Sunday, April 28, 2013

How many novels have I started?

How many novels have I started? I have a spiral notebook for each one, 150-200 of them, perhaps, at various stages of completeness. 

It’s very easy to start a novel. Sit down with pen in hand, think of something that shows a lot of action, that could be happening right this minute somewhere in the Universe. Begin to write down what is happening. Why is it happening? To whom is it happening? When is it happening? Where is it happening? (I think that covers all of the Ws: Who, what, when, where and why that journalists focus on for their stories…not sure if they are writing fiction or non-fiction sometimes.)

But you will get to a point where you start to ask yourself, “Where is this going?” Seems to me that might be a good place to put aside the story you have been penning and start fleshing it out. Do some character building. Who is the main character and why is this person so important to the story. (The person you THINK is the main character may not end up being the main character.) Why is it so important to tell this story? You know the beginning of the story…well, as it stands right now. But that may change. And what is the end of the story? Do you know that? Maybe you should think about that because when you know the beginning and the end you will be able to figure out what has to happen to get from Point A (beginning) to Point B (conclusion.)

Yeah, I sound like I know what I’m talking about, don’t I? But I don’t think Stephen King has to worry about me invading his space just yet. 

In Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway writes, “Stories do not begin with ideas or themes or outlines, so much as with images and obsessions, and they continue to be built by exploring those images and obsessions.” She advises the writer, “Know thyself.” She quotes Dorothy Allen, “I believe the secret of writing is that fiction never exceeds the reach of the writer’s courage.”  Then Burroway resumes speaking, “Fiction is written not so much to inform as to find out, and if you force yourself into a mode of informing when you haven’t yet found out, you’re likely to end up pontificating or lying some other way.”

If you haven’t surprised yourself, you haven’t written. ~ Eudora Welty

A short story is a writer’s way of thinking through experience…Journalism aims at accuracy, but fiction’s aim is truth. The writer distorts reality in the interest of a larger truth. ~ John L’Heureux

Have I helped anyone with this bit of knowledge today? Well, I can only hope. 

(c) 2013 Cathy Thomas Brownfield ~ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Friday, April 19, 2013

Maybe...I'm not a writer...?

                My mom never allowed us to “quit.” No matter what you start you finish it. “It” builds character.
                As much as I like writing for a local agency, every year about this time I think I should resign but reason directs me to hold onto the gig. It puts gasoline in the tank of my car. Sometimes it puts food on the table. It’s not a day job. But it gives me a little spending money.
                I’ve been writing a long time. Some days it’s all that I do, perhaps too many of my hours and days. I’m sitting here asking myself a whole lot of questions…like, “What EVER gave me the idea that I am a writer with some important things to say?” Maybe The Man is right. Maybe I should give up on my writing, too. How many times has he said he gave up on my writing a long time ago?
                The work on Ramblings, my thesis novel, is slow and difficult. Literary in nature, I feel like it’s a ball and chain that holds me down. Heavy. It’s heavy. Wasn’t The Dollmaker heavy, too? But such a good story!
                Yesterday I decided I needed to work on something fun. I started a novel for submission to Harlequin. I have written four chapters. But…why do I feel like all of my stories are worthless drivel?
                I emailed my friend, Jay. “Maybe I’m not a writer,” I say. “Maybe I should just go get a job with a paycheck and work until I die.” That’s what The Man wants me to do.
                Jay wrote back, “OK, now! Let’s back up. You ARE a writer because you have written many articles, romance stories and started novels…” These were things good to hear, but some other words stand out…”I believe in you.”
                But…maybe I am the one who has to believe in me. What is my problem? My personal life is overwhelming my writing life. How can creativity bust out all over when personal issues are in the way? How do other writers handle this?
                Must be time to go somewhere…away…not, here where everything is right under my nose and I can’t do a gazillion things and write, too.
                Some days I think, “Maybe I’m not really a writer.” What if I know I can’t really achieve those lofty goals. God knows enough people have rolled their eyes or found it difficult to look at me when I announce my goals, “Pulitzer” and “Nobel in Literature.”  What if these are just dreams that I hold onto even though I know I can’t really achieve them? Is that what Doris Lessing thought when she was writing? She didn’t go to college. She didn’t even finish high school. But she wrote a body of works that earned her the Nobel in Literature in 2007.

