Jennifer Neri's Blog

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur. Henry Miller


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Attitude check please

We are all writers (well most of us anyway) here, so I can be perfectly candid when I speak of the love/hate relationship that seems to come with the creative territory.

Those exhilarating moments when we just know–know–that we are doing what we were meant to be doing. When we sit, and are overtaken, and the story pours forth. Those moments when we are high, soaring, and nothing can pull us down.

And bam–we fall. And it hurts. And we want to go and hide in the dark and rip our manuscript into shreds after taking a big fat sharpy and blackening out every horrible word. And then, slowly, we begin to rub our behind, and think, okay, I can do this. Why am I being so hard on myself? There’s always a solution, a way out. I can fix my manuscript, I can make it work.

So, folks, I’m crawling out of my deep dark hole, and as I was mixing my granola–yes, I homemake it, there’s almost nothing that pleases me more than the scent of cinnamon, oats, and vanilla–a sure way to tantalize me out of hibernation, I realized that one of the things I like most about writing is the fact that the learning never ends. That I can be an eternal student. I will never ever get bored, because there will always be something more.

Yes, I’m having to replot a large portion of my manuscript–which is the event that send me hiding in my deep dark hole–but I see the problem. Now I will find a solution.

I have learned.

And this, my creative friends, is nothing to wallow in self-pity about.

 

 


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Structure

I’ve been writing on and off for close to eight years.

Does it sound like a long time to you?

It does to me. But, really, it hasn’t been.

In that time I’ve written about ten or so shorts, won a few awards for some, had a few published, wrote for an award-winning magazine for some time. I’ve also drafted two novels, of which I’m editing one right now.

Is it an accomplishment? Depends how you look at it. Some days, I think, wow, I did all that, while having three babies, and never ever having more than a few hours a week to write, and taking a whole year of hiatus more than once. But other days, I think: eight years! Really! That’s it???

As you can most likely tell from my recent post I’ve been in the second place lately more than the first.

One of the difficulties I’m having is getting a grip on structure. I thought I had a tight handle on it: I have my three acts firm in hand. My set-up, my catalyst, my in-limbo time when we wait for the MC to make her decision to act, launching her into act two where we follow her journey, through her false high at midpoint, and into the resolution of act three.

My problem now lies in scene structure, and in making sure each element is in place within each scene.

This morning I’ve drafted a checklist for my self:

  1. Scene setting
  2. Scene goal stated
  3. Scene structure (beginning, middle, end)
  4. Is it clear how I want my character to appear in this scene and does the dialogue, action, monologue reflect this (ie. Weak, strong, frustrated, alert)
  5. Emotional arc
  6. Delivery of info in proper order
  7. Conflict and stakes apparent
  8. Check for order of stimulus : response (something that I get backwards often–weird!!!!)
  9. Resolution and new situation at end of scene (unless is moving into scene sequel)
I’ll print it out once it’s complete and go through each scene making sure that I can tick off each of these items.
How about you: How do you handle structure of your WIP? 
Is there anything you would add to this list?


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It’s Alive!

Writing is solitary. We enter the world, look around, and something grabs hold of us, demands that we tell its story. We sit, and we write. We read what we wrote, we write some more. Sometimes, we think we have reached perfection, or near to it, other times we think that the story, the way we are writing it, the way we are telling it, is not coming to life. So, we read books, we go on-line, and we try to do better.

I learn in bursts. My grasp of the craft is not incremental, it’s stepwise. I learn best by spending time with my work, reading it, asking questions about it. I’m very satisfied with where my current project is headed, I see what it will be, I see how to make it that way. What I did not see was the beginning, where it began. I have learned over the last two weeks that I was attacking it in the wrong way, but I will save that post for another day.

Writing is solitary.

But, it is only after my last round of brainstorming with my writing group that my opening is finally manifesting in my mind — it’s coming to life. Without that discussion, the volleying of ideas, the bantering, the rebuttals, the encouragement, I would still be reading a scene that didn’t do what I wanted it to do. Now, I am letting my subconscious build. It sends me reflections that I mold and manipulate, and then send back down for another round, until it will be ready for me to put down on paper.

