One & Done: Writing Stars Sometimes Do Align

When you first put eyes on the man you knew who’d be your husband. The opening notes of a song that strums your soul, still gives you chills when you’re reunited years later. How a perfect canvas sky at sunrise or sunset leaves you spellbound. The awe you hold in a composer, a painter, or any other artist getting a project right on the first go, the first shot, the first time out.

I’ll let you on a little secret. Don’t tell anybody.

It. Does. Happen.

Let me explain.

Sometimes when you draft a scene, a character sketch, a chapter or chapters, whichever your writing project is under your fingertips, you can–and do!–get it right on the first try. I’m here to exclaim, take back, and boldly proclaim: IT HAPPENS!!! The magic pixie dust found you that day, took a liking to you, and left you some of its glittery jet wash in its fumes.

Here’s a few instances–

We Are The World,” co-written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson, both completed the song’s lyrics and melody in 2.5 hours, and recorded the song in a single session.

Sir Paul McCartney, in writing the 007 Live and Let Die theme, had movie execs wait five days for the work–when he’d written the music in a scant 45 minutes. According to the anecdote relayed in Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown, “I didn’t want the movie brasses to think this was easy, but it was.”

Alanis Morrisette wrote her 1990s hit “Ironic” in an hour.

The blind guy who hit a hole-in-one on his only try.

Chapter 18 of JERSEY DOGS called “A Little Rusk Nikk’ed Us.”

Woodstock, 1969.

Any MLB team’s first try for, or breaking a century-long drought, at a World Series win.

And countless times when people played the lottery on a sole instance, and hit the number big.

So don’t tell me when you bang out a first draft of anything it’s impossible to get it right ON the first go, in the first go. Granted, this is a diff’rent post from calling that first one-and-done draft novel perfect; it ain’t. The book’s likely purple prose-y, your story’s taking forever to get to the point, it’s adverb- or passive voice-heavy, etc. You know who youse are :).

BUT . . . some chapters, or sentence phrasing(s), scenes, or certain word choices ARE perfect in the middle of that first draft crapstorm you can pluck free that which resonated most, and build around this in the coming revisions.

An article in the September 2019 issue of The Writer, “Stop Trash-Talking Your First Draft” puts it brilliantly: “You wouldn’t call your firstborn a sh*tty first draft, would you? Of course not! Even if the baby may have correctable health problems or non, that child is imperfectly perfect, period. Anyone saying to you that child is a crappy first draft, you’d say they’re abominable human beings. The first breaths of life in that early writing draft isn’t any different.” (paraphrasing mine.)

Whether you’re a veteran author or a brand-new writer ten minutes ago, the first draft is part of the writing process. But if the end result isn’t called the horrific names the first draft gets, why should the first draft be treated like a bastard at a family reunion? This reference is a great piece I can’t encourage to be read enough. Feel empowered when you come away from it–I’ll betcha you do, as you should. I did–and if anyone knows how much a hardass I am, I was a wet and snotty cottonball after the piece. (Forget you read that “wet and snotty cottonball” part–I’m a hardass, rememeber?)

So write the first draft with abandon! Come to its defense, warts and all; who else will if not you? The article also questioned when did it become sacred to trash the first shoots of life in a brand-new piece to begin with. It ruminates Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird had much to do with the first draft getting the hot pile of bat guano label, but maybe, the article’s author muses, it might be time to put this line of thought in the trash. I could not agree more. Also paraphrasing mine: Just because Bird rode high on the writers’ reference bookshelves and bestsellers lists, doesn’t mean its apologia is airtight–or shouldn’t be questioned, revised, or even abandoned altogether if its information isn’t applicable or merited anymore.

First-run tries do periodically knock it out the park. Is this a fluke? An oddity? Chance? Absolutely. But trashing the first drafts have gotten the sacred cow status in the writing world–and perhaps your writing lives–long enough. The initial piece may be in rough shape, but you got the damn thing OUT in the first place. The potential the work holds is enough to NOT tag it as crappy, even if it isn’t in a no-need-to-edit perfect place on the first doggoned try.

