When I write a rough draft of a story or novel, I am constantly looking for its pulse, the raw energy of a story, the point of transition in which the story takes on a life of its own and seems almost to write itself.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with writing rough drafts that lag. I write them all the time because I have to start somewhere. In fact, sometimes my story does not come to life for me until after I have written my self-conscious, plodding. uninspired rough draft. But after having been through the process many times, I have learned some things about making dead prose stir to life.
In fiction, a problem that I have grappled with, which can be solved early on, is the strength of character motive.
Exciting news: My novel The Ghosts of Chimera, which I began to write over ten years ago, is now available on Amazon for electronic purchase.
It is 558 pages, but I have reread it dozens of times, and it has never seemed that long to me, to the point that I have at times questioned the veracity of my computer.
The novel was accepted by a traditional publisher a couple of years ago, but my experience was not good. I strongly disagreed with the content edits and backed out of the deal. I would have done any amount of work, gone to most any length, to make changes if I had believed they would strengthen the novel, but I refused to make any changes that I thought would weaken it.
I have written all my life, but it was only in college that I discovered the thesis statement. My professors prized them highly, selling them as magic wands of clarity to wave over fuzzy prose. There was nothing like a thesis statement to unravel tangled thinking. Every essay, they insisted, should have one, to be worthy in their eyes.
A thesis statement meant taking responsibility for all that I said. I had to say in the first paragraph what I wanted to prove, such as “Little Red Riding Hood is Gullible,” then I had to back up my general claim; I had to prove it, preferably again and again, using as many supporting details as possible.
I was a skeptic, and I was all for thinking clearly. I even became a writing tutor who explained how to write, and develop, thesis statements. As a student, and nerd, I could not have respected them more.
The boy coughed. He knew he was dying. He had watched many other children die before him, suffocate over a period of months even as they breathed. With each new day, the synthetic air seemed to feel grittier, heavier. But he was only nine. He could not let himself die yet, not if he could help it.
He had dreams. Lately he had been dreaming of a place he could call home, a place of rolling waves on starlit seas and dreamy, iridescent mountains made of ice. He had never seen the lost home his father had described, a casualty of a dying sun that had sent them space borne.
Aerrie had often asked his father about the lost world. His father had said his home had been far more than its physical features; it had been governed by something called principles, which was the only part of his home planet the natives had been able to carry with them. Unfortunately, Aerrie could not feel or see principles like water, snow, or sand.
I once had a college professor who derided video games as the curse of the century and a deplorable waste of time.
Maybe he would have been surprised to know that playing video games inspired me to write all three of my novels.
The games may have appeared silly and inconsequential, yet they engaged my imagination. My creative impulse could not resist a colorful virtual playground.
Sometimes I decide, “I would rather not do real life today. I would rather write instead.”
And sometimes someone has the audacity to pull me away from my writing and pressure me into doing something “real” like going shopping. Lucky for me, even when the saboteur manages to persuade me into buying groceries instead of penning my next masterpiece, I have a super-secret, sneaky way to rebel.
Little does he know that just because I’m not at my computer, that doesn’t mean I’m not writing. Every snarky cashier I meet becomes a potential character model for a story. The lady who snatches the last carton of my favorite peach ice cream in a supermarket? Villain fodder! “Better enjoy that ice cream, missy. I have disparagingly described your facial contours, style of dress, and gestural habits on the notepad of my phone. However I have noted one good trait so you will be believable. I will see you in my novel!”
I knew America was in serious trouble the day an NPR journalist praised Republican Senator John McCain as being a “profile in courage” just for suggesting that a free press might be a good thing.
McCain had contradicted the president, who had tweeted that the press was the “enemy of the American people.” McCain argued that silencing the press was how dictators got started.
I thought, wow, the bar has never been lower for any Congressional Republican who might seek the legendary status of an American hero. All one had to do is acknowledge the truth, to say what most every U.S. history student learns in public schools: that a free press is a basic feature that supports democracy.
have exciting news. I am finally, finally, finally about to publish my psychological fantasy The Ghosts of Chimera.
Busy with making final edits, I have not been on social media much lately, only peeking out of my cave every now and then to see how my friends online are doing. Although I have reduced my blogging to about once every other week, I promise that I am actually still here.
I am now transferring The Ghosts of Chimera to an Amazon file. After multiple revisions, I am finally happy with it, and it will be ready to go before the end of summer. Although I was advised to divide the 600 page novel into three books, I have decided to publish it as a whole, the way I originally meant it to be read.
Although tragic and depressing things sometimes happen in my stories, I try to always find a thread of plausible hope.
However, I sometimes wonder if this conscious effort to work hope into my works of fiction is less than honest. After all, there are many real-life situations that crush hope completely and scatter its ashes to the winds.
Some brilliant writers like Dostoyevsky in The Idiot have written some hope-crushing stories, with main characters dying, being decapitated, or going insane at the end. When I was in high school I tried writing some stories like this myself; it made me feel edgy. It was as if I were saying, “Look, the world is not a rosy place, and I am honest and courageous enough to say it.” Or, “Look at how the hypocrisy of those in power are destroying the world; people are innately evil!”
I used to love reading about how to write more than I liked to write. While I longed to be a writer, writing was scary. It meant unmasking my own mind, delving into the dark complexities of my subconscious, my childhood wounds, my fears of rejection, and other traits I preferred to deny.
Chronically blocked, I was constantly looking for the how-to-write book that would catapult me into creative bliss. My book shelf was packed with inspiring glossy-covered books; however, my inspiration had mostly fizzled by the time I got around to writing.
In my quest I did come across good books I still treasure, such as Characters Make Your Story and Writing Down the Bones. Whenever I found a book I really liked, I wanted to christen the author as my personal mentor, drag her into the next writing session with me and have her tell me everything to do. Yet when I did sit down to write, all I had learned seemed to have abandoned me as I stared at the blank page.