• Home
  • Posts Tagged'the writing life'

Posts Tagged ‘the writing life’

Getting Scribal

 

We writers of fiction often play god creating both characters and plot and setting that created world in motion to see what happens, to even control what happens. We actually get to look inside the heads of our characters and see what’s going on there, what motivates, what inspires, what frightens, what excites. In a lot of ways that’s the norm. That’s what the writing life is supposed to be like, that’s supposed to be our experience as we plot the story and shape our characters.

 

But in every good writing experience I’ve ever had, in almost every novel I’ve ever written, there comes a point when I stop being the creator, when I stop telling the characters what’s going to happen and how they’ll react to it. There comes a point, a certain threshold – usually when I’m most deeply into the world I’ve created, when the characters rise up and rebel. They stop being my puppets and they start telling me exactly how it’s going to be. They make it very clear to me that I have been demoted from god, creator of the fictional world and all who live in it to … well … to a glorified secretary and little more. They tell me what to write and I don’t argue. I just write, because at that point, they know what’s best.

 

OK, the position is actually a bit more glamorous than that of a secretary because my characters now drag me along, whether my bag is packed or not, to wherever the plot takes them and through whatever twists and turns unfold in the process. I become the war correspondent reporting the action on the front. I become the Scribe, responsible for recording the facts, responsible for writing the truth as my characters see it. I also become their advocate. It becomes my job to speak for the character to the readers, to make sure the readers ‘get them’ and their plight.

 

The Scribe! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what that means, especially as I work on the Medusa’s Consortium series in which the roll of the scribe becomes a lot more important. I’ve been trying out that position, opening myself to the idea of being prepared for anything. The result has been several stories I’ve shared with you on this blog, as well as some highly imaginative incidents that may or may not have involved strong drink, too little sleep, and a sense of humor that is most active when the imagination is stimulated. The story of the storyteller is another story within itself. The storyteller, the novelist, the war correspondent, the reporter, are all quite often used as plot devices that frame the story. In fact the story within a story, the plot within a plot, the play within a play is as old as Shakespeare and probably older. It’s old because it works. It works because it give more dimension and also allows the Scribe a little bit of
distance, a little bit of space to say, while pointing the finger, ‘Hey, it wasn’t my idea! They told me to say it! It’s their fault, not mine!’ If ever there was license for a writer to misbehave with abandon, I’d say the Scribe is it. So, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. My Medusa novels, Blindsided as well as In The Flesh are both Scribe stories, in which our scribe, Susan Innes takes center stage. Encounter in a Dry Canyon and the encounters with Alonso Darlington as well as the lady in the sunglasses, (and you all now know that this lady will be putting me through my
paces for a long time to come) are all examples of the writer as Scribe, of the writer only there to observe and tell the characters’ stories.

Being a Scribe for the characters and events of an intriguing story means that I, the writer, gets the hell out of the way and let the characters tell the story, let them guide me through the events as they unfold. If I’m not in the way, the story is one step closer to its purest form, colored by the characters views of events and experiences rather than my own, and that has to be the difference between Nescafe and a freshly made, triple espresso with whipped cream on top!

 

Filtering Our Lives

From the Archives:

 

While this post is from the archives, it is very appropriate once more, as I’ve been spending less time on line and more time in my private world. The cycle is forever turning, changing and beginning again and being filtered to suit my needs. Hope you enjoy the post.

 

I’ve been thinking about filters lately, going through one of my periodic stages of resenting smart phones, social networking and all things techno. That may well be in part because I’ve only ever managed to master what it takes to survive in that online world. I’m a klutz on my best days. But sometimes I’m an angry luddite wannabe, who grumbles incessantly while I bury my nose in my kindle to lose myself in a good book … Oh the neuroses of my life!

 

When I’m lost in the world of navel gazing and trying to connect to what matters without losing myself in the detritus and the trivia of a world online, I often find myself thinking about the filters we live our lives through, and what being once removed from everything, while at the same time up close and personal with the whole world and all the information in it means to us as a civilization – to me as an individual.

