NaNoWriMo :: The Muse is a Frazzled Hausfrau

Day 4 Wordcount: 1,877 which brings my total to 9,677

Day 4 Song of the Day:  I spent a lot of the afternoon listening to the Pandora stations created via yesterday's soundtrack contest.  Many thanks to punkgrrlshim, Phoenix_Maat and Aikanaro (via blogger); shannonwritesright and procrastella (via NaNo forums); and @kazoochica and @niassa (via Twitter) for the great suggestions.

The funny thing, is that after all that listening, I didn't listen to any music while I was writing last night.  And that was a bad idea. Lesson #864 learned from NaNoWriMo, I'm a much better fiction writer when my headphones are in and the iPod is cranked up. I can lose myself in a scene much more easily when I'm not hearing the neighbors drive by, the dog barking at a fox outside or Alex kicking the rail on his bed in the next room.

Please be assured that I'll be actively listening to all of your suggestions from now on, because writing without music seems to leave my creative well a bit parched.

Which brings me to the point of today's post.  The creative well and how it works with fiction.

By profession, I'm a non-fiction writer. I write reviews of the performing and visual arts, I write scientific articles, I write brochure and website copy.  And you know what, I'm a very creative and sensuous non-fiction writer.  No, not "sensual" - there's not too much hot and bothered about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Doberman Pinschers.  Sensuous: taking delight in beauty; of, relating to, or derived from the senses. I've always been that way. 

I experience the world very deeply with my five senses.  I see subtlety in colors that others can't quite detect.  I notice the textures that others don't take the time to experience.  My brother can tell you a great story about how I rubbed Sara Lee pound cake on my cheeks when I was young because I loved that cool, smooth top that it has. And don't even get me started on the crisp edge of a freshly washed pillow case or the gag reflex induced by things that dollop.  And most importantly, as a writer, I've always been able to concoct a great phrase to capture the quirkiness or subtleties of these sensuous experiences that bring our world, and consequently, our writing alive.

But, my muse is a bit frazzled and can't seem to get out of her bathrobe with NaNoWriMo and the unsurety of fiction writing facing her.  There are times that I feel like I'm trying to dig a hole in the sand.  I'm chipping away at layer after layer (plot, character, dialogue, imagery, tone, etc.)  Every time I make some headway, the sand slides right back down the sides.

For now, my brain is focused on plot and what happens next.  This is new to me, because in non-fiction, it is what it is.  The dog is born, the dog has a faulty heart valve, the scientists find a causative gene, the end! But, there's no roadmap in fiction. It's up to me to decide what happens next, and I'm having an incredibly fun adventure discovering these things.

However, the things that are happening aren't pretty or moving or subtly grating so as to make your skin crawl - they're just happening.  For example, last night the ceiling was "yellow and cracked" in Maggie's hospital room.  How cliche is that? Some great stuff happened in that hospital room, and some pivotal conversations took place. But they took place in a "yellow, cracked room" with a "creaky bed" that smelled like "Comet and old ladies perfume."  Pretty sad, huh?  Description for me, right now, is nothing more than a cliche adjective dump. Imagery, and the quiet nudges that make our world so much more intriguing, escape me when I'm writing this first draft.

This has been a hard pill to swallow - but also a huge lesson learned.  You sometimes have to sacrifice quality to let the story tell itself.  Then you can go back and wrap it in the transparent, papery layers that let out the savoriness one peel at a time.

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