Madwoman in the Forest, Sports edition…..
Spent Saturday at the Section III Boys’ Swimming Championship down in Syracuse, because Number One Son qualified in two events. Actually, BH spent all day at the pool. I spent most of the day in the car in the parking lot, working on my laptop. BH would text me as one of Son’s events came up, and I’d shut down the computer and go in to watch and cheer him on. Combining parenting with writing isn’t always pretty, but it can be done.
He took 4th in the section in the 100 breaststroke and tied for 6th in the 200 IM. The breaststroke time was a personal best and a State-qualifier, so even though the kids up here have MidWinter Break this week, he’s got to get up and go to swim practice.
Running update: I had a small medical procedure done on my leg last week, but will soon be lacing up and hitting the road again.
Onto the questions!
You wrote: Do you ever get major panic attacks about whether the story you are writing is good enough? How do you deal with the uncertainty?
I freak out about my writing ALL THE TIME. As in, every day. Sometimes many times a day. I am a neurotic, self-doubting, insecure bowl of Author-Jello. The only way I know to deal with uncertainty is to keep plowing ahead. Also, never let yourself throw your manuscript into a blazing fire. Very bad.
You wrote: Any advice for a youngish writer who has a burning desire, passion, need to write…. and yet is completely at a loss for plot? I don’t even know if I want it to be fantasy or more realistic… I just have this ache to write something that I would want to read. I am also compelled to write a positive female role model for young girls (like Melinda) for girls — I’m a high school English teacher, and while I love the escapism of some of the popular fantasy books out there, I worry about the message they send to our young girls (i.e. that you have to change who you are – literally – to be with the man you love…)
But beyond that, I have no real plot ideas. Do your story lines come first? Or can you start writing and have the plot … sort of … come to you, like mana from heaven? Suggestions on how I can rustle up one of those dang plots? 😀
Sounds to me like you should give yourself permission not to worry about plot for a while. Just do character sketches. Sit down for fifteen minutes and freewrite about one of those girls you mentioned. Not a real person, make her up. Start with a small, specific detail, like a description of her fingernails or the smell inside her backpack, and run from there.
My YA novels usually begin in my frustration with a situation that many teens find themselves in, something that makes me upset. (WINTERGIRLS = Eating Disorders, f.ex.) But I think that if I focused on plot first, the stories would never go beyond “problem novel” fare. To me, the most interesting element is character. So I ponder a situation, do a lot of character freewriting, and wait for a new voice to pop into my head and start whispering. I do not worry about straightening out the plot bones until after I have written a mess of a first draft.
This might not work for you – all process is personal. But I do think you might enjoy just writing for a while, without overthinking plot needs.
NOTE: Last week I got an email from a student who had what she thought was a great core set of plot points for her novel. She wrote to me (very politely, yay!) and asked if I would please supply her with a few rising action and falling action sequences.
I declined (also politely). Sometimes, all the advice in the world doesn’t matter. You just need what Jane Yolen calls “BIC,” Butt-In-Chair time.