Sunday, September 30, 2012

Summer, Short Stories and Writing Motivation

September is down to a few hours, which seems impossible given that yesterday it was June. Or something like that. It has been a lovely summer since it finally quit raining in July, and it seems to want to linger, which I don't mind at all. Because my back is still hurting and I was awake several times last night, I had occasion to note that the air coming through the open bedroom window was not at all cold. This is good! It means I don't have to think about splitting wood for a while longer. It also means I don't have to say goodbye to summer just yet.

I love the change of seasons, though I always hate to see summer go. It always seems so long until the next year and the start of my favorite of all seasons. But this in-between time before the fall rains set in has its charms as well. I appreciate the daylight because it is getting shorter every day. I appreciate the cool evenings to ride in (as do my horses) and the colors starting to burn through the mask of green in the woods. And I appreciate the leisurely feel to autumn, which always seems to slip quietly by, unlike the frenetic summer when we're all trying to seize every moment before it's gone. You resign yourself to autumn being here, and quit worrying about mowing the grass (mine is done for the year), and just sit on the deck and breathe air that is not quite so dusty, a little bit crisp, a little bit laden with the tint of the coming cold. It shakes you out of the August doldrums and reminds you that life is out there, waiting to be captured onto the page.

My writing group, the Other Worlds Writers' Workshop, does a series of Short Story in a Week challenges twice a year, in March and September. The September challenges for this year just finished on Friday, and while I had little time to write for fun this time, I did get four stories in (usually I try for and get eight). Each time they were written on Friday, beginning sometime in the afternoon and finishing usually an hour or two before the midnight deadline. Every week I would look at the mandatory word lists and get...nothing. Only once, in Week 1, did a complete story jam itself into my head full-blown from one of the words (dollhouse). The rest were a matter of staring at the page waiting for an interesting first sentence to shape itself.

That is usually where my short stories come from: the first sentence, which leads to another sentence that intrigues me, which eventually presents a story idea, which eventually resolves itself into a plot and I can see where the story is going. At that point the thing writes itself. Up to that point the story often flounders, however, as sometimes evidenced  by the critiques from the workshop, which complain that the story starts slowly or bogs down somewhere in the middle. Yep, I get that. But sometimes you just have to wait it out, write it, and then figure out where it really starts and which bits are essential to keep.

Once again the challenges reminded me that writers write. Every single week, despite a distinct lack of enthusiasm, as soon as I sat down and said to myself, "I will get a story in", lo and behold, the tap turned on and the words came out. This happens every time I work on Seaborn as well, my current novel WIP. The problem is in wedging writing time in amid work and life obligations, lack of sleep, and the constant, concentration-blowing demand for attention from my back. Writing should not be a matter of inspiration, though it is ever so much more fun to have the words pouring out rather than being dredged up one at a time with a bucket. Motivation is a far bigger determinant as to productivity. Deadlines help. So do fans who let you know they like your books and want to read the next one. But if you don't have those, what gets you going?

For me, it's always been about simply loving to write. I actually love that blank page because it presents endless possibilities. Of late it's harder, though. When you're tired and you hurt all the time, life loses much of its wonder. Working up enthusiasm even for the things you love becomes difficult. I am, therefore, glad of the SSIAW challenges for the reminder that no matter how I feel, the words are still in there. All I have to do is get it done.

And having said that, I think I will take my achy back out onto the deck, into the nice soft chaise, plug in the laptop, and see what my characters in Seaborn are up to today. The stinkbug invasion this year is truly awesome, but the fall days when I can sit outside won't last forever. I will ignore the little monsters crawling on the house and occasionally dive-bombing my head, and write. Motivation. Yeah.

Screw that. Just do.

Seaborn will be the third book in my Masters of the Elements series begun in Firedancer and continued in Windrider Thank you all for the kind reviews thus far! I hope you enjoy Seaborn as well when it comes out next spring.

No comments: