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Floodgates

Okay…so here it is. I’ve opened myself up to write fiction again, and it’s causing some problems.

Let me back up a bit. Some 20 years ago, I experienced a traumatic writing event, i.e., I chose to attend a college of math and science as an English major.

What? They offered me a full ride!

I had no idea it was because the chair of their department was an embittered, Beckett-obsessed, nihilist who was scaring students off in droves. After one semester/season-in-hell, I decided to take Elizabeth Ayres’ advice, “If you can stop writing, by all means do.”

And whaddaya know, I stopped. Cold turkey. Not one word, not one phrase for YEARS. But like a tiny crack in the dam, they’ve begun slipping out in the last few years. First, through blogging about my triplet pregnancy over at Burrus Boys, then moving on to my current home-away-from-home here at The Drunch. Now, I’ve come full-circle back to my first love, Fiction…and something weird is happening.

All the voices I’ve kept at bay for the last 2 decades have rushed me all at once. There’s historical types rubbing elbows with sarcastic goth chicks alongside wizened old women with boxes of strange herbs. Men and boys, women and girls. It’s a bombastic, fantastic, confusing cacophony of voices mingling in some sort of prohibition-era speakeasy in my head.

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Thank God I’m a writer, otherwise I’d need to be on some pretty heavy medication at this point (*crickets chirp as reading audience carefully sidesteps this particular land-mine).

Anyway, my problem is not the blank page in front of me. No! It’s figuring out which characters came to the party together and who showed up solo. It’s trying to force them into some sort of line and convince them to take a number.

On the upside, I seem to have a host of plot ideas and scene snippets galore, interesting locations and bits of conversation out the wazoo. The downside? Since I have, approximately, 45 minutes a day to write, I still won’t have a finished novel if I should live to be a hundred. Agony.

Then there’s the nagging conviction that I don’t know what I’m doing. Not that I’m not equipped with the talent or the drive, just that I’m going about it all wrong, wasting time chasing down rabbit trails that more experienced writers already know not to explore. For instance, I just discovered Scrivener.

Now, Scrivener is a program just for writers that is about the handiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I was so excited, I tweeted about my fantastic find…and found that everybody and their dog had been using it for something like 200 years (give or take a century). There you have it. Irrefutable proof that great things are out there I should’ve know about ages ago. Things that make you more efficient, help you keep your thoughts organized and coherent, things that make your writing super-awesome and sparkly (like certain cheesy vampires that made their craptastic author incredibly wealthy…but I digress).

Anyway — I have high hopes for the Writer’s Conference I’m attending in a few weeks. My hope is to meet other struggling authors, have some of them say, “No that’s totally normal! We all work just like you do!” Or maybe not. Maybe they’ll say, “Ooh! Yeah…that’s really not how to go about it at all. Here’s a list of suggestions for how to suck less.” Honestly, I’d be okay with either scenario as long as it results in me producing something that can eventually be released from captivity (hopefully into the hands of an enthusiastic agent who’ll get it to an fantastic publisher who’ll put my name in big, fat, gorgeous letters on the front cover. Because, yes…I’m exactly that shallow).

So there you have it. The levees have broken. The horses are out of the barn. The toothpaste is out of the tube. The inmates are officially running the asylum. I sincerely hope things are about to get really interesting.

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7 Responses

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  1. amy says

    Mmm, I stopped fiction cold turkey about four years ago, give or take a couple of months. What a relief (for me). As for fancy-shmancy computer programs or lack of time, I think of oh, Herman Melville. No computer programs to keep HIS thoughts in line! Or Tillie Olsen. Lack of time, indeed. When I was writing fiction, I was really, really disciplined about it, and part of what I don’t miss is taking myself away to write. But if you need to get those voices out, you’ll find more than 45 minutes per day, I promise.

  2. amy says

    PS I am watching my 7yo finish his dinner soooooo slowly, thinking I could probably write half a novel just sitting with him at the table every night while he finishes…

  3. @EvangelinaJo says

    I laughed throughout your entire blog. Often & out-loud. Probably because I could so closely relate. What a joy that read was. *psst… Don’t tell anyone, but, btw, as another apparently behind the times author, thanks for the tip on Scrivener. I didn’t know either. Lol* You have earned a new fan!

  4. J.D. Meier says

    45 minutes a day is pretty good. What was Hemmingway’s formula … Something like one hour to edit, and one hour to write something new each day?

    While we can’t add more time in our day, I found we can add more energy, and that’s the wildcard that makes magic happen in little tiny slices of time.

  5. Angie Mizzell says

    Hey JD! I know you. :)

    Jodi, it’s been fascinating watching you on your journey, as your inner writer has been unleashed. I have been working on my memoir the entire time I’ve known you… one book… and I’m still trying to figure it out.

    I think it’s amazing all those voices are in your head! I’m a big fan of crazy. Scrivener is relatively new to me, too, and it definitely helps. You can keep all those scenes and characters in their neat little pockets, and you can move them around as you see fit.

    The other day, I compiled a third draft that I assumed was going to read like garbage, and I was quite surprised that it didn’t suck that bad. And some of it was quite good. I got to that point because Scrivener help me break things into tiny chunks and move them around.

    Have a blast at the writers conference. I went to one last year and the feedback was priceless.

  6. jodi says

    J.D. Thank you so much for the encouragement. Sometimes a just little bit of that can go a long way.

  7. jodi says

    Angie…I’m on pins and needles waiting for your book. You’ve been a fabulous (albeit virtual) friend to have on this journey, and I haven’t the slightest doubt that you’ll get where you’re going sooner rather than later. As for me…I wish I was as sure of me as I was of you. ;) Thanks so much for the encouragement. I’m sure there’ll be a post following the writer’s conference where I’ll fill you in on the agony and the ecstasy.



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