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the 11 p.m. epiphany

The Moleskine etc. portion of my notebook collection.

(No disrespect meant to Brian Kiteley‘s wonderful book.)

One of the side effects I’ve noticed from trying to be prolific every day, all year, is that ideas rather bombard you. I’m constantly scribbling down snippets and fragments and possibilities. Most of them won’t become stories but some will, and they all need to be recorded. And while I love gadgets, thumbing a stray idea into my phone’s memo program (actually I do have a document program and it’s pretty spiffy) is not the same as scribbling it into whatever patient notebook is keeping my company these days.

For me, the question isn’t “How do you get your ideas?” but “How do you keep your ideas under control?”

My notebook bookcase.

The journals are a part of the process. A few years ago I found that if I stopped writing for the day but wrote what I wanted to happen next by hand, that helped me get started the next day. (It doesn’t always work, but it certainly never hurts.)  And since I am back at a day job (technically a night job, but anyway) and have eight hours where there is no time or mental energy to write (believe me, I’ve tried–see above about the document program on my phone) I need to have a way to make notes when I need them, since ideas don’t stop coming whether it’s convenient or not. It’s a bit like how all your best ideas always come when you’re driving or in the shower or about to fall asleep. When your mind wanders, it tends to find things.

More notebooks,
plus the Neil Gaiman section
of my personal library.

For instance, last night between one training activity and another, I realized something about a character whose novel I’ve been writing since 2008, off and on, and first wrote about in 2005. That’s right, an 11 p.m. epiphany.

And now this novel that’s felt like an uphill struggle for almost four years makes a lot more sense, and I know how to make the ending what it deserves to be, and I expect to scribble down a few more things before the night is through.

I love it when that happens.

I know a lot of people feel they can only write when they feel inspired, and if that works for you, okay. But for me, the more open and ready for inspiration you are, the sooner it becomes a daily companion.

Today I bought two more blank journals. There is no more room for them on the bookcases that contain my blank journals.

My only response to this is to laugh.

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not for posies and potatoes

It’s a funny thing, plotting. There are reams books on plots, arguments about plots. Some people say there are over twenty plots (man vs. man, man vs. God, man vs. self, man vs. society–I’m not going to list them all but you get the idea), some say only two (somebody comes to town, somebody leaves town). E.M. Forster said,

The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died, and then queen died of grief is a plot.

I only look innocent .

I know this for certain: plot is conflict. Big conflict or small conflict, there has to be some sort of struggle in order for there to be a plot. My favorite kinds of stories have both an inner and outer struggle to deal with–inner and outer demons, as it were.

A few years ago I started Novel #3, but it stalled out after a while. While I had a basic idea of how it would end, the points between weren’t coherent to me, and I think that’s a large part of why the story stalled. But since I’ve been thinking about it and working on it again, those points are starting to connect.

Those points are the conflicts. More conflicts that I originally had, glorious conflicts, real conflicts that are hinted at in the first two novels, conflicts that need to be resolved in order to have a story.

The fog is clearing a bit.

Keep driving.

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I can’t think of a title, either

This is me right now.

As far as blocks go, it's not the worst I've ever had. (That would be the Bad Nasty Evil Writer's Block of 1999, when for six months I wrote absolutely nothing. It was so bad that when I finally did start writing again, people noticed because I was so much happier.) Still, it's worrisome. I have a lot of goals for this year: finishing novel number 3, finishing a screenplay, many anthology submissions, and at least two stand-alone novellas. Last year I published six stories, the most I ever have; if I publish everything I plan to this year, it'll be nine. But I won't be publishing anything if I don't write anything. (Aside from the stuff already written, submitted and accepted, of course. Having written is such a wonderful feeling.)

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