Monday, October 19, 2009

About 25% through the first draft of "Future Tense"

After writing 5 novels, some things seem to come more easily, but paradoxically, others seem to get a bit harder. The easier? I have a strong sense of my own writing process. I also have the confidence that comes from knowing I've encountered roadblocks in the writing before and have moved past them. So I don't panic when I hit a snag. I work on something else or do some research, knowing that I'll find a solution, even if I don't yet know what it will be.

I also understand how the parts of a story need to hang together; the sentence level writing, the plot points, the world building, the emotional tone of the story, the character development, and the arc of the character's growth. I can read a section of my writing and start to see what is and isn't working without wanting to curl up in a hole and die, never to write again.

What's harder? My standards keep getting higher. My ambitions keep expanding. I want to keep writing better. I hope I never get to a place where I'm satisfied with the writing. Satisfied with the story, yes, but not the level of the writing itself. That's what keeps my edge and keeps me from writing the same story over and over again.

The pressure to get it right is something that drives me. But I have to temper that drive and learn to be gentle with myself about goals and plans. It's a balancing act and one I think that will only get more difficult once one of my novels gets sold and is released to the world.

Right now, the only pressure I face is the pressure I put on myself. The deadlines are all self imposed and the standards are my own.

I both crave and dread the shift that publication will bring. I know that I'll have to make many adjustments to my internal process when that day comes. But I have been preparing for this through more than five years of writing and learning.

So far, it's been a hell of a ride.

And for your perseverance, a snippet (first draft stuff) from "Future Tense":

"Listen to your grandmother." I nearly spit out the words. If tarot cards warned her, that was good enough confirmation for me. "Just stay away from me."

Amara bit her lower lip and looked past me before speaking. "She said you were a friend. She said you needed to know. . . not to be afraid. That it's not your fault. It wasn't your fault."

The room got suddenly very warm and the stacks pressed in on me. "How could she know that? How could she say that? She doesn't know anything about me!"

"Shh! You'll get us kicked out!" Amara said.

I hadn't even realized I was shouting. I unclenched my jaw and my hands and drew big deep breaths into my lungs. I had to make her understand the danger. The threat I posed. I had to tell her what I had never told anyone. My throat was tight and I swallowed, hard. "The day before my seventh birthday, my parents died in a house fire."

"Oh, God, I'm so sorry."

I shook my head. That's not what I needed from her. I couldn't stop until she knew everything. "It was my fault."

I could hear my own heartbeat in the library's silence.

"But you were just a kid," Amara said her voice cracking.

This was the ball of pain I had curled around for practically my whole life. I didn't want her pity. I didn't want her understanding. I just wanted her to know.

"I started seeing the fire weeks before it happened. The first time was during school. I was so freaked out they had to call my mom. She had to leave work to come get me." My voice was flat, deadly quiet. My mouth was so dry, like the smoke that had killed them was still in me. "They had to get something from the doctor to sedate me before I would let them take me near the house."

The pediatrician had chalked it up to some variant of a phobia or night terror. They put me on Valium or something at night. It didn't stop the visions, but I learned that when I talked about them, my parents would get quiet and I hated that look of fear in my mother's eyes.

"My dad took me all over the house, showed me the smoke detectors, even took me to the fire station to meet the firemen." The last memory I had of my father was him taking pictures of me sitting at the wheel of the great big fire truck, a fireman's hat on.

"I didn't save them. I couldn't save them."

Those pictures burned up with the camera and everything in the house. The fire started in a space heater they had in their bathroom. By the time the hallway smoke detectors went off, they were probably already dead.. I woke up coughing, in the arms of a fireman. When I looked back at the house, flames were shooting twenty feet into the sky from where my parent's bedroom had been.

"It wasn't. . . you didn't. . . " Amara stuttered to a stop when I lifted my head to stare at her.

I refused to be any easier on her than I was on myself. "What I see happens. It always happens. And I see you hurt. I see you afraid of me. Do you need any other reasons to leave me the hell alone?"

Her face paled. She swallowed and took a step backwards. Then she took another one, increasing the distance between us before she spun away from me and fled the library. I sagged to the floor, burying my face in my shaking hands.

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