My stories really do feel to me like they have their own life, and I am just barely in control. If I have any say over the world whatsoever, it's more of a minor Greek goddess sort of thing that one of the big brand-name Gods.
Right now, the story just flows. I am working on a rough draft for a YA novel, and every time I sit down at my computer, Deirdra comes to life and keeps doing interesting, sometimes-dumb and sometimes-wise things and driving my story along.
Right now I am completely bestotted with this character and this story.
I know this can't last and the story will eventually turn nasty and uncooperative, and I will sit here and bang at my keyboard and then go back and erase the last 120 words I slowly eked out and write them again.
...if this story is terrible. This is the potentially cliche-ridden story that I mentioned feeling so uncertain about in my last blog entry. I feel sometimes that I have these good ideas that I execute terribly. What do you think?
THE LAST DANDELION ON THE BLOCK
Their life had settled into a routine again, and although it was not the routine Gretchen wanted, there was still some trace amount of comfort in it. She woke up first in the morning – she left earlier for work – and started a pot of coffee for herself. While she checked the news online and ate her bowl of Special K, she heard Jake stirring upstairs, taking a shower. He would mumble a good morning to her when he came down, got his coffee, give her a peck on the cheek as she went out the door. In the evening, she came home first, changed, went to the gym. Yoga on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; treadmill on Tuesday and Thursday. When she came home, dinner would be on a plate, ready to be re-heated for her, and Jake would be in his office. Across from the office was their daughter’s room – what had been their daughter’s room – and she wondered if that bothered him. He came to bed after she did, kissed her, as clumsily in the morning, before he fell asleep. She was always awake. Her cheeks were almost always damp, and the kisses felt odd against the wet. The weekends were harder, finding ways to tactfully avoid each other. She usually escaped to her sister’s house, although seeing the new swelling of Anna’s baby bump each week made it seem like less and less of a safe place. “He’s always been taciturn,” Anna reminded her, coming back from the kitchen with turkey sandwiches for lunch. They sat in the sunroom, Gretchen’s favorite place in the small cottage, with its expansive windows and collection of green plants. “Not like this,” Gretchen said. “It’s like he doesn’t feel anything at all. I don’t think I can live like this.” “It’s just his way of coping.” Gretchen sighed. “I know.” Anna reached out and took her hand. There were four years between them, but their hands, at least, were twins, narrow-fingered and freckled. “It isn’t good enough. I wish you two would go back to therapy.” “It’s not worth sixty dollars an hour for Jake not to talk to me,” Gretchen said. “He can be taciturn for free at home.” “Well, if he won’t open up for trained professionals, what are you going to do?” “I don’t know. If I had more energy, I might leave.” “Oh, sweetie,” Anna said. “You’ve both been through so much since the accident. You just have to hang in there.” “Sometimes there’s nothing left to hang onto.”
Anna sent her home with a plate of cookies and a bag of apples – Anna always expressed her love through food – and Gretchen reached out to steady them on the passenger seat as she took the sharp turn onto their street. It was the same way she would have reached to protect Laura, as if seatbelts and airbags didn’t do enough to protect her but her mother’s arms could. But she hadn’t been the one driving when the drunk ran the red light, and Laura had been in the back seat, where small girls were supposed to be safest. When she turned into the driveway, Jake was bringing the mower out of the garage. It was if he had a sixth sense for when she was re-entering the house. She waved hello to him as she entered the house, gave him a tight smile. An hour later, she carried the bills and checks in their neatly addressed envelopes out to the mailbox, before she could miss the post. Jake was in the backyard by then, but she could still hear the dull roar of the mower. She frowned at the spotty job she had done, so unlike him; the lawn mower had meandered across the yard, instead of criss-crossing in even rows of grass. Then she noticed the little clumps of grass he had left standing, surrounding pockets of dandelions. Laura had been convinced that dandelions were legitimate flowers, not weeds, and she had often run across the yard as he mowed, picking enough dandelions to fill every vase she could find in the house. Don’t mow the pretty flowers, Daddy! Gretchen’s eyes filled, as they seemed to every other hour these days. Through the blur of her tears, she put the envelopes in the mailbox, and then picked a few dandelions to put in Laura’s favorite red vase on the kitchen counter. She hadn't had flowers in this room since the last ones died six months before, and they made the kitchen look brighter. When Jake came in, she came up to him. “What?” he asked, clearly startled. She slid her arms around him, laid her head on his chest. “Nothing,” she said. “I just love you.” “Love you too,” he said. Uncertainly, he hugged her back.
Today Handsome and I stopped off at one of the libraries in our new town. Even though we're buying a house here, a library card for this county is just one of those things I need for it to feel like home. I am a library addict -- I grew up with what I think has to be one of the coolest small-town libraries in America:
When I was a kid, I wanted to live in that building, with its marble floors, sweeping staircases, and the artwork that depicted its namesake family's history. The lions out front and the fountain were an added draw. Although, of course, the real appeal of the library was its two stories' worth of wonderful books.
Anyway, back to the present day. The particular branch I stopped into was tiny, but in my quick browse through once I had card in hand, I happened across The Writer's Market, 2010. I've only ever seen this in libraries as a reference book, but this one had it available to check out. Swoon.
So I am now the proud borrower of the latest and greatest edition of The Writer's Market, which is already collecting post-it notes.
I also deserted Handsome for the evening to head to a local coffee shop. This is where I get the most work done writing-wise, and I really need to make it a habit to carve these blocks of time out at least once a week, ideally two or three times. My three hours were very productive:
1. Identified a dozen potential magazines to submit non-fic, fiction and poetry
2. Did preliminary research on a half dozen different new markets (checking writers' guidelines and content on websites)
3. Formatted two short stories and four poems for submission and organized them in their own folder, so I can select what I want to submit and dispatch it readily to the chosen market.
4. Wrote a brand spanking new short story from an idea that had been jiggling around in my head. It's short -- approximately 800 words -- and I have no idea if it's any good or not. In fact, at the time I wrote it I kept thinking, "Cliches! Cliches, you damn hack!" But that's my usual positive internal monologue, so I have to let it sit for a week or so before I go back, re-read, and decide if this requires editing or circular filing.
I may post aforementioned short story to see what y'all think. I have been going through a bit of a writer's identity crisis lately, where I do not think my writing sounds as mature as it should. My twenty-something-ness seems to show itself in occasionally confident, occasionally awkward, always self-conscious prose. But the only thing that will change my writing style is more reading, more study, and most importantly of all -- more writing. So I keep at it. Internal editors be damned.