I’ll let you in on another inside baseball secret: Every word above this paragraph virtually poured out of me for this month’s post on the first go, easy to align my thoughts on the article’s topic, only an edit or two for clarity, continuity, and relevance. But, as that damn bitch called The Muse mule does, when Bessie’s out of steam, she’s not moving for anyone until she’s good and ready. Then it hit me. Rather, Bessie, my mule of a Muse, kicked me (is this her helping me plow another 40 acres of a blog post? You decide. **smirk**) to bookend this aspect of my writing life in a way I didn’t think plausible. The second reason this post couldn’t be more timely: this article vindicates me to my now disbanded online critique group my first Casebook got ripped to hell for. I told that group at the time I knew I was instinctively right to defend the book’s parts that fit when the self-righteous–and traditionally published in the group–mob tried to justify their words in tearing it down. But that’s another blog post for another time.

Create? Yes. Re-Create? Sh*t, No!

Let’s revisit and unpack our “We Are the World” by USA For Africa example–can that magic be re-created? No, unfortunately. Or when you first read Harry Potter, saw the movies, had your first child, or found your car unicorn. Can you re-create that exact perfect first draft moment with all its magical elements falling into place where they should, as they should? Nope. This is why you don’t see Lionel Ritchie, Quincy Jones, J.K. Rowling, et al trying to re-do what sheer dumb luck, fantastic timing, and a lot of Tinkerbell’s dust helped that magic come together, and hold together, in the first place. Imagine trying to re-create Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The Back to the Future, Toy Story, or the Indiana Jones flicks. If anything, somebody should’ve told Michael Wang this 1 Corinthians 10:23 lesson before taking the thought of creating Woodstock 50 in mind: Just because you can do something, dun mean you should do it.

“When it’s perfect, be it from the onset or after many rounds of revisions, then let it go. If you keep tweaking, you’ll tweak the perfect out of it.” —Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, 25th Anniversary Edition (paraphrasing mine)

If Cameron’s second-to-none resource is helping you to be okay with finally silencing your mother’s words, the inner editor and outer critics, naysayers, and downright haters of first drafts for being in that pole position, then be okay with it. Don’t even let Anne Lamott tell you diff’rent. Think about it: How much pressure is on her to defend her position?

The defense rests.

I attended a NYC 2011 workshop where Reed Farrell Coleman spoke on a similar topic. He knew a would-be author a few years prior revising his book’s opening chapter–both hands on the wheel, please, or swallow your hot beverage before reading on–27 times.

You read correctly. Twenty. Seven. Times.

But this was made more bittersweet because, Coleman said, this author had been one of the first detectives on scene hours after the Twin Towers were still hot ash, hot rubble, and chaos. He’d been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer as he drafted the novel, so Coleman point-blank told him, “Dude, you don’t have time to revise this much. Take the best of the suggestions and move on; the opening’s gonna be what it’s gonna be!”

The author took Coleman’s advice and moved on. But he died before ever completing his book. How much time he’d lost on something that didn’t need that much fussing about to begin with, and sadly, the world will never know what would have been.

This is what Cameron means about tweaking the perfect out of the imperfect, and this includes first time tries being right . . . the first time out. You, Dear Author, need not diss the WIPs in the zygotic stage of life. Let it go. Be proud you get to watch it fly–or cradle it to the next world with dignity and grace in one hell of a send off.

As always, you got this.

~ Missye

* * *

You’re still here?

Um . . .why?

The piece is over. I mean, I know you want more of me–or wished the Toy Story franchise ended at TS3 like I do, or more Pottermore following Harry and the wizarding gang all growed up–but sorry, ain’t got that for ya. I’ll be back next month, Lord willing, with another scintillating, firestarting post. Go feed your cat or clean his box, since he’s giving you that stink-eye felines perfected waiting on their humans to tend them.

