Writer’s Log: 2123 Willfulness

Back when I sucked at writing (much more than I do today), I was, what I’d call, story willful. I wrote with willful intent to put story to paper. And the stories flowed. (The writing was awful, but the stories were solid.)

In trying to coerce better writing from my fingers, I’ve transitioned into technically willful. I focus on sentence structure, transitions, phrasing, cadence, etc. at the expense of story. In fact, without my story willfulness, my writing has become hollow, shallow even.

Having penned fifty-thousand words or so in the last six months, and specifically these last few thousand words writing scenes, I realize that the one key component missing from each mini-story is story willfulness. It’s as if I began to ignore the seriousness of each story’s purpose. Now, the story might have nothing to do with being serious, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t write without serious intent, that is, story willfulness.

With each scene, thus far, a thought came to mind and I spilled the words, an ad hoc seat-o-the-pants type story. Well, for me, such things often come across as silly or empty-headed. I’m no comedy—Sunday paper casual-reading—writer, but that’s what each reads like (to me). Reader’s Digest bits. That would be okay, I suppose, were that my goal.

But it’s not.

Do you write willfully? Or whimsically? Wistfully? Woefully?

(See, it’s that kinda thing that’s good in a blog but not in my work.)

10 thoughts on “Writer’s Log: 2123 Willfulness

    1. I think it’s the pauses between the writing flurries; the breaths I take, pondering, navigating. If I can recall, from time to time, that I’m inscribing a directed, intentional story, I think the weight of my stories will grow. Will become more compelling, gravid, if you will.

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  1. You’ve probably noticed that anything like a critique you’ve ever heard from me about your writing is vague, at best. This is because, other than an instinctual eye for grammar, flow and story, I personally never bother myself about these things while I’m in the process of writing fiction (or essays, for that matter). I have never created an outline or used any other building-block methods in the creation of a piece. Why? Because that would turn an enjoyable hobby into a chore. I like to wing it. But that’s not to say my approach is a good one. Regardless, the upshot of all that is the fact that I use one simple criterion in judging the writing of others: do I like it? I always enjoy your stories and their presentations, so here’s a rare voice in your comments section telling you that maybe you needn’t be so self-critical.

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    1. Thanks.
      And I appreciate your vote of confidence. And in fact considered it in regards to this specific self-critique. These scenes, I feel, have entertainment value, just as you’ve confirmed. And they were generally fun to write. But they truly did lack what I want to call story-willfulness. They were rambles that rambled in a pleasurable way. And I seem to be good at it, well, at least diverse in theme.
      I think I can do better though.
      Here’s to looking forward to YOUR next fictional foray. Avalon be Damned!

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  2. There are so many metaphors avaialable. To me it’s like music, or painting, or dance or pottery…or synth programming. I’ll start out heading for X and end up elsewhere, and the journey is the story. I can have a goal, maybe, but when I set out on the path I let the story tell itself. I have goptten better over the years at spotting inside out paragraphs before I move on, and dialog that needs a backspace (or fifteen). But mostly I ask myself, as learned from other writers, what do I need here? Where are we going? And then I let go. Maybe I’ll write an intro paragraph to get started that invariably ends up in the trash. Right now I’m having to learn to put certain writing habits on hold. That and and so and other what would be throwaway words in my iceberg style world are okay because of what I’m writing. Tags though, still. Fuck that. And that part is conscious. I have almost written “then I asked” or “said” and when I feel that coming on I immediately find a beter way to write it. Or I skip it if I’m hot and know where it is when I come back.
    Willful is an unusual word, but I’ve busted you for that lately. What it sounds like is you had a story and by God it was hitting paper, and in those moments the story is driving and you need to get out of the way. Which you did. Then you come back and brush it out. Intent is the thing, practice is the key to a personal skill set. MOnet said that without intent it was just blobs of paint on canvas, and that’s what you’re experiencing trying to conotrol. Here’s a secret. We aren’t in control of anything but our judgement in assisting the story. So willful is another one of your words of the day. None of your recent stories are empty or sophomoric. SImple is harder than it looks. Hell, some song lyrics are so short and dumb and perfect they’re little novels. Never be afraid of simple. Be afraid of overthinking. Run with the emotion that’s getting the story out, don’t look for the right words, they’ll be there. That control and willfulness is all over the carousel riff. Scientific words for spin and pump and the dizzying effects. You’re 6 years old, on a carousel. See it through your character’s eyes and let it go. I can preach this because the casualness of what I’m doing with this month is a real exercise in letting go in a different way than usual.
    Thought provoking, as always. The story has intent, don’t worry. Guide it to the page, that’s all you can do.

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  3. I’m not sure if I understand your definition of “willfully”. If I do, I wouldn’t use that word to describe what you did. It’s a bit of like the heart vs. head battle, in which my heart wants to just let loose and write the story, while my head tries to streamline everything and put it in a neat bow. Most of the time, I write with the focus on the story. The focus on the actual writing comes when it’s time to edit. IF there is time to edit.

    As a reader, I appreciate seeing passion in writing. Otherwise, the story/ book bores me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your response.
      “Focus”? “Intent”? “Directive”?
      I suppose it’s about willing myself to pay attention to BOTH story and technique, simultaneously. It feels like I’ve picked one or the other so far.
      Reserving technique for the edit phase — I get you. I’m of a mind, though, to have technique and style come out in the initial writing effort.
      I prefer the railroad model: lay track, construct bridges, fill gullies as I go. When I reach the end, the railroad, the story is done (mostly).

      Liked by 2 people

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