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Posts Tagged ‘Resistance’

  1. How to Rewrite a Novel: Step Four

    August 14, 2016 by Diane

    hand opening red curtain on white.

    Rewriting a novel is like sitting on the edge of a pool. The water’s cold. You can dive right in, get the discomfort over with, splash around to warm up, and then lose yourself in the steady stroke of limbs through water.

    Or, like me, you can hang out on the edge while the sun bakes your skin and your feet turn into prunes.

    Welcome to week five of my novel rewrite.

    This is how rewriting my novel looked:

    I attended an outdoor concert with a Meetup group from The Sierra Club. The club turned out to be a bunch of lively women, ages sixty and up, and a grizzled guy who may have been a sea captain. Another guy, wearing a goofy beach hat, stood around grinning like babies do when they have gas. I sat in my low-slung chair behind a woman in a sleeveless blouse who shaded her eyes with one hand, cutting off my view of the stage with her underarm flab. Occasionally, she dropped her arm, so my view became a vision of Michael Jackson–if Michael Jackson was middle-aged and fifty pounds overweight and stuffed into black leather pants–strutting and doing that pelvic bump, while a four-man horn section dipped and pivoted like the backup for The Temptations.

    After three songs, I folded up my chair and left.

    The next day, I went swimming. The pool was packed. I swam laps in the shallow end. The woman sharing my lane trudged back and forth in hiking boots, talking on her cell phone the entire time. One hundred dollar hiking boots. In chlorinated water. And a cell phone.

    Some days, I stood in the middle of my room, thinking.

    Had I stumbled once again onto Resistance Highway? Or was this non-writing activity actually accomplishing something?

    Well, a little of both.

    I was noodling loglines.

    It’s part of my action plan for rewriting a novel. I had arrived at:

    Step Four

    Write a logline.

    What’s a logline?

    It’s a sentence that describes the novel, and answers the questions:

    Who is the protagonist?
    What does the protagonist want?
    What’s at stake?

    Ya gotta know the who, what, and why-bother, otherwise, how can you rewrite the dang thing?

    So, I contemplated. I gnawed on ideas. I engaged in other activities. And then I took a hike with my niece, who was on a whirlwind visit through town.

    We talked writing. She wanted to know what my novel was about. I launched into a lengthy description and ended with an exasperated, “I just wish I knew what’s driving my protagonist!”

    And my niece said, “It’s funny, we wonder what our characters want, but we’re the ones making it all up.”

    We’re the ones making it all up!

    D’uh. Head slap.

    All I needed to do was pick something, and go with it.

    Write ten possible loglines. Twenty. Twenty-five. Whatever. Then PICK ONE.

    Jump in the pool.

    Stuck? Or Avoiding?

    Sometimes, we get stuck in our writing, and need to occupy ourselves elsewhere so the idea we’re searching for can swim into our consciousness. But there’s a fine line between taking time away, and staying away because the water’s too cold.

    That’s where those vows come in handy. You know, the ones that start: I promise to show up for my writing every day, no matter what.

    So, how do you know what side of the line you’re on?

    Look for signs of resistance.

    I know I’m in resistance when I start doing what comes easy, rather than what comes hard, like rewriting. “I’ll just answer a few emails. Shuffle papers. Blog.”

    I know I’m in resistance when I force myself to write, and I lose track of time.

    But If I force myself to write, and resent it, I know I need to go back to noodling. Nothing wrong with that.

    At least this time, I recognized the highway, and hitched a ride out. I was digging through some boxes of books in storage, looking for some good reads to bring on my vacation, and found a copy of Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence, by Lane Shefter Bishop. A whole book about how to write a logline! Had my intuition guided me to that box? Could be.

    I read the first few chapters. Jotted down a rough idea. Refined it. Refined it again and again and again, eliminating excess words, homing in on the want, the stakes, until…Bingo! I had my logline.

    Is it the perfect logline? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s something I can work with.

    Onward, to Step Five!

  2. You Don’t Need A Lack of Funds to Be A Starving Artist

    July 13, 2015 by Diane

    hand opening red curtain on white.

    At some point, behind the writer’s curtain, you’ll hear a conversation that goes something like this…

    How’s that novel coming?


    Uh-oh. What now.

    You know that whole starving artist bit? Well, it was getting old. I needed to make more money. But I refused to make it behind someone else’s desk. I wanted to earn money behind my own desk. Writing copy. Brochures. Direct mail. Press releases. Anything. I’m a writer, right?

    I thought you wrote fiction.

    But I couldn’t make money writing fiction. At least not on the quick. So I waited for some guidance. A sign. A nudge in some direction.


    Nothing. Not a peep. So I figured: what the heck, I’ll try copywriting. Best way to make money as a writer, right?

    Go on.

    So I checked out books on how to start a copywriting business. I picked the brain of a successful copywriter. I gathered brochures and saved those donation letters that come in the mail and dug out some old newsletter copy I’d written for a non-profit and handed out my card prematurely and the person I handed it to actually contacted me and asked for some samples and I dashed some off roughshod and emailed them and I didn’t hold my breath. I watched television. I took long walks in the woods. I stopped writing. Went back to waiting for a sign. A peep.

    And your fiction? What about your fiction writing? What about that eight-week intensive workshop you took?

    I’m getting to that.

    Five hundred dollars it cost. And the teacher said…what did he say? Something about how he could read your writing for a long, long time.

    I know. I know! Don’t remind me.

    But go on.

    So where was I? Oh yeah. I started blogging. An entry a week.

    You stopped sleeping.

    I know! Something kept me from sleep.

    And you lost weight.

    Ninety-eight pounds was all I weighed. Ninety-eight pounds. My pants slid down without hips to hold them up.

