Millbend Coffeehouse is an interesting experience.
It's at the Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church in The Woodlands, Texas the second Saturday of each month. Starting at 8pm, a singer or duo entertain guests with their songs. In the past, performers such as the writer of "Wide Open Spaces" have performed. Last Saturday, it was a couple who writes and performs comedy songs. Very entertaining, I must say, especially the song about Wal-Mart.
Off to the side, there's the Garden Room. This is where artists sell their paintings, drawings, and jewelry. It's a side attraction, but it also helps generate revenue for the Millbend organization.
This month, the Garden Room was a total bust. I was the only one who showed up, and if I hadn't brought some of the left over merchandise from my shop, I wouldn't have sold the four books that were the only sales that night.
Still, there's next month, and the month after that. And with my drawings becoming better known, it's only a matter of time before I make good sales from those.
Thank goodness for how much patience I have. In fact, this is a great example of how important patience is for us. It leads to pushy salespeople who drive away customers, bad drivers who cause road rage, and a lifetime of frustration for us all.
At the same time, it's important not to be too patient, or then we'll never get anything done.
I went to Michael's today and found some canvas panels. I'm not sure how well they'll work with ink, but so far so good, except I messed up the first one when I found out the hard way you have to let it dry. I looked at watercolor canvas, but I wasn't sure how well it would work. (Plus, it was more expensive . . .) If these panels don't work out, I'll try those next week.
I've talked mostly about my art, but not much about my writing. Well, writing takes even more patience than art. That's because of the incredible amount of time it can take just setting up the story. In order, there's:
- Initial conception: The very first thought that enters your mind, eventually leading up to the story. For example, Douglas Adams was lying drunk in a field in Innsbrook with a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe when he suddenly thought, "Why doesn't anyone write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?"
- Formulation: This can take a few hours or a few years. Formulation is the process of going from your first idea to a viable story.
- Characterization: Once you know the story, you start putting in characters. You decide who you need in what positions and what they do. This can be done quickly.
- Plotting: The general summary of the story. This is rarely more than one page and includes only character types, not names, such as "The manager" or "The foreigner". Too specific are "The bank manager" and "The Frenchman". Gender is only added where the plot requires it.
- Character Creation: Most writers I've talked with consider this the biggest pain in the entire creation process. It is at this point the story truly begins to come alive. You must give all your characters gender, names, physical attributes, psychology, education, heritage, likes and dislikes, fears, hometowns, family, psychoses, etc., etc., etc. One writer I talked with spends a week on each character. Typically, you will only use about 10% of what you write down.
- Subplots: These are the methods through which characters and events are brought together and pulled apart. Subplots can develop during character creation; this is often a side effect of the process with the most creative minds.
- Outline: This is basically a rewrite of the plot, but with more detail, names, and subplots. It should be about one page for every fifty pages of story.
- Synopsis: Like the outline, but twice as long. This should include a quick rundown of every event in the story without dialogue or specifics. One page for every twenty-five pages of story.
- First Draft: At this point, the story should start to write itself. Don't be surprised if some things in your synopsis aren't strictly adhered to; in fact, in some cases, it's not a good idea to stick to the synopsis. There may be things you left out, added without need, or simply goofed up on. It's the first draft that tells you where you need to make the most important changes. Some writers only write ten pages a day, which is best; I once wrote twenty-five pages a day for thirteen days, and I was burned out when I finished.
- Edit the First Draft: This is the most important part of your entire creation process. You, yourself, should edit the first draft, not anyone else. The reason is because you have to check your own story. You know best where things are left out, misplaced, or added. Be sure to watch for spelling and grammar errors, too, and use a red pen because it's most noticable. Get an English book if you have problems. If you have problems with punctuation, especially commas, this is a good time to start looking for an editor.
- More drafts: With each draft, you make the changes you indicated on the previous draft, then edit again. At this point, it's the same process again and again.
- Editor's Draft: There has to come a point where you have to stop, otherwise you'll edit it to death. Draft five or six is a good one. This is the draft you send in to your editor. Don't be surprised when you get the responce; it's usually either bad news or full of red marks. Don't be afraid; this has given you time away from the story. Now that you have fresh eyes to look at it with, edit it one more time and try again!
In all, this process should take an average of three years for someone new to the biz. Remember, "Patience is a virtue" is taken from Colossians 3:12-14 of the Christian New Testament.
Next week, I'll talk about editors, what they can do, what they cannot do, and what traps to avoid.