Sunday, October 13, 2013

Conference scrawlings

Yesterday, I attended another SCBWI conference. Usually, those make me cranky and frustrated, but this time, even though I got another rejection, and even though the event had the same frustrating characteristics, I walked away with some useful ideas plus one epiphany that could change everything about the story I've been working on for six years. Here are a few of the notes I took when I was inspired by something and applied it to my situation. These aren't quotes or paraphrases, except for number one, which is somewhat close to something Matt de la Peña said, so credit to him for the idea.

1. This (writing) has to matter to me no matter if anyone else knows I'm doing it.

2. It's time to face the issue of plotting and the stack of writing books hidden in the desk.

3. Read. Figure out a way to want to do it. It'll probably mean turning off the computer.

4. Stop being lazy about research. And do it on ground as much as possible.

5. My strengths are not enough [to carry a story]. If I want the good parts of my writing to merge into a well-written story, I'll have to give time to my weaknesses.

6. There's no such thing as a one-book wonder. One book is a wonder in itself.

7. I have at least two stories in me I've been too scared to tell. They may be the best stories I've got.

8. Everything (you know this, but still)--everything [in a story] needs to be relevant.

9. Research helps you open your writing mind and expands your written worlds.

10. This, my epiphany, won't mean anything to most of you. One of the speakers rhetorically asked how we'd describe our stories in one line in a format sort of like, "This is a story about [insert your main character's name] who wants [insert your main character's need]." That's when I quickly, without even thinking, wrote this: "This is a story about Marie who wants to find her mother." Then I wrote: "Oh god," because for the past 6 years, I've been writing this story with the assumption that Marie was looking for her father. It turns out, it's her mother she really needs to connect with. How could I have worked on a story for that long without realizing what my main character's core motivation is? I don't freaking know. It's just one of those things writers get blocked about. Writer's block isn't someone sitting in front of a blank white page not knowing what to say or not having ideas. It's when writers are blind to something completely obvious because, as in their own lives, they're often too close to have a clear perspective.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The spider and the worm

It's half past twelve in the afternoon on a Wednesday, and I just saw something move in the window and went over to watch what I thought was a wasp (one of the family that lives in the corner of the window between the pane and the screen) falling down into the spider's web (the spider who lives in the lower part of the same space with a messy web that is neither pretty or symmetrical but is, apparently, effective) again. The wasps never get stuck because they're too big and flap away, but the spider approaches them anyway, which must help encourage the wasps to flap harder and faster. But today it wasn't a wasp. It was an inchworm.

I love inchworms. I always have. There are few bugs I'll let crawl on me. Inchworms are one of them. I got closer to see what would happen, fully expecting the worm to get away. Instead he fell further into the web and was soon approached by the spider, just like the wasps have been. Unfortunately inchworms don't have wings and aren't very big. She immediately began wrapping him. It's over, I rightly assumed. Yet I hoped. Which was a silly thing to do, because why hope for the inchworm and not the spider? Still.

The wrapping continued for a long time, and the inchworm struggled throughout the entire process. I tapped on the window once or twice. Futility. It seemed to go forever. In the meantime, I rationalized. Part of me angrily said, why is the world, the cycle, based on cruelty, on death, on the end of one thing for the continuation of another? The other part of me said, stop personifying; these are things, programmed to work in a certain way for survival; it means nothing. But it's the struggle that got me. It's when the spider got close to the twitching stick of a creature and paralyzed it, and the twitching slowed, but then became fierce again, only to bring on more jabs of paralyzation, to be followed by more slow twitching and the spider pulling the worm close, almost like boxers do when they hug mid fight.

The spider scurried up, rearranged things, pulled the dying worm this way and that way, scurried back down, hugged, stabbed, wrapped. The worm fought on, if slowly. Then she went behind his neck and stabbed him there, and he jerked violently. I could see his mouth moving open and closed. I don't know why I started crying, I just did. I thought, let be little worm, just let it happen. But he could no more do that than I could voluntarily stop breathing.

If life is a spider, I hope I fight. I will. It's natural.

There they hang now in the widow beside me. The worm is in a soft white sheet. The spider is beside him. A twitch here and there. Probably little aftershocks. I can't help thinking the poison was a grace, an anesthetic and that she's staying by his side as a comfort. She's not, but I can't help thinking it. And I can't help looking around the web for other stories. Oh. In the far corner, there's a wasp. He didn't make it. That's the first I've seen. Somehow I don't care. I can't. I'm using all my care for the worm. Maybe later.

All is still now. Even the wasps aren't moving. The thing is done. It's natural. It's no big deal. So why am I still crying?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Writing on a quiet day

I don't feel so good today. Got a bit of a headache and tummy ache, a bit of the angst that comes along with the blessing and curse of the natural monthly cycle.

There's something nice about it though. It forces me to stop and gives me a fantastic excuse to sit around feeling and looking dreadful and doing whatever I please. In these moments, I either sleep, watch a movie, or write. Today, I shall write.

I've got my cuppa and my cookies and my comfy place to sit. Off I go into my newest story, into the little mountain valley where a lonely girl will learn what to hold on to and what to let go...

(Oh, my. I just, for the first time in my life, dipped a ginger snap into a cup of hot tea. If ever you think you've discovered all of life's joys and begin to think there's nothing more to look forward to, it's certain you're wrong.)