 

I can go online and hear the background microwaves that are the remnants of the Big Bang, the beginning of the universe. I have done, have listened over and over with goose bumps crawling up my arms.

 

I can go to Facebook or Twitter and have meaningful conversations with friends all over the world, people I’ve never met physically and yet I’ve connected with and feel somehow a kin to.

 

I can keep up on films and stars and gossip, I can join any group, be a fan girl, talk trash, be a part of any organisation with any cause imaginable – political, religious, medical, physical, magical, practical, any hobby, any sport, any obsession. It’s all there. All I have to do is log on. Easy.

 

When we were in Dubrovnik several Christmases ago, we found ourselves in a random café for lunch one day. The cafes that were open in the dead of winter were happy for customers, and when we arrived, we were the only ones there. About halfway through the meal a young man came in, eyes glued to his smart phone. He asked us if we’d read the reviews for this particular café. We said no, we’d just dropped in. The food was lovely. We had a local beer, local specialties, and the owners of the restaurant were friendly, and patient with us as we practiced our rusty Croatian on them. Meanwhile the man ordered without looking at the waitress, ate without looking at the food, all the time lost in communion with his phone. We left him that way.

 

Back out on the streets, after a wonderful walk in the sunshine around the medieval city wall, we stopped for coffee and once again were astounded by the number of tourists gripped by their phones even as they walked, obliviously, down the main street of the Jewel of the Adriatic, the sea the colour of sapphire and the sky a shade darker still, contrasting with the red tile roofs.

 

A few weeks later we went out for lunch and observed three very lovely young women who came in and sat down at a near-by table, again completely caught up in whatever was happening on their phones. They barely spoke to each other during the course of their meal and never put their devices down.

 

I recently received an email from a friend of mine in the States, and I was saddened when the rather extensive epistle
was all about what series she was now watching on telly. I know for a fact this woman used to be a librarian. We used to spend our time talking about books.

 

All of these events, and lots of others leave me slightly queasy, even as I sit here writing this blog post, hoping that a lot of people will go online to my blog and read this post. It’s the filters that leave me feeling this way. They leave me wondering about our connection with the real world, about MY connections with the real world. I wonder if we’re now more connected, and I just don’t ‘get it’, or are we less connected because we’re joined at the hip with our devices. I’m guessing it’s probably a combination of the two.

 

The world I live in is totally dominated by the technology my profession depends upon. The first thing I do in the morning is get up my laptop and see what I missed over night. I do what I need to do for PR on twitter and Facebook, I see what I need to do for the rest of the day, and some days that involves a good deal of being online and interacting with social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I have some control over the promotion and sales of my books, no matter how little that may be. The feel that I’m at least doing something is worth a lot, even if it is at times only the placebo affect. In the brave new world of self-pub, a world in which the gatekeepers’ roles are changing and evolving along with the world of traditional publishing, I see how important it is to be present online. But I fear very much that being present online often costs me the simple pleasure of just being present.

 

I remember when I launched Interviewing Wade after a day spent mostly in promo, looking at reviews spending time on Twitter and Facebook and blogging, at last I went into the darkened kitchen to reheat the pasta from lunch for dinner and discovered something truly amazing. Through the kitchen window, I had the most exquisite view of the thinnest sliver of a new moon in conjunction with brilliant Venus, and for a few minutes there was the added pleasure of red Mars just about to sink below the rooftops of the neighboring houses. I was stunned. I couldn’t take my eyes off what I saw. I reached for the binoculars for a closer look

 

The moon was illuminated with earthshine and, through the binoculars, the darkened areas were visible with the brilliance of the sunlit crescent making the whole look almost dark purple, huge and 3D. As I tried to focus on the bright smudge of Venus, my heart beat kept jarring the binoculars, so I couldn’t resolve the phase, but I’m sure it was as close to full as Venus ever gets.