© 2013 Cathy Thomas Brownfield ~ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Why haven't I finished that novel?

My husband periodically asks the question, “How long have you been writing that novel?”

I find it difficult to comprehend that he thinks I’ve spent all of these years writing ONE novel! But people who aren’t writers have difficulty understanding writers. Sometimes I’m not sure writers understand other writers and how they work—or even themselves because they are too close to look at things objectively.

I should count how many notebooks I have because I have at least one notebook for each novel (more than 100, I’m sure). And probably a couple thousand file folders (at least) on shelves, in a filing cabinet and in boxes for short stories or research for other novels not started. I’m great at starting novels. And not too shabby at creating titles. 

Which of my novels really stands out?

1.)   A young girl and her grandmother face the old woman’s advancing age and dementia.

2.)  A hot, steamy romance between two people when westward expansion crossed the Allegheny Mountains into Ohio Country.

3.)  A special agent can’t forget the bullying her brother and she suffered when they were growing up. She vowed to defend and protect women and their children who have been exploited by men and society.

4.)  Ramblings…the lives of women from their perspectives rather than men’s interpretations of the women’s worth.

5.)  The romance between two people who have never held each other close, never kissed—or even held hands. But the bond between them is impossible to sever.  They are soulmates from the edge of Eternity and back again.

My eldest daughter wants me to finish the story about the girl and her grandmother. So I went to the top of the garage looking for the box that held that manuscript. OK. I sent said daughter up to get it for me. I have it in my office.

#2 is the one I would have finished had I not started college to become an educator more years ago that I want to admit to you.

#3 is the story about bullying. Bullying doesn’t come from outside the family only.

#4 was my college thesis.

#5 is a love triangle…or can it have four sides?

And these aren’t the only novels I have begun. Why aren’t they finished?



Don’t know where to take the story to conclude it?

Well. For a long time I got interrupted every 10 minutes or so and the habit formed. If I was going to be pulled from the train of my thoughts there wasn’t much point in starting the journey, was there? But when the last child moved out I began to change my habit, not without some resistance. Now, when I start to stand up and walk away from my desk I tell my Self, “Self, plant your behind in that chair and don’t you DARE walk away until you’ve accomplished something with this WIP.”

My friend, Jay, said I am afraid to write because I’m afraid I will fail…or succeed. I’ve been published before. Not to the degree I desire, but I have been published. I’m not afraid to write, witnessed by the piles of files and boxes of notebooks and journals in just this one room! Not counting all the others in other rooms.

Don’t know how to conclude the story. Before a novel is started in the writing phase, it has to be thought out. How many times has Maureen said, “Most of the writing is done in your head. It percolates there while you’re doing other things”?

But, but, but…I just read that the human brain cannot multi-task efficiently.

Patti says, “Writers don’t work on just one story or project at a time.”

Cindy said I shouldn’t charge more than a dime for a copy of my weekly newspaper 13 years ago and Evan told her why she was wrong.

And somewhere inside my head I’m aware that doors have been slammed in my face because I didn’t measure up to what others expected from me.

So I have to make a choice: Will I give up and give in because the powers that be in this small spot on the globe bully me to prevent me achieving what they can never hope to achieve? Or will I surmount the impossible odds that challenge me?

Watch for my name! The day IS coming!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Visualizing a dream

I like Linda Dupie's idea. She makes an actual book cover and puts it around a book, placing it where she can see it while she's writing her story. WHY do I like it?

When you want to make something happen, you need to visualize it, think of it and SEE it. How can you make "it" real if you don't know what "it" looks like? When you can see it, when it takes shape, you know what you need to do to get from Point A to Point B. Well, I hope that is so.

Isn't that a marvelous concept?

A long while ago a friend admired the chart I spent a LOT of time with indicating the characters and their relationships, plotting and so on. Then she said, "That's very nice. Now put it away and just write a good story."


At eye level I have a poster I created:


But I'm thinking if I create a book cover and wrap it around a real book and keep it near my work area, that might be a fantastic visual tool to help me stay focused instead of sitting down at my work area, looking at the daily planner I didn't fill in with my goals for the day and then ask myself, "Self, what are we going to write today?"

What good are the tools if we don't use them?

(c) 2013 Cathy Thomas Brownfield ~ All Rights Reserved. Permission to use is required. Also, a link to this blog is required when used. Thank you for the courtesy.