Just Because I Haven’t Written Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Care

I miss you.

Every one of you.

If you’ve ever left a comment here, or somehow let me know you’ve been reading my blog, whether reaching out to me by email, Facebook,or Twitter: I think of you when I sit here all alone and write.

Or at least try to write.

That’s what I’ve been doing for over a year now – writing a novel.  This is where I’ve been writing it…

Stowe Grove Redwoods

That’s the view from my office – from a picnic table in the middle of a redwood grove.

I’ve never been an outdoors-type writer – I prefer the comfort of a computer screen and indoor plumbing. Hot cups of tea, and an occasional nap in an armchair. But I’m writing outdoors now because the story I’m working on is an outdoor adventure – about the first Californio families who traveled over a thousand miles on mules and horseback to start their lives in a place called Nueva California. Somehow being outdoors makes me feel a little bit closer to these people who I’ve just recently met on the page.

It’s not easy to write a novel.

Not.at.all.

Fiction writing makes writing screenplays seem like finger painting in kindergarten. The average screenplay uses 15,000 to 20,000 words to say what it needs to say. I’ve written 52,000 and I’m maybe halfway done. Adult fiction can run from 75,000 to 100,000 words, so I’m guessing mine will come in long. But I’m a wicked editor and I love to use my red pen, so (unlike dieting) I have no problem slimming down my words.

In the meantime though, while I’m still in the throes of a first draft, I try not to edit or I’ll slow myself down. In fact, on those days when my persnickety internal editor is working overtime, I find it hard to write at all. I sit there in the middle of those beautiful trees and wonder why I’m even doing this. Why am I struggling with this story when it would be so much easier to not be writing at all?

That’s when I think of you.

Some of you have photos to your names or avatars, and those cross my mind. Others are only email addresses, but my imagination pictures you there beyond the .com. When I’m stuck and searching for a way to continue, for a reason why I should keep going and not give up, you come to me in my thoughts, and I think about you some day reading this story. And remembering that makes quitting this novel not an option at all.

The joy of writing comes from sharing. From connecting with another human being. That’s why I wrote screenplays. That’s why every time one of my screenplays became a film, on the big screen or small,  I was sharing, connecting with other people. The words had found their purpose. That’s why I started this blog, and why I miss coming here more often. You keep me writing. You keep me battling with that pesky editor, keep me focused when the squirrels are scrambling in the overhead branches, and the people are walking their dogs past this strange woman scribbling on legal pads and mumbling to herself. You keep me going forward. Knowing that you are here is what keeps me on this path, taking this journey and finishing this story.

That’s why I’m writing this today.

To let you know how much I miss you.

And I can’t wait to share this story with you.

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An Agoraphobic’s Guide to Hollywood

41 thoughts on “Just Because I Haven’t Written Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Care

  1. I miss your weekly blog, Darlene – can’t wait to read your book!! Hang in there: it will be worth it in the end!! Lucky you to be able to sit outside and write (though i think I would be totally distracted). Not much outside sitting going on around here today!!

    • Lynne – You are always one of the first people who comes here to comment and I appreciate that greatly. I really miss writing these blog posts! So many times I have thought – Gee, I’d love to write a post about ______ (fill in the blank). But then the novelist in me says: Stay focused or you will never finish this story. Sad to say that I can’t do both at the same time. Wish I could! But every now and then, I sneak over here and write a little something. Don’t tell the novelist, or I’m in trouble!

    • Thank you! It’s easy to be kind to the readers here because you’re all so great. You’re so supportive and generous, and I love the conversations we always have here. I really appreciate it when people take the time to come by and read my writings and stop awhile to chat. It’s great to see you!

  2. Smart move to go outside, you’ll find many connections and distractions. Who knows when the muse will connect via a “distraction?” Was the irony of the two illustrations intentional?

  3. Diane, you our novel sounds right up my alley. I’ll be among the first to purchase it! I am so glad to hear that you are writing a pioneer novel – I know that you’ve touched on meaningful family stories and history so often in your blog and they are wonderful fuel for fiction. From my own experience, I try to ignore that internal editor and just get the story down. I try not to worry whether it’s any good or not, whether this sentence or that sentence “works.” Once I’ve gotten the story down, then it’s time for all of the fun tinkering with word choices, the cutting, the adding in (I’m a great one for adding in), and the refining. If I get stuck, I write a few placeholder notes and move on to a scene I’m ready for. I also try not to hurry myself along but to let the writing (and story) unfold at its own pace. I’ve been taking notes for a “Prairie Hill”-based novel about its pioneer days of the 1830’s-40’s. It may be novel #3 or #4 on my list (I’m well into a non-Prairie Hill novel at the moment, though), but you’ve inspired me to give it some deeper thought. I hope that you’ll report on your progress now and again and perhaps share an excerpt when ready!

    • I appreciate the words of advice, Fred. You’ve taken this journey before, and survived it with a beautiful book at the finish line. I enjoyed reading “Prairie Hill” and it’s great to hear you’re working on novel #2 with #3 and #4 in the inspiration stage. Please let me know when #2 is available and I’ll be also one of the first to purchase it. May the words flow for you!

  4. Dear, dear Darlene. I know you’ll craft a masterpiece. I’m on number four of my ventures-in-progress (still seeking that elusive ‘good publisher’ – an oxymoron if there ever were) and sometimes hide, but there are too many ticks in the woods! Keep it up, dear heart.

  5. Writing novels IS hard, but I love it! Keep hanging on and get it finished – I can’t wait to read it!
    I live in India where we own a beautiful guesthouse so (between guests!) my writing spot is on the veranda enjoying