 

Venus is always in phase. How amazing is that! We never see the full face of Venus because it’s in between us and the sun, and it’s only full when it’s on the far side of the sun from us – something that’s only true with the inner two planets. Mars dipped quickly and was gone, but I stood for ages, trying to hold my breath and brace my elbows so I could look. But no matter how hard I tried, Venus constantly quivered through the binoculars with the steady beat, beat, beat of my pulse. I shifted back and forth between the shiver of Venus and the pock marked darkened surface of the moon with its crescent of brilliance at the bottom edge. When my arms got tired of holding the binoculars, still I stood.

 

It was one of those rare moments of being in focus, of standing with nothing in between me and my little sliver of the universe; experiencing a moment, one raw, naked, aching moment without anything in between me and my heart. That tiny shred of time felt like skin freshly formed over an abrasion. And I wanted to stay there forever in that little sliver of the present with nothing in between.

 

I couldn’t, of course. The moon set, and I had work to do. It occurred to me as I nuked dinner, that even that incredible few minutes of focus were filtered, brought closer through the lens of my binoculars. We’ve been filtering our world for probably as long as we’ve walked upright. Perhaps we can only be safe in – and from our little slice of the universe when we filter it, analyze it, look at it through eyes – and heart — well protected.

 

The next morning, online, there were more images of Venus and the New Moon in conjunction than I had time to look
at. I was far from the only one bringing that moment into myself through filters that helped make sense of it, helped make it personal and, clearly, I was far from the only person needing to share it. Somehow that makes the world community seem just a little bit smaller, just a little bit closer. Somehow that makes the filtering of my universe and all the contradictions that involves set just a little bit easier in my mind. That and the knowing at least for a little while that earthshine, that sliver of moonlight, that conjunction with bright Venus was mine. All mine.

 

Permission to Write Badly

 

(From the Archives)

I’ve done NaNoWriMo often enough now and finished it that I know the value of giving myself permission to write badly. Permission to write badly is permission to FINISH a project and not get bogged down in the first four chapters. Right now I’m working on the rewrite of Piloting Fury, last November’s NaNoWriMo project, and my first ever scifi. I don’t mind saying I’m rather proud of it, but I wouldn’t have finished the first draft if I hadn’t given myself permission to just loosen my collar and let the words flow. Below is a post I wrote several years ago that seems very relevant every time I begin a final draft. Permission to write badly is always the reason I have a final draft to finish.

 

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of writing lately and what makes it work. Why is it that sometimes it flows and other times it just doesn’t? The first time I realised I might be able to exert some control over that flow, that I might be able to do more than sit in front of a keyboard and hope the Muse would take pity on me, was when I read Natalie Goldberg’s classic book, Writing Down the Bones. There I discovered the timed writing. It’s simple really. You write non-stop for a given amount of time. You write against the clock, and you don’t stop writing until time runs out. No matter what! You write whatever comes without fretting over whether it’ll be good. And when you’re done, some of the end result – even a good bit of the end result – might be crap. But mixed in with that crap might just be the seeds of something wonderful.

At the time I felt like I’d been asked to write with my left hand. Even writing for five minutes seemed like a daunting task when I made my first attempts. But Natalie Goldberg knew what she was talking about. I was amazed at what came out of the abyss between my ears! It was only after I read Writing Down the Bones that I began to write real stories. So why did one book make such a difference?

I finally had something I lacked in the past, something very important. I had permission to write badly. Every writer needs permission to write badly. Later Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artist Way, called those off-the-cuff, devil-may-care writings morning pages, and she prescribed three morning pages every day – written without forethought; written in haste. From a fiction writer’s perspective, she didn’t give them the weight that Natalie Goldberg did. They were only a part of a plan to open the reader to the artist within. To her, they were more about venting, sort of a daily house-cleaning for the brain. In addition to morning pages, Cameron insisted that every creative person should give themselves what she called an artist date once a week. An artist date was a date with oneself away from writing.

