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Guerrilla Novel Writing and Voices in my Head

Fellow writers who are not yet published (and therefore respected as professional authors), I wonder if you experience the same mental fragmentation in life and writing voice that I do on my novel-writing journey.


Always plotting...



First of all, writing is not my paid (or primary) job. I have two others. My writing time must be fitted in around both work schedules, housework, appointments and obligations, family get-togethers, and the fun times that must be had in our 20s, if we are not to regret wasting our youth for the rest of our lives, so they say. I find myself scribbling notes on my story whenever I think of brilliant ideas--usually in the shower, but sometimes in the drive-through while my husband orders a Fresca burrito, or in the movie theater where I can only blindly scribble on the back of my movie ticket, or at work while I wait for a document to print. My mind is always halfway inside the fantasy world I'm creating, and even when it's not, any little thing can transport me there for a few gripping minutes at a time. And then while I'm writing, I get easily distracted by phone calls, people entering the house, e-mails and Facebook updates...

And when I look at the "voice" I use when jotting down plot ideas and chapter outlines compared to my style of writing the actual novel, the difference is extraordinary. It looks like my notebook is narrated by a completely different person than the person who types my actual chapter drafts. For one thing, my notes are always in present tense. Because these things are happening NOW! In my head! But my novel takes place in a faraway kingdom, long, long ago...

Okay, for example. Here is a sample of a scrawled summary of Chapter Three. If you compare it to the selection I posted for the beginning of Chapter Three a few days ago, you'll see what I mean. The beginning of Chapter Three that I posted is annoyingly boring to me. I may post a better selection later. It's really just my warm-up, where I'm settling into my calm-storyteller voice instead of my frantic-note-taker voice. Anyway, check it out. This is the sloppy, naked way in which my chapters are born before they get washed and dressed.

Chapter Three:

Every time Rosemarie has a birthday, her wish comes true. She's sheltered
and coddled and doesn't know much of anything about the world. So it's easy for
her caretakers to plant ideas in her head and then act like her wishes come
true, like Santa Claus is real or something. They think it's fun, and they think
it's cute that she's so innocent and awed by crap like birthday wishes.
She's a very serious kid and takes her birthday wishes very seriously, because
she thinks they are a direct link to the power of God.

On Rosemarie's eighth birthday, they've been feeding her hints about Mary
gardens. They know she likes flowers and botany and whatever, and she's also
devout and meditative. So they think she'll love it. They've been secretly
working on this garden since last summer.

But this time, Rosemarie is old enough to catch on. She suspects something
is up. She's not ready to believe they're playing a trick on her, but she thinks
they might suspect that she wants a Mary garden, and she knows birthday wishes
won't come true if anyone else knows what they are. So at the last second, she
chickens out and wishes for something else, the thing she was going to wish for
before she heard about Mary gardens.

But then the monks present their gift to Vepreskastel, and it's a Mary
garden. Rosemarie realizes that they HAVE been playing a trick on her, and she's
furious. She knows that she's the only one who didn't know about it all along.
She knows they think she made it appear there herself with her birthday wish.
She knows that Vera and the other little girls are laughing behind her back
because she's so out of touch and naive. So she's humiliated and disillusioned,
and to top it off, the incident highlights to her how isolated she is from other
children. She looks around at her party guests and reflects that she has no
friends. They all either actively hate her, out of jealousy or whatever, or
they just don't know how to speak to the precious little princess, the delicate
national treasure of Vepres.

Rosemarie looks at her father and thinks about how shallow all her birthday
wishes have been. But it's not her fault. She can't wish him healthy because
everyone already knows her wish. She asks Brother Basil and Sister Mary Frances,
does God hear prayers not sent up in church or over birthday candles? Sure, they
say, they are carried up to heaven by the angels. But if your prayer is not
God's will, it won't come true. She asks Auntie Varga, is there a way to make a
wish that isn't a secret? Yes, she says. Drop a copper coin in a wishing well.
But Auntie Varga is a pagan, and praying downward frightens Rosemarie.

