Writing Lessons

“… writers are often the worst judges of what they have written.” ~ Stephen King, Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales

“I became an artist because I wanted to be an active participant in the conversation about art.” ~ Kamand Kojouri

“Ask yourself: Who has the greater influence on you? Is it the people who inspire you, or the people who critique you?” ~ Akiroq Brost

“We write to test life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ~ Anaïs Nin

“I don’t know what I think until I write about it.” ~ Joan Didion

I’m in the middle of reading several books, some for myself, some for inclusion in this blog, and some to critique. Since posts about what I’m reading aren’t ready, I have some thoughts about my writing life that I’d like to share with you.

Last Friday I was the featured author at an Open Mic night sponsored by Cochise College Writing Celebration and a couple of other local organizations. I got to talking with a fellow college instructor, who is also an author, about the problems and joys of writing. He’s working on his second or third novel that has multiple story lines and we were commiserating about how to make sure the through lines of each timeline get completed, while at the same time keeping them straight. During our conversation he said he loves the creative process but hates the revision process. We got interrupted before I got to say that I feel the opposite way.

It’s strange to say, but the creative part of writing is sometimes difficult for me. I feel that there is a story there, but sometimes the story is illusive. For example, Time’s Echo came to me while I was finishing my first novel, The Space Between Time. I wrote the opening scenes of both timelines and came to screeching halt. Though I knew where Morgan’s time line would end up, I had no idea about Jenna’s. That was back in 2014. As you might guess, Jenna’s story didn’t emerge until very recently with the birth of the #MeToo movement.

Elizabeth Gilbert tells an amazing story in Big Magic, about getting an idea for a book, which she begins. Then life gets in the way. For two years she has other things she has to take care of. When she gets back to the book, the muse has flown away. Elizabeth thought it was dead, but then she met Ann Patchett.

Their friendship developed through letter writing. But on one occasion they got to meet in person at an event at which they were both to speak. They had breakfast together before their day began. In their letter conversations they shared about Elizabeth’s failed book about the Amazon, the one that got away. Ann had shared in her letters about a new book idea she had about the Amazon. During breakfast, Ann and Elizabeth shared their Amazon stories and low and behold, it turned out that Ann’s story had the same plot, and characters that Elizabeth had originally started. They were essentially the same book with very minor changes. Both women were stopped in their tracks. The muses work in mysterious ways.

Now if the muse can move to a new author if a story just needs to be told, then I believe the muse will sometimes wait for current events to catch up so its chosen author can write the book. That’s what I’ve felt about Time’s Echo. There will be lots of authors who will write about the current women’s movement, but none of them will write about Morgan in the past, involved in the suffrage movement, and how that affects Jenna living in our current circumstances. I’m the one who created, with the help of the muses, Jenna and Morgan. No one else is qualified to write their stories but me, because they are based on my experiences.

But back to my writing process. Once I’ve got all, or most of the pieces of my novel written, I have fun putting the puzzle together. I like rearranging, cutting out the unnecessary parts, and then coming up with new connecting pieces. It’s the most fun part of writing for me. Then, of course, the process of doing the final edits is a real drag. I think I can speak for most authors on this, it’s tedious and feels like it takes forever.

Another aspect of writing that I have a love/hate relationship with is critique groups. I’m in an online group at the moment. Fortunately there are only three of us, which means I don’t have too much reading material to comment on. However, at the moment, I’m reading the entire manuscript for one of the women in the group and that’s on top of the other things I’m reading. It’s times like this that I wish I were a faster reader.

This is the problem I have with critique groups. Neither of the women have read my first novel, so some of their comments don’t apply to where I see the series heading. They don’t know the characters or their past relationships, so they suggest changes that don’t apply to who the characters are at all.

On the other hand, sometimes suggestions they make help me get new ideas for the arduous, for me, process of creating my story. That happened just recently, thank heaven.

I have to say, I prefer to share my manuscript after I have finished the rough draft, or when I’m kind of stuck and need new ideas. Sending pieces that are in progress, bothers me. I feel irritated when my critique partners make suggestions of changes that I have already planned, or know that need to be made. I guess that’s just human nature. We don’t want to hear about the changes in our manuscripts or our lives that we know we need to make. Once the initial irritation is over, however, I can go back to the comments my partners have made and consider them less emotionally.

I am fortunate to have found critique partners who are not only honest, but kind as well. And, if I don’t like their suggestions, I have two local women I plan to share my manuscript with, who have been of great help to me in the past. With the help of all these women, I know this next book will be good. I just have to allow myself to go through the messy process of producing a finished product.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it. Have a great hump day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

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