What Keeps Me Going?

It is all about me this time. What more could an author want than the riveted attention of the entire internet and all people of the world swooning for just one more evocative word to flow from my presence?

Was that a tad over the top?

Perhaps. But as exposed as that feels, the opposite (and closer to the truth) is that the crumbs on the collective human counter tops that need wiping off after breakfast each morning have had more intense application of notice than all the words I'm ever likely to write.

So, where am I in the scheme of things? Where did I pop up from?

I've been a voracious reader from a young age. And as all young-uns, had a notion by the time I was fourteen or so of a solution to the world's problems (in story form). And if I only found a writer to write it, I would know how it ended. Thirty-four years later, I shared that ONE story idea at the one, single point in the fabric of time that it made a difference. I started the story that night, having to get out of bed (having laid down for only a minute) to scribble a note for beginning the next day. My mom had sent me a Tandy laptop word processor she'd picked up at a garage sale. For the next eight months I wrote whenever I could and finally a book (400+) pages was born. I remember how surprised I was that the tale actually came to a natural conclusion and stopped. I told my beloved that it was finished and that I wanted to go into town for supper. (I thought to celebrate, he thought we could check a sprinkler and buy a part too). He's a farmer. Doing twofers and threefers is what he does. Nothing is done only for itself--wastes time you know. That's ok. I'm a farmers wife and find it charming in him and make bets with myself on how many things he can put together in seemingly random ways until they all get done on any single trip to town. I also never turn down an opportunity to hit the ladies room. Sitting field side on the way home for an extra hour while a field sprinkler turns is havoc.

What happened during that eight months? I didn't tell the tale. I had to tell her younger sister's story. I think because I had refused to think of the details for all those years that it wouldn't flow for me. But, as I wrote the story of her younger sister who was inspired by her older sister's story, both stories unfolded for me. I wrote the story as I thought writers would, from beginning to end. But, problems began to crop up as I wrote. How to get the characters to behave? I kept checking on them to see what they were doing and writing it down, but they refused to get together for the longest time. I even wondered how long a novel was. I called a publisher. The person who answered the phone told me it depends. When I asked, on what, the conversation went downhill fast. Yes, you can be that ignorant. I was and still am in so many ways.

I knew that if I did write I wanted to write a satisfying story for readers. So many stories go along very well and then, as if a dinner bell rang somewhere, they finish the book too quickly--chopping the end right off. I didn't want that. I also wanted the reader to 'see' the characters the same time as the character did. I played tricks on the reader by misdirection. Oh, how fun that was. Then the middle of the story seemed to drag in the writing of it and I wondered if the characters were EVER going to get where they needed to be--at the end of their thousand mile walk. So, I did something else to keep me interested in the process. I didn't name the most powerful individual in the book, the heroine's father. It took a bit of effort, but he was a minor character. I managed to make it smoothly to the end without readers noticing he had no name. This little game kept me interested in the story enough to keep going. The second book, he's a much more major character and I've still managed to keep him nameless. I've enjoyed that almost as much as finding out I can write two novels. Oddly, the second novel ended in about the same number of pages--don't you think that odd too?

The joy of writing, for me, is the surprise of where the story goes. My premise is that in the future, to assure population control and viable quality control of humans, all the world's people agreed that we would have sterilization implants at the age of eight or so and that you could be anything you wanted to be, but if you wanted children, you must walk a thousand miles through the proving zone and reach the last step. The last step is in Randar, where after your trek, whenever you like, you may have your implant removed and are free to have as many children as you like. A survival of the fittest if you will. Each story explores different reasons people have children as well as the character's personal reason to be going through the Zone. One guy got dumped there as left for dead--he has no idea where he is but he isn't wearing his own clothes when he wakes up. Another character/story, well, let's talk about the last one.

I thought it would be terribly funny if a woman was so vane, she had to have perfect grooming at all times, her hair was dyed. She ended up going through the zone with a man she needs to impress and taking in her backpack everything she needs to maintain her personal image--including her hair dye--which explodes in her pack. I thought it would be a story of blasted vanity. The story went a different direction entirely. The woman was afraid. If she wasn't perfect, she faced horrible consequences from her nanny from the time she was an infant. She could only be free if she was alone. She went catatonic when her hair dye exploded. In the Zone. Where animals, weather, and unstable people hang out.

The changes of direction of stories don't seem to be up to me and they are what keeps me writing. I have to check in with my story people to see what they are doing and write it down. I am each of them as I write. I see out of their eyes and describe what they see. Sometimes they won't move or think and they are stuck in position. This usually happens when I try to make them go somewhere or do something they don't want to do. Other writers tell me this happens when I'm trying to force a character to do things that is out of character for them. They are right. But since I don't know what is happening until it is 'seen' except in the most vague of ways, I often write until I'm stuck or have painted myself and my characters into a corner. Then my subconscious comes to the rescue and the next time I sit down to write, the characters have figured out a way out of the problems I left them in.