At night, she can't sleep. She's angry and lonely, and night comes without
her real birthday wish coming true. Rosemarie has heard about child marriages
among royalty. She doesn't know anything about marriage but has the idea
(deluded, based on her mother's false history) that husbands and wives get to
share secrets with each other and love each other for the rest of their lives
and are completely devoted friends. A husband would be someone she could confide
in and have as her own best friend. Besides, Rosemarie rarely gets to come near
boys or men, and she's awfully fascinated.

After she says her prayers, she reads about angels in the book of Daniel.
Wow! She looks up at the stars and thinks, she is special. She is strong. She
would not be afraid if an angel appeared to her. It drives her crazy to think of
all those kind, good beings hovering around her and listening to her prayers but
not showing themselves. She's so lonely. Come to me, she says. I promise I won't
be afraid.

After the chambermaids have fallen asleep, the little insomniac is still
awake. She hears a carriage and many horses approach the castle. It must be the
business her mother is waiting up for in the Great Hall. Rosemarie tiptoes to
the window and looks down to see the most magnificent carriage she has ever
seen, all covered in gold and jewels, and pulled by a team of white horses. It
is the chariot of the sun god Apollo! Servants on horseback ride before and
behind. They approach the castle quietly, and a man descends from the carriage.
He is glorious and huge, like the tall, blond horsemen from the North. His skin
is shining white, and his beard is as golden as his enormous crown. (He looks as
ridiculous as the creepy Burger King guy.) He wears a massive, fluffy cloak made
of white fox tails. When he reaches the holy water strop at the doors to the
Great Hall, he and his men shout--in a voice like a multitude--"God be in this
house!"

Rosemarie sneaks downstairs, heart pounding. She spies from a shadowed
doorway as Brother Basil brings the foreign king inside, trembling and bowing.

Oh, he is an angel! Rosemarie deduces from Brother Basil's prostration and
shaking.

Her mother comes down, acting like she wasn't just waiting, blah blah. It
is implied (though Rosemarie doesn't get it) that when their families are
united... things will get cozier. Hildegard's
bumpkin-superstition-unicorn-dirt-vegetable-powered magical beauty entrances
even the great and misogynistic King Sarus, and he cannot keep in perfect
control, though he thinks so. They broker their kids' betrothal. Hildegard
mentions that at least Rosemarie's husband will be handsome, close to her age,
and competent.

Oh Lord! Forgive my doubts, says Rosemarie to herself. Her birthday prayer
has been heard and answered before midnight after all.

She runs back upstairs and falls into a deep, satisfied sleep and dreams of
angels with the face of Sarus. They lift her up, over the gloomy fog of Vepres,
and tickle her with their feathered wings. Etcetera, etcetera, nonsense. She
cries out in her sleep and awakens, tangled in sweaty sheets atop her goosedown
bed. The maidservants ask, What is the matter? What did you dream?

She will never say... else it may not come true.

Comments

  1. I do the same thing when I write my outlines, which sometimes makes it difficult to transition from outline-writing to the actual novel-writing. It's an odd thing, the differences in the voices. I wonder why we do this?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't know!! But I feel less crazy not being the only one with this experience. I think I write my notes the way I would talk to someone, explaining the story, so it's more conversational and abbreviated. It almost sound like I'm trying to pitch the story to myself. Weird.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I do the same thing. I have receipts, Post-It's, scraps of looseleaf, random sentences in a Moleskine, random paragraphs in a regular leather bound journal.....yea. And when I try to fit them all together, damn. It's tough for me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The conversational tone makes sense. It makes the outline more casual, therefore lessening the pressure that the novel causes. Or maybe I'm just making that up.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh good. Thank you, Lexi. More company on the crazy train. I currently have a small bushlike formation of sticky notes on my writing desk that supposedly fit together into a genius story, if I could only read my writing and remember what I meant by that strange phrase.

    Meika, I think you're totally right. Writing is much less intimidating when you can spill the story out like you're talking to a friend on the phone about something you saw on TV. I think it's less hard to put down the pretty words when the plot, at least, is already covered. Also, after taking some incredibly harsh and psychologically damaging writing courses in college, it helps for my notes to sound as un-academic as possible.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ahh, those college writing courses. It took forever to get the things those classes taught me out of my head. They're creativity-killers, for sure!

    ReplyDelete

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