About Me

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why I Write

Because my mind expresses experience and emotion poetically, my journal entries often read like poems, and sometimes they become one. The origin of the poem will be factual, but the outcome may be symbolic with a truthful core. When I write fiction, a first line pops into my head, setting the initial rhythm and the tone for the entire piece. I write fiction that takes me to another place, because that’s where my characters want to go. I follow their lead.

The essay by Elizabeth Bowen http://anniekwrites.blogspot.com/2008/09/elizabeth-bowen-notes-on-writing-novel.html made me realize, it's all in our heads, everything that's come before in our lives and what we thought and felt about it, and writing is the process that brings it out, solid.

How I Write

I’ve been thinking about how I write a poem, or begin a short story. In the simplest of terms, I just write. I don’t plan. When the mood is right, I amaze myself, and come up with something I never expected. In a first draft, I don’t analyze or censor. I let the words flow. And then, the rest of the work begins. I may re-arrange words or phrases. I look for the words that can be cut, resulting in an improved idea or image, so that every word counts. Where it’s needed, I substitute a new noun, verb or adjective to better express my meaning. I consolidate. When I’ve got the piece down to its bare bones, I may add images or ideas, as they occur to me, in the reading and re-reading of a piece. Often, as I re-read, I will become aware of symbolism and I may work to intensify it. I’ll come back to a piece again and again, until I feel it says everything in that particular piece, I want to say, or can.

Simple 5 step process: (1) Write. (2) Cut, Substitute, and Re-arrange. (3) Add (Maybe). (4) Revise again and again. (5) Rest.

Days later, months or weeks, I am compelled to go back. If a piece is done, there’s nothing left to change, and if I try, I’ll change it back again.

My difficulty has always been shaping longer fiction to its completion. I’ve written stories and poems that please me. I’ve written admirable, numerous chapters in books. But the chapters don’t stand alone. My method loses its way when it comes to writing a novel. I think it has a lot to do with the interruption of my own “fictive dream.” If I could write a novel, start to finish, without the interruption of life, family, or work, I’d get finished with the story, before my mind starts working on another, with a different set of characters in a new situation. I often suspect that’s why some writers, like Alice Munro, largely stick to short fiction. I admire the writer who can write “literary quality” novel length fiction, and still maintain a life with others. That is my aspiration: to grow my family, finish the novels I’ve started, and get them published by a major press. And, in my writing, at least, I’m a perfectionist.

Submitting my short stories, poetry, and ten-minute plays, is a way to “get my feet wet,” and seek validation. But the true test of what I’m capable of achieving will be the first novel, out of the five I’ve substantially started, to be completed and published. I haven’t abandoned these novels. The characters live and breathe within me. It’s a question of time to tell their stories.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Elizabeth Bowen: Notes on Writing a Novel

Narrative Magazine published a wonderful essay, originally published in Orion II in 1945, by Elizabeth Bowen. I read these words and it struck a chord: "Plot must further the novel toward its object. What object? The non-poetic statement of a poetic truth." I have personally shortened that statement: "A novel tells a poetic truth." I believe it is possible to write fiction, telling a poetic truth, utilizing the poet's sensitivity to language, not the flowery words that draw attention to themselves, but the turn of phrase that is joyful in the mouth, and in the mind. When I am writing, there are words that fit together, because they must. In revision, they are often tweaked, or deleted altogether, but I find the rhythm and the sound of language shapes the content as I write. Each character has their own rhythm, whether they are speaking or I am writing in limited third (I rarely write in first person). Her entire essay helped define for me, what I do as I write. Here's the link: http://narrativemagazine.com/issues/fall-2006/notes-writing-novel (It's free to sign up for Narrative Magazine, and view the full article.)