Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Less You Know...?

P1011390 When I first seriously put my mind towards writing historical romance fiction, I was in college. Every spare minute after classes or nanny job, I'd race to the typewriter (it was that long ago) and start pounding keys. Often, I'd have dormmates standing directly behind the chair (they'd always ask first) so they could read the page as they were written. Can't get much more immediate on the feedback than that. I lived, ate, and slept Beau and Ivy' romance, though my historical accuracy left a few things to be desired, and the page count continued to soar, even though I was shooting for a nice round five hundred. Beau and Ivy now nestle comfortably in the back of my closet, in the leather briefcase I'd recieved as a high school graduation present from a family friend (still need to update the initials on that, come to think of it.) At the time, they consumed all my creativity and the thought of what I'd write next after sending them off into the sunset (linked book were not yet the norm at this time) stymied me. I remember making a note somewhere of a heroine's name I liked, maybe a combination of hair and eye color and a rough guesstimate of what historical period I might like to explore.

The second attempt came when I was out of college, Beau and Ivy reluctantly snoozing in the briefcase. I'd read somewhere that some author, whose name I do not recall and thus will term Author X for the sake of this entry, wrote twenty pages per day. When she got to twenty, she stopped, no matter where she was. Well okay, then. Twenty pages I would do. As soon as I was alone for the day, I made a makeshift U-shaped desk out of three tv trays. Typewriter went on the tray in front of me, clean paper and reference books or notes on my right, finished pages on my left. Maybe it was Author X or her buddy, Author Y, who said she always read the last three pages she'd written the day before, prior to starting on the new day's batch, so I'd do that, too. Don't ask me where I got the idea that chapters should be twenty page long; maybe because round numbers are easier for me to handle. Whatever the cause, I stuck the appropriate record on the player (feeling rather mature here, ahem) and off I'd go. I had only so long until there would be other sentient beings breathing my air, and there was still the house, cat and two dogs that needed tending.

Since Beau and Ivy had been moved to the briefcase so that I could see if writing something else were even possible, and I had some new inspiration, I dove headlong into this new stuff. This was about the same time I'd discovered fanfiction, and that's where most of my early fanfiction came from; that chair in the living rom with the tv trays. At the same time, I knew my heart belonged to historical romance, and I started with another couple, another time and place. A couple of variations on that, actually, as I wrote myself into a corner when two neat historical things I wanted to do were mutually exclusive. (For those who are curious, I could not have Thing happen at Place because Place did not exist at time of Thing and that story needed both to work.) This one is complicated, so I'll move on along, but it never occurred to me at the time that I could not move forward, and so I did.

Fast forward to now. With computers, there's no need to have two different tables to hold clean and typed pages (printer stand holds both) and thanks to the internet, I can be alone and with other writers and readers at the same time. Standard issue spiral notebooks are a thing of the past, since I can get or make those like the picture above. I have a supportive family and friends who understand writing is work, and I understand POV, pacing, genre conventions and yet somehow the doubt creeps in now in a way it didn't when I was banging typewriter keys in my dorm or my dad's living room. Where does it come from? I'm not sure, but if the doubt monster could get in, then that means it can get back out.

One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever heard was to write the story I wanted to read but couldn't find. I didn't overthink in the dorm of the living room; I went for it, I loved it like crazy and was proud of doing so. As I've had trusted writer and reader friends confirm, overthinking is my downfall, and thus my self imposed challenge to overcome for this season. What about you, faithful readers? Ever found the "shoulds" getting in the way of your writing or reading? What's your favorite weapon to slay those dragons?

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