15 March 2011

Shhhh . . .

***I wrote this whole post the other night, only to lose it to a stupid human-computer communication error. I hate it when that happens, because I can't recreate the post I wrote, only write a whole new one on the same topic.***

I have a secret, if you won't tell.


Double-pinky promise?

Ok, then.

I'm writing fiction again.

I know, I know, I do that a lot. And I have a whole novel in desperate need of revision, but I don't know where to start. I've even written on the current one before, 50,000 in November for NaNo, even though I knew halfway through that I wanted to make some serious changes to it.

But every time I start again, it feels like a secret, like springtime is coming and colors are popping up everywhere and the bunnies are getting busy behind the bushes and I blush to look at them but I celebrate them, too. New life is always worthy of celebration, right? And that's what this feels like to me.

I love the first-draft stage, the infatuation stage. I love it when my characters pop up in my day, because they have something to say, something they're sure I need to know so that I can write them well. I love waking up in the middle of the night with their stories in my mind, working out the details even as I sleep. And I love putting the words on paper, giving them life, making them walk around and talk and see their world and enjoy it.

But the more time I spend writing, the more efforts I make at putting these people on paper, the more I shy away from it, too. As close as I come to describing the scenes in my head, they're never perfect, and my method of revising seems to be more like rewriting, like finding the places where the story goes awry and starting over from there.

It's not that I'm a bad writer, but I'm a terrible reviser, mostly because I can't ever stop wondering what would happen if . . . what if I started at a different point? what if someone reacted differently in a key place? what if something changed and the main character could fall in love after all?

And then I have to explore the possibilities, have to write out many different versions of scenes, even different versions of the whole story. I get overwhelmed by all those words, and I can't keep them straight for anything, so I quit, I walk away, I take my space.

That's why starting again feels like such a delectable a secret, I think, because it means I've become brave enough to jump back into that world again. It means I'm trying to tolerate the ambiguity, then inherent imperfection that comes when putting image on paper. And I'm trying again, starting again, taking that deep breath and trying again.

It's like trying to see again, not discerning shapes amidst darkness but finding the thread in a jumble of chaos. Writing is like a giant game of Where's Waldo?, where my job is to find and follow Waldo and only Waldo, not getting distracted by all of the places he could be but finding where he is and sticking with him.

All of the writing books I've read stress making the right decisions, about characters, about plot, about the words on the page. But sometimes I wonder if stories aren't more like real life - a little ambiguous. You make a choice and it changes everything, but it really could have been different. I feel a little like God must feel, when He looks down and watches us. Yes, we DO only one thing, but He sees all the possibility, all the could-have-beens, both good and bad.

I wonder, sometimes, what it takes for him not to jump in and change a story so it becomes something better. Because that's what I do, I think. I forget to listen to my characters, forget to stop and see what they do, and so I make them and their stories into something else. So revising is learning to listen, learning to hear them more clearly and follow their threads amidst the noise that surrounds them.

I feel tentative about starting again, because I wonder if I won't finish, just like I haven't finished before. The things is, a good story is worth figuring out how to revise. I love this story. I love it more than I loved the last one I wrote. And so I let the new life in, because trying and failing to tell this story is better than not trying at all. I don't think I could live with that.


kirsten michelle said...

Hoorah!! Enjoy the infatuation stage, and gestating and giving birth to characters and ideas and story.


christianne said...

So many good thoughts here, Sarah.

For instance, I loved that bit comparing the infatuation stage of writing to bunnies getting busy in the bushes. :)

I remember when I first wanted to do a PhD program. My topic was going to be on what writing fiction (creating worlds) could teach us about God and his relationship with us, his creation.

It sounds like you're learning a lot firsthand on this subject, and I really respect the things you've shared here ... especially that part about how God *could* jump in and make our stories different, and yet he doesn't. What restraint. It teaches me something about the nature of his love.

I'm happy for you to be writing fiction again. I'm cheering you on as you grapple with indecision and worry thereunto.


Heather said...

Maybe you should write a choose your own adventure novel. Then you can explore all those what ifs to your heart's delight ;)

sojourner said...

so you undergo "creative beginnings" every spring? Fantastic! It sounds like you need to connect with your creative self and stop worrying about getting the characters and plots "just right" - have you read the Artist's Way? It is a great book to get in touch with the creator! Ha! I was about to post this comment and looked down at the word verification and it says "booking" Isn't that interesting! :0)

The Gyrovague said...

Screw the writing books, write like the wind..

emily wierenga said...

how exciting sarah! i can't wait to read your novel when it's published :) i loved your comment today, about trusting your baby to Christ... it brought tears. love you sister.