What keeps me going? That no-name the important guy game I have going, readers who fight over what a character actually looks like, the fun of describing exactly what I mean even if it takes me fifty tries, the joy of communicating with other writers and their processes of the amazing skill that writing is, my husband's warm regard, and so many other things that add up to so much for me. I've a curious experimental nature and finding how other people's writerly talent expresses itself and how they deal with the process of publishing and that world are all fascinating to me. Last week, on line, I met a woman who is so opposite of me, she plots everything before putting the story on paper. She even knows that every four pages written is one percent of the story finished. She writes about four hundred page books. Wow!

I hope all of you find, if not a passion, then something that fascinates you about what you do, something that keeps you going. That's my Christmas wish for you.

Enjoy your life and the process of living it.


Becky A said...

Merry Christmas Miss Nina and to your handsome farmer hunk too. (Not that I know what he looks like but as a fellow writer of fiction, he has to be handsome. It's in the rules,right?:)
You have so many creative ways to keep the juices flowing. I've never even thought about it. I just "make" myself get back to work which is not much fun. Now I'll have to find something more entertaining to keep me going. Sounds like it would really perk up your book too.
Be thankful that your beloved mentions all the side trips he wants to make before he makes them. Mine gets me miles from home and then surprises me with ten other stops. Then he has the gall to get offended if I get huffy thinking of all the things at home waiting for my time and attention. I don't like to shop and thus we tend to butt heads over his unending desire to shop. Oh well, I think I'll keep him anyway:)
I avoid describing my main characters in detail for the simple reason that everyone sees them differently. My ideal hunk would not be yours, so why should I mess it up for you by making you see mine? I'm told I can't do that but I'm doing it anyway:) I hate it when I start reading a book and get a visual of the hero and heroine only to have it destroyed five pages later by the author. What nerve!
Thanks for the great blog, again. Yours always brings a boost to my day. Becky

ps: my computer code word was:
jusender: just send her, this comment that is. I got a little long winded even for gmail!

jel said...

amazing! :)

merry christmas

Nina Sipes said...

My husband is very handsome to me and has some amazing talents or used to. He could jump, flat-footed, over a cow fence. Wow! And NO, he doesn't tell me in advance how many stops we have before we go to town. I learned early on to take work with me--always. I've done an amazing amount of editing and writing while waiting for him to get through looking at machinery or talking to the machinist guy. However, we now have a few rules. One, if left too long I will go find a drink. Two, if left too long I will go find a toilet I deem useable. So, if pickup isn't where he left me, he can wait until I return--I will be as prompt as possible.

If writing were too awful, I'd go do other things I like better, so I have to make sure writing is pleasurable to me. I am way undermotivated to see my name in print for a reason to write. I enjoy people reading them too much.

Oh, and for the description thing? My sister agrees with you. She would prefer to have her own image in her head and not have much from the author.

Amazing? Bet you are too, in your area of fun stuff.

Thanks for stopping by. Gotta go, darlin' has awakened and decided nurishment is due.

Reese Mobley said...

Nina, I've learned so much about you through this blog adventure. Not only are you a talented writer but you are also an amazing story teller. You never fail to entertain or educate. Thanks for sharing with us. Happy Holidays.

Nina Sipes said...

You are too kind with your compliments. Thank you. (And I'm copying it off to hang on my mirror!)

Blogging with everyone has been a cruise of discovery for me. I knew everyone was kind and sharing, but the amount of knowledge in this group astounds and excites me. I feel as if there isn't any question someone in this group couldn't give a cogent answer to. That is 'cool beans' as we say out here on the farm.

Sweet holidays and warm contentment.

Penny Rader said...

Thank you for the Christmas wish, Nina! I appreciate it and hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

I always enjoy your posts. You have such a gift and such a unique way of looking at things. I especially loved this part: I kept checking on them to see what they were doing and writing it down. :D

Starla Kaye said...

Thanks so much for sharing about yourself. I was perfectly okay with your "all about me" post. It's great fun to learn about our members through their tidbits of writing these messages.

I agree with you, the joy of writing is often the unexpected turns a storyline takes. I've written a whole lot of stories, novellas, and novels and have come to understand that a writer, above all, must be flexible. If you create an outline and try to rigidly follow it, you're only going to torture yourself.

I love writing. I love sharing my stories with people who enjoy them. Personally, I think if your heart isn't in writing (with all of its frustrations), you shouldn't be doing it. Life is far too short to struggle with something that doesn't really make you happy.

Nina Sipes said...

I'm afraid if you look into my brain to see how it is working that you'll find a rusty squirrel cage and a worn out mouse. Occasionally I hear the squeak.

I've spent so much time trying to figure out if I'm 'doing it right' that I wanted to share my process a little with others in case they too are having some comparison issues. As far as I can tell, there are as many ways to come at a story as their are eye colors. And, you're right, if we are going to abandon family, friends, and other activities, we might as well do it for one we enjoy.