Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Sweet Reward

By Martha Reed

I’m constantly struggling with nutrition and trying to eat right. It’s not that I eat bad food, I’m just lazy, and I’d rather grab a handful of something quick than actually cook something nutritious. I am getting better at it – at this age I need to, and I have seen some health benefits recently. But Easter! That holy week where candy is celebrated even more than on pagan Halloween – Easter is my downfall. Damn that bunny!

To honor the spring solstice then, I’ll take a pass on the egg white omelets and field green salads this week. Give me jelly beans and speckled malted eggs, white chocolate rabbits and pink and yellow Peeps! What hallucinatory madman ever invented marshmallow rolled in colored sugar and then cut into the shapes of cute baby animals? In my mind I imagine some Johnny Depp-like character, a mutant hybrid of Willy Wonka and Sweeney Todd, perched atop a can of Hershey’s syrup and directing his mob of loyal sugared-out zombie followers using a long-handled spoon dripping with caramel.

See what happens when I dip into the sugar? Somebody, please, cut me off.

In defense of the holiday, I have to admit I love three day weekends. I get so much done with that extra day off – the pile of laundry, a clean kitchen floor, and it gives me three full glorious mornings to write. That is the real treat to my Easter weekend – three six hour chunks of uninterrupted time to really put some thought into my creative work.

The good news is I finished Chapter Seven on Saturday. That is good news, because this chapter is critical to my new novel and it required hours of detailed research that probably won’t even make it to the final cut. That’s the irony in creative writing – all that tremendous, interesting knowledge gets cut out because it slows the actual storyline. I believe that’s what William Faulkner meant when he wrote: ‘kill your darlings’. It doesn’t matter how great your writing is; if it interrupts the story, hit delete.

Even sugar (or evil twin sister caffeine, for that matter) can’t compare with the euphoria I feel when a chapter is successfully rounded to an end. I know some writers use outlines, but I don’t, my process is more organic; it has to develop and grow. I do have some idea of structure. I know, going into a chapter, approximately where I want the chapter to go, and what points in the storyline I’d like to hit. Sometimes this works, and sometimes, when I try to push it, the storyline breaks down and I have to reconsider what it is that I’m trying to do. That’s all part of the process, and I don’t sweat it at this stage of the game. But once I have the general framework in mind, I draft it out, and then I rewrite it, and edit it again, and polish the paragraphs to be the best they can be just like Marines, when I get to that point, and I can see that the story has been built and that it will stand on its own, that is truly, truly sweet.

And then I have the big blank ahead of me and I get to do it all over again.

But it’s worth it, because of the magic. Once you start to pile one chapter on top of another and the book begins to mesh, and it’s not just ideas and words anymore, its whole paragraphs and chapter headings and descriptive detail, and really, really funny bits of dialogue; and the characters begin to come alive and you hear them speak to you and to each other, and sometimes they wave and sometimes they flip you off, and you learn then to ask another character that particular thorny question because obviously George doesn’t want to answer it, and you get to watch as the story grows.

That’s the sweetest reward – the end result. You have a new book in your hand, and it is yours, and it is good.


Joyce said...

Excellent post, Martha! I can definitely relate to your writing process.

I have the same problem you do trying to eat well. The last thing I want to do when I get home from work is make dinner. If I lived alone I'd probably just eat cereal for dinner every day!

Gina said...

Don't worry so much about diet, Martha. As long as you're getting sufficient amounts from the four basic food groups: sugar, salt, fat, and alcohol.

martha reed said...

What food group is vanilla latte? My food pyramid would scare the FDA!

arkansascyndi said...

"It’s not that I eat bad food, I’m just lazy, and I’d rather grab a handful of something quick than actually cook something nutritious."

That describes my diet to a "T"... of course, my doctor isn't happy with it! LOL. Got the verbal spanking yesterday and told I would go on the South Beach Diet. Sigh.

The deadly Easter candy in our house is the dreaded Cadbery Eggs!

Congrats on Chapter seven

Annette said...

Gina, you left out the caffeine food group. Martha, vanilla latte covers both the caffeine and sugar food groups, making it doubly good!

And congratulations on hitting Chapter 7. I'm hoping to get to PAGE 7 later today. Ha!

Gina said...

Annette -
If you use whole milk, the vanilla latte counts toward the fat food group as well.

Annette said...

Oh, boy! Hat trick!