Sunday, February 12, 2012

Getting Back on Track

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the kind of stories I want to write. In my initial burst of enthusiasm at learning to write novels, I tried out a number of genres. Some I enjoyed writing, some not so much. I got side-tracked for a while by attempting to write stories I thought might have some commercial appeal. For the most  part, I did not love writing those stories.

For NaNoWriMo, in 2011, I decided to write a "beach reading romance." It was a struggle to write and it was a mess when I finished it. I think it may be irredeemable.

One day in December, I sat down and started writing a story about a woman from a small Indiana town that was divided over the issue of whether or not to allow a casino to be built in the community. In less than a month, I had written 65,000 words, with a beginning, a middle and an end. It made me laugh and cry, and I loved every minute of writing it. It's more along the lines of the kinds of stories I wrote when I first began my writing odyssey. It's a story about nice people from a small town, grappling with progress that threatens their very existence.  It needs a lot of work, but I think it's good enough to be worth spending the time to edit and polish it.

That one has been put on the shelf along with another story I wrote last spring about a woman from a small North Carolina town who struggles (unsuccessfully) to find her place in the community after living away for a long time. Ultimately, she finds the way to happiness despite being a cultural misfit and the victim of a horrible crime.

In a few months, I will start editing those stories. I need to get some distance from them first. Right now I'm too much in love with the stories to even think about doing the kind of violence to them that editing requires.

This week I started a new story, a journal of a recent retiree who has moved from a small town in Kentucky to Florida. (This one is not directly autobiographical, but I am pretty sure that it's going to cut really close to the bone of some of my issues.)

I also dug out a story I wrote about four years ago, but never published because I thought it was too short. It's about a retired couple taking a road trip from Florida to New Mexico to visit their daughter. The characters are among my favorites, and I love "buddy" stories.  I've gained enough distance from it that I feel ready to work it over, and hopefully publish it in the near future.

The epiphany for me in these last few weeks of writing frenzy is that I don't want to write genre fiction, and I don't want to write a series featuring the same character. I want to write whatever emerges from the well of my creativity, which is most likely to be simple stories about ordinary people. I don't know if they have much commercial potential, but I do know that my writing is better when I write from my heart. That's what really matters.

Now that I'm back to writing stories that I love to write, I'm writing with more energy and passion than I have in a while.  I'm happily back on track!

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