Today is the first day of a new year and a new decade. I've articulated the resolution to complete a draft of Gone by the last day of this year. It may or may not be worthy of submission to...anything. But I want to get the story out of my head, gather up the various notes and outlines, and compile them all into one centralized location in a fully imagined tale.
For the sake of documenting this journey, I am going to try to make an entry a week on how much I was able to write, what the characters are doing to me and my life, and if writing an original story is all I've imagined it's cracked up to be. I don't know if anyone else but me will read this, but I think it will be interesting to look back on this journey when I get to the end of the year.
This is the year I'll find out if I'm a hack. Full of bluster and dreams. Someone who plans for the future but never actually executes. I've been talking about writing for years. Since high school, really. I don't have a four-year degree but have managed to sponge up enough on-the-job skills to be a writer for a living (e-Learning and technical writing, but words are involved). I post a weekly review of my favorite TV show that's too long for any on-line establishment to take seriously (as in $$ seriously) but that many readers have informed me they enjoy. And I've spent the last five years writing fanfiction -- a genre I didn't even know existed prior to 2006.
So, on one very basic level, I am a writer. It's the activity that makes me most feel like me -- even above being a wife and a mother, quite honestly.
But fanfiction and TV show reviews posted on LiveJournal isn't the kind of writing I can get others outside of that particular fandom to ever read and/or take seriously. For the general populas, fanfiction is something written by 13-year-old girls with TV crushes. Most people you ask about fanfiction would either not know what it was, or would have no idea that it also contains mainstream stories very much in line with the tie-in novels found in a local Barnes and Noble. And more often than not (in my opinion), fanfiction authors are far better than the published material simply because they know the characters inside and out, love the characters' flaws and atributes, and understand what the other fans want to read about those characters.
Fanfic writers haven't been handed a set of DVDs and a script and been told, "Read up. You're contracted to write the next tie-in novel."
Through fanfiction, I have been able to bring alive fantasies and ideas I never thought anyone would understand, let alone connect with. But, connect they have to the tune of numerous online reviews and input that has improved my confidence and steered my creative skill.
I've discovered habits that help me tell better stories -- or at least stories I enjoy writing and telling. For example, listenting to music. I have different playlists for each story I've written -- mostly angsty rock or alternative. My current playlist for the last fanfic I'm writing prior to temporarily hanging up those spurs in an effort to focus on Gone includes:
Send Me an Angel, Zeromancer
Long Way Down, Vib Gyor
It's Probably Me, Sting
Red Sky, Thrice
Hesitate, Stone Sour
What Do I Have to Do?, Stabbing Westward
Make This Go On Forever, Snow Patrol
The Royal We, Silversun Pickups
Call Me, Shinedown
Running Up That Hill, Placebo
Weapon, Matthew Good
Iridescent, Linkin Park
Center of Attention, Jackson Waters
On the Surface, Civil Twilight
Millstone, Brand New
I used to only listen to soundtracks, years ago when I first thought myself to be a writer. But when I discovered fanfiction and how to take characters who were much loved by me and other fans and pull them through a journey of my own imagining, I found that this type of music fed the muse with much sweeter ideas...relatively speaking. The stories I write aren't sweet. There is much pain involved -- physical, mental, and emotional. It's not indiciative of my life; it's simply the type of plot that trips my trigger.
In addition to music, I found that there's a certain environment that is more conducive to creation for me: the cave. Be it the kitchen table, the bedroom, the couch, or the office, I crave a sense of closed-off darkness around me with only the computer and the light from a lamp. I want no reminder of the real world to jar me from the fictional one I'm living in while I write.
I think that's one of the reasons the original short stories I wrote for the NYCM contest were largely unsatisfying. With the word limit enforced, I didn't have time to get lost in the story. I haven't studied enough to know this to be certifiable fact, but I contend that there are certain types of writing that one gravitates toward. Just because you are a "writer" doesn't necessarily mean you can write anything from short fictional stories to hard-hitting journalistic articles. You have a niche.
Gone is a story that's taken a journey with me. I first thought of it on a roadtrip with my now-husband from Phoenix, AZ, to Breckenridge, CO, back in 2000. I nutshelled it to him over an early morning in-car breakfast of OJ and powdered donuts. He absorbed and I was satisfied. Several years later, on our last couples trip (this time to Louisville, KY, to tour Churchill Downs) before our daughter was born, I resurrected the story and he offered a couple slants that changed the direction to a more meaty, satisfying end.
Later still, I submitted the first part of the first chapter to a writing workshop and listened as they told me that it was well-written, but somewhat predictable. Not what I had in mind.
I took that draft and the culminated ideas and during an angst-filled family trip grabbed the middle and flipped the whole thing inside out. Now I finally feel as if I have a sequence of ideas worthy of a solid draft, and I have a promise to myself: finished draft by 12/31/11.
And so it begins....