The Writing Life: The Floodgates Open
Since I had taken this new approach to how I was going to start writing, the ideas began coming at me a mile a minute. Not fully fleshed out ideas, but ideas nevertheless. Each time one would hit me, I’d write a little something down about it, more like little blurbs of what these stories could be about. I wrote them down on scraps of paper and when I got home I created a file of “Story Ideas” so I wouldn’t forget them. I knew not all of these ideas may work as full length projects but they were ideas nonetheless; ideas I can go back to later. Before the end of the month, I had at least 7 or 8 ideas for possible stories. Taking this new approach to my writing, the floodgates suddenly opened up. Years of always trying to figure out what I wanted to write about seemed to all come to me in one giant rush.
I began with the first idea I had been kicking around around early February. I took the pages I kept from the now aborted “sequel” to “November Rust” and reworked it. The story follows three characters, each with their own trajectory but it’s all one story. Gone were the long poetic passages, the stream of consciousness, the experimentation I had done (or tried to do) in “November Rust”. This story is also set in Paris, only this time it’s merely the setting and there are no long passages describing the city as I had done before.
I decided that everything was going to be stripped down as much as possible and just concentrate on telling a story. My “ideas” are in there of course, only now I planned to allow the story put it across rather than getting on a soapbox and ramming it down everyone’s throat like I did before. Little by little the novel came together and I tried to write a couple of pages every day. I worked steadily on it for three months. By May, the first draft was complete. Now the real work was to begin: the revisions, the editing, the fixing up of inconsistencies and the addition of new passages to help solidify where the story eventually went.
I never have the idea complete when I start writing. I have a situation, an idea, maybe an opening and just let it grow organically from there. Sometimes this is difficult but I find it’s the best way for me to work. What started off as one idea turned into something else completely by the time I finished it.
It was a simple realization: Get out of my own way. For too long I had been approaching things wrong. I was too busy trying to inject myself into these stories instead of just getting out of the way and creating fiction, like many writers do. It seemed so simple yet it had eluded me for a very long time. The days of trying to write these “deep”, “self-exploratory”, books were over.
It was time to just sit down and write a fu**** story. Whatever ideas I had and wanted to express could come through the narrative of the story, I realized. I didn’t have to be present, so to speak. Just tell it. Get out of the way and allow the characters of the given tale get those ideas across. This change in mindset changed everything and suddenly I began to feel more inspired, more creative and ready to do what I had always set out to do: try to write good fiction with good stories. Simple, huh? I had to ask myself what the hell was I thinking all this time?
While I was nearing the end of the novel, another idea had been nagging at me, this one completely different from the one I was nearly finished with. This idea, to me at least, seemed like a better one to me. Set in the early 1980s Queens, it originally centered around a rebellious teenager but the more I wrote, the more the story began to branch out into something I had never envisioned. I am still working on this book at the present time, nearing the end of the first draft. I decided that since this idea worked better for me, I would finish this book first, then go back to the other one. Then after that, get started on the other ideas I had written notes down in my folder.
So that pretty much brings us up to the present and I plan on working hard on making both these books the best I can make them. One of the things I learned from my earliest days of writing poetry to my first attempt at a novel to the present day is there is a huge difference in recognizing the kind of book you want to write and the book you can actually write. I feel now that with “November Rust”, I had overreached, tried to do something that I really wasn’t capable of doing well.
There are things about that book that I really like and there are other things that…well…didn’t quite come off as well as I intended. Over all, I don’t think it was a bad attempt at a first novel but it was far from perfect and clearly over ambitious. But I don’t regret it in the least. It showed me that I was at least capable of writing one. It helped me understand the process and how difficult it could be. It also helped me understand the kind of writer I wanted to be and the kind of writer I can be.
A writer friend of mine, his name is Michael Haugh, a very talented writer who will one day make his mark with the book he is currently writing (I have no doubtsabout that) had bought the novel and has carried on a regular correspondence with me, offering his critiques and his advice, advice that has been helping me on my journey. This is what it’s all about; finding someone as passionate as you are and who is willing to be honest and offer criticism that is meant to help you improve, not simply shit all over what you’ve done just for the fuck of it. It’s easy to say to someone that you don’t like this or that.
It’s quite another to tell that person why and offer your opinions as to what you can do to improve it. I appreciate this advice very much and it has helped me think about my work with a new perspective. You have to be open to criticism and understand the difference between healthy constructive criticism and criticism that does nothing to help. Sometimes you have to be ready for some brutally honest opinions. That doesn’t mean that you must heed it all but you have to be open to other possibilities and listen to what others have to say. You can do with it what you wish but thinking you’re flawless and disregarding other people’s ideas will not help you improve.
So I feel the change, and feel inspired and ready to move forward. This is why the idea of real, honest “networking” is so important for an artist of any stripe. You must be open and willing to learn, willing to rethink your ideas and willing to listen. I hope these posts were interesting to some of you reading them, especially if you are writing yourself. From this point on things will come in “real time”. I want to document my experiences on this journey and hopefully carry on a conversation with like minded people who are serious about what they are doing.
I move forward now….and hopefully I can achieve what I want to achieve. I am in a good place now. It feels good and I haven’t felt so inspired. That’s what it’s all about in the end; to follow your passions to wherever it may lead. To fulfill that creative need you have to the best of your abilities and to never, ever give up. You have to believe in yourself first. There will always be those who will try to discourage you, who will shit all over everything you try to do, who will not take you seriously, who will do everything in their power to try to make you throw in the towel. You can’t allow that to happen.
If there is one thing I learned over the years it’s that not everyone is going to like what you do. Forget them. They don’t count. Concentrate on those who do like what you do or at the very least take you seriously and try to help you achieve what you want to achieve. Don’t waste your time trying to win over the shitters. They will always find fault in everything in life so what’s the point.
Keep the fire burning….
Tags: blurbs, first draft, floodgates, full length, inconsistencies, mile a minute, new approach, new passages, novel, paris, revisions, rush, rust, scraps of paper, sequel, soapbox, story ideas, stream of consciousness, three months, trajectory