I’ve been holding monthly writing group meetings since February, on the assumption that there are other writers like me who want to connect with like-minded creative types. But last month, I really wasn’t in the mood to do it. I was frustrated over the lack of progress with the second novel and the rejections on the first, and just in general, was doubting my ability to write fiction. But I had committed to it so there I was.
The focus that month was on the value of asking “what if” to elicit some options for your character, and asking questions in general (and then shutting up!) when conducting interviews. Then the exercise was to pick out someone (a stranger) in the coffee shop and write down why that person was there, what was going on, who they were — really anything that was inspired just by seeing them. So there the group was, busily scribbling away and there I was—not. Looked around and couldn’t come up with anything. How embarrassing.
I left the table and walked around, hoping inspiration (or death) would strike me. Then I see it—or rather them. An older woman and a young boy, sitting at a small table by the counter. I came back to the table and here is the early scribbles of what has since (I hope) become a promising short story:
Sitting with the little boy… “My grandson,” she tells everybody and he doesn’t contradict her. She had told him it was a game the two of them played—that it was like make-believe or dress-up—and that she would tell them the truth before they left. But she never did…
(No I am not giving you more because I want to submit it when it’s done and yes, stuff written on your blog is considered publishing—at least, according to many of the small literary journal guidelines I’ve been reading!)
Since then, I have been working on it—well, two versions of it actually, a longer short story and a flash-fiction version. And each time, something new comes into focus. So I guess I can still write fiction.
As for Reinventing Rita, it was just getting too serious, too dark, too…well, frankly, too much like my life in some ways. I realized what I loved most about writing Finding Fran (even if the agents thus far haven’t agreed!) was that it was light-hearted. I mean, yes, she had a regrettable experience with her lover (the jerk) and yes, she was frustrated with her writing progress, but there were enough elements of humor and bizarreness (is that a word?) to keep it fun for me. I can and do write serious, dark fiction but only as short stories. I don’t want to be that serious for 65,000-plus words. Life is hard enough sometimes without reliving it in my writing.