Monday, December 15, 2008

The Joys of Literary Schizophrenia

I've discovered it's impossible to plan these blogs. I've tried. Some days I have every intention of having a rant and then I get sidetracked and I end up waffling about something completely unrelated.

I have a feeling today will be one of those days. It's a Monday again. It's a rainy, windy Monday morning. It reminds me of England when the weather is like this. The sidewalks are shiny with puddles, the wind tosses the fallen leaves which stick to everything with the dampness. The wind manages to blow the rain so no matter whether you have a hood or an umbrella, there's no fighting the rain and you end up wet. As is always the case on Mondays, I didn't want to get up. I wanted to lie longer, listening to the howl of the wind outside. Yet, as is also always the case on Mondays, I knew I couldn't.

I take pleasure in the fact that this my last week of work before the holidays. That, alone, made it easier to emerge from my covers and get out of bed. This week is actually already better. I have 95% of my shopping done. I giftwrapped last night. My Christmas cards are mailed. And, writing wise, I think I'm back on track.

Now I'm pulling out of my mini-funk, writing is easier. I'm editing the first novel I ever wrote at the moment. I'm intending to try, once more, to throw my lot into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest this year with this novel. I know a lot of writers hate to edit but I have to say, I actually enjoy it as long as I don't do it immediately after I write a novel. I tend to work on other projects for a while and then, when I'm ready, I go back to the novel and edit. I love doing that; it's a luxury to have already created that fictional world I'm reentering and just being able to look around, listen to the characters whose story I'm telling and see if it still fits. It's like getting to hang out with old friends again.

That's what's happening at the moment. I love my first novel, Rainlight. That's just an opinion, not an expression of arrogance. It's a novel about three teenage boys who all have their own issues to deal with. One of them, David, is hearing strange voices, mysterious whispers that he doesn't understand. His brother, John, is just trying to survive under the tyrannical thumb of his religiously zealous father. John's best friend Michael, has been diagnosed as bi-polar. The three of them are just trying to survive, to seem normal although normalcy keeps eluding them. It's a strange novel but it's not really mine; it belongs to David, John and Michael. They're just nice enough to let me tell their story. And I'm not nice back which is a little unfair. I'm not good at telling stories with puppys, rainbows and sparkles. Their story is funny, poignant and, at moments, heartbreaking. You'll hate me at the end if you ever read it but it's only the first novel in a series of five and in order for the larger story to be told, sacrifices had to be made.

So I'm revisiting that novel at the moment. I still love it but since I wrote it, I've written seven more and lots of short stories. My writing is better now, more fluid. I'm not trying to be Stephen King or Neil Gaiman anymore; I've figured out who I am as a writer. I've a thousand influences but, in the end, it's my writing that has to shine. Editing Rainlight after writing so much other stuff feels like a treat. I've mentioned before how I don't think I'd be a good fit in a writing program. The truth is though I think there are things I can gain from them, ultimately, the goal of a writing program is to make me into a better writer and if writing eight novels hasn't done that, no writing program will.

But writing those other novels has done that. It was hard to write Revelation, the last book in my series about John, David and Michael. It meant I had to leave those characters and move on. Yet they never really left me, they lie low, waiting until it's their turn again. In the meantime, I've 'found' other characters: Jimmy DeLeon, a modern day Joab from the Old Testament, trying to be a loyal soldier for his boss, Ethan, the modern day King David. Briar Richards, whose love for her skater boy threatens to destroy the fragile connection to life to which she clings. And then there's Ryder, Bastian, Foster and Gaz, my Sleepers. Some of them are dead, some of them are not but they all have ties to Sleep, a place where a few chosen go when they die in hopes to find meaning and redemption from their troubled lives.

I don't know which characters will find me next though I have a suspicion that Gaz, from my novel Sleep, will not be appeased. He's the type who knows how to get his own story; no matter how quiet my other voices, Gaz is willing to pipe in and let me know he's waiting.

You probably think I'm crazy. I probably am. Though a friend who is also a writer told me that she, too, hears the voices and she calls it her literary schitzophrenia. I love that term. It's so accurate and true. When I hear my voices, my heart leaps, just a little. No matter how dark life can get, those voices sometimes get me through. They let me follow them into their world for a while and they let me sketch it with words. It's a haven and I love it.

I've only edited Rainlight for one night and already I feel different. I feel like there's a piece of me missing when I'm not writing or talking to my characters. That piece of me is back and it feels right. While I'm editing, I'm still submitting, still trying to find that one agent or publisher who really does want to take a chance on a new writer. Somehow the rejections are a little less painful when I'm content with writing or editing because I remember again why I write in the first place.

I can't wait to get back to editing tonight. It makes getting through the workday easier. It makes the numbing dullness of my day job tolerable because my night job is waiting.

Happy Monday.

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