s intimate, it’s messy, it’s rough and tumble, it’s voyeurism and exhibitionism and full-on heat. If it isn’t, then there hardly seems to be a point.

That being said, anyone who has had good sex, lingering sex, or even remembers a good teenage feel-up when time wasn’t an issue, and suddenly seemed no longer to exist, will recall that the end was subsumed in the means, the wonder of the act itself, the amazing intimacy with the other. Any writer or artist knows that experience up close and personal. At some point the creative act itself becomes the sum total of existence. The writer’s world shrinks to and expands out from that act, and the end no longer matters.

So how did I get from masturbation for restless leg syndrome to once more worshiping at the altar of the Divine Creative Sexual Force? Well I suppose it’s all just a part of the journey isn’t it? And besides, where else would I be expected to go with it?

 

The Word I Just Can’t Say …

Writing imagePerhaps there’s something wrong with my mouth, the way my tongue touches the hard palate, or the way my lips purse. Perhaps it’s a genetic defect, though I don’t recall either my father or my mother having the problem. But then again it could have skipped a generation, I suppose. Maybe my mother dropped me on my head when I was a baby …

On the other hand, it could be some sort of psychological problem. Maybe I need to seek help. Maybe Freud would say I got stuck in one of the early stages of childhood development … oral? … anal? (Oh knock it off! I can see where your naughty minds are going with that one ☺) Possibly there’s a 12-step group that deals with my problem, or maybe there are psychologists who specialize in my particular affliction.

Note to self: Check online for self-help books on topic.

Well, it’s no good speculating when the damage is done. I suppose now all I can really do is treat the symptoms — the waking up in the middle of the night with my heart racing, the excess drinking of coffee, the panic attacks when I sit down at my laptop to work in the morning and realize just how much I have to accomplish that day, the associated inability to do housework, my inclination to hide out for days with no companionship other than my laptop.

I have a sneaking suspicion that my affliction is common among writers, though when I’m suffering from a particularly bad bout, I feel like I’m the only one in the world who just can’t do it.

I feel like I’m the only one in the world who just can’t say NO!

Oh, believe me, I’ve tried, but I break out in a cold sweat of fear that this might just be the one time when I absolutely, under no circumstances, should refuse the possibility that this could be the best opportunity ever. So I say YES!

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-birthday-background-party-streamers-confe-colorful-balloons-design-childrens-design-kids-image35629278The way I see it in my fevered little mind, saying no shuts doors. Saying no means that whatever might have resulted from the simple uttering of the YES word, whatever adventures I might have had, I’ve just refused with a simple two-letter word. I’m a firm believer that the more doors we walk through, the more doors are opened to us. That’s all positive, that’s all a good thing, but just how many doors can one person walk through before they become a twitching, neurotic heap, hunching bleary-eyed over their laptop? … er … wait a minute. Why does that sound so familiar?

I suppose as NaNoWriMo is now well and truly upon us, there’ll be a lot of people wondering if they should have said no. Maybe it’s a Pavlovian thing. Yes means possibilities. Yes means new opportunities. No means the doors are shut to those possibilities. Saying yes generates a sense of excitement, a sense of anticipation of new adventures, of new plots and new characters. But doesn’t saying NO also open the door to other, different possibilities? Saying no means that I could actually have time to give my house a proper cleaning. Saying no means I might have time to do girlie things like shopping for pretty stuff and practical stuff I’ve put off shopping for because I said YES too many times. Saying no means I could do some much-needed redecorating and renovating. Saying no means I might have time to take up a new hobby, to take an online course, to learn to speak Italian …

But to me, saying no means feeling lazy and unproductive. OK, I get that those feelings are just a part of my inherently neurotic self, but I feel them nonetheless. And if I’m honest, I can’t neglect that the doors that saying NO would open are often doors that I’m a little bit scared to walk through. Better the devil you know … Instead, I say YES, and I feel the exuberant panic that’s a cross between jumping up and down and punching my fist in the air in triumph and excitement and banging my head on the desk in the cold sweat of fear as I moan, ‘Ohmygod! What have I done?!?!?!’

the screamI’m in that scary exciting, run away screaming, writing like a madwoman against tight deadlines space at the moment. Grace Marshall is frantically writing Interviewing Wade to come out in February. KD Grace is butting in to write her first ever M/M novella, which just also happens to be her
first ever vampire story. To Rome with Lust is less than a month from its release date, with a two-week blog tour hard on its heels – posts still to be written … I’m right in the middle of the Lakeland Witches blog tour, and there’s a tongue-in-cheek billionaire novella waiting in the wings. All this in the midst of feeling bereaved that Demon Interrupted had now had its online HEA, and I’ll miss writing sexy, romantic stories for you on my blog. Do I dare say YES to another serial??? *Twitch, shiver, anticipate*

I’ll admit my reasons for sharing my NO-rosis with you are a bit mercenary. I needed a blog post for today and I couldn’t say NO! Also, I’ve read that it helps to talk about our neuroses. Isn’t that the first step to recovery? Doesn’t that mean I might be more likely to say NO next time???

… No, not really?

Didn’t think so …

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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