Monday, February 8, 2010

My Paragraphs are Frankensteins


Sometimes, I reach a place in my writing process and forget the magic behind why I started. I think we all do at various stages of completion. When I hit my Ugh! wall, I can almost always turn to Barry Lane or Stephen King for help and renewed inspiration. Today, I need a little
Stephen King fix. The following passage comes from On Writing:



Words have weight... Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe. Imagine, if you like, Frankenstein's monster on its slab. Here comes lightning, not from the sky but from a humble paragraph of English words. Maybe it's the first really good paragraph you ever wrote, something so fragile and yet full of possibility that you are frightened. You feel as Victor Frankenstein must have when the dead conglomeration of sewn-together spare parts suddenly opened its watery yellow eyes. Oh my God, it's breathing, you realize. Maybe it's even thinking. What in hell's name do I do next?

According to the brilliant Mr. King, we keep going. Duh! He says we are builders, building one paragraph at a time, and that we can build whole mansions if we like. I want to build a gorgeous mansion. Building requires skill, though, and skills require practice - lots and lots of practice.

At its most basic we are only discussing a learned skill, but do we not agree that sometimes the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations? We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style...but as we move along, you'd do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.

* sigh* Magic. We can make magic.

Do your paragraphs ever feel like Frankensteins?

48 comments:

Jonathon Arntson said...

Our pen is a wand, after all, and I'd say as writers, we do a fair amount of chanting under our breath, or something like that.

Matthew Delman said...

Oh dear lord are my paragraphs ever Frankensteins. I find myself, sometimes, talking out difficult sections. Once I hit on the words that evoke the right emotions -- oh boy it is something special.

Skill, luck, whatever you want to call it though ... I still get a rush when everything snaps into focus. Of course, that's part of the reason we're writers isn't it?

Sara McClung ♥ said...

Ugh. FREQUENTLY this happens to me. (The loss of the magic behind what I do)

BUT at the same time, when you work, and mold, and erase and add and finesse until those very paragraphs start feeling more like (my personal favorite analogy:) a cool spring to douse yourself in on a hot, sweaty day? That magic comes zapping right back through my fingers!!

Heidi Willis said...

I think it's very much like that... when I'm strewing the words together, I think they are nothing good.

But when I go back to read it later, it somehow mostly works. And sometimes so much better than I thought it would.

I'm not sure at what point it feels like magic though. Maybe when someone else reads it and feels that way.

Michelle Gregory said...

uh... right now my entire second draft feels like a Frankenstein monster.

Robyn Campbell said...

I fancy myself a magician. How cool is that? We are magicians. I love that. I've been meaning to get that book too. But I have so many that I want to get. Sigh

I will get it in March. Shhhh, don't tell the hubby.

Great post!! (^_^) BTW, I kept looking for your post this a.m..

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I feel my absolute worst about writing at the best of times, and I do my best writing at the worst of times...for some reason. All you can do is just keep moving, even when words seem to fail you and revise when the words are at their best.

Yes, I'm feeling the need for riddle-speak today. Ugh. Apparently, I am at one of my best of times. Or not. I do believe I've just confused myself. I need a nap.

Bane of Anubis said...

When don't they feel that way? Stupid words :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Jonathon - Absolutely!

Matthew - I love the way you put that. I esp. love, "Oh dear lord are my paragraphs ever Frankensteins." :-)

Sara - Oooo, cool spring...I like that too.

Heidi - Yep! The magic comes when someone reads it and loves it.

Michelle - Ugh!

Robyn - Awww, you are so sweet! :)

Carolina - Riddle-speak...hahahaha.

Catherine Denton said...

I wish they WOULD take on lives of their own. Sometimes my paragraphs end up flat and dead.
Winged Writer

Simon C. Larter said...

I don't get Frankenstein paragraphs, but I occasionally get Frankenstein flash fiction. Every now and then a piece sits up and grabs me by the throat. It's uncomfortable, but that's when I know I've really got something.

Love On Writing, too. Thanks for that! :)

Stephanie Thornton said...

When paragraphs get up and start walking and talking on their own it's absolute magic. I wish I could make them all do that every time on the first draft!

Jody Hedlund said...

Hah! Very good analogy! We're definitely breathing magic into the new life of our stories!

Nisa said...

What a great motivator! Magic - that is really cool!

Jen Chandler said...

Words: my Frankenstein's monster and my magic. I love the imagry. Something I really needed to hear today.

Thanks for sharing!

Happy Monday,
Jen

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Catherine - ha ha! Me too.

Simon - I'm glad you're enjoying it.

Stephanie - Wouldn't that be wonderful?!

Jody - Don't you love the imagery King creates? :)

Nisa - Thanks!

Jen - I'm glad it hit home for you.

L. T. Host said...

This is an interested point; I can't say I've ever noticed it per se, but I'm sure it's there. Usually, it's fragments that seem like Frankensteins to me, I think. They seem to be what I struggle with the most.

giddymomof6 said...

I'm always amazed at what I write--especially when i think it will be bad. Because those words, i go back to and am always amazed at how much better than I are than I thought.

It's the words I write that i feel are brilliant that need the most work! LOL!

Jenni

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, crap. This whole time I've been trying to tear down my wall! Now I have to build it back up??

LOL!

But I so agree. We build with the words. And we can arrange them any way we want so it turns out the "right" way.