I can’t count the number of times I stood myself up for my artist dates. I would have broken up with me long ago if I were actually dating me. But then I realised that an artist date didn’t have to be dinner and dancing or shopping or even visiting a museum. An artist date was a change of pace. It could even be ironing or weeding the garden. In fact the whole point of the artist date was to create space in which I could disengage the internal editor and give myself permission to write badly.

 

 

So many of us are under the impression that every word we write must be precious and worth its weight in gold. What I’ve learned since I discovered the pleasure of writing badly is that on the first draft, every word is most definitely not precious. On the first draft, every word is a crazy frivolous experiment. Every word is a chance to test the waters, to play in the mud, to let my hair loose and run dancing and screaming through the literary streets. Every word is a game and an adventure. Every word is eating ice cream with sprinkles for the main course. Every word is shit; every word is compost, and every word is the ground out of which the next draft will grow. I never know what’ll work until I try it. I never know what my unconscious will come up with while I’m writing like a wild crazy person, grabbing words and cramming them in and rushing on to the next ones – just after I’ve pulled the weeds in the garden. Without that bold and daring first draft, without opening the floodgates and letting the words spill onto the page, there’s nothing to work with when the next draft comes. And when the next draft comes, the words do get precious. Every single one becomes weighty and irritable and reluctant to fit anywhere but the place it belongs, the place where I feel it just below my sternum like the point of an accusing finger.

But by the time I get to the second draft, by the time I get to that place where every word has to be perfect, I’m up for it. I’m ready to slow down and feel what every word means. I’m ready to find all the nuance and all the cracks and crevices of meaning in between the words. I’m ready for it because I’ve been playing up until now, and I’ve been allowing the words to play. And now, recess is over!

The longer I write, the more I realise what else, besides Natalie Goldberg’s timed writings and Julia Cameron’s reluctant artist dates, get me there. And what gets me there is often totally being somewhere else, somewhere other than writing. Sometimes it’s playing the piano badly, or sweating at the gym, or weeding the veg patch. Sometimes it’s walking through the woodland not thinking about anything, Sometimes it’s reading something frivolous. Sometimes it’s reading something profound. All the space that taking time not to write opens up inside me makes room for that wild ride of the first draft. And when that first draft is finished, I have what I need to pick and choose, to sort through and sift, to change and rearrange until I find the best way to tell my tale. But up until then, it’s child’s play. It’s dancing naked. It’s shameless abandon and multiple verbal orgasms.

Writing badly? Permission granted.

 

Filtering Our Lives

From the archives

(This post first published on Erotic Readers and Writers blog March 2015)

 

I’m in the States at the moment having a wonderful visit with my nephew, his wife and their four lovely daughters, but I have been thinking about the filters through which we view the world — mostly social media and VR and this post seemed appropriate. Enjoy

 

I’ve been thinking about filters lately, going through one of my periodic stages of resenting smart phones, social networking and all things techno. That may well be in part because I’ve only ever managed to master what it takes to survive in that online world. I’m a klutz on my best days. But sometimes I’m an angry luddite wannabe, who grumbles incessantly while I bury my nose in my kindle to lose myself in a good book … Oh the neuroses of my life!

 

When I’m lost in the world of navel gazing and trying to connect to what matters without losing myself in the detritus and the trivia of a world online, I often find myself thinking about the filters we live our lives through, and what being once removed from everything, while at the same time up close and personal with the whole world and all the information in it means to us as a civilization – to me as an individual.

 

I can go online and hear the background microwaves that are the remnants of the Big Bang, the beginning of the universe. I have done, have listened over and over with goose bumps crawling up my arms.

 

I can go to Facebook or Twitter and have meaningful conversations with friends all over the world, people I’ve never met physically and yet I’ve connected with and feel somehow a kin to.

 

I can keep up on films and stars and gossip, I can join any group, be a fan girl, talk trash, be a part of any organisation with any cause imaginable – political, religious, medical, physical, magical, practical, any hobby, any sport, any obsession. It’s all there. All I have to do is log on. Easy.

