Monday, January 30, 2012
Letting myself off the hook for this blog and diving into my writing and reading with every ounce of my energy has been good for me this past two weeks.
I've read four books, finished several drafts of my essay for the semester (analyzing the way backstory can be used successfully to propel a plot rather than stall it out), and heavily revised a short story I wrote last May.
It's been emotionally and mentally exhausting though, which is something I didn't expect. By completely throwing myself in to my short story this past week - six to eight hours a day of it - I felt like I'd dived headfirst into a dark lake and lost sight and breath. I don't know if writing is like that for most writers, and when I write sporadically, juggling life along with it, I seem to bob at the surface more. But when I write, really, obsessively write, I get lost. My heart and head are somewhere else, and that place is usually not a pretty place.
When I left school two weeks ago, I'd lost a good part of my confidence in writing. I lost confidence in my ability to tell what I'd done well and what I hadn't. I'm not saying it's not okay to write stinky stuff. You should. We should all write stuff that's terrible once in a while - stretch out wings, try out new things, attempt something greater than our talents. The thing is... you have to know, when you've finished, that it stinks. And I couldn't.
One thing that's critical as a writer, at least if you want to get better, is to be able to see what you're doing wrong... and know how to fix it.
I can't say that over the last two weeks I've conquered that part. But one thing I've learned about me is that I write for a reason. I usually have something to say... a point to make, a lesson to learn. A theme. Something I want people to think about and mull over. And that.... is no way to write a story.
A story has to be about the characters. It has to be their story, and not yours. Not even the story you want them to tell. It has to develop without a point to make, or some agenda. Not that, in the end, it can't have a point. But the writing towards that point is the death of a story. It feels heavy handed. It feels preachy. It feels like the characters are being corralled like cattle into a place they may not want to be, and along with them, the reader.
So I rewrote a story I'd written last spring, one which started as an idea rather than as a character with a problem. This time I focused on the character and not the idea.
I like the story I wrote, but I don't trust it. I don't know if it works, and I don't trust myself to know if it's any good. Not yet.
But I figured out one thing I was doing wrong, and that's a start.