Tag Archives: writing fiction

yada

index

Writing: I haven’t written for a couple of weeks as I planned a research trip, got ready for a class, and did some family babysitting in my role as grandmother. So the story feels far away. It’s like climbing back on a wild horse to write at it again. Horse is out there in the corral bucking and snorting, and I’m sitting on the fence looking at it and thinking, I can’t ride that. Can and will. Have before, but it never gets any easier.

Teaching: Leading an Artist’s Way. Not doing it the length Ms. Cameron suggests, but Rice U. makes the rules. We’ll be at it six weeks. Everyone is so eager and interested. I’m in love with them all. Morning Pages I will do. It’s the Artist’s Date that’s hard for me. As Ms. Cameron says, “We hunger for what might be called creative living—an expanded sense of creativity in our business lives, in sharing with our children, our spouse, our friends.” Don’t you?

Me: I’m taking a watercolor class. Have told myself for years I wanted to. Finally got around to it. Have no art or drawing background or preparation, which means I don’t get near the end result I want. zinnaBut I love it…….l….o….v….e……it. It’s a great stretch and good play. I don’t play enough. Do you? It also challenges me. To be bad, a beginner, at something.

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maze

I can’t find the story yet. There are 50,000 words in the computer, but there isn’t a story. This always happens, but because it takes me several years to write a book, I always forget. When I was writing Before Versailles, it was two very rough drafts before I realized the story was Louis XIV’s. It took forever and a day to find what the heartbreak would be for Barbara in Through a Glass Darkly and then build around it. In Dark Angels, I played for months with a romance between Princess Henriette and Monmouth, none of which I used, and thought for awhile I was writing the Louis XIV story I wanted to write….not.

Why do I wander aimlessly for so long? What do you do when you’re lost in the maze? You know this is why writers drink.

follow me

 Secret place of the most high….words from the poetry that is often the language of the King James Bible….

I found one when I went out walking with my youngest grandson on a recent Houston spring night. Lovely, soft weather, a just past half-full moon visible in the not quite twilight sky. He alert and ready in his stroller. Shall we look for acorns (one of our pasttimes)? I ask him, and he says his soft ok that makes me smile. (He’s a few months over 2 years on the calendar but so much wiser. He’s my guide for accessing the lost child in me.) But there are no acorns.

Now we walk with him out of the stroller. He’s good about holding on to the stroller when we cross the streets. For a while, he holds on even when he doesn’t have to, and this small act of obedience always touches me. I always urge him to let go, tell him he doesn’t have to hold on when we’re not crossing the street. There’s something in me moved by his obedience but wanting him to spread his little wings.

We pass a fire hydrant, and I tell him that’s where the firetrucks get water. His father has purchased a firetruck video, and this grandson, as did my older grandson, will sit riveted to watch it from beginning to end.  He talks to the hydrant and touches small chains attached to it. I realize he is creating a huge story in his mind, that in his mind actual trucks are coming to the hydrant or something like that. After a time, I get impatient, tell him to come on, walk a distance away. He stays by the hydrant, talking, talking and playing with the chains. When I give up and walk back, he says, stay, Nana, and I obey.

I teach a class about the novel, about writing. You can’t teach writing, but you can facilitate it, and you can offer some obvious ingredients needed to make a story. I know that the students want a recipe, fixed and easy for fiction, and there isn’t one. You have to have the imagination of this small boy, who is making up and acting out some amazing story in his mind inspired by a fire hydrant.

I wait at the edge of night, the moon rising higher, for his story to end. When it does, he’s tired, ready to be tucked into the stroller. Where’s the moon? he asks me. There, I answer and show him.  Moon follow me, he says.

May it always, I think, and send grandmother blessings his way and think about how lucky I am as we walk home in the enfolding dark…..I’ve been in the secret place of the most high, and it was beautiful…..

What’s your secret place? What are your treasures?

name game

Marquee was a word that came up at the Historical Novel Society Conference I attended in June. Should the main character be a marquee character or not….in other words, someone historically famous? Yes, seemed to be the consensus of New York (as in agents and editors). Philippa Gregory‘s best selling Tudor novels are the source of this.

I had just written a marquee novel, but not on purpose. I wrote it because it was what had to be written in the unfolding saga of the Tamworth family, this family who lives so strongly in my imagination, Barbara and Alice and Richard and Tony and others. Even though no Tamworths were in my marquee novel (there was a slight reference in the draft that was part of a larger scene I ended up cutting), Louis XIV had been brooding way in the background, waiting for me. Somehow, it had to do with this family, with the huge outside forces in their lives.

And now, as I walk carefully around the nesting egg of the next novel, it won’t have a marquee character carrying the story, though likely Louis* and Athenais and Louise will have their places in it. It will likely be similar to Dark Angels, fictional characters reacting to or intimate with actual historical figures. (I adored Charles Stuart and his wayward family. It was great fun to write about them all.)

I just believe in story. The story within drives me. What do you believe in? What makes a good story? A story you want to read? Should the main character be a name, if it’s historical? Why?

*More from my new favorite film Le Roi Danse….I love the actor who plays Louis…. 

wild child

Today I feel a lovely thing, a minute flame inside that will likely grow into the next novel. It wasn’t an idea of the novel flame, but a willingness to even attempt the project flame. For two Saturdays I’ve been talking about the place of creativity among the aspects of writing a novel. Perhaps that moved my own out of its cave. It helped that atop a wonderful class and meeting a new set of wonderful people, I was reading Ellen Gilchrist‘s  The Writing Life.

I talked about the care and feeding of the writer within in my class. So how will I feed my suddenly willing to try again writer? By collaging blank journals. By reading nourishing fiction, which means good fiction of any genre. By going to the museum to see  both Tutankhamun and an exhibit about the art of living in the eighteenth century. By creating dinner parties for people I like. By continuing to go to the Archway Gallery readings to absorb the art and wit and talent of regulars who read there. I must respect and guard that very sweet, very curious, very daring, but very much wanting to please wild and shy child inside from which the stories come.

I will blow on the tiny little campfire flame the wild child just lit and make the fire grow fierce so she can dance wildly and with abandon around it, so the bears that lurk in the woods will stay away, afraid of the flame, afraid of me.