No?

Sigh.

I didn’t want to do this, but . . . this goes dark in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

Anne Louise Bannon Would Like to Introduce Herself, But…

Photo of Anne Louise Bannon's desktop to illustrate why she's writing such a quick introduction.Is it the Third Thursday already? Shavings! (Note to self, check to see why reminders didn’t pop up). (Note to self, stop ignoring your reminders).

Hi, I’m Anne Louise Bannon. I’m supposed to be introducing myself, and my intent was to offer you a breezy little look at who I am, introduce you to the household critters, that sort of thing.

Only I’d really rather be working on my novel right now. It’s at that place where things are falling together, even though I’m really annoyed about having to off an otherwise inoffensive, nice guy of a character because it’s better for the plot.

And it’s not like I don’t have other distractions. We all do. I have a house that I need to help keep liveable, and while the dust generally waits around here, my feet sticking to the floor must be dealt with. And my husband needs clean shirts – only fair since he does the dishes. Plus the dog wants out again. The cats, as usual, can’t make up their minds, and the more I want them to, the longer they take to do it. Plus there’s the money gig which needs attention – I’ve gotten rather fond of eating, you know.

So, this is going to be quick. I’m Anne. I write the Freddie and Kathy series, set in the 1920s, the Old Los Angeles series, set in 1870 (the novel I want to get back to is the third in this one). I have a lovely husband, one adult daughter, and the critters, who I name because they don’t have the same privacy issues the kid and the spouse do. TobyWan is our basset/beagle mix. There’s the older cat Sadie, who should be Medusa, and the two young cats, Xanax and Benzedrine. There is a story behind the names, but that will have to wait until next month or some other time.

I need to get back to Death of the Chinese Field Hands. Maddie is in full interrogation mode and I need to write that.

The Good and Bad by Marilyn Meredith

Poppies by the dumpTraveling the road of life is never smooth. It seems just when everything is going well, a huge boulder crops up to make the way difficult.

First off, my post is late because when I was writing it on Sunday, the power went out and when it came back on I had to be somewhere else.

Health wise, I’d done really well, until I took too bad tumbles—one that required a trip to the ER, and another when I decided to stay home. After a couple of weeks I still have very sore knees and following the doc’s advice to use a cane. (Would be okay except I keep misplacing it.)

My writing career has also taken a tumble in that one of my publishers seems to have problems. Lack of communication and royalty payments has made me come to the sad decision to ask for my rights back. Which means I’ll be self-publishing one of my series, hopefully.

One of my great-granddaughters (17) had back surgery—scary, but she’s already walking and climbing stairs. (She’s a super active young woman, a mountain bike racer—that’s how she got injured, works part-time while going to school, heads up a couple of clubs, planning on college.)

One of the great-greats who lives with us (4 year-old Priscilla) has a new pet—a worm named Sylvia. How can you be upset with life, when such fun stuff is happening?

Plus after years of drought here in California we’ve had lots of rain, and now the hills are covered with wild flowers—yellow, white, and most wonderful of all, poppies and lupine are sprouting all over the hillsides.

Back to writing—I’m moving ahead with the latest book in my other series and in April I’ll be presenting at a wonderful writer’s conference in San Luis Obispo about settings and characters, and sitting on a panel about research. I’m also going to have my books for sale at a big book fair in Visalia.

Being around other writers and talking to readers about books is a great way to lift my spirits.

Happy spring everyone!

Marilyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer sun and mutating ideas!

JordainaHey folks. What’s new with you?

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but here in the UK, we’re suffering through a heatwave. (I’m English—gotta talk about the weather! I went to Nashville a few years ago now (we can talk about my Nashville adventures another time) and mentioned the weather to someone, like “It’s warm today”. They replied with, “Yeah, it is.” And that was it. Back home, that’s at least twenty minutes worth of conversation, right there. Or maybe he just didn’t like me … ).

