Monday, May 19, 2008

Jumping off cliffs (and building your wings on the way down)

I stole the name of my blog from a Ray Bradbury quote because that's very much how writing feels. No matter how many notes I have, or plans I make, a certain element of it is like free falling. There is a point when it's just you, the blank page and your imagination. You get to trust that your right brain knows the story, shut up, get out of the way, and let it do it do the job you asked it to do. After that you have to rely on the unseen--agents, magazine/ezine editors to want what you've written. It's a different kind of writing blind, it really is.

Next week the boys will be done with school for the summer and I'll basically be free to write so I've marked that on the calendar as the place and time to begin Willow's Blood. I should be excited. For the first time in years I won't be trying to write around a job, homeschooling, and forty-thousand other commitments.

But I'm actually nervous as hell. Probably because at heart I'm a superstitious creature who fears change. I wrote most of the last book during one of the busiest periods in my life. I was exhausted, burned out, and depressed from going ninety to nothing all the time. My own dumb fault. Looking back on it, I don't know what I was thinking or how I accomplished anything (I didn't sleep much, maybe that was it): I planned two major work-oriented events that involved large groups of parents and kids, this was in addition to my normal work responsibilities, I rehearsed for and sang in both services at church, rehearsed for and sang a solo that I hated in the church cantata, organized the church afterschool program Christmas play, ran a youth group membered largely by troubled teens, and over-saw my son's Christian band rehearsals. The whole family had the flu, we were seriously scary-broke, and it was the holidays. So the silly superstitious question that looms in my mind today is can I write when the pressure's off?

I guess I'll find out.

Meanwhile, letters continue to go out to agents. I have one I think I should have heard from by now. I'll give them another week to respond and then send a follow up. I feel really good about the last two queries I sent out. Not because of who I sent them to, but because the letters themselves were better than their predecessors. I think I'm getting the hang of this. The question is, will the agents be interested?

I'm also working on smaller stuff. I have an article and a poem subbed and I'm cleaning up another article to go out once I figure out where to send it. This time I'm considering ezines. There's less money in it, but the market looks to be less competitive and writing these silly things largely to make a buck.

And so the free fall continues. Anybody got any feathers they can spare?


Hal Johnson said...

I don't know if mine would help you, since they're chicken feathers. Good luck.

debby said...

Take a deep breath and go for it, Mary!

Mary Paddock said...

Thanks guys!

Oooh! Chicken feathers! All I can find here belong to wild Turkeys. Really wild Turkeys . . .

alice said...

I am with the chicken feathers man. Sorry.

Serious question, though - for those of us who would like to write, and be better at it, what resources would you suggest? Your style is so smooth, it's like chocolate on the tongue, and it flows so sweetly and is easy to digest. Please share, I am a willing pupil. :)

Mary Paddock said...

Alice--You are very kind. Thank you. Advice? I'll do the best I can, though this is a bit like the blind leading the blind. :)

Read, read, read, then read some more. Read the kind of stuff you want to write, but read more than that--classic fiction, bad fiction, and good fiction (subjective I know, but you need to know why it does or doesn't work for you). It all has something to teach you.

Write something everyday. A letter, a blog, a vignette, a short story, a poem . . . Something that makes you use words.
When my boys were little, I wrote a lot of poetry because that's what I had time for. I still have a passion for it, and read it regularly, though I'm not much of a poet myself.

Get your hands on a few "how-to" books, depending on what you want to write. I like Lawrence Block because he's a novelist and he's not arrogant. Stephen King's "On Writing" was terrific for similar reasons. I've read others, but Mary Oliver's "Poetry Handbook" remains a favorite. I also love "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" for lesssons on punctuation.

Be teachable. Seek out other writers who will tell you the truth about your writing. Friends and family have a stake in making you feel good and they're great(important) support. But when it comes to ferreting out the weaknesses in your work, you need somebody who enjoys reading and critiquing, who has less invested in whether you feel good about their opinion or not.

I'm a moderator here: There's some good people there. If you're a serious poet and write poetry and have really thick skin (Meaning, you say thank you whether you like the crit or not) this is the--bar none--best poetry workshop on the net: I've been a member there for seven or eight years (though I write primarily fiction). The devil is in the details could have been written about poetry and these folks know it.

Hope there's something you can use in those ramblings Alice.

All the best,

Bandersnatchi said...

I can sense the excitement you feel about a new beginning. I like the title. It sounds dramatic, and romantic, all at once.

I envisage a heroine wearing riding leathers under a heavy cloak with a sword in a scabbard at her waist, a feisty wench with fire in her veins, lust in her heart and a a thirst for vengeance bitter in her mouth.



Mary Paddock said...

Hi Geoff and thanks for dropping by.

As for the character description--knowing Sevin, she'd probably love the costume, but I don't think she has a place to keep the horse. And she'd probably prefer a good cordless mouse to a sword.