I am Meg Moseley. Meg, a writer. Seeking the real God in the real world.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dee Stewart's challenge

On The Master's Artist today, Dee Stewart posted her thoughts about a recent tragedy in Bethlehem, Georgia. She made my heart ache for those kids, all over again, and she challenged me to re-examine my reasons for writing. Sometimes, those reasons get a little warped. They need adjustments to keep them on track.

Life is serious business. We live surrounded by people who are dying for lack of light. I don't want to waste my time--which really belongs to God, not to me--by falling short of whatever God gives me to do to help bring Jesus Christ to people. Even if it's something I'm not especially comfortable in doing.

If you haven't read Dee's post yet, please do. Whether you're a writer or not, I think you'll glean something from it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Chekhov and Snoopy and friends

I'm reading three books about writing, thanks to friends and family who really know what I like for Christmas.

First, I read Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. Now I'll have to read it again. It's full of rule-breaking advice based on the idea that close reading of the masters will do more good than sitting through writing workshops and critique groups that tend to encourage generic writing. Because she uses examples from wonderful books, now my TBR list is even more overwhelming than it was before.

I started reading James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure at the same time. Haven't finished that one yet. It seems like he's more formula-driven, so his advice sometimes contradicts what Francine Prose says, but he has some great ideas for kick-starting the creative process. It's a practical book that will come in handy when I need to drag myself out of some writing hole that I've dug myself into.

The third one is Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life, a collection of Charles Schulz's classic Snoopy-as-novelist cartoons mixed with advice and inspiration from good writers. It may sound like fluff, but it's not. Some of the snippets of advice are like a good kick in the pants, which I need on a regular basis.

But back to Francine Prose's book. (Isn't that a great name for a writer?) She uses examples from a number of Chekhov's stories and also quotes from his letters. I loved these words of wisdom from him:

Artistic literature is called so because it depicts life as it really is. Its aim is truth--unconditional and honest. A writer is not a confectioner, not a dealer in cosmetics, not an entertainer; he is a man bound under compulsion, by the realization of his duty and by his conscience. To a chemist, nothing on earth is unclean. A writer must be as objective as a chemist.

I love that.

By the way, in just one day, I made a lot of progress in finding the boundaries of my novel-puzzle that I mentioned yesterday. I think they weren't too far off in the first place. Now, the challenge is to go on with it, "unconditional and honest . . . as objective as a chemist."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Putting the book-monster together

Here I go again, tackling a monster puzzle. I'll be tearing my hair out by the end of the week. I'm not talking about a jigsaw puzzle, although we just finished one, inspired by my friend Dee who blogged here about doing a puzzle every Christmas. (Ours is a barn scene in Maine. Nothing spectacular.) My husband and I put the edges together in short order and started on the harder parts. After a few days, it was work instead of entertainment, but by then it was only a matter of time and perseverance. If there's only one spot for each particular piece, you'll find that spot even if you have to try every remaining piece in every remaining hole, although by then you're gritting your teeth and asking, "Why do we do this to ourselves?"

My hair-tearing puzzle is a novel that I need to revise. I don't have precut pieces that come back together to "make" a perfect picture that had already existed, complete and unblemished, before it was cut into a puzzle and thrown into a box. I have a manuscript that I cobbled together myself, making an imperfect picture that I can see more clearly after having set it aside for three months. At this point, I can't even put the edges of the picture together because I'm not sure what my boundaries should be. Do I make it a "big book" that covers at least part of my characters' early lives? Or do I bring in the boundaries to a more manageable size and focus on a smaller picture, a shorter timeframe?

Decisions, decisions. Revisions, revisions. Why do I do this to myself?

Our finished jigsaw puzzle is still sitting in the sun room in all its useless splendor. The cats are using it for a napping mat. As soon as we want that table for some other use, we'll throw the puzzle back into its box and may never look at it again. Meanwhile, my manuscript sits besides me, waiting for me to make it into the best book I've written yet. (I think that about every one of them. Grandiose dreams keep a writer going.) This monster puzzle will give me a gargantuan headache, curable only by weeks of work.

Why do I do this to myself? Because I can't wait to see the finished picture. I can't wait to read the story my characters want to tell me.