The weather out here in California has been so beautiful lately…Not too hot, not too cold, and of course, no rain–ever.
When I was younger, my mom would always push me to go outside at times like this. For me, of course, that meant finding a comfy spot outside to read a book.
Now I’ve discovered that having an occasional day to write outside can also help. Take a break from the computer. Grab an actual pen and pad of paper and just write. It can break up the monotony, and it always helps me focus on sense of place. Inside, all my senses are dulled, but outside, everything comes alive again.
Write to Done, an online blog about — well, blogging, often — put one up on Monday about improving your writing skills by traveling. As I am now “on vacation” in Alabama I thought I’d mention the idea here. Travel gets you out of your rut, gives you a chance to get some distance from your everyday experience with a new perspective. Almost anything can work: a change of address, a vacation, a day trip And what if you only took the day trip to a place you’ve never been n your own home town? Still can’t “afford” it? How about spending some time in the library reading about some place you’ve always wanted to go, looking at pictures?
The first time I came to Alabama three years ago, I experienced breakfast at a Waffle House. A PECAN Waffle! Scrumptious! Needless to say, we’ve already been twice during this trip. Still scrumptious! But I’m also noticing the people. The “family” working there. On the crowded Sunday Mother’s Day breakfast crew, the job of two men was to keep on cookin'; another one gathered all the sales slips and called out the orders –as they came in— to the cooks who were ready to handle the next order. One fellow kept drying the knives, forks and spoons hot out of the washer. This well-oiled machine seated the waiting crowd efficiently, quickly, and took orders as soon as the customers had time to decide — and while they sipped on their first cup-a-joe! Another guy handled the cash as each party prepared to leave. ALL the workers were friendly, to each other, and to customers. Numerous asked if we “had everything” we needed as they buzzed past. This was a small, narrow diner with AT LEAST 11 workers working in harmony AND with a jaunty, jovial air about them. It was THE place to be on that wonderful day.
And it gave me a new appreciation for working together, living together, getting along, and making the trip FUN as it progressed. How can that NOT affect the way I feel, act, write, think and appreciate today and EVERY day for some time to come?
Where/when are you “going” next — and how will it inform your writing?
You’re worried as you work with your writing partner:
1. She’s leading you in a way you didn’t expect. Should you follow?
2. He’s making your character seem a little silly or angry even. You don’t want that.
3. You can’t force the story to go the way you want because whenever your partner steers the car, you start going east instead of west.
4. Your partner doesn’t ‘get’ your character.
5. You don’t ‘get’ your partner’s character.
6. Now you don’t ‘get’ your own character.
7. Your partner isn’t picking up the clues you’re leaving behind.
8. His clues are weird.
I remembering reading King’s On Writing and when he discovered the importance of blood in his novel Carrie. He’d left so many bloody hand prints (his own) that when he went to rewrite he emphasized the natural place his storytelling had taken him.
This is going to be the biggest clue I can give you as you write with your friend. Trust her and yourself and this odd process.
One of the funnest parts of writing with Ann Dee was when I allowed myself to just experiment. If she mentioned screaming at my character’s house, I got to decide if it was a man or woman screaming. Or a kid. It could have been a kid. (It was a bird.) Ann Dee was great at leaving cliff hangers for me to leap from.
About three or four short chapters in, Ann Dee said, “What are we doing? I say she hates dogs, you have her with dogs. I say there’s screaming, you don’t mention in. You said they’re making out and I said there was only a hug.”
This trip is one about you both steering. No one can force the story. If either writer does, you may end up with one unhappy person. Or you may end up with two people struggling for control.
Then you’ll have two stories that won’t work together and you won’t succeed.
Look for the odd clues left behind by your partner. How can you change it up from what she might have meant? Can you make that clue your own? Twist tears out of it? Laughter?
Understand that much of the worries you have will be taken care of in revision. And when the book is done, Like Stephen King, you’ll see what you set up that you didn’t realize you had. In our books it was fathers. I knew my character’s was sick and Ann Dee’s was absent. But then there was one that was dead and a couple others I didn’t even see until I read through the novel.
Ann Dee probably knew.
She’s smart that way.
So–to answer the statements above–trust yourself. Trust your partner. Trust the process.
Talk to each other.