Who Else Does This When You Write?

The last three weeks have been fully loaded with family events, keeping up with my children, Christmas shopping, and trying to dig myself out of the mess in my house.

A new idea for a series has been tugging at my imagination. I’ve been “writing” as much as possible (aka… rearranging my office) because my word count has been so small. And the process has been agonizingly slow. Good, but slow.

Hello, 4,000 words out of 50,000!!

NaNoWriMo2018 , I think I’ve failed… (NaNoWriMo is an annual writing “sport” of sorts where the writing community challenges themselves to write a novel, 50,000 words in length at least, in the month of November, dubbing it National Novel Writing Month).

Then, closer to the deadline I get (and the more I organize my office), the FULL PICTURE of the entire series slams into my brain, plot holes are suddenly filled, characters are speaking loudly inside my head, and details are lit up like Christmas lights.

This happens Every. Single. Time.

But now … There’s so much to do and so little time. Now, I’ll likely be writing through the night in a fury of inspiration.

I’ve never been able to pace myself, as hard as I try. My best results happen by pulling all-nighters, lighting the keyboard on fire with my fingertips, then sleeping for 24 hours straight.

This “process” (if you can call it that) is near impossible as a parent. Hence, the drastic drop in writing projects since I’ve become a mother. I type using a Bluetooth keyboard in carline. I jot notes on the back of my shopping list in the grocery store parking lot. I save as much as I can using writing apps on my phone.

I’ve been passionate about (read: obsessed with) learning about the process of other writers. Maybe it’s because I love imagining how they do it, stringing words together until they have a beautiful novel. I imagine they sit down im their designsted writing spot (or their writing spot for the moment) and click away on a laptop, piecing together a lovely chapter, clicking “save”, and happily getting back to it the next day. Is this a reality for successful writers, or a ridiculous concept? … Maybe it’s because I’ve always, for YEARS, wanted to learn to write like a grown up. You know, like a REAL writer. Such as developing a daily writing habit. Reaching a daily wordcount goal. Outlining (REAL outling, not descriptive, disconnected paragraphs scribbled on scrap pieces of paper and tossed into a floral box). I’ve always imagined myself telling other writers one day, with an air of importance, “Create a system. One that works like a well-oiled machine. One you can depend on. Like a quality sewing machine that never misses a stitch, even and consistent. Stick with your habit, no matter what. Then you’ll be able to write your novel.” I listen to podcasts of successful writers. I watch interviews of them. I read about them with hopeful bliss, thinking, “That’ll be me one day.”

Right now, the only advice from experience I can give, is to chase that idea while it’s hot … Like gobbling a pancake fresh off the griddle. Once it cools, it’s not nearly as delicious.

Tosca Lee says, “Write how you write best.” Stephen King says to write however works best for you, whatever that looks like. Read, write, repeat (not so much in those words…)

No matter how much time I have in advance, the best work happens at the last minute for me. The majority of the time leading up to the deadline is dreamy contemplation, eliminating characters that don’t fit, scenes that implode, and plot lines that simply don’t work. I call it “mental writing”.

Then, as the pressure of the deadline approaches, and the thrill of completion taunts me, everything comes together in a whirlwind, like a tornado picking up planks of wood and somehow slapping together a gorgeous house.

What is your process? How do you write best? What are your obstacles?

Now… Will someone please come help me put my office back together again…?

Every Time I am Asked This Question, My Heart Siezes

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

It never fails.

Every time I encounter someone who asks, “How’s the writing going?”, my heart siezes and gets lodged in my throat.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being asked the question (despite my knee-jerk emotional reaction). It’s a sign of support. It’s a sign of care. Of interest.

But what leaps into my mind isn’t that incredible short story that I recently submitted to a contest. Or that article that took a lot of work, but was deeply satisfying to see in print. No, the only things that come to mind are the broken stories that never made it to the eyes of a reader, and the failed ambitions that make me want to crouch in a corner and whimper.

I see that romance novel I wrote that never made it to the shelves. That Young Adult fantasy novel that never made it to revision stages, even after an agent enthusiastically asked me to send her the full manuscript the moment it’s polished up. That new idea, the dark fairytale re-imagining that I was so excited about, I even told people about it as a way of accountability, forcing me to the finish line with supporting friends/family looking out for it.

When my cousin recently asked me The Question the other day, I found myself hanging my head and saying, “I don’t know, you know? Maybe novel writing isn’t my thing.”

I then wanted to kick myself. I wanted to tell him about the short story I wrote about a middle-aged man who met an Arabian princess on as subway train (Death Over Coffee), or about the post-apocalyptic novelette about a community of survivors learning just how important it is to rely on each other (Pretty Little Ponies).

I wanted him to read them.

Photo by Simson Petrol

And you know what? Maybe novel writing isn’t my thing. So what? Novels aren’t the Mark of a Writer. It isn’t the only way to tell a story.

Take Jason Reynolds, the extremely talented poet who writes raw and real stories exactly as he sees them. His novel “A Long Way Down” is a beautiful, quick read compared to the average young adult novel as thick as a brick.

Or what about Stephen King? Sure, he has novels to his name, but his short stories are the favorites among many of his fans.

In THIS VIDEO, Robert McCammon says this about writing short stories: “You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you’re telling a unique story that would never be told unless you tell it.”

I swear I’m not trying to compare myself to, or place myself in the same category as, big time authors. I’m not trying to justify my failures.

But I am pointing out what they did RIGHT.

They WROTE.

They didn’t give up.

No matter the length, content, genre popularity, these guys just plain wrote what was in their head. They let the story just be what it is.

Photo by Artak Petrosyan

And it WORKED.

So that is how it should be. That is how it will be. That is what I’ll do.

I’ll write on.

 

#betheanomaly

Parting Ways with an Old Friend is Never Easy, Even When the Friend is an Unexpected One.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

Tonight, I parted ways with a dear old friend.

This friend has been with me for over ten years. I found her in a trash bag full of hand-me-down clothes given to us by a church member.

It was love at first sight.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

I immediately began sharing with her stories that I’d been wanting to put on paper for a very long time. She encouraged the creativity like a silent but steady muse.

A few years ago when she began to show her age, I put her back together using decorative tape.

But alas, the friendship was not meant to last.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

She began to age more and more.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

At long last, I have decided to retire her. She will go on the shelf with my other prized novels and rest, a constant and gentle reminder of how far I’ve come.

She’ll represent the hard work, tears, open heart, vulnerability and thick skin involved in the writing process. And she’ll cheer me on as I dive back into the page and fill line after line with fantastical characters and twisty plots.

I’ve adopted a new writing friend.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

(Hello, toes! What lovely polish you have…)

Created from old jeans and imagination, this writing friend will be a tough workhorse for the ideas brewing.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

Now, the page awaits.