Weaving and Writing

Weaving 2
I’m in the process of learning how to weave. As I’ve worked my way through the learning curve, the phrase “weaving a story” has taken on a whole new meaning. If you’ve never tried weaving, here are some of the highlights.

• The longest and most intense part of the process is in the preparation.
• No matter how careful you are, threads will get tangled, sometimes hopelessly, forcing you to cut them out.
• Threads will twist when you least expect it.
• If you don’t press hard enough on the beater to keep the rows close together, you’ll end up with holes in your work.
• It’s easy to get confused as to which way you’re working, especially when you have to stop and pick up your work later.
• When using a variegated thread (as I am), you don’t know what the finished product will look like until you’re finished.

Starting a new project fills me with excitement and anticipation. Sometimes I get to a point where I’m tired of the pre-process and just want to get to the writing. If I skimp on my research, character development, or plot line, it’s not long before I get stuck. Having to stop and do more research, brainstorm new ideas, or sit down and have a heart-to-heart with my main character ultimately takes longer than if I’d taken the time I needed in the preparation stage.

I love my words and stories. I can go off on tangents or fill my manuscripts with words and scenes I think are beautiful and marvelous. But when I objectively look back, I discover a tangled mess. The only solution, painful as it is, is to cut out the sections that do not contribute to the story.

Even with all the planning in the world, my story occasionally takes an unexpected twist. At times, this can add dimension and design. Or, I may find myself trapped in a dead end. Then I must retrace my steps to where the twist happened and fix it.

I need to work consistently on a project. When I continuously pick it up and put it down, I lose that momentum that causes a story to flow. That leads to holes in the plot, disappearing characters, and forgetting where I was headed in the first place.

At times, like during NaNoWriMo, it can be fun, invigorating, and refreshing to just write, not knowing how it will turn out until the end. While this approach does contain some risk, the story may end up being worthwhile, or a piece whose value is contained in the practice and the process. Either way, the joy is in the journey.

I’m convinced that whoever coined the phrase, “weaving a story” must have been both a weaver and a writer. The parallels are inspiring. So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my weaving . . .

(Pictured above: My loom is warped (threaded) to weave bookmarks, four at a time, as favors for an upcoming convention luncheon. Ultimately, I’ll need to make 100.)

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It’s November–and NaNoWriMo Is In Bloom

For the next month, my house will be crowded with strangers who will quickly become more real to me than my family. Don’t call the men in the white coats to come and take me away unless you are going to call them on the thousands of people all over the world who will find their homes invaded in the same way. We are all willing, and even eager participants in NaNoWriMo (not to be confused with alien Mork’s “Nano nano” greeting made popular in the 80s sitcom Mork and Mindy that catapulted Robin Williams to stardom.)

No, NaNo, as it is known to those who love it, is, according to the official website, “30 days and nights of literary abandon.” It is indeed. I abandon cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, sleeping, friends, family, and any other normal activity. All that matters for the month is the literary high road. Fortunately, my family humors and loves me enough to put up with me during this lofty endeavor. Although I will admit to have found them quaking in their boots at the realization that November and the “winter of their abandonment” is once again upon them.

The pursuit of this activity in a variety of coffee shops, book stores, and libraries usually raises several questions from the non-writers I encounter. One I always get is, “So when is your book going to be published?” Writing and publishing a book are two very different and distinct processes. No matter what anyone may tell you, a novel written in 30 days is not a novel as such but merely a first draft. This act of creation whether done in 30 days, 30 months, or 30 years is just the beginning.

A second question is “Can something written in 30 days be any good?” Probably not. That’s why one of my first writing workshop instructors told us, “We really shouldn’t call ourselves writers. We should call ourselves ‘re-writers.'” The first draft is only the start. Eventually, if the writer is diligent and hard-working, there may come a time when the novel is indeed ready to meet the general public. The Night Circus and Water for Elephants are just two of many whose incarnation started as a humble Nano novel. I can guarantee that they were not anywhere near publishable as a first draft. That is simply the nature of the writing beast. After November is when the “real” writing begins.

And the third most often-asked question I get is, “Where do you get your ideas and how can you possibly write that much?” As a creative writer type, the issue is deciding which of the thousands of ideas that cross my brain and characters who try to convince me to let them out of my head do I give the “Get Out of Jail Free” card this year? Where do they all come from? None of us really knows or understands. It’s something we live with and sometimes take for granted. But one thing is certain: life in our heads is never dull.

And so, along with thousands of my closest soul mates, I embark on this most noble mission: to fill the world with yet another silly novel (with apologies to Paul McCartney). Best wishes and happy writing to all of my fellow Nanowrimos. I’ll keep you posted.

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