Monday, July 10, 2017

Write Your Novel! (and I'll Write Mine) A look back, a look forward

Write Your Novel: How I Did It, and Believe You and I Can Do It AGain!

Summer More Fun Than Others?

I have a lot of creative ideas visit me each summer. If I can wash away any corners of maudlin thought or unnecessary conflict, what’s left besides Creativity, Kindness, Love, Beauty, Expansion, Abundance, and Receptivity? There at every pivot is another helpful possibility, vibrant, opening another detail, unlocking ideas towards the future- and the future of each individual invention, or even each individual relationship. An impulse awaits to unlock more of my energy and engage with some work: helping someone, making something or offering an activity that will help or delight a person, filling the present with another logical part of progress.

I love the feeling of mild anticipation, love when it waits for me on either side of my sleep, an almost conspiratorial sense as if preparing a surprise. I love when my thankfulness fills the emotional spaces in between my actions. I love when I’m in such a mode of appreciation and attention that simple details take on meaningful resonance. I love when my skin practically tingles with my imagination interacting with another impulse towards activity. I love when it’s a spontaneous moment, and I love when it’s a vision of many pieces coalescing into the edifice of a strong story, song, essay, career defining pathway. I love living them out in my imagination, and I love recording that journey in some way that marries practice with spontaneous discovery. I love when walking a passage seems like another handful of a thread through a secret, rewarding maze, invisible to the world- but sometimes, possible to depict!

I enjoyed that first month of summer all my life, when the freedom for my mind to play would first open the possibilities of time all my own. When I was given access to my grandfather’s typewriter, I began composing my own index, emulating the format of text guides that provided credits, title, a list of dramatis personnae and their ongoing continuity, and then, a succinct plot synopsis with which the imagination could conjure a story in the most terrific images and style imaginable. I would try to envision what the pages of these never-drawn comics might be like, what pacing and angles might compose the panels. I drew a few humble comics, too, and creating a checklist and funny bulletins of titles that, if I only had time free, I would love to write as a coherent universe of individual tales. I’d drink sweet tea and sit outside in the cool of morning with my own type write, a twenty-five year-old hand-me-down from my aunt, staying geeky long after supposed grown-up interests and the cruelty indoctrinated in adolescence would’ve otherwise subsumed my wonder.

I have made each of my completed books, largely during that late spring/ early summer block of the year. I have at least contributed heavily to each of them during that time, and it seems to return to me each blessed year. The task itself takes control of my life, and I lose myself in its joy.

So I wrote a real novel. Yes. It’s a process detailed four years ago now across the June and July entries of Be Chill, Cease ill. Once I settled in, I began writing, over the course of six weeks, first 1500, then between 2000 and 6000 words daily. I kept up with my weekly word totals. I would revise as I went along, and would accept getting less total words in some days for the sake of spiffy up writing from the day or days before. Since I was commemorating memories to serve a specific, emotionally-satisfying purpose, I talked often with my partner, best friend, and incidentally, wife, Angela Dawn. I’d intended to do this for years, tried drafting early parts many times. I guess a quiet desperation mounted to finally see it through, so as to appreciate its value as a story, moreso than to acquire my own book.
I read similar materials, though I also read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods that spring, too. Point is, I wanted to craft an extended narrative, so that’s what I read.
I believe I was reading books aloud together with Angela when it occurred to me the directness of the romance novel format- which develops character, but also moves plot forward in a straight-forward manner without Faulknerian rambling- would center a story that could just as easily have been filled with lengthy digressions and experimental approaches and clever tricks. This way, I would ascribe the emotional atmosphere of each beautiful moment I wished to fictionalize/ novelize, then resume the business of moving the characters’ lives forward. I was well into the process when I figured out the ending- the last two weeks saw a more deliberate pace, crawling up from probably 60 thousand to right at 73 thousand words. I also posted suitable samples that would not give away too many surprises nor catch our characters in, well, too sexy a moment too often, as intimacy, its discovery, was my subject, rather than smut. I lived in the world of that story those six weeks. It was the last and probably most major and complete work I did living in California.

Sometime later, I incorporated the diary addition, as I was handed my grandmother’s diary of the most romantic period of her own young life, after she started seeing my grandfather. I felt the characters, who had embraced Love as though they invented it, would benefit from a tie-in with the similarities true love reflects in lives of all generations. The change in the times, the more liberated modern era’s contrast, also spelled out some ways their love was unique to its era. I found the perfect place for them to make that discovery and inserted adapted bits into that expanded late-book chapter. I had used the distance of California, physically, to reunite with everyone in our lives as they had appeared in the perspective of that time. In some ways, the account served as my own diary. Now while revisiting our home state and towns, I could add the finishing touches.

Almost a year after I began my rough draft, (I’d Go) Anywhere With You went on sale on, May 1st. I made, once I had online access again daily, my first attempts at publishing and sales, printing copies on demand through CreateSpace and getting an interview with a local radio show hosted by Nell Regan. My book was carried in the two local bookstores; I had a rather dreary attempt at a book signing at Dogwood Books, accompanied by posters spread across downtown carefully, and made a few bucks playing my guitar that day. I tried contacting book clubs- no luck- and offering my book for review- no luck- as well as to a few likely publishers. My query had- no luck. But I sold a copy here and there personally along the way, and sometimes I’d have an Amazon sell, even over seas!

As much as Anywhere became my first complete actual experience writing a novel, that still tells only part of what it meant to me, and what might it mean to you, if you read it. Would you rediscover the initial, perennial elements of young love? Would you remember a time, or a dream you had of love? Would you enjoy a coming of age story set in the 1990’s? If you have your own book in mind: along with necessities like a plot, writ beforehand or discovered in the process or both, characters to grow and explore, or formulas for experiments you’d like to try- what would writing it mean to you? Not just the completion of it- but the writing itself, the recurrent appointment?

