I didn't write any of my story last weekend. I didn't write all week. I looked at a couple of my research books, but only to see when they were due back at the library. (This Saturday.) I was given a chance at some real help from a woman who writes and edits books out in California. So grateful and extremely excited, I busted out plots, a summary and a tag line. When I got to the part of the outline that required me to write what happens in each chapter, I wrote a tiny sketch of the first four, not even sure those would be the first four chapters. Then I froze up and now here I am. I gave myself ten days to get this done. If I want to be finished with my book before next spring, I need to get on it right? But I am in doubt that I am any good at this. I doubt that my characters will be strong. I doubt the plot. The funny thing about doubt is that you can't just (well, I can't anyway) doubt one thing, eventually it all breaks down and you end up even doubting your existance.
Ever since I could put sentences together I have been writing stories or volumes of journals, an endless sea of letters to friends and family. I have enough practice under my belt. I know what I like to read. I know the difference between good and bad writing. Why would I write badly if I know the difference? I won a writing contest that involved publishers and screenwriters judging the stories. I know deep in my soul, I'm onto something here. My success seems to always stop at second best. Why am I afraid to try for first place? What could happen that would be so bad? Why am I afraid to write on this blog every day? Afraid you can't relate? You'll be bored? You wouldn't be coming back, I think, if I bored you by now. My love for writing is just an example of anyone's dream. I could be writing about becoming a chef. It's all the same. Insert your dream here.
Yesterday I went a-wandering. (as the song goes) and I found myself at the discount bookstore. I wandered over to the writers help section. One book caught my eye. The Fire in Fiction. It was only after my interest in the book that I noticed the author's name. Donald Maass. I knew it was a sign my wandering wasn't just an accident. Do you know that one of the prizes at that writing contest (back in Colorado in 2005) was to have Donald Maass take a look at your book and provide you with helpful feedback? He has a literary agency in New York. I didn't win his prize, but I'll never forget his name. It was like he was the prize to strive for; his was the top prize of the evening. So I began reading some of the book last night. I skipped around and found the reason why I was lead to that wonderful book.
The story I am working on now is so close to my heart. I have been hiding it in there for years. Doubting I could justify my feelings or portray them accurately. Doubting anyone would believe it or care. Then I read this paragraph from Mr. Maass' book:
Think about it. Hackneyed plots and stereotypical characters don't work. We brush them off. Stories that stretch our minds and charaters who challenge our view of ourselves...ah, those are the ones we remember. They are the stuff of which classics are made. So start by making sure that you put yourself into your novel: your views, your hurts, your questions, your convictions, your crazy-weird take on it all. Give all that to your characters or simply give it to yourself when you write. You've kept it inside for too long. It is time to let it out and to let it make a noise.
What is the truth that you most wish the rest of us would see? That is the purpose of your novel. That is your message. I wish more manuscripts had them. A great many do not.
Having something to say or something you wish us to experience, is what gives your novel its power. Identify it. Make it loud. Do not be afraid of what's burning in your heart. When it comes through on the page, you will be a true storyteller.
When I read that, I wanted to leap for joy. I am those thoughts. I am that writer. I just have never written that story on paper. But that is what I am doing now. I can do this. I know I can because it is me. I never tried before, because I was never good at making a loud noise in front of others. If backed into a corner I'm sure I made noise, but I don't remember ever volunteering a real glimpse into my heart and soul. Maybe bits and pieces, but nothing loud enough that anyone would take notice. I keep saying over and over. I want to be noticed. I want to be someone in the world. I want to leave my mark upon it; something that says Victoria Thurman did exist here. Now is my time.
I will come back to these words when I doubt myself. This is not an untangible goal, writing a good story, because it is already inside of me. I need to just feel that freedom to let it go.