Saturday, January 14, 2012

Writing Novels: Memory

Hi, peeps. I'm taking January to talk about writing novels (not selling them.) Novels change me. On each journey, I find a piece of myself and leave it on the page. My second novel was a very different experience than my first. I knew in a moment. This novel came to me in a flash. It was born of a memory, you know that memory, the one from childhood, the emotional rich memory that somehow dwells in the now, not in the long ago.

For me it was when a tornado ripped through my parents property when I was 13-year-old. I was alone, my family had gone into town. The sun was shining, but part of the sky just slapped down and hit the Earth. I watched as the dozen or so outbuildings were ripped apart behind the house. Trees were torn out of the ground. The house shook like it made out of pixie sticks. That memory still haunts my dreams.

The memory boiled up during a writing exercise and when it did I knew I had a book. I was taking one of Peggy King Anderson's most brilliant classes. If you live in the Seattle area, really try to work one in your schedule. The exercise was write a emotion rich memory and rewrite that memory as fiction. She encouraged us to write the first memory that came to us. The pages poured out of me. I left class and couldn't stop writing.

Then I switched to a fiction voice, and immediately a character seemed to jump out of my head onto the page. This girl, I knew, I knew her as well as my own children. It was electrifying. Chapters grew. This was nothing like my first novel. I had no outline, nothing. I just wrote. And in maybe six months, I had written a middle grade novel. I rewrote the whole thing and in a year had a solid draft.

This one brought me close to the bone. It made me understand that wildness could be a real asset in writing a novel. I wrote everywhere. I took my laptop the ballet practice, gymnastics, band, and the school queue and I'd balance it on my steering wheel and write. I didn't waste a moment.

I hope you mine you memories, folks. Energy lurks there that will propel your work forward. See you next week.

This week's doodle is a personal fav. I call it, "Yoda was wrong. Try there is!"


My quote this week is another one to tuck in your soul. I really wish RWE and I had been friends.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. Ralph Waldo Emerson

4 comments:

Faith Pray said...

Mining your memories... I've been reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and relishing this idea of routing out my smells and tastes and rawness that kind of get lost in the broadness of memories. Amazing that one intense memory burst out so fully into your story world. That's so cool. Here's to more happy mining in 2012!

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Faith, I think we all have memories that changed the whole course of our lives. That day with the tornado was a moment in time that significantly shaped the rest of my life.

I think it is important to find that memory that we have a white hot emotional connection to and in some way was our personal turning point. I honestly believe that what you know is wrapped up in those formative emotional memories and it must pulled into your story world to every say anything.

I also like Julia Cameron's book FINDING WATER. I did the exercises in it for a year and realized as much as I wanted to write, I was avoiding saying anything. When I began to write the secret memories things sort of broke loose for me.

Just thinking. I really love our conversation here. I do hope you draw deep things from the well of your memories. Hugs.

Vijaya said...

Wonderful post, esp. since I remember reading your book, even after all these years. Another book that has helped me to mine my memories is Natalie Goldberg's Old Friend from Far Away. Like Julia Cameron, I find that NG brings out some of my best writing. And there's always Peggy!

MollyMom103 said...

I have not read that one by Natalie Goldberg. I will give it a look. :)