Churn and Burn

Prismatic gears from Public Domain

My fellow writer Zach Stanfield wrote “Addicted to Torment” where he discusses his struggles to produce a cohesive story.  It’s an interesting glimpse into one writer’s journey and I recommend looking at his personal struggle to get words on the page.  

Like him, I plan to confess my “writer’s flaw”.  

I am the Johnny-types-a-lot of our NAWG group.  If you measure success in words on a page alone, I am the rapid pace rabbit you’ll hound.  I churn and burn words like a binge drinker pounds back shots.  And like all those party people, I care about the quality of the words on the page about as much as they care about the brand of vodka in their drinks.  

So when we come to writers’ group and go around the circle asking “have you written anything?”  

I can say “Yeah I sat down for three hours and pushed out five thousand words, I’m a thousand words away from resolution.” or “I sat down this weekend and wrote ten thousand new words on my novel.”

The looks I get—the surprise alone—I feel like I will turn into Kanye West.  “I am a creative genius and there is no other way to word it.” 


Lol.  I do not want to debate Kanye West’s claim, but I will say my claim to creative genius carries minimal weight.  More words means I have more editing to do than my peers do.  Over half of what I write is scrapped in the second draft. 


Take my efforts in Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  I wrote an 80,000 word first draft.  The second draft is 73,000 words and about half of those words are brand new words I designed for the second draft.  Of  the original 80,000 words, readers may see what 30,000 of them (and those also needed intense edits)?  


This doesn’t count story boarding or deleted scenes. To get that 80,000 word first draft, I have about 30,000 words in scenes no one but me ever read.  I needed to write those scenes, but as the manuscript evolved, I realized they couldn’t serve the story.


I can hear some people saying “You still came out of that with a novel.”  and yes, that’s true, but I would not say the volume of words I string together are why I have the novel.  My determination, my grit, my commitment.  These are things you need to have a complete manuscript.  A willingness to try something, anything, if the manuscript isn’t working.  Looking at elements you thought your manuscript would center on and culling them when it turns out those beliefs are wrong.  You need to endure painful change for the sake of creating the best work you can.  Mass producing a million words to a page will not bring a writer closer to the glorified novel.  


I’ll go further.  Writing in quantity forces me to spend a significant portion of time reading and editing my work.  This is time I could have written other things.  Most of my writers’ group has published a short story and I have not.  One reason for this is my obsession with my novel and my inability to write the right words the first time.  Maybe if I stopped and thought more, looked at the cursor blinking on the page as Zach does, I would realize on the first draft “my novel isn‘t going in this direction and these scenes are superfluous.”  


What I’m trying to get at: all writing styles have pros and cons. Inundating myself and others with heaps of words may look impressive, but it’s more bluster than you may imagine.  


Talk to me.  What’s your writing style?  What are your writing goals?  Give me a writing confession! I would love to hear more about others’ process or their current manuscript goals.

Writing Prompts for Matralia

Vector illustration public domain licence. Found at publicdomainvectors.org

Introduction: 


This series of posts has simple goals: provide some basic history on a holiday/event from the past and use that history to spring board potential writing prompts and themes. For some, the history on its own will be enough to come up with some story ideas.  For others, I offered some starting points with themes, scenes, and possibilities I see for the holiday at hand.  


Happy writing and please share a snippet or link to your inspired works ^_^ I’d love to read them.

History

The ancient Roman festival of Matralia takes place on June 11th.  


Matralia is a lesser-known holiday honoring Mater Matuta.  Free women who were single or in their first marriage would bring offerings of cakes or earthen cookware to the temple.  Their sisters’ children sometimes accompanied them (but never their own). 


While at the temple, the matron may lure a slave in, whom she would abuse (slap and drive from the temple), then she would place a garland around Mater Matuta’s statue and all the women there would pray for the safety and health of their sisters’ children.  

 
Mater Matuta is an indigenous Latin goddess the Romans considered like or the same as Aurora (Goddess of the Dawn) and/or Eos (Greek Titaness of Dawn).  Over time Mater Matuta also became associated sea harbors and ports.  She was sometimes confused with Leucothea (Greek sea goddess).  Considering both Aurora and Eos rise from Oceanus each morning to herald the coming day, it is easy to see how she could become connected to the watery realm. 


Sources:

Wikipedia

Britanica

Prompts: 
-Mater Matuta’s celebration centers on asking for favors for others, but the ritual includes cruelty to the most vulnerable in Roman society, what does this imply?  


