A Writer and Her Armour

Crying in public is not something I like to do. I feel it’s giving other people power over my life as, inevitably, I must explain why I am crying and that, in turn, suggests I need advice. When that unasked for advice is given, I feel as if I am allowing another person to get closer to me than I feel comfortable with. Crying in private alleviates this problem. However, sometimes it is impossible to control emotions. This morning, on the train, was one of those times.

I was reading and editing Mirror Image. The scene was based on a real experience of mine and as tomorrow will be the anniversary of the real event, I guess the glorified scene and what happened in real life merged and affected me. Honestly, I couldn’t stop the tears! It was so embarrassing.

Luckily…I was in the carriage on my own, but we were quickly approaching a station where I knew passengers would enter the carriage and I’d be seen all tear stained, red eyed and pale. And I could only hope that my mascara was on my eye lashes and not spread across my face!

As predicted, other people joined me in the carriage as I sat staring out the window, blinking rapidly, and trying to stop the tears. I took several sips of my tea (I now have a traveller’s mug) and soon the emotions ebbed away, leaving me feeling a bit drained, but otherwise fine.

However, being a glutton for punishment, I wasn’t prepared to stop editing the scene because I still had an hour before I had to shutdown the computer and exit the train. I didn’t want to waste that time wallowing in self pity and wondering what a sight I made. So, being a true champion, I continued reading (and editing) the scene once I had regained my composure. The emotions were still there, but I now had better control of them. Also, the other travellers didn’t seem to realise that the girl in the corner had been a basket case when they settled themselves into their seats for the morning ride to work. To them it was just another day and I was just another person.

Crying in public is something I try to avoid because I don’t want to draw attention to myself. The scene I was reading will be a scene that will always make me cry, as the real life event it was based on was traumatic and will never leave my memory. Mirror Image is a manuscript that has a lot of me in it and if it ever gets published, I will be standing naked in front of a world of strangers. How will I feel about drawing attention to myself then? Honestly, I don’t know, but this story needs to be told and the urge to get it finished is stronger than ever so the occasional public crying session is inevitable.

Thankfully, I’ve finished that scene and have gone onto more sedate scenes…for now. But another scene, later in the manuscript, could well have the same effect on me. In fact, I know it will. Since I already know I’ll be on the same train when I edit the scene, I will try to use today’s embarrassing crying session to armour myself against a repeat of today’s performance. A thick wad of tissues won’t go astray either.

I am a writer. I must do what has to be done to get the manuscript finished and this includes polishing my armour. I didn’t realise this until today.

Sorting the Scenes into Chapters

Part of the third edit of Mirror Image involves sorting scenes into chapters. When I wrote the first draft I didn’t bother worrying about chapters, which is unusual for me as I usually have a clear idea where each chapter starts and finishes. However, with Mirror Image I have no idea and I’m finding that something which should be easily decided is quite the opposite.

Mirror Image is one story told from a number of view points. By this, I mean the individual scenes, when put together in the correct order, often contribute to one overall scene which starts with one character, moves through several other characters and nearly always finishes with someone else. It’s like you and two friends telling the world what you all perceive from the situation you are all in, at the same time. Just because you are in the same room, doesn’t mean you are seeing what’s happening around you in the same way and you certainly wouldn’t be feeling the same emotions (generally speaking).

Anyway, I’ve been fumbling through the edit, trying to break the individual scenes into chapters and I’ve been feeling totally unhappy with my progress. Then, this morning, I realised I was doing it all wrong. Instead of “chapters”, I should be thinking in “days”. As soon as I thought of this, the job became a lot easier because the days in Mirror Image are kind of like a count down to an important event (and I use the term loosely). It’s important to show the reader where the characters are at on the timeline and what better way to do that than by grouping all the scenes from one day together. Hopefully, it will leave the reader feeling as exhausted as the characters. More importantly, it will impress on the reader how quickly life changes.

Mirror Image is proving to be very different to anything else I’ve written. I see that as a good thing and I’m definitely learning to think “outside the box” as I progress through the writing and editing of this manuscript.

