Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Edit, Edit, Edit

I'm about two-thirds of the way through editing The Bricklayer's Helper and having a ball with the manuscript. That is definitely one of the great things about being a writer. Each new story is a fabulous opportunity to try something different and shine. When I'm writing, I feel like a kid making stuff up and rubbing her hands with glee at each twisted turn. What other job lets you make stuff up for a living? (Okay, maybe ad execs also get to lie for a living. And actors. And…)

For years I wanted to be a writer and I even wrote a few things, but I felt sort of intimidated by the whole "writer mystique". And I thought I could never come up with story after story after story. But for my entire life, I've always made up little stories and scenarios in my head. I thought everyone did that, in fact. It never bothered me if we had an hour commute or a three day car trip because that just meant more time when I could dream stuff up and not get in trouble for doing nothing except stare at the scenery.

Strange how the mind works. Or doesn't work. It never occurred to me that my fear that I could not "come up with a storyline" was completely silly. What the heck had I been doing all along but coming up with strange little scenarios and stories? Then I had that epiphany when I realized that I was already creating plots, I just needed to actually write them down.

It was a little difficult at first. It's still difficult. Writing is hard work even if you do it mostly sitting down. The characters get wayward and don't want to cooperate. You build a plot only to realize that your characters and your scenes don't mesh. The heroine would never, ever do that. Stuff like that. But the more you work at it and master the basics, the better you become at creating real people and plots that work for those people. It never gets easier, but it doesn't feel so much like rusty gears trying to turn without oil. And you learn ways to cope with the dead ends and irrational characters.

Tonight, I'm fumbling around blogging instead of getting back to my edits. Mostly because I'm lurching into that nasty final third where you have to bring your characters' to their ultimate moment of painful truth and then somehow get them out of the mess they are in and tie up all the loose ends. And I was distracted by the discovery of a little tortoise-shell cat someone abandoned in a derelict barn near us. I fed the poor thing and was sort of shocked when it ran up to me, rubbed my legs and wanted me to pet it. Cats are supposed to be aloof. The darn thing wasn't even really afraid of our huge, 120lb lab until he started to sniff at it. That's what makes me think it was abandoned, because it sure isn't wild. I'm not such a nut that I think all animals will automatically fall in love with me if I pour a little kibble on the ground.

Anyway, we've already got a cat that showed up one day—also not afraid of the dogs. He's pretty much insane so we called him Psycho. Despite encouraging him to leave, he moved in. The nutjob thinks water is a toy and comes running whenever you turn on a faucet or flush a toilet. If you aren't careful, he'll climb into the sink and try to bite the stream of water. I guess it offends him. And he thinks nothing of having a stream of icy liquid flowing over his head and face as he tries to bite and smack it. Tries to bite and play with the dogs' tails, too, and they aren't all that fond of cats. Like I said: Psycho. Sometimes it's like living in a demilitarized zone around here with the dogs eyeing the cat and just begging for a few, quiet minutes alone with him…

I don't think my husband is up for another cat, although I caught him feeding a stray a couple of weeks ago. Don't think Psycho or the dogs will appreciate a new pal either, so it's a big of a quandary. Guess we will see what happens. Maybe I'll get pictures of the new beast tomorrow and post them.

[You can see I'm still wasting time here instead of editing.]

I've really got to stop fooling around and get back to work.

Have a grand and glorious evening…


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