Great post!

And yes, my paragraphs, heck my whole novel, feel like Frankensteins.

Tamika: said...

On many occasions it feels like a lot of manufactered words on a page, sewn together and random. One day I pray it will breathe life.

Natalie said...

That's why we have to revise, rewrite, revise, and rewrite again. The smaller parts of my writing (words, sentences, paragraphs) always feel randomly strung together at first. Thank goodness the world doesn't see our first drafts!

Nisa said...

Nothing like being unorganized and posting multiple comments, but I just gave you an award on my blog. :)

Michelle McLean said...

wonderful post, I love the analogy! My little paragraphs are definitely Frankensteins :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

L.T. - Is there such a thing as a little Frankenstein? He he. :)

Jenni - That is so true for me too!

Elana - I noticed the connection between our posts today, too - funny. :-)

Tamika - I echo that prayer.

Natalie - So true!

Nisa - Yay! Thank you bunches and tons!

Michelle - Stephen King is brilliant.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Yes, sadly. Right now my WIP (Frankenstein) is in a million different pieces. : (

Loved your post today! : )

Jemi Fraser said...

Great analogy - Stephen King really is amazing! Just keep going :)

Katie Ganshert said...

I love when my writing wakes up and starts walking around! It's a glorious feeling. A this-is-why-I-do-this feeling. :) I have On Writing...it's been on my book shelf for the past couple months. Haven't gotten around to reading it quite yet.

storyqueen said...

Sometimes my stuff feels like Frankenstein...but not in a good way...sigh.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Yes! But I want to make them dragons. Can I make them dragons? :0)

Lisa and Laura said...

Magic! Sigh...

I love Stephen King. I'm reading UNDER THE DOME right now. Can't put it down and it's a freaking monster. It's really hard to read because it's so freaking large, but totally worth it.

choco (In Which a Girl Reads) said...

Lol, my paragraphs feel like Frankensteins because they're not exactly...aesthetically pleasing. Hahaha, I think that's a hilarious metaphor, comparing writing to Frankenstein :D

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Holy moly, Shannon, your blog is exploding! Great conversations going on here, and all because of what you started. Awesome! I loved "On Writing." So many good nuggets in that one, for sure. Spoken by a man who has been through it all. It is so refreshing to see that that is in fact true -- he was one of us once. Gives me, and all of us, hope, I think. But...there are so many moments in this journey of re-orienting. When I hit those walls and the magic seems to be elusive as ever, I try to remember to turn toward God and ask, "Alright, what's your will in this again?" If I don't remain fixed on that, I can easily lose heart. It's a great thing to be able to constantly have that renewal ability at our disposal, and with God, we really do! He will show us true elation, not just that which we perceive it will be. So we need never get too forlorn, even if the magic seems to be dissipating. Wishing you a wonderful week!

Terresa said...

Yes, Frankensteins is an apt word.

I have King's book on my "to read" list. I keep hearing great quotes from it, including this one.

(Collective sigh. Magic, yes, is possible...right?)

Mary Campbell said...

I love this post. I do feel like Dr. Frankenstein. So many different things to put in the story, but not quite sure how to make them all fit together.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Kimberly - You'd better get sewing then. Ha ha. :)

Jemi - Yes!

Katie - Read it, Katie. It's fabulous!

Storyqueen - Ugh! I hate it when I feel like that.

Kristen - Dragons works for me. :-)

LiLa - I haven't read that one. I'll have to check it out.

Choco - Too funny! :-)

Roxane - That is so true, Roxane. I try so hard to relax into things as they are, trusting in His wisdom and timing rather than my own.

Terresa - Right! Especially if YOU are the one holding the magic pen!

Mary - You and me both, Mary! :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, gosh, I love that book. And yeah, I do create Frankensteins. But sometimes...they must be destroyed for the good of all the world. LOL

Abby Annis said...

I love this post! Exactly what I needed today. Thanks!

Kristi said...

I love Mr. Stephen King and this book! What a great reminder.

And for the record, I spent my entire weekend with a bunch of my own Frankensteins...ICK!

As always - loved the post...you always have such encouraging fun things to say! Love this blog!

C.R. Boone said...

I’m dealing with this right now. Sometimes things come together easily, and other times I’m grabbing at everything trying to keep Frankenstein’s arm from falling off. Needed this today.

Erica said...

Great post - I love that book. He really knows how to tell a story!

Yeah, I've definitely gotten to that point. In fact, right now I could use some motivation - so thanks for this post ;o)

Julie Dao said...

What great advice! I will have to check out that book. Thank you for sharing, Shannon :) Still working on perfecting my Frankensteins.

Jackee said...

Agreed! To me it often feels like a giant, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle I have to get right. But I love what you said about the magic. From now on I'll glue my puzzle together with that!

Jen said...

For me the good writing is pretty effortless. Then I do get to that place and wonder where I'm going with it. And then I have to wait a bit for it to come.

Thanks for sharing this today!

Shelli said...

sigh all the time. :)

Christina Farley said...

Great analogy! Building one word at a time sounds so much easier than writing a whole book.

Corey Schwartz said...

Love this post, Shanon! It's such a great analogy.

Cleverly Inked said...

I am not a writer so I can only imagine

DL Hammons said...

What a wonderful post...and beautiful reminder of what we're all doing here. Excellent choice for recycling!!!! Thank you. :)

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