Monday, February 23, 2009

Chasing Your Own Tale

"Writing is just having a sheet of paper, a pen and not a shadow of an idea of what you are going to say."--Francoise Sagan

In the whimsical land of writing, there are fabled authors who know exactly what they’re going to write. The story shines crystal clear in their minds. They confidently type up a meticulous outline and go boldly ahead. I’m torn between falling to my knees in admiration and secretly searching for a way to strangle them and get away with it. *heh-heh*

I’ll admit it. I’m choked up with envy over such a gift. My ideas are vague at best. If this was a recipe I was preparing to cook, there’d be a warning label for every potential diner.

“If I'm trying to sleep, the ideas won't stop. If I'm trying to write, there appears a barren nothingness.” --Carrie Latet

Like most writers, my gut reaction is to believe other people can blithely put together a story and I alone must struggle through each word. Truth is, most writers strain to complete a book. Either the story itself comes out haltingly sentence by sentence or if they’re able to fly through the initial draft, the rewrite seems a torturous and never-ending process.

"Contrary to what many of you may imagine, a career in letters is not without its drawbacks - chief among them the unpleasant fact that one is frequently called upon to sit down and write." --Charles Kingsley

I dot my essays with quotes with the same passion I butter my bread. Not only do they add a welcome richness to my focus, they help remind me that struggle is a universal condition. Writing is hard work. There’s no getting around it. However it’s a popular misconception to believe it’s a snap. Sure, we have Guitar Hero and American Idol computerized games to feed the fantasy of being a rock star without any effort. Notice there is no equivalent entertainment for those fantasizing about being a novelist. No “write by numbers” hobby kits. *laughs* Trying to come up with a fun, easy and quick way to write is not really feasible.

“The expression "to write something down" suggests a descent of thought to the fingers whose movements immediately falsify it." ~William Gass, "Habitations of the Word," Kenyon Review, October 1984

To work is inevitable-to finish, divine. *grin* So what to do when we want to write but the story isn’t quite there? When we know what we want to say but we’re clueless on how to express it? How about when the story is there, you’re on the zillionth rewrite and there’s something still missing?

Ironically, the only real solution is the same action that got us into this mess in the first place. *smile* We write.

"Write as often as possible, not with the idea at once of getting into print, but as if you were learning an instrument."-- J B Priestley

Workshops, books and advisors can widen our knowledge of our craft but the writing itself is the only way to learn. Dang it! Here’s the good news: You will learn. Writing is like music in very special way. Just as you can’t possibly know what a note sounds like until you hear it, neither can you quite grasp the craft of writing until you do it yourself. Trust me on this, there will be epiphanies along the way, those ‘ah-hah!’ moments when you suddenly see in brilliant clarity How To accomplish the various aspects of writing. Just keep writing.

For some, the only way to know a story is by writing it. I’m one of those people. I’m not a pantser, per se. If I was, I’d gleefully pound those keys without worrying what’s going to happen next. A weird hybrid between pantser and plotter, I struggle to piece together the outline while I’m writing my book. It’s what works for me. By the end of the book the theme becomes more apparent and it’s then I can go back and rewrite, revise and shape my book to suit the vision that I just now fully grasp.

“The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.” ~Mark Twain

Advice is abundant in the writing world yet one thing will always be true. You must discover your own path. If you let yourself believe that the way another author pens a story is The Way, you could end up banging your head against the keyboard. Writing essays is something that flows easily for me. Yet with books I take more time. Until the story is there, my progress is slow. Writing a book in a month wouldn’t work for me. When I try I just draw a blank because the story isn’t yet there. I could beat myself up (always a tempting option) or I could let myself develop as a writer. Which process do you think has borne more fruit?

"Write quickly and you will never write well. Write well, and you will soon write quickly." -Marcus Fabius Quintilianus

Forge your own path. Discover what works for you. Be inspired by others but let go the need to fit into another’s box. Not only is it confining but the time you spend trying to conform could have been spent writing. *grin*

"I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all." -E.B. White

If you’re feeling stuck, take a break. Walk around the block or do a load of laundry. Step into the sunshine or dance around the kitchen to a favorite tune. Put a definite time limit on your “inspiration break” and then return to your writing. Creating stories takes effort and the temptation to avoid it can be overwhelming. If the story or scene isn’t there, write in your journal or pull up a “free-write” document and type out the dilemma. The key here is to Keep Writing. Don’t let yourself believe in an “out” or trust me, you’ll take it. *laughs* Procrastination is like chocolate. Delicious but best enjoyed in small doses.

Why do authors write? Because they have stories to tell. Maybe your story is complete or maybe it will come together sentence by sentence. Yet one thing remains clear, all authors write their books one word at a time. The best advice in the world boils down to this, if you want to be a successful author, Write. Only by writing can your story be heard.

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” ~Carlos Fuentes

Here’s to another productive week! I’m up to page 230 on my edits. 86 pages this week! My editor’s comments are illuminating (in a painful yet liberating way) and as a result, I’m learning more than ever before. I love being a writer!

My goals:

At least fifty pages of edits (I’m shooting for more).
My weekly essay.
Expanding short story idea.
How about you? Any goals to share?
Let’s get busy! Write-write-WRITE. Go-go-GO!!

Chiron O’Keefe


Tamela Quijas said...

Bravo and excellent put, as always.

Celia Yeary said...

Well done, Chiron.Yes, it does seem as if all other authors just produce books with their eyes closed. But then, the most revered authors are the ones who tell how they struggle with it. Ernest Hemingway wrote copiously and it took a long time for him to finishs a novel. He said, he'd write and write, then delete half the words he put down. Writing is re-writing, he, or someone said. How true. if we don't re-write it, our ditor will. thanks for the uplift today! Celia

Linda LaRoque said...

Another great post, Chiron. I wish I had your motivation and drive. I too am working on edits and they seem to go pretty fast when I get started. It's the getting started that's hard with all the other things needing done.


Sandy said...

Fitting post, Chiron. Stick with your editor and you will learn more than you ever dreamed. I've got to get back to writing. Grin.


Misty Evans said...

Energy and motivation are keys to writing. If the energy isn't there, we struggle. Thank you for giving all of us both, Chiron. Whether writing or editing, I know your posts will keep me inspired.

Chiron said...


Thanks so much! You're a treasure...


Chiron said...


Thanks so much for stopping by! Yup, books aren't written as much as rewritten, which is why it's so important to push ahead and get that first draft finished. That's when the real work begins.


Chiron said...

Hi Linda!

Well, like every other writer, my motivation sometimes wanes. The essays help motivate me as well. *grin*

I love your comment about the edits: "they seem to go pretty fast when I get started". *laughs* I'm the same way. Which is why I'll often tell myself I can stop AFTER I get some stuff done. Once I get to editing or writing, I rarely want to stop.

You're on the money with that one!

Thanks for a great comment!


Chiron said...


Thanks so much! I'm learning loads, that's for sure.

Happy writing!

Smiles and hugs,

Chiron said...


Bless you for your kind words. You're right. Energy and motivation. I'm glad my essays help with the inspiration. Goddess knows writers need that more than anything!


Judith Leger said...

Well said, Chiron!

No matter what, it's returning and picking up the pen to continue with the story. Thanks for posting!

Chiron said...

Hello Judith!

You're so very right. Our desire to write results in many beginnings, but to be an author, one must type The End. *grin*

Thanks so much for stopping by!