Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The politics of writing

Mary Ann called me Sunday. She was having a difficult weekend and was a little upset. Add to the mix the rain and writing only six pages in two days and I couldn't help but phone when I got home and saw that she called. She's a good friend and a fellow writer and we writers can be a neurotic bunch at times. Death and pressing deadlines do that to us. Well, that and the constant rejection. I called. We talked while her cell phone cut in and out (mountains + rain + lightning = lousy cell phone service).

I called again last night to see how she was doing. No rain, sunshine and three more pages in a day, pages she won't have to edit. We talked about her book and the characters and where the story is going and I got an idea for another book. Like I really need help in that area when I'm fleshing out two books, editing two more and writing another. I always have a project or two going -- in writing and reading. I jotted down the idea because it's unusual and may be interesting for a story line or I may add it as a twist to a work in progress. Such is the exchange that happens between friends who are also writers.

We also talked about politics, that subject, along with sex and religion, that one should never discuss with people one wishes to retain as friends. Mary Ann isn't like that. Yes, she's a liberal. Yes, we often disagree about political ideology. No, we're still friends because we are both old school. We believe in the freedoms set down in the Constitution and we are both appalled by the current idiocy that in politics in the two parties signified by the elephant and the ass.

Discussions of current works with writers and friends provide fertile ground, not only for discussion, but also for new ideas. The same goes for reading. Reading is essential for writers who want to write and continue to be published. Many writer friends refuse to read anything in their chosen genre when they're writing, and some go so far as to refuse to read anything in their chosen genre at any time. I read everything: fiction and nonfiction, when I'm not reading books for review, which also run the gamut from fiction to nonfiction. It's the same for political material.

I read from all sides of the political spectrum to be able to form a balanced and informed opinion, and I am very opinionated. That is not to say that I don't respond emotionally as well as intellectually. One thing I have learned is to trust my instincts even when they're telling me that the person I call friend is not really a friend. Every time I shrug off that tap on the mental shoulder and the whispered voice in my mind that says to beware I end up on the wrong end of a rope dangling over a cliff and into the abyss. That isn't to say that I am a slave to instinct, just that I have learned, often the hard way, to pay attention to red flags. When a friend isn't willing to agree to disagree or table a heating discussion or accept that there are some areas you will never see eye-to-eye, something is seriously wrong. Not so with Mary Ann. Did I mention we are often on opposite sides in politics?

One thing we rediscovered is that we are not polar opposites. She a little left and I'm a little right of center. The distance is pretty minimal. When it comes to writing, however, we are on the same page. Although I don't write a great deal of horror, Mary Ann does, but what she writes is always from a fascinating perspective that makes me think. Here's hoping she has another good writing day with lots of sunshine and plenty of clear paths through the murky spots.

Even though it's only three pages a day, it's forward movement and that's what all writers need to remember. There are no hard and fast rules to writing. Anyone who tells you so wants to sell you something. What works for one writer will not necessarily work for someone else. We're all different and we approach a problem or a story from the angle that works best.

In a recent discussion on a romance writing blog, the topic was pantsers or plotters. Pantsers write in the heat of the moment by the seat of their pants and plotters outline and plot their stories beforehand. The author of the post wanted different words for pantsers and plotters and I came up with barnstormers and aviators. Barnstormers fly by the seat of their pants and aviators fly by the book, taking no chances. They both get where they're going, but barnstormers take chances and aviators leave nothing to chance. And then there are barnstorming aviators and aviators who occasionally barnstorm.

It's all about the goal -- a finished story -- not about how you got there, so enjoy the trip and and the people you meet along the way. Even in divergent methods and ideologies there is plenty to share and to learn whether the subject is politics or writing.

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