I try not to write about writing itself on my blog because such topics tend to only be of interest to other writers. Also, I don’t always (okay, I seldom) feel like I have something original or worthwhile to say about the writing process. But to break my own rule and be a little cryptic…
For a long time before I started writing fiction down, I was writing it in my head. I didn’t realize it, but I was carrying around a bag and I was putting all sorts of things into it. Jokes that I (and those around me) told. Words that I liked the sound of. Bits of description. Images. Smells. Fragments of motivation and psychology. And questions–so many questions. Why did he do that? Why did I say that? Could this have happened another way? What is she thinking? Etc.
When I started writing, I began taking things out of the bag. I recently re-read Special Interests and it amazed to me how much truth I told while lying. The bones of the scene, the things that were happening in terms of the plot or characterization, would be wholly fabricated. But every single detail of the scene would be true. The book is a patchwork quilt of my experience in and observation of the world.
For a long time in my writing life, I would take things out of the bag and tap them into my stories slant (sorry, Emily Dickinson, that’s one of those words). I mean to say that I used a trick not too differently from how it happened or where I had once seen that sweater or how that thing had tasted. I just sort of twisted a bit.
However, I’ve been writing something that is (for me) very different and crazy. But here’s the thing: I’m using just as much stuff out the bag as before. Maybe more. I’ve discovered whole other rooms, whole other continents, in the bag. So what I’m trying to say is that I am larger than I thought I was. And for the moment at least, that makes me less scared of my writing than I’ve been in a long time.
We, as writers, are told to develop a brand. To make a promise to our readers and to deliver on it in terms of voice and tone and story and setting. What I’m writing now doesn’t feel all that off-brand. It feels like me…but slant. And on the bias, there are entirely new ways of being.
6 thoughts on “Truth’s Superb Surprise”
You “contain multitudes” … ;-)
Ha! I guess I left the door open on that one.
I don’t know that I contain multitudes, but I’m not as one dimensional as I thought I was.
Walked right into it, I did … :-)
I’m one of the readers who doesn’t like “brand” reading: I like to see rom-writers take risks and try new stuff … if you’ve won me over (fondly recalls BRAVE IN HEART), then I’ll follow you into new territory. I think it’s really important to follow your muse.
I think the branding stuff has gone too far. I have a specific voice and a set of things I know about people and the world and no matter what I do, those things will be there. But I need to explore them in new contexts. ; )
Everything you’ve said here, about reaching into a new bag and this off the wall project still being part of you is why this off the wall project is already so wonderful. The DC romances were very much you… but this is too. Just a different part of you.
(And it’s tapping into my own lived experience, which might be why I’m so gaga over it. :) )
The DC books were all about people either getting what they wanted and not liking it (eg Parker) or not getting what they wanted and realizing that was because it was a bad dream all along (eg Michael) or somehow changing their dream because of what they learned (eg Liam and all the heroines). And I think what I’ve realized in the past few weeks is that that’s what I need to do. Those books are a metonymy for my own journey the past few years as I’ve finished my diss, wondered if academics is for me, tried out different styles of writing, etc. and doing something wildly different and realizing I can maybe do that too; that that’s part of me also.
I think what I’m saying is that everyone should give herself space to have a bunch of disparate dreams, to not settle on one too quickly.