 

When we were in Dubrovnik over Christmas last year, we found ourselves in a random café for lunch one day. The cafes that were open in the dead of winter were happy for customers, and when we arrived, we were the only ones there. About halfway through the meal a young man came in, eyes glued to his smart phone. He asked us if we’d read the reviews for this particular café. We said no, we’d just dropped in. The food was lovely. We had a local beer, local specialties, and the owners of the restaurant were friendly, and patient with us as we practiced our rusty Croatian on them. Meanwhile the man ordered without looking at the waitress, ate without looking at the food, all the time lost in communion with his phone. We left him that way.

 

Back out on the streets, after a wonderful walk in the sunshine around the medieval city wall, we stopped for coffee and once again were astounded by the number of tourists gripped by their phones even as they walked, obliviously, down the main street of the Jewel of the Adriatic, the sea the colour of sapphire and the sky a shade darker still, contrasting with the red tile roofs.

 

A few weeks ago we went out for lunch and observed three very lovely young women who came in and sat down at a near-by table, again completely caught up in whatever was happening on their phones. They barely spoke to each other during the course of their meal and never put their devices down.

 

I recently received an email from a friend of mine in the States, and I was saddened when the rather extensive epistle was all about what series she was now watching on telly. I know for a fact this woman used to be a librarian. We used to spend our time talking about books.

 

All of these events, and lots of others leave me slightly queasy, even as I sit here writing this blog post, hoping that a lot of people will go online to my blog and read this post. It’s the filters that leave me feeling this way. They leave me wondering about our connection with the real world, about MY connections with the real world. I wonder if we’re now more connected, and I just don’t ‘get it’, or are we less connected because we’re joined at the hip with our devices. I’m guessing it’s probably a combination of the two.

 

The world I live in is totally dominated by the technology my profession depends upon. The first thing I do in the morning is get up my laptop and see what I missed over night. I do what I need to do for PR on twitter and Facebook, I see what I need to do for the rest of the day, and some days that involves a good deal of being online and interacting with social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I have some control over the promotion and sales of my books, no matter how little that may be. The feel that I’m at least doing something is worth a lot, even if it is at times only the placebo affect. In a time when publishing is entering the strange new world of self-pub, when the gatekeepers are no longer the guardians of all things literary, when the gates are quite literally wide open, I see how important it is to be present online. But I fear very much that being present online often costs me the simple pleasure of just being present.

 

I remember when I launched Interviewing Wade after a day spent mostly in promo, looking at reviews spending time on Twitter and Facebook and blogging, at last I went into the darkened kitchen to reheat the pasta from lunch for dinner and discovered something truly amazing. Through the kitchen window, I had the most exquisite view of the thinnest sliver of a new moon in conjunction with brilliant Venus, and for a few minutes there was the added pleasure of red Mars just about to sink below the rooftops of the neighboring houses. I was stunned. I couldn’t take my eyes off what I saw. I reached for the binoculars for a closer look

 

The moon was illuminated with earthshine and, through the binoculars, the darkened areas were visible with the brilliance of the sunlit crescent making the whole look almost dark purple, huge and 3D. As I tried to focus on the bright smudge of Venus, my heart beat kept jarring the binoculars, so I couldn’t resolve the phase, but I’m sure it was as close to full as Venus ever gets.

 

Venus is always in phase. How amazing is that! We never see the full face of Venus because it’s in between us and the sun, and it’s only full when it’s on the far side of the sun from us – something that’s only true with the inner two planets. Mars dipped quickly and was gone, but I stood for ages, trying to hold my breath and brace my elbows so I could look. But no matter how hard I tried, Venus constantly quivered through the binoculars with the steady beat, beat, beat of my pulse. I shifted back and forth between the shiver of Venus and the pock marked darkened surface of the moon with its crescent of brilliance at the bottom edge. When my arms got tired of holding the binoculars, still I stood.