Writing is solitary, but thank goodness I don’t have to do it alone.

 

 


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How’s your attitude?

Writing is a frame of mind.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. My attitude.

My editing has been slow lately, and at the beginning of the week when I was headed out to the local coffee shop, I heard myself think: ok, here comes another work session when I’ll hardly move through my ms at all. I literally stopped walking, and re-arranged what I was telling myself.

I’m going to sit and work for 2 hours, and it will be great. And it was!

It made me question my whole attitude towards my writing. In general, I’m a confident person, but there are times when I think that my writing is nonsense (we all do, right?). I do know that part of me finds my current wip silly – very silly, and I’ve been trying to re-arrange that.

But the real question for me today is what is the right attitude?

Do I sit to down to write thinking that this is great, fantastic, I’m a terrific writer, or will that just make me a lazy writer?

How do I keep that unconscious critical eye open and aware without being self-defeatist?

Where is that ever-changing line of balance between these two extremes?

Today I sit to write and think, I can do this. I can keep learning. These are the words I think I need to hear today.

How about you: how’s your attitude?


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Dominoes

When I began writing, I wrote a novel. Then I re-wrote it. And then I did it again. And again, all in all a total of about 11 times. I did it without coherence, knowing that it needed tending, but not knowing how or where to find the problems.

I think what I was doing was developing my voice, learning all about the craft of writing.

Recently, I’ve gone back to that novel and I re-wrote it again. This time, I’m learning about the craft of story telling. I’ve been learning about story telling over time, but never in such a concise form as I have these last 3 months.

What I’ve learnt is that sometimes writing is about not writing.

I speak to other writers, read your blogs, I know that for you many of you this is something that comes quite naturally for you. Not for me. I think of writing, and I need to write. I am not good at slowing, thinking, mulling things over. I see something I don’t like and I want to change it. immediately.

There are of course, big problems with this. A change very rarely is a change unto itself, there is always a domino effect, a ripple that one small change sends out into the whole novel. And what if that ripple leads to others, and others, which it often does, and I don’t like those changes, they don’t belong.

So, I’ve learned to still my hand, and keep files and journals where I write my thoughts. I analyze them, see the ripple effect of a change, and inevitably, I will adjust, often more than once. And only then once I have everything outlined and organized step by step will I implement the change. If I like it.

And the prose? Well that comes last now. At the very end. After everything is in its place, then I can play with the words, and enjoy the textures and sounds. Can you tell this is where my fondness lies? It comes to me naturally, in ease. The rest of it is work, fun work, frustrating at times, but very rewarding.

Wishing you all a happy New Year with lots of fruition, and may your writing go where you want to take it!

Happy Holidays!

 


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What’s it all about, this blogging stuff?

While I’ve been away from the blogging world this summer I’ve noticed that people seem to be blogging a lot less (at least in the writer’s circle). Friends who posted ritually are now posting erratically or a lot less. I’ve been thinking about this, wondering why, and at the same time wondering what brings me back to my own blog after my hiatus.

We all seem to use our blog differently. I’ve noticed some use theirs as a personal journal, others as log book to chart their work and progress, or as a reference source providing valuable information to other writers, and others as a chit-chat session (I think I fall mainly into this group, but of course cross over at times).

At the moment I’m working, writing every spare chance I have, and creating space to write even when it’s not apparent. And it feels great. I think this is the most I’ve poured myself into my work since I began writing.

Why blog? I ask myself this question. Why take the time away from work to write posts, to read posts, to comment? It’s not because I’m gathering a huge following to market myself with. Maybe this should be the answer, but it’s certainly not the case at all. The answer to why I’m drawn back to blogging is the sharing of experience. It’s almost the same reason that I read and write. To share ideas, to explore thoughts, to see into people’s minds. Sounds kind of scary and intimidating when put that way, but that’s the truth of it. Plus, talking about writing leads to better writing.

What about you – why do you blog, and how do you use your blog?

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