My week is filled, same as yours, with all the daily to-do’s and little extras that wedge their way between an already full schedule. But somehow, when a friend calls to chat and asks what I’ve been up to, I quickly answer, “Same ole stuff. Not much is new.”
But that isn’t true for any of us. Lots of things happen each day.
Remember my Wednesday Prompt and Inspiration about recording the events of the day, including the many details involving your five senses?
This Wednesday’s Prompt and Inspiration will ask you to document your day again. This time, add your emotions. Instead of writing how the sticky bun felt in your fingers, tasted with your coffee, smelled, or looked on your plate beside your paper napkin (half scribbled over with ideas for your next novel), give your reader some of what’s going on behind the scene. And by the way, the sticky bun scenario is just an example… However, if you feel like dropping in at your local coffee shop, buying a sticky bun and a cup of coffee for this exercise, I wish you a bon appetite!)
Let’s keep going with an example of what I mean by “behind the scene.”
As you bring the flaky, honey-dripping, icing-coated, delicacy to your lips, the caramel-coated, almond slices touch your tongue. Your taste buds awaken. Unexpectedly, you find yourself reminiscing about a snowy afternoon at your Grandmother’s house when you were ten. You recall the red and white, checkered, oil cloth draped over her old, wood table. You can still smell the cherry tobacco from your Grandpa’s pipe as he sits in his favorite chair, puffing softly and thoughtfully. You can still see out the window beside you. Three of Grandpa’s cows are grazing under the Willow tree his father planted. And in addition to these cozy vignettes, you recall your grandmother setting a plate before you with a warm sticky bun, fresh from her oven with icing melting down the sides.
There is always more happening while we go about our daily to-do’s. Our thoughts are active and fleeting, but often the details provided by our memories can add a new level to our writing (or a nice way to work in a little piece of important back story).
Are you ready to grab you notebook and see where the day leads you?
As always, I’d love to hear from you.
But first, the story that leads to the critique…
Since my daughter was a baby, I either read a picture book to her at bedtime or told her a story from my childhood. (These days, she prefers to do the reading herself.) Back when she was four, she asked for an animal story. I recalled a mouse our cat had cornered by the front door when I was ten.
Here is the extremely condensed version. (Please read the opening dramatically.)
Inches from pouncing on a helpless, half-frozen mouse, the wind howled, and the bell, dangling from our cat’s leather collar, rang. Inside our house, my mother heard the faint jingle and opened the front door. With agile speed, she snatched the quivering mouse from our cat, trapping it in her cupped hands. Then, my mother brought in a terrarium from the garage, (Doesn’t everyone keep a glass terrarium in their garage for those “just-in-case” moments?)fashioned a suitable home, and placed the terrarium in the kitchen. A minute later, the cat went bonkers, and my Mom released the mouse to the great outdoors. The End.
“What happened next?” my daughter asked.
I shrugged. “Who knows? My mother opened the door, and the little fellow dashed under a bush. We never saw him again.”
I turned off the light and wished her a good night’s sleep. I wasn’t three feet down the hall when she let out the boom…the question that kept me glued to my computer for the next few years.
“You’re a writer. MAKE SOMETHING UP!”
She can be very persuasive.
As the outline for the story grew to sizable proportions, I decided to enroll in a middle grade writing course (Up to this point, picture books had been my main focus.)
My instructor passed a piece of “writerly” wisdom to me. “It’s obvious how much you care for your main character. Now get back to your computer and let life happen to him. Chase him to the edge of a cliff, throw rocks, give him bad food…just don’t kill him.”
“The writer is both a sadist and a masochist.
We create people we love,
and then we torture them.”
My daughter came up to me as I reworked a scene. “WHY are you crying?” She looked at me stunned.
“Mommy is crying because she is challenging the existence of her beloved main character,” I choked out.
“What?” she rightfully questioned for a child of her age.
“You see, sweetheart, Mommy found a way to reach her main character’s heart and hurt him where it really matters.”
“Stop it! she pleaded. “You LOVE him!”
“I’m doing it to improve the story and make it publishable,” I said.
“The don’t do it. Pleeeeeeeeease. Keep the story as it is just for me.”
Well, I kept hurling those rocks, and when I finished the novel, I realized the distance I had grown as a writer.
By the time the course ended, my instructor wrote she was captivated by the tale as well as the development of my characters and encouraged me to get it published. Wanting a second opinion, I researched various copy editors to find a good match to critique my manuscript. Her price seemed high, but I deemed it a good investment.
A month later, I received my manuscript along with the promised forty page critique. The first pages rang of high praise and the rest…. My spirits were crushed, dashed, destroyed, annihilated, terminated, and obliterated. Should I go on, or are you grounded in the picture? (This experience, I am certain, seats me in the same boat with countless other writers.)
I turned my back on my story. (Shame on me.)Today, two years of dust blanket the returned manuscript pages and critique.
Yesterday, while out running errands, my daughter asked me to remind her about the novel.
During the retelling of the adventure, I found myself missing the whole crew of characters I had so carefully created. I missed the swashbuckling adventures and the mishaps. I choked on tears as I told of the near-death moments, and the triumph of survival. It was there, in the car, that I realized the critique I received was one person’s opinion. So, for the first time in two years, I’m going to blow the dust off my story, literally, read it with (extremely) fresh eyes, change what needs changing, and prepare to send my manuscript out into the world.
As I prepare to submerge myself back into my most cherished story, I wish you all happy writing.
Feel like sharing a critique memory of your own? I’d love to hear it. Scroll to the top of this post and click Comment.
Blog post after blog post, writers (myself included) love to quote the profound musings, thoughts, and philosophies of great writers and other famous individuals.
Because we read those brilliant phrases and think to ourselves, gosh, I can’t believe how much Hemingway and I have in common. Imagine both of us feeling the same way about the writing process…. Sigh.
Don’t we all, in our various professions, (writers included) have thoughts worth sharing? Aren’t we all brimming with quotable feelings on the subjects closest to our hearts–thoughts so profound they deserve to go viral? Okay, I’ll back off a tad…. How about, quotable feelings so profound they deserve to get tweeted a few times?
Today, I have decided to quote someone who isn’t famous. She is a writer like so many other writers in the world. She sits at her computer daily, pouring out her inner most feelings, eats low-prep meals, drinks coffee in excess, dresses frumpy, celebrates the hole in her sweater, labeling it Wabi Sabi (see earlier post) for its natural, imperfect beauty, snarls at the ringing phone for snapping her from her stream of thought, ignores the precarious pile of crusty dishes in the sink, and sprays scented room freshener on the heap of smelly laundry. (Actually, it isn’t quite that bad…)
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