Tag Archives: bees

draft/other

indexThis summer, I’ll run a class at the Writers League of Texas’s Summer Writing Retreat, August. Here are some questions they asked me about the rough draft of a novel, my topic for the class.

-What is it about the rough draft that’s so difficult? It’s a longer process than a short story/poem/magazine piece. So you stay longer in not knowing. To know the story, you have to write it, messily, badly, imperfectly. Later you may perfect it, but to stay in the uncertainty a long time is trying for most. Including me.

-For you, what’s the most challenging part of the writing process? The most rewarding? The most challenging is the rough drafts, the only place I can begin to know characters and what they’re doing. My first rough draft is always so amazingly bad that it’s hard for me to see what I’ve accomplished, which is usually a plotting piece, what happens when or what should happen but isn’t there yet. Characters emerge (shakily, not fully formed) in the first draft, too. I love editing, when I have enough rough draft to shape, enough rough draft under me like a rock to hold me up as I really craft the story.

index-When is a novel “finished”? I’m tired of it and cannot do another thing to it. This is after several drafts and polishes. Just can’t. Put a fork in me, I’m done. But I also have a really good sense of story, the pace of it, the waves of it. So I know when I’ve got that wave up to the climax of the story and then the falling back to end.

-As a sneak peek into your upcoming class, what’s one invaluable tip for those working through a rough draft? Realize what a draft is and what you’re searching for in one.

-Are you currently “in the rough”? You better believe it, although I’m on a second draft. Bad enough to discourage me, but solid enough to give me wing space to fly into the story at times and “to know.” That’s when I know I have the story, a certain “knowing” of the characters. They no longer feel like cartoon strangers with balloon dialog above their mouths. They are real in some place in me that writes. I know the story will happen–not when it will happen to be finished–just that it will happen and be a story when I have the feeling of knowing the characters, which I am relieved to say has happened in this fifth book.

indexAnd more, writing life this week:

I saw a vivid image of the word “stricken” at a funeral this weekend. It was the pale face of a 14-year-old whose father had died. The expression on his face transfixed me, and I’ve thought about it on and off all week. Yesterday, the word “stricken” floated up, and I knew that’s what I’d seen……

Carpenter bees are in a tizzy at the garage, whose cedar lures them every year to drill nest holes. They hover a dozen at a time, like clumsy landing craft, near the holes. It takes them a long time to find their particular hole, a perfect circle on the outside. They drone. They’re large. This only happens for a few months, and I love it. It helps comfort me as I think about the stricken boy I saw.

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9/11 sunday


To continue my poet Mary Oliver* theme: which is my work which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished….I forget how to do this simple task but Youngest- Grandson-not-quite-two reteaches me…..astonished each time he visits at the goldfish in the pond, wanting to feed them, wanting to smell the fish food over and over, never tiring of either, wanting to put leaf hats on the little fat stone buddha’s head, saying hat each time, waiting for the carpenter bees, saying bee loudly when we see one, wanting me to sing yet again, be my little baby bumble bee, calling mosquitoes bees and laughing like mad when I correct him and say, mosquito, mosquito…..it’s the same thing each and every time…..my simple treasures are a miracle to him, and I am reminded anew–as the significance of this anniversary day points out–what treasures I possess**…..

Another treasure: the garden muse allowed a prose/poem to burble up. It had been so long I’d forgotten I did this…..had an attack of inspiration. Here it is:  A small kamakasi hurtles toward me, wings fluttering in rapid beats. No rising sun on the side, this small missile is nonetheless intent, zooming toward the next feeder…..

Details: I saw my first hummingbird (I’m trying to lure them with feeders) on Tuesday and almost didn’t recognize what it was until it was a foot away. Two days later, I’m seating at an Archway Gallery reading, listening, and there the words are. I scribble them on the paper listing the readers.

So….what’s inspired you lately?

*Hit this to hear Mary Oliver read…..**Hit above on words treasures I possess to hear treasure……