-Write a slave’s perspective on this celebration.  

Do they have a supernatural experience or is it more cruelty they endure?  

Does this day stand apart from other treatments they’ve received or is this another day in their life?


-Scene: Two sisters who’ve always gone together to Mater Matuta’s temple and brought each other’s children, this past year one of the sister’s husband died in battle and she remarried.  The other sister must go alone to the temple, leave her children behind, and take her sister’s children. 

Write either sister’s perspectiveWrite from the perspective of one child.

Write from the perspective of one husband.

Write from the perspective of Mater Matuta, why the one sister is lost to her now and how the other sister’s children suffer for it.

 
-Explore Mater Matuta’s motivation for calling on only single or first marriage women to worshipIs this a purity issue?

Is Mater Matuta looking out for the women and killing husbands (perhaps at sea) who mistreat their wives but she can only intervene once.

Both Aurora and Eos are known for sexual liaisons with mortals, maybe they use these festivals as an opportunity to scout out new bed mates? 


-Why does Mater Matuta take in her sister’s children?  Is she a patron for the motherless?

 
-Does Mater Matuta answer all the women asking after their sisters’ children? What does she want for the children she blesses?  


-When does Mater Matuta hear these prayers or bless these children?  What is the festival like from her perspective?


-Do we have a similar custom in today’s society?  While many values family ties, is there a day where you seek only your niece or nephew’s wellbeing and what does that day look like?  What would the supernatural force look like?


-If people were to celebrate Matralia today, what is the desired outcome and what are the rules you’d follow?  

Do your characters omit cruelty to slaves or substitute it?

Do your characters maintain a temple or do they create a makeshift one? 

Do your characters keep the old rules and only allow single women or women in their first marriage to participate?

Do it involve any of the traditional elements of the day or do they transform the practice?

When you Love Too Much

by jxj! the total bastard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0  sourced from CreativeCommons.org

About a month ago, a man robbed my friend and I.  He wanted our valuables, the only problem was, among my valuables was my laptop with draft components of my manuscript Follow Me: Tattered Veils.  


Jessica, a man had a gun in your face!  He was close enough you could have reached out and touched the blasted thing.   What the fuck is wrong with you that your first thought isn’t for your life, or your friend, it’s for your book,” I imagine some of you may be saying. 


Valid point.  Once I confirmed my friend was unharmed, it was the first thing I thought too.


All my training failed me.  As a kid, my parents drilled me to throw my purse at a robber, run, and scream “Fire.”  As a college student my “Self Defense for Women” course STILL recommended the “throw your purse” step, but they followed it up with a karate chop to the neck.


I never wondered “what would I do?”  I knew I would throw my purse and run.  It’s a joke among my friends, how they would defend me and I’ve always said:

“No I’m running.”

 
“You‘d abandon me,” they tease.


“No, you‘re welcome to run with me.”


Que laughter, Jess is a self-proclaimed coward and not in the least ashamed.


It was a shock to learn that the running part held true, but my primitive brain would not relinquish my manuscript.


What does that mean? Who cares about anything that’s not alive so much they will risk their own safety for it?


I guess I have to add vanity to my list of sins.  I love my book.  I’ve said: “I love it more than life, more than loved ones, more than breathing.”  and believed it was hyperbole, but now I have to face whether this is a core truth about me.  Am I so conceited that what I create means more than life?  What responsibilities do I hold if this is true?  


First, I can’t keep drafts without back ups anymore.  If I can’t trust myself to be sane, then I’ll photograph my handwritten notes, same my written copies to the cloud.  Whatever it takes to secure both my manuscript and my friends.


Second, my laptop will have to stay home or I will review my entrance and exit into public space with it.  Yes, cloud backups are fine, but my laptop is an expensive key piece of equipment in my pursuit of publication.  


Third, can I learn to care less?  I know I can’t control how my brain responds to an emergency.  But the correct answer to “Give me all your money!” is NOT “No, and I will leave now.”  That’s not possible. 


The experience leaves me wondering: what does it mean to love writing or my finished writing more than life?  Do I love it too much?  Is there some program for people who are too passionate about their work I should enter?

So talk to me.  Have you been in a life-threatening situation?  How did you react?  Did your reaction times surprise you?  What did you do after?  Do you ever wonder if you love your creative work too much?  Do you consider it a vanity or conceit to hold the work in such high esteem?  What steps do you take to protect your work?