Tag Archives: Stephen King

Faith Redux

Last month, I wrote a post about faith, which told a recent story about a particular act of faith in my journey as a writer. This post addresses an earlier time in my journey. It is for writers who haven’t had The Call and might not have an agent. It is for all of us who sit down, face the blank page and keep going.

A few years ago, friend and fellow EMLA client Liz Scanlon sent me her annual family Valentine’s card. It was a picture of her girls about ready to climb onto to a zip line in Costa Rica. The phrase underneath the picture said, “Leap and the net shall appear.” I kept this card on my fridge for a long time. Everyday, as I made my tea, before I went to sit down at the computer, I would look at it. I didn’t have any cognitive thought about it. But on some level, I think the thought comforted me and guided me as I took a leap each day as a writer.

No agents were knocking on my door. No editors were reading my manuscripts. At the time, I think I was enrolled at VCFA and I leaped every time I sat down at the computer unsure of what to write, but writing just the same, page after page because that’s what I had signed up to do. That’s what was expected. That’s what you do as a writer every time you face the blank page. Leap.

But I couldn’t do it without faith.

Faith is what gets me to sit down with the blank page. Faith gets me to leap with the smallest wing of an idea or character. Faith that what I have to say matters. Faith that the words will come. The story will come.

I am in the middle of that act of faith now. Prewriting and finding my way into a story and its characters. I have some ideas but I am resisting the ideas and listening to the characters instead. For some darn reason, one is writing poetry to me. What I notice about the poems is that they have energy and I feel energetic when I write them. I have no idea if they will remain but their spareness is working right now. And they help me stay away from the idea of the story. Yeah, ideas get a little preachy and ponderous. For now, I need to stay inside the skin of the characters and write from there.

Faith. The blank page is such a bold move. Only by putting the words down do we create the net. Only then can we see what the heck we’re trying to get at, and find, as per Tim Wynne-Jones, the gems that have washed up on the shores of the page. In his book ON WRITING, Stephen King says the first draft is telling yourself the story. After that you can look and see what’s there. Right now, in this prewriting phase, I have to have faith that I will get to a first draft.

Leap and the net shall appear.

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Filed under Creativity, Faith, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Fling, Flang, Flung

Party hatAfter finishing a major round of revisions this past week, I wanted to celebrate by posting something profound, or inspirational, or at the very least something helpful to other writers. What I landed on is probably not any of those things, but it’s a topic that’s been stuck in my brain for days.

A line from Rebecca’s hilarious post on Thursday sums it up well:

“Not everyone knows what it is like to work for hours, agonizing over the subtleties of word choice. (Is it a secret meeting? A clandestine meeting? Does a stealthy meeting make sense?)”

Word choice. As writers, it’s our job to play with words, to throw them against the wall and see what sticks. It’s fun. Too much fun, maybe, because in addition to spending waaaay too much time wrestling with a single word or phrase, I get carried away with my own little writer quirks that I don’t even recognize until a) someone points them out or, b) they suddenly become glaringly obvious after I failed to notice them on fifty-three previous read-throughs.

My most common quirk, and luckily the easiest to fix, is adverb overkill (see paragraph above). I love Stephen King’s view on adverbs in the fabulous On Writing: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” He compares them to dandelions, and if you haven’t read this book or even if it’s been a while, I highly recommend…uh, I recommend it a lot. Mui mucho. Page 125 in particular.

OnwritingQuirk #2: Sentences where I like two adjectives equally well and can’t choose between them: “Joe felt worn and worried.” “Floyd’s briefcase looked scuffed and scratched.” Why use just one when you can double up for twice the impact? And yes, most of the offending phrases throw in some alliteration for extra kick. Sweet!

Quirk #3: Recurring verbs—oh, the verbs. I try to choose strong verbs, verbs with impact, until they turn into doorstops strewn across every other page. My favorite verb in this manuscript turned out to be fling. Well, flung, I guess, since it’s written in the past tense. Characters were flinging things all over the place. Objects were flung to the floor with reckless abandon. It was a flingin’, flangin’ train wreck. HOW DO I NOT SEE THIS STUFF UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE?

I could keep going. No shortage of quirks here. But as much as I like to torture myself, deep down I know that all writers have to face similar demons. That’s why we’re so grateful for editors and critique partners and understanding spouses. They help us spot the quirks so we can smooth them over. They allow us to view our work through a more objective lens. And they remind us not to stress so much. Yes, writing is hard work, but it really is supposed to be fun, too. Overwhelmingly, amazingly joyful and jubilant (she typed emphatically, flinging feisty fingers across her fragile keyboard).

Wishing you all a fine Monday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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May Arboretum 027Christine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, THE MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out spring 2015 by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Celebrations, craft~writing, Creativity, Editing and Revising, Writing