    But still you waited for a sign.

    I was boiling with frustration. I stormed into the library, to the eight hundred section, skimmed the meager selection for books on how to write a pitch.

    For that reality show concept?

    Yes. And I slid my fingertips over the spines of the fiction-writing books and my fingers tingled. Was that a sign? No, I told myself. I took a book home about television writing because it had a chapter about pitching a show, and instead of reading about how to pitch a show, I read the novel that my father sent me, Beautiful Ruins. And it blew my mind. The writing. The voices. Each chapter a story of its own. And somehow they all fit together. How? What was the author doing? I wanted to create that. I wanted to get it. I wanted it so bad it made my heart race.

    That was your sign.


    But you ignored it.

    I started a copywriting business. Now I’m making money as a writer. Which is what I wanted, right?

    And that novel you were working on?

    No time for that.


    I feel untethered.

    Another sign.


    Takeaways this week:

    One of my concerns, starting out as a copywriter, was how to find the time to devote to my fiction. So I asked Peter Bowerman, a top copywriter, how he managed. His response? A sigh. This author of The Well-Fed Writer said he had no time for his “soul food.” Well, I decided that wouldn’t be my road. But venturing out, I found myself on that very same path, ignoring the hunger pangs.

    Sometimes we need to make sacrifices to keep the wolf from the door. But beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing who takes his place. Oh, sure, we manage to avoid becoming the proverbial starving artist. But we find ourselves starving in other ways. What can we do? We’ve already given up television, maybe exercise and socializing. What else is there? We can’t sacrifice family, or sleep, or eating, or downtime, in order to write a novel that may or may not ever see the light of publication. The good news is, we don’t need to give up one thing for another. Instead: borrow. Ten minutes from family time. Fifteen minutes from sleep. Five from downtime. Total them up. You’ve now got thirty minutes to focus on what really feeds you. Need more time? Borrow more.

    And then honor those precious borrowed moments by writing whatever it is you’re meant to write. Make it a priority.

    The signs are there. Be aware.

  3. How to Get Back in the Writing Saddle When Life Bucks You Off the Horse

    June 28, 2015 by Diane

    hand opening red curtain on white.

    There may come a day when someone pulls aside the writer’s curtain and sees a desk and a chair, and they’re both empty.

    Where’s the writer?


    Gone even from herself. Or himself.

    It happens sometimes.


    You’ve pushed a baby into the world and that screaming miracle of flesh requires every ounce of attention. Your lover stops loving and tells you on a Saturday morning in a cheap diner over weak coffee, both hands cupping yours on the table, that he’s found someone else. Or the opposite: that commitment phobe you’ve dated for seven years pivots to you at a rock concert and shouts over the music, “Let’s make it legal.” Maybe a big rig hits your parked car and you have five days to purchase something to drive before the insurance company stops footing the bill for the rental, and you spend every available hour searching for a vehicle you can afford on your meager salary.

    Something knocks you back on your heels and you stop writing.

    That’s okay. Your energy is required elsewhere temporarily. The key word being “temporarily.”

    But when “not writing” becomes a habit, it becomes a problem. You start to dry up inside, a little more every day. Without the juices of your creativity flowing, you crack. There’s an itch inside that you can’t scratch and it drives you to look elsewhere for relief: in other people, or the bottle, or the refrigerator, or reality television.

    And then one afternoon you realize that folding the laundry seems more important than getting back in that saddle. You barely make out the flick of the horse’s tail as it flees over the distant hills.

    Whatever your art: writing, painting, dancing the rhumba, singing arias, designing clay pots, decorating a house, baking cupcakes—whatever it is, you’ve got to get back to it. You’ve got to find a way to get your foot back into that stirrup. A minute here. Five minutes. You’ve swung your leg over. Fifteen minutes. You’re starting to trot. Thirty. You can breathe again. Forty-five and you’re hitting a gallop. The words are flowing. Maybe the ride is rough, but it feels glorious. You’re back in the saddle, behind the curtain.

    Here are eight tips to help you get there:

    1 Go to the library, or a bookstore. Let your fingers trace the spines of a row of books. Feel the tingle. Pick one up. Luxuriate in the heft. Open it. Smell the pages. Read the first few paragraphs. Allow the words to settle into your heart.

    2. Online, or in person, seek out other writers. Give advice. This will get your juices bubbling again.

    3. You might need to call that runaway horse back first. I write about courting the muse here.

    4. Take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself: what’s the priority? (Hint: it’s not social media, or checking your emails.) Your soul knows. Check in.

    5. Not enough time to write? Well, you could track everything you do for a day, jotting on a piece of paper the starting and ending times for each activity. You might be surprised at how many precious minutes you spend unconscious at the computer, or in front of the television, or engaged in chores. Or you could skip that exercise altogether and pull out a timer and set it for fifteen minutes and sit down and write.

    6. Take baby steps. Squeeze in five minutes of freewriting on the subway. Ten minutes journaling before bedtime. Fifteen minutes jotting ideas for a novel while you wait for the potatoes to boil for dinner. Let that writerly self claim those pockets of time.

    7. Promise yourself a reward after finishing a project. “I’ll do the laundry, after I write 300 words.” Can laundry be a reward? If you’re a responsible person who feels obligated to accomplish such tasks…yes. Or if you’ve been in resistance for a very long time.

    8. Set your alarm for fifteen or thirty minutes earlier, and do your writing the minute you roll out of bed. Okay, you can go to the bathroom first. Maybe brush your teeth. But then park that fuzzy-headed bronco back in the saddle and take up the reins.

    I want to hear from you! What’s helped you get back into the writing groove when life has knocked you out?