fantasy · Short Story · work in progress · Writing

Bird by Bird: Shitty First Drafts

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott has a whole section on Shitty First Drafts. Really, this whole concept is freeing. First drafts are always shitty! The thing to do is push past my own shuddering at the shittiness of the first draft. Because it is not as if I am not aware of how bad it is (i. e. the third scene in the dragon short story). I have to resist all temptation to rewrite now because it is not done yet; if I start the rewrite now, I will never be done. I can always rewrite later.

Okay, so I have known for a while now that no one gets it right the first time. But reading this little chapter on Shitty First Drafts is reassuring. I feel badly in need of reassurance just now, as I attempt to ignore the shittiness and go on with the next part. All first drafts are shitty! All!

work in progress · Writing

Bird by Bird: Plot Treatment

During yesterday’s perusal of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, on page 85 (yes, I own a dead tree copy of this book) the following line jumped out at me: “On the other hand, in lieu of a plot you may find that you have a sort of temporary destination, perhaps a scene that you envision as the climax.”

This has little to do with the short story WiP, but rather a lot more to do with the novel WiP.  I know something of its ending (bittersweet) and some of the scenes in the middle, the ones I saw in my head when this story first appeared in my head, those are clearer. This line from Bird by Bird is a minor epiphany, more like a reassurance of what I am already doing. Sometimes, during the bad days, I need reassurance that my storytelling instincts are not entirely off. I will just continue working my way toward the scenes I can see clearly and hopefully the end will come together more clearly at some point.

General · Short Story · word count · work in progress · Writing

Bird by Bird: Plot

At the beginning of Bird by Bird, starting on page 54, there is a short section entitled Plot. In this she says not to worry about the plot, but about the characters. You should get to know the characters, their relationship, and the plot comes out of that.

Well, I know my characters. At least I know as well it is possible to know a character in less than 1000 words. I know they are adversaries. If this was a typical urban fantasy story, they would also be attracted to each other. They haven’t come to life for me,  not like in other stories I’ve written. I haven’t known my MC for long enough for that to happen and the adversary has been around for barely a paragraph. Maybe that is the problem, but it will be 2000 words at most and that isn’t long enough anyway for characters to take on a life. Not for me.

Anyway, I will just keep on writing. If it is no good, I can always press delete.


Bird by Bird: Truth and Childhood

I am reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I have never read anything else by her, but I have heard this is a good book on writing. In chapter one, she says good writing is about telling the truth. What truth? I have to wonder what truths my short sea story has. I am not sure it has any. But maybe it has truths I am not aware, some deeper meaning I did not intend to put in, but is there anyway. I suppose that will be for readers to decide. Possibly, by the end, I might see some truths in the story myself.

The other thing that she says is write down your childhood. I am stunned by this advice. I have never written about my life. Even the requisite What did you do this Summer? essays in school weren’t easy for me. I suppose teachers assign that because they think it will be easy to write, but for me, nothing could be more difficult. The truth is, I don’t want to write about me, in anyway, shape or form.

I suppose a certain amount of myself must go into my stories. There is probably no way to avoid it – writing can be a very intimate thing –  but I am never inspired to use events from my real life. Not like Anne Lamott did; she states in the introduction that her first book was about her father’s illness.  It is not that I purposely try to avoid that, it is just that I never think of it. My stories are outlandish after all. They involve murders and magic and kingdoms and creatures that don’t exist. None of that exists in my life.

But the unrealistic nature of my stories is just one reason. Even if my stories took place in this world, in the here and now, I still can’t state with any certainty that my real life would end up somehow in my stories. It would be more likely to happen, of course, because they would intersect with my life in a way my fantasy stories never will. But I can’t be sure if my life would show up in a concrete fashion. News stories, popular culture, books and movies, all those would be far more likely to show up one way or another.