Storyline B Complete

Just a quick post today.

It’s been a few weeks since I started edited one character’s storyline (let’s call it Storyline B). In my mind, I envisioned the job as being huge and was certain that I would hit a brick wall…and stall! However, like all things that seem too hard, it wasn’t. In fact, the edit went quite smoothly and is now completed.

The Storyline B edit provided a new profile for a secondary character, removal of one thread in the storyline and an overall stronger storyline for this particular character. Having said that, I need to see how it fits with the rest of the storylines, but I’m confident I’m on the right path now.

With this done, I only have the main character to tackle (Storyline A). This, of course, is the majority of the story so it will be a big job, but after working on the secondary characters for a few months, I feel I have a much better “handle” on the entire story. To be honest, I’m looking forward to starting the Storyline A edit. But I’m looking forward to merging all the storylines once again, when I’m finished.

An Economic Downturn Plus

Due to the economic downturn I’ve found myself with less to do during work hours. For the first few days this week I turned my mind to all those rotten jobs – the ones marked “too hard” or just “too bloody boring”. Of course, the jobs deemed too hard never are. They are usually just fiddly or time consuming, but once you get into them they are soon finalised and put away forever. The “too bloody boring” jobs were a different matter. They had to be done, so I forced myself to get stuck into them, but it was difficult to stay awake long enough to see the work over with. I couldn’t believe how fidgety I got and how heavy my eyelids became. However, I did survive the boredom and finished them too. This done, it meant I was left staring at the four walls…and the time dragged like you wouldn’t believe. How I hate that!

I don’t usually write during work hours. There’s too many distractions and I can’t concentrate (yes, I tried it many years ago, but quickly gave it away). However, out of extreme boredom, I decided to revise my habits until the work picks up again.

As you know, I recently finished recreating a character who has a major part in Mirror Image, but she isn’t the main character. Early this morning, I emailed that character’s scenes to myself and when I had finished everything I had at work, I opened the file. Now, remembering the new storyline and character traits, I must edit her scenes. I don’t expect it to be easy, but the end result will be worth the…pain, frustration, time. So far the edit is working out fine, but I haven’t got to the really juicy parts which is where I know whole sections will have to be deleted and rewritten.

Then, of course, I’ll have to go through the rest of the manuscript and fix up everyone else’s perception of this character. I think I’m dreading that more than the scene edit. But it has to be done and once I get that far, I’ll be close to the finish line so I’m hoping that will spur me on.

Character Recreation Solves Other Problems

Obviously I haven’t had much to say this month. Due to personal “stuff” my mind is too busy to write and as a result I don’t really have anything I can blog about. Hence the inactive blog. However, I have been (intermittently) working on that recreation of a character I spoke about. In fact, I finished that yesterday.

Recreating a character is a strange thing. I found that the character had become a real person in my mind and there I was trying to force this “person” to change her ways. In real life, to try and do such a thing would be simply impossible, but this person was originally created by me and now she had to change. Eventually, the mould began to change and she and I accepted it.

Today I’m left with a much stronger woman – not physically; I mean mentally. The poor thing needs that strength too because after I recreated her, I set about rewriting her storyline too. This woman is going to hell and back!

It has taken the better part of a month to rewrite her storyline. At the end of that time, I only have three typed pages to show for all my time. It was energy well spent though, as this exercise was to strengthen not only her reason for being in the story but it also had to strengthen the overall theme, tension and pace. I feel much happier with what will happen to her and the end result.

As a bonus I have also worked out a way to properly write the resolutions for two of the support characters – this one included. I feel excited by this fact as it was something that bothered me a lot when I was writing the first draft. And…as I type this…I have just thought of a way to work in a good way to resolve the two minor character’s point of views too. This leaves only one character whose point of view cannot be returned to once we hit the climax. Luckily, this other character is in the scenes leading up to the climax so I will have to do a good job of showing his resolution through someone else’s eyes. It will be tricky, but I’m sure I can manage it.

