Writing in the Quiet
In light of this week’s Mental Health Monday topic, “Questioning the Quiet,” I turned off the television to sit down to write. It was kind of hard because I was tired, hungry, and feeling the need for a mindless evening. I was enjoying watching Bones and playing a colorful game on my phone.
But, I saw on my little pink sticky note that one of the things I’d promised myself I would do today was write. And my intention for the day was to spark joy. The joy of writing lasts longer than the joy of vegging in front of the television. But doing anything on an empty stomach is not joyous, so I warmed up leftover pizza, poured myself a soda, and opened WordPress.
And I wrote about the quiet.
And I wrote in the quiet.
And it made me very uncomfortable. I got through a whole blog post, but then the less brain-intensive work like creating the images, scheduling the post, promoting on social media, for all of that I turned the television back on.
Then, I turned to my Sci-Fi novel and realized I need to do this in quiet, so back to pause for Bones.
Shifting the beginning.
In my sci-fi novel, I wrote around 800 words thinking it would be my NaNoWriMo project this year. It was not. I wrote only one time in November, and I hated every word.
A common issue for me as a writer is that I will get a lot of words down only to realize I want to start my story much later in the timeline. For example, I wrote a story starting at the first day of school, but I later realized I needed the story to start in October. This sounds frustrating, but often the backstory and characterizations I create in the beginning that I don’t end up using are still very valuable to me as an author.
So. I asked myself, where do I want this sci-fi novel to start? When I was using my screenwriting structure worksheet, it asks me, “what is the first thing we see?” This is particular to screenwriting, but still important to any story. I said an answer that I knew was lame: “We see the protagonist taking or just having taken an aptitude test,” because the results of that test are how the protagonist gets thrown into the overarching conflict.
But . . . I hate it. I hated it when I was structuring, I hated it when I started writing, and I hate it now. I realized that the scene I am most excited to write is when the protagonist gets the results of that aptitude test. In some ways the aptitude test in my story is like the results of Beatrice’s faction test in Divergent where she is told what faction her personality suits, or Jonas’s Ceremony of Twelve in The Giver where he is told what his life’s work will be for the Community. For Beatrice, the day of the test and the test itself are part of the world-building. For Jonas, the Ceremony is part of the world-building. For both, the results of the test and the ceremony are what set the protagonist apart and put them into the action.
I tried to put the world-building into the aptitude test, but I hated it. I was putting words on paper and forcing myself to create a world that is only the setting for the very beginning of the story. Instead, readers will have to learn about the world in the way my protagonist gets the results of the aptitude test. I can see the house, the door, the official who gives the results, their clothing. . . so that’s what I will write. The character’s desires and conflict are more immediate in that conversation.
Writing is never a waste.
The first eight-hundred words that I hate, well, they gave me the protagonist’s childhood friend, so they weren’t a waste.
I’m already disobeying some of the advice from the webinar I wrote about last week. Chandler Bolt (a name that is way too close to Chandler Bing) says to only write one book at a time. But, my bite-sized goal is to write something every day. To get into the habit of writing without worrying about what I’m writing. Writers write. And writing something is better than not being a writer.
Do you have a ritual to get into a creative headspace?