Two things flashed through my mind when I opened the door to the sex shop to find my mother standing in front of the display case talking to a tall salesman wearing a leather harness, jock strap and a dog collar. The first was, “Oh, crap.” The second was, “I hate when Dad’s right.”
Following the sudden death of his father, a single, middle-aged gay guy struggles with his own mortality be reminiscing about the travels with his gregarious mother. It is a look at the transformation of the baffling, complex relationship between children and their parents.
I really enjoyed the conversational feel of this book. A lot of it felt like I was sitting down with the author in one of those interview shows and just getting him to talk about a variety of topics. Many, many of these topics (most of them involving his Mom) made me laugh. For me it felt a bit special because it reminded me a little of how my own mother can be at times and how protective I feel about her. This would have made a great sit down with Oprah, that interview would be awesome. While I liked the conversational feel there were spots that I felt it a bit of a ramble. Like any real conversation topics changed often and sometimes quickly and this was a bit of a mix for me. There were times I liked the shifts and others when I felt lost. That being said I did enjoy getting a peek behind the magical curtain at the author of The Guild of Immortal Women – You can check that review out here.
Writing Plan by the Author
One of the best writing classes I ever took was when I read the book WRITING WITHOUT TEACHERS. It isn’t a perfect book (what is?) but it did the single most important thing to my ability to write: It validated me.
When it comes to writing, I have always seen pictures in my mind. Not snapshots, but full on Hollywood blockbusters of epic proportions. I see faces. I hear dialogue. I smell, taste and feel the locations where my characters find themselves.
What I didn’t see was how all these pictures fit together into a story. They were frames of a film with no sprocket holes.
So I enrolled in workshops. I joined critique groups. I begged instructors for feedback. I heard the same advice: plot out your book before you write a single line.
But while I jotted ideas onto index cards, my head overflowed with characters and moods. I felt crushed by the crowds in my imagination who seemed to want out of my brain and into the world. So I wrote these pictures, scenes and dialogue in the dark, like some criminal masterminding a prison break. That’s when I read the book.
I learned there are more ways to write than what my traditional teachers were telling me. There are as many ways to craft a story as there are stories. So I began to try them all. Small fables at first, then growing into creative non-fiction selections and, ultimately, into novels.
What I found for myself is that these mental scenarios I have experienced were the story, I just saw them out of order…kind of a literary puzzle. So, I let the characters come through whenever they felt like it. I penned the dialogue, described the locales and gave permission for these visions to occupy paper.
Once these scenes were written, more came to mind, adding more depth and dimension to the story’s arc.
When I had a day with no mental chaos, I summarized these scenes and wrote them down on index cards. The index cards get taped to a wall in my apartment. As new scenes wormed their way into my mind, they, too, go through the same treatment.
Finally, the arc reveals itself. The story begins to come together, albeit with holes. Lastly, I fill in the gaps, using the techniques I learned from those writing groups and workshops.
It’s not the traditional way of writing, true. It’s not what one will learn in the classroom. But for me, it works.
My advice to writers these days is this: let your creative process be yours. Don’t let other people tell you HOW to write. Just write. Make characters vivid. Make locales strong. The story will reveal itself in its own time. Be patient.
Because when that work is done, the real work begins. It’s called: EDITING.