 

It was one of those rare moments of being in focus, of standing with nothing in between me and my little sliver of the universe; experiencing a moment, one raw, naked, aching moment without anything in between me and my heart. That tiny shred of time felt like skin freshly formed over an abrasion. And I wanted to stay there forever in that little sliver of
the present with nothing in between.

 

I couldn’t, of course. The moon set, and I had work to do. It occurred to me as I nuked dinner, that even that incredible few minutes of focus were filtered, brought closer through the lens of my binoculars. We’ve been filtering our world for probably as long as we’ve walked upright. Perhaps we can only be safe in – and from our little slice of the universe when we filter it, analyze it, look at it through eyes – and heart — well protected.

 

The next morning, online, there were more images of Venus and the New Moon in conjunction than I had time to look at. I was far from the only one bringing that moment into myself through filters that helped make sense of it, helped make it personal and, clearly, I was far from the only person needing to share it. Somehow that makes the world community seem just a little bit smaller, just a little bit closer. Somehow that makes the filtering of my universe and all the contradictions that involves set just a little bit easier in my mind. That and the knowing at least for a little while that earthshine, that sliver of moonlight, that conjunction with bright Venus was mine. All mine.

 

 

 

Writing Gives Me Hope

I’m an HEA sort of girl – have been most of my life except for a few years when I was a surly teenager. Being a novelist and loving a good HEA tale means that every time I put fingers to the keyboard to write a story, I deal in hope. Every time I read a good novel, I do it for hope. I understand that we too often don’t get an HEA in real life, and I realize that hopelessness is a constant battle everywhere. I suppose that’s part of the reason I write HEAs. I deal in hope in a world that’s sorely lacking it at times.

 

Yes, I’m well aware that there’s nothing more escapist than an HEA romance … unless it’s a paranormal HEA romance, one with plenty of steamy sex. I get it, and I don’t apologize for it. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I DO write my stories to escape. I’m not getting any younger, I don’t have any super power (you guessed it, I’ve seen Wonder Woman recently) and I’m never going to be an astrophysicist or a prima ballerina. But I have grown up to be a damn decent storyteller, and that, in itself gives me hope. Maybe that is my super power … Sometimes it feels that way when I’m in the zone and my characters and I are in close communion, when I create a world and a situation that broadsides me with possibilities I didn’t expect. Oh yes! Those are the times I definitely feel larger than myself, timeless, living beyond the flesh and bone of physicality.

 

Strange, as I started to write this post, I was going to share a list of the things that give me hope. As is often the case when I write – whether it’s a blog post, a journal entry or a story – I end up in a difference place than I thought I would. My list grows and changes, but at the core of it all, it’s writing that gives me hope. It’s knowing that I write tales of hope, it’s knowing that I do it for love. I do it for myself first and foremost because it’s at the very heart of who I am.

 

The truth of why I do it, why I write, when writers are struggling in the market, when worthiness of a work has less to do with success than luck, when I know the cynical side of the business, when I no longer have stars in my eyes, is that I can’t NOT write. The truth is that writing is as essential to me as breathing, and I’m never happier than when I’m penning a story. That gives me hope. That gives me great hope. My purpose is to write. In that hope I can safely explore my mortality as well as imagine my immorality. In that hope I can examine all the facets of me that can’t be lived out in one lifetime, all the secret depths of me that I keep hidden from the world – both the light and the darkness. In that hope I can face the dark fearlessly. All of the other worlds I create, all of the other people who live and breathe and are flawed and neurotic and sometimes frightening and wicked; who make mistakes and act impulsively and do impossibly heroic things are the hope inside of me, and that hope is steadfast. That hope doesn’t change with the flux of the world around me, and I rediscover it daily in the telling of the tale. That gives me courage to move forward, confidence to share what I write with anyone else who reads stories for an HEA and for a little bit of hope.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

Site created and maintained by Writer Marketing Services | Sitemap