And, yes, I did say, “suffering”! It’s lovely to see the sun, but shoot! I wouldn’t mind a bit of cloud as well. Maybe even a breeze. (I’m complaining about this now, next time week speak I’ll be whining about the rain!)

Anyway, with it being England, summers are unpredictable which sucks because whenever I can, I love to write outside. Maybe it’s because it’s rare to have days when it’s warm enough to do this. I feel like when I write inside my ideas are contained. They’re trapped in the room with me, and they can’t mutate into much better ideas because there isn’t space and then they suffocate each other, and I have to go downstairs to get a chocolate bar and a cup of tea.

giphy-4But when I write outside? I imagine my ideas multiplying and changing and growing limitlessly. I want to say they dance around on the breeze, like Julia Andrews in The Sound of Music but, in reality, I think it’s probably more like what happens to that alien in Evolution when they hit it with napalm. Only my ideas are much prettier. Maybe.

My point is being outside makes me feel more creative. Or imaginative. Maybe it’s because there’s more going on outside so there are more stimuli. For example, I love watching the planes fly over and wonder where the passengers are going. Are they going on holiday? Coming back? Did they find a holiday romance? Are they moving away and starting a new life? Are they leaving a new life and coming back to their old one because the new one didn’t work out? Are they on their first leg of an around the world adventure? Are they coming back from an around the world adventure wholly changed? What are their plans now?

I’m pretty sure everyone thinks about this when they see planes. Or maybe they wave their fist at the plane, super annoyed that they’re not on that plane, going on holiday. (I’ve been there. I briefly worked in a retail store in the departures area of an airport. It killed me! Killed me. I had to go through security every day as if I were going on holiday … but I was just going to work. Gut-wrenchingly depressing.)

To get back on track, even when it rains, I’m outside. I might be huddled under my garden umbrella, clinging onto my hot-water bottle as I type, but I’m outside. I thought about investing in a fancy summer house, but it still has that “inside” feel to it.

lisa-in-coffee-shopI know people who write in coffee shops, but I just can’t be doing with all that noise and commotion. And, oh my days, there would be so many conversations to eavesdrop on I’d never get anything done!

Is there anywhere you love to write? Anywhere that fills you full of inspiration? Add a comment and let me know!

Until next time …

Jordaina 🙂

Writing is My Life or My Life is My Writing by Paty Jager

Artful Murder 5x8There’s not a writer out there who hasn’t brought something from their life into their writing. Writing whether for pleasure or for money, deals with everyday life experiences. It has to. One can’t bring the full flavor of life into a story without allowing something they have experienced to come into the writing.

Everyday happenings: the pungent aroma of coffee brewing, the dampness of mist walking on the beach, the blinding glare of light from an oncoming vehicle at night, the sweet and sour tingle on the tongue while eating candy.  All of these everyday things are used when writing. The senses and what we see and feel around us are used to show the characters in the same or comparable settings.

When I started planning Artful Murder, book 10 in the Shandra Higheagle mystery series and my March release, I had to draw on past experiences. Far back experiences. LOL In Artful Murder, Shandra volunteers in a high school art department.

While figuring out who the murder victim would be and lining up suspects, I went back to memories of high school and found the one teacher who the boys made fun of and the girls found creepy.  He became my murder victim.

I made the victim worse than the real life teacher. And I gave the principal a reason for ignoring the complaints of the other teachers and students. Which, of course, added more suspects and widened the net of suspects to parents and significant others of the female teachers.

Students are more savvy to what is going on in their schools than teachers think. I used this and a person with a grudge to add even more fuel to the ffire that was about to explode at the school.

I can honestly say that I have more fun fleshing out my mystery books than I do the other genre I write. There is something therapeutic about putting the people or events that I’ve come across through my life into books and find my own justice.

SH Mug Art