Waiting in Writing Land

Here’s the thing, the first two weeks of actually writing a new novel are tortuous. You might as well put bamboo shoots under my fingernails and light them on fire. And even if you did, I would die. Because no amount of harassing me will get a story started. I know the general direction the story is going. I have a beginning, a sort of middle and an end (although nothing is etched in granite). But, when the writing begins I need to wait. Because my stories always begin with character. And characters need time to speak their minds.
In this case I am waiting for Charlotte Figg to speak to me. She has risen among the rank and file of Bright’s Pond, called her name the loudest and has convinced me that she will tell Bright’s Pond number five. It’s called the Yankee Doodle Pie Disaster, after all, and who better to tell a story about pie than the queen of pies herself. So yeah, that’s the easy part. But try as I might, I can’t hear what Charlotte is saying. I thought it might have something to do with the minor ear issue I’ve been having. I went to the doctor today and had “a procedure” and I can hear much better but still, no Charlotte. I suspect she’s not ready yet.
So what do I do to hear my characters voice? To raise my awareness of her needs at the moment. A few things.
I walk.
I play video games.
I read.
I wander the internet.
I talk to Mango, my cat.
I pray.
I talk to Charlotte. I take her out—for pie and ask her. “So Charlotte, what’s going on? What does this story mean to you?”
She isn’t answering. I don’t think I did anything to offend her. It’s just part of the process. First lines, first scenes tend to come in an “all of sudden,” “out of the blue,” “lightning strike” sort of way.
The good thing is that I know the first line when I hear it and very seldom change it. And once I’m committed I can write like the wind—sometimes 5000 words a day. The trick is getting to that jumping off place.
Oh, I’m not concerned. It will happen. And soon. I know it. I can feel it, taste it, smell it. I just can’t hear it yet.
The neat thing about this book is that Charlotte Figg has become a fan favorite character. Everyone just loves Charlotte.
Writing is often all about the waiting. Learning to be patient and content until all that work that has been going on in that odd, surreal place between imagination and reality becomes evident. For me there are never bright flashes of inspiration. No, not for me. My first lines, first scenes, first words, always rise up like the answers on the Magic Eight Ball.
I suppose this method would not work for say a neurosurgeon. “I’m sorry, but your tumor will have to wait until I hear a voice tell me it’s time to remove it.” No, that would not work. I suspect most other professions would have an equally difficult time convincing others that waiting is part of the process. Well, maybe baseball. Players wait for the pitch they want—usually they don’t get it. But the waiting in baseball is a wink in comparison to authoring. No, creative have it tough. We are forced to wait. Wait. And then wait some more. I suppose painters feel this, sculptures, photographers who wait until the sun is I just the right place. It’s an honor to wait. Not on line at the grocery store, but then again I guess it kind of is when you consider how many people don’t have that luxury. Waiting is a good thing.
So, I will wait. Charlotte’s vice will be heard and the writing will begin. Stay tuned.


Pam Halter said...

I know something else you could do while you're waiting ... take your BFF to lunch. ;)

Caroline said...

lol. The price of being a writer. Great post, Joyce.

Renee said...

I can identify. I too start with characters when I begin to write, and I've learned that if I can't hear their voice, most of what I write will get trashed anyway, cuz it's not reflective of who they really are. After 4-6 years of fiddling with a story, I've finally begun to hear the voice of its most central character. About time! This is my first (if i finish) novel attempt I've stuck with. I sure hope it takes less than years in the future to hear the central character's voice. That's a lot of waiting!