My Topsy-Turvy Writing Life

NaNoWriMo is good practice for me, this writing without stopping to think.

I’ve always been a slow writer, but I can also see that the way I wrote and the reason I wrote created the slowness. I used to write at night when all was quiet, then the next morning I would read the work to my mate. The piece had to be cohesive, well written, and most of all entertaining because that is why I wrote — to entertain us. That way of writing taught me to pull someone immediately into a scene, to make characters come alive in a few words, to add a hook or reward on almost every page.

I had my reward in his smile. Whenever I saw his lips curve in a secret little smile, I knew I’d hit the scene perfectly.

He and his smile are gone from my life. I’ve had to find a different way of writing and a different reason. For now, meeting the challenge of NaNoWriMo is reason enough. The very nature of the challenge is helping me find a new way to write. Instead of searching for the perfect word, I write any word that comes to mind, trusting that during the rewrites I will find the right one. If no word comes to mind, I leave a blank space and continue with my train of thought.

I also have no need to write a coherent story from beginning to end for there is no one to follow along as I write. I jot down whatever scene is foremost in my mind. I also write in the morning since it’s quietest here then. Also, by writing in the morning, I can come at the task in an oblique way before excuses begin to get in the way.

Some of what I’ve written will need little revision. Other bits read more like notes for a novel than a fleshed out scene and will need to be completely revised. Other parts are redundant and will need to be junked. But I am keeping up with my word count (probably because I am leaving out the hard bits, like descriptions and sensory details), and that is an important achievement.

I’m getting into the rhythm of this topsy-turvy life. From being one of a couple to being alone. From living near the mountains to living near the desert. From writing at night to writing in the morning. From writing beginning to end to writing whatever scene catches my attention.

I’m still writing the same type of book, though — a non-literary literary novel. The way I understand it, a literary novel is a story that addresses the major themes of life, and the way it is written — the choice of words, the sentence structure, the imagery — is more important than what is written. I fail in the second part — I strive for a simple, easy to read style that doesn’t detract from the story — but I do address major themes, especially in this work. Life. Death. Love. Grief. Relationships. The meaning of life. All while telling a good story. At least, that’s the plan.

I’m hoping someday you’ll be able to tell me if I succeeded.

6 Responses to “My Topsy-Turvy Writing Life”

  1. Sheila Deeth Says:

    What a gorgeous picture. I never really learned what literary means, but I feel like it would be kind of sad if structure meant more than story. I like to have both, and you give me both.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      What a lovely thing to say about my writing, Sheila!

      The photo is a puddle after a recent rainstorm, one of the three or four we’ve had in the past five months.

  2. Carol Ann Hoel Says:

    Sounds like a plan to me. Another great photo, even if it is upside down. Ha! Great post, Pat!

  3. Holly Bonville Says:

    I would be happy to help if I can. I am somewhat educated…and I have a long winter in front of me with not a lot to do.
    I thought I was adjusting to the “new” life, but these past couple of weeks have been horrible. I could use a little something to look forward to and a distraction. 🙂
    Let me know if I can help.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you, Holly. I’ll let you know when you can help. Maybe at the beginning of January? I have edits to finish for another book, which I won’t be able to do until then. Afterward, I’ll need someone to read it to make sure there are no obvious typos.

      The problem with grief, it doesn’t stay where we put it. Even after seven months, I go through times where the grief is as it was in the beginning — raw and harsh and unbearable.

      We’ll both get through this, though.

  4. Holly Bonville Says:

    Thank you Pat. I am looking forward to it. 🙂

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