Recreating this character and rewriting her storyline seems to address many of the problem areas of the manuscript so it looks like I have a green light from here.

Knowing When the Time is Right

It’s been almost three years since I lost my son. This morning, after spending several hours on another project, my thoughts returned to the manuscript I started less than a year after his death. I thought I might pick up where I had left off and see it through to completion in the next year or so.

I thought about how I would structure the manuscript, what would be included and how I would tackle the more sensitive issues. To my surprise, I found a way around the ever present issue of the possibility of offending people with my words. I started to think, “I can do this!”

Then I sat at the computer and opened the old documents. I read through what had previous been written and by the time I got to the end, which was really nowhere near the end of the real story, I was in tears. Memories of those dark months resurfaced and I could feel depression creeping in on all sides.

I’m not ready to write that manuscript. Perhaps I never will be. I see no reason to put myself through something (again) that tore my life apart. For now, I’ve closed the documents and returned to the edit of Mirror Image – a safe story – because I know now is not the right time.

A Bruise Causes Standstill

In Mirror Image one of the characters has a bruise. This bruise caused me to come to a complete halt in the edit. How could a mark of this type cause so much trouble? Believe me, this is a question that has been turning around in my head for a while now, but I’ve finally worked out what I must do.

The bruise signifies something very important. And I’ve had the hardest time trying to decide where to go from here. I had two options:

    1. Delete the bruise and remain on the original path I planned.
    2. Keep the bruise and move onto a different path.

I found it hard to make a firm decision, so today I wrote the options down (in more detail) and then I wrote down what the purpose of the story is and compared it to the options. Why I couldn’t work this out in my mind, I have no idea, but when I saw the details in black and white…the decision was simple!

Option 1 is about real life and the reason for the bruise would mean the end of reality. Option 2 would mean the story is just that – only a story. This would give me more creativity, but it could possibly be the end of my credibility where the theme for this story is concerned. It would also mean I would be abandoning the reason why I wrote the story in the first place. And when I saw that reason written down, I was reminded of how important it is to get the message across and suddenly the decision was easy.

I must go with option 1. The bruise must go!

Now that the decision has been made, I can return to my planning and make the necessary changes so that I can continue with the edit. Finally!

Stone Turns to Jelly

Isn’t it funny how a scene you’ve written seems to be set in stone, when in fact it’s only cast from jelly?

~Simon Haynes

As you know, I’m having trouble with Mirror Image. I haven’t been able to work out what that trouble really is, but I suspected it had something to do with two things:

1. Indecisiveness on my part, and,
2. Not planning that section of the story properly.

As you also know, I’ve been using TiddlyWiki to help discover what the problem is and I guess I was hoping to find out that I had accidentally overlooked part of my planning. This would have allowed me to backtrack and fix the problem and then move, happily, forward. This did not happen.

This morning I did the internet rounds and read Which Beginning by Simon Haynes – the very last statement is quoted at the beginning of this post. When I read the statement it made me think of my writing problem and it confirmed something I’ve always known – but needed to hear again – our writing is not set in stone and neither is our planning!

This takes me back to the two points above. I did plan the section I’m having trouble with properly and part of me always knew that. This means the problem is my indecisiveness and the more I think about it, the more I accept it’s true.

When I planned Mirror Image I did so with a certain theme in mind. However, when I wrote the first draft I shifted the entire story midway to follow a theme that is close to the original. At the time, I felt sure the shift would hardly be noticed and to a reader it might not, but for me it has made a big difference. It has made such a difference that I have come to a stand still in the edit.

Now I must decide if I want to return to the original plan and theme; and continue writing about something that is part of me. Or, do I want to let go of that connection and tell a story. It sounds like an easy decision to make, but it’s not. I remember why I started this story and to let go of that reason feels wrong in so many ways. Yet on the other hand, I must consider what is best for the story overall. There are moments I want to adjust my planning and forge ahead, but then I have moments when I want to deliver the message, which was the whole reason for starting this project in the first place.

At least I finally know what the problem is. Now I just have to make a decision.