Just Tell the Fucking Story

I feel like I’ve been beaten with a stick.

I was getting behind on my novel and wrote about 2200 words yesterday. I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but if you have a full-time job, that’s rough.

I think people who do NaNoWriMo are insane (that’s about 1600 words a day every day for a month).

Doing 1000 words a day works best for me. It’s enough to give it some heft for the writing session, but not so much that I’m going nuts.

I wish I were Neil Gaiman sometimes. It seems so easy for him, how he seems to be able to pop out good material on a constant basis. Yes, yes, yes, I know. A) He’s talented. B) He went through that most rigorous of writing boot camps — working as a professional journalist. No artiste temperament allowed. Put out good copy or don’t eat.

At some point, what it really boils down to is, “Just tell the fucking story. Your hindbrain will take care of all that stuff literature professors get orgasmic about.”

We don’t learn to write fiction in school. We learn what it takes to make a story, yes. We learn what makes a story rich and thick and good. What we don’t learn is the process of putting all that good stuff into our story gumbo, and I think part of it is because in the throes of the process, it’s not entirely a conscious thing. I’ve never heard of a writer admitting to consciously saying/thinking, “Okay, I am going to make these sharks eating away at the huge swordfish a metaphor for my struggles to tell a good story and my fears of losing my abilities.” I have heard, however, writers saying that their best stuff is when they’re so focused on the story they’re telling that the keyboard/computer/typewriter fades away and all they’re conscious of is being there in the story.

In At the Foot of the Throne, the novel I wrote last spring, there’s this recurring theme that I did not put in consciously. I needed a scene where the main character did something astonishingly foolhardy to protect the life of her King (and lover) because he had no heirs — something for the good of the kingdom.

What happened was an encounter with a wild boar.

Throughout the novel, and I did not think consciously about this, the antagonist king is described as being “like a boar with a toothache” or some such wild pig comparative when someone comments on his anger or aggression.

I didn’t consciously choose the metaphor. What I did was trust my subconscious to come up with all that and stuck to telling the story.

Now I am not claiming to be a great writer of fiction by any means. I’m not at all. At best, I am just learning to be competent. What I’ve really got to learn are editing skills — cutting away the unnecessary stuff and keeping the structure strong.