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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cleaning the Skeleton Closet

I'm a little behind time today. It's Release Day for my spies and smugglers book, SINS OF THE HEART, and I'm preparing a fabulous contest called The Most Beautiful Place on Earth. Come and share your "Most Beautiful Place" with us in comments or photos, and win a fabulous Hawaiian basket, straight from the Islands on my coming trip in June!

I don't know about you, but over the winter I build up a lot of accumulation in my closets, and when spring comes, I can't wait to get rid of the excess. A lot of it is stuff I've worn out or "out-grown", or maybe I've just lost interest in it. Fortunately I'm aided in having a spare closet in the guest room a.k.a. my office, which catches the overflow from the main master bedroom closet. I can't compete with hubby for closet space- he has a thousand shirts and jackets that all look alike to me and take up 2/3 of the rod space, so my off-season clothes have to be transferred between closets every spring and fall.

Really, that is a good thing. It forces me to look at everything I stored away six months before and once again say to myself, "but do I really want to have this hanging around yet another six months or year?" My inherent laziness prompts me to keep a black trash bag or two handy, and every spring at least two bags full of my clothing closet skeletons head off to Goodwill.

I guess after all these years I just automatically associate chirping birds and cherry blossoms with cleaning all my closets, including the mental ones. Including the writing closet. Yes, I do mean cleaning my hard drive. There's all sorts of clutter there, too.

Mostly, I see it as a time to mentally update myself and my writing. What kinds of attitudes are left over from a "hard winter" (mentally speaking. Winter is never really harsh out here in the Pacific Northwest). It's time to dump out any traces of depression and languishing negativity. This, for me, is the time to make a new plan, not New Years, like most people, because there's a spirit of rejuvenation in the air that infects me now.

This is the time for me to haul out all my old plot ideas and re-evaluate them. Have I let a great plot slip out of sight because of deadlines or duties? Are there some that I haven't written because in truth they don't interest me? Could I possibly look at those from a different perspective? Could something new, innovative be infused that would make them the stories that will inspire me to buckle down to something I can truly love writing? Is there something blocking a great story, perhaps a missing piece, that if I could find it, the story could be written?

I also look at how my writing tastes have changed, over the last year and over several years. It's a time to see how what I want to write fits with the market, and a time also to look at the market for what editor and readers find they want. And most of all, how does all this fit together.

Sometimes this means setting a once-beloved story aside. I have had many ideas that touched my heart, yet I never found the right spark to write them. For whatever reason, I think they will continue to be set aside. It's just true that not all stories will make it, even when we love them as we write them. Maybe later, but then, maybe not.

The one thing I can't seem to do, though, is completely give up on a story. So instead of shoving it in a black garbage bag to send off to a metaphorical Goodwill, I save it to a Skeleton Folder, a sort of file for all the odds and ends and leftovers. And every now and then, an idea comes to me, and I know somewhere in the Skeleton Folder, there will be something that can flesh it out.

SINS OF THE HEART started out in just that way. A contemporary scene I couldn't use was set aside until one day it merged with an abstract idea in a historical setting. Something out of the Skeleton Closet fleshed out. And Merritt and Juliette stepped up and became real.

What do you have in your writing closet that needs cleaning out? Can you re-cycle it? Up-date it? Should you put it in your Skeleton Closet in hopes of using it another day?


At 4:02 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I really need to take heed of this post. I have so much negativity and "You are a fluke and a hack." soul sapping baggage in my mental closet I need an exorcist or an exterminator to get rid of it!

I have to keep reminding myself that I have only been at this for three years and there are people out there who have been at it for dozens of years and not made it yet. Not always easy to do.

I am actually taking a four day holiday from work to gear myself up to write as much of my third novel as possible, to reorganize my writing space and to get this house in shape so that I will come home from Hell-Mart and be energized enough by my environment to instantly change into the writer and get some damned work done. I have so many stories outlined and I just know they are good, but I spend too much time doing everything BUT writing.

So this Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday everyone send up positive thoughts that I can exorcise the negativity and get geared up for a great writing spring and summer, hopefully followed by a contract in the fall!

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Christine said...

Thanks for the great post! I am struggling with the third MS and really wondering if it is worth the effort, but I am finishing my revisions and querying it as soon as I am done. Let the publishing world say no. I'll be on to the next book.

But I am also like you. I can't toss my first book at all and it has tons of mistakes and head hopping. I loved the characters and I keep thinking, one day I will go in and fix it and make it right. So it's in a box in my closet along with the other 3 books--many in various stages of revision LOL.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

It really amazes me, Louisa, how we can go confidently in to our day jobs expecting to do our work and not requiring genus of ourselves, but with our writing we tell ourselves anything less than great majesty is trash.

Writing is a job. Just because it's a very creative one and sometimes is extremely inspiring doesn't mean it always is. Most of the time we're simply doing our work of telling stories. If every minute of every story were an awe-inspiring miracle, I have the feeling people would get really weary trying to read our work.

At 7:24 PM, Blogger Judy said...

A timely and excellent post, Delle! I have a WIP that I'm pulling out and working on, realizing that I told the reader too much, too soon!

Best wishes, Louisa on that writing fest!

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

I think I've recycled "Chapter 1, Scene 1" at least 3 times. I've come to the conclusion that while it's a lousy beginning for whatever I'm writing, it gives me a running start. I get further in, then go back and delete that opener. Maybe someday it'll match what happens next.


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