I ask myself, what did I learn, as I turn to crafting the next one. I have another one, composed of short stories and later tied together by an intermittent and bracing framework, which I wrote for a private audience. If I could re-capture the sense of crafting short stories, a sense of my audience, and merge its promise with the exciting notion that my OTHER book and comic might help me reach them, then these chapters which lie ahead might not prove so daunting. Already, events in the news such as the travel ban speak to the formation of the single character whose interpretation I feared failing most. Sometimes you just have to see what you can do!

This time out, it’s a subject matter not so much for me, personally, but crafted to speak to the experiences of others moreso. It’s also a synthesis of things I’ve learned as I resumed writing comics and cultural analysis late this April, as I used the completion and planning of Integr8d Fix to train myself again to produce promising amounts of story material. I’ve written a novella, or long short story, take your pick, based on another fictional property in between. I adapted the plot for this one starting with a comics inspiration, with a character imagined from talks with my friend in Australia, James. I shifted and played with how to create a series, as selling a series is a useful way to produce commercial novels. And make no mistake, I intend craft as well as art, because I want to earn a living that will allow me to keep exploring this talent- and growing!
This time, I’m looking at technology and social trends I see developing now to help me create a world set in the near-future. It takes some thought: what might be more possible in five years?
I feel like The Butterfly has a strong chance to be loved by, and populated by, young characters.
Will my young adult characters be convincing? I want it to contain a socially diverse cast. Will they each sound authentic? But then, the authenticity of one’s own identity is a perpetual coming-of-age question- regardless what age you find yourself becoming, young adult, middle-aged, older.

You can drive yourself to distraction wondering too much about “will this be ‘this’ enough?” I looked to the past for Anywhere. This will have less of my reliable memories and it may not be as emotionally comforting as that cozy, love-filled novel. But those characters faced their own set of uncertainties, too. They just faced them together. I wonder how broad a set of supporting characters I’ll really need to speak for a true variety of what you find in life, and I think I’ve got it. At some point, you decide you’ll tell the story of whomever shows up.

You may worry about writing unnecessary passages, but who knows what good writing all of it out might be. You can always edit and revise further. Don’t let a desire to take every step perfectly stop you from putting another step out the door! Don’t worry too much about plans you may have had if you started something you’re continuing later. Dig them back out as you go! Once you see the names again, the plot points again, you’ll either see new directions or remember the compulsion you felt when you included that character, that point. You can always retrofit things you meant to say, make room for what tells the most focused story. Relating a realistic set of human beings always offers the chance you’ll sprawl. That’s a credit to the number of stories you’ve added to your storytelling. Let the process guide you as you engage.

There’s always room to be made for a brand new idea- like a bizarre dream I had that works as material for a near-future VR party. It’s off-putting in the way social gatherings sometimes are, and reflects a real discomfort with some of the steps society’s taking towards the future.

As a very young person, I often found myself alienated by how callous others could be; now’s not the time to worry that I’ve become old-fashioned, because naturally some of my characters will reflect my own sensitivity, while others will simply be less-caring for motivations of their own. You also don’t have to completely map out anyone’s motivations, and you definitely don’t have to telegraph them! Let cool phrases and insights be your guide in what you put down. You can make any statement you want- just don’t bore your own self, meandering!

The illustrations inside the book Angela just showed to me got me thinking how we used to do one for each short story. Finally, last winter I got the first seven chapters of Chrysalis of the Butterfly basically down in a concentrated frenzy similar to my Anywhere outburst, interrupted by my foray into Select Your Own Excitement, prompted by an opportunity offered by my Danish programming friend and the arrival of my teen niece Ciara into my life. Since then, The Air Is Haunting’s fallen into disrepair beyond my control- a risk you take entrusting others- but one day I hope to get up material saved there to try another book, plus its setting precipitated the plot I chose to write a pilot for a cartoon I hope to resume with its creator this winter...after we complete the comic book he pitched successfully to IDW Publishing, with a little writing help from me. I accepted a friend’s suggestion to write for a comics site, and learned from my enjoyable friendship with a long-time professional writer, too. And hey, I finished a magazine article this spring, then, chapter seven!

However trying to my patience Life around me has been, always there was a faithful return to enough personal peace to settle in and write. Whatever promises were forgotten by others or never meant at all, I kept one eye on the most objective standard of Truth I could conceive, and the other on dreamlike possibilities.

My point here? Keep trying things. Keep creating and writing. Even if years must sometimes pass and projects seem to fall apart, a character or idea might be knocked loose to visit another storyline elsewhere. Allow yourself some creative experiments! Do things for fun, but always with some resonance in your genuine interests. Write different formats like skits, songs, poems, plays, essays, magazine features, blogs, stories-but keep turning to yourself often, if not practically daily, for entertainment born of your own intellect. Read! And take in life around you, building the most meaningful relationship circumstances will allow. This widens the identities of characters you can create. You are writing for today. Today is writing to serve tomorrow, and often, to preserve fascinations of yesterdays. Learn to examine skillfully delivered effects and how and when to implement them in your craft. Find an audience that compels your inner voice to speak. Schedule yourself some structure, but know when it’s worth getting behind to attend a new idea or a valuable personal interaction.

Let go of thoughts that block your intention, even as you let go of even the nicest compliments and starry dreams more readily than you imagined. And if your finished product turns out twice the length of the estimate with which you cajoled yourself into sitting down to start it, like this one did for me, don’t fret, pet.

Love, best always, sincerely, and with regards,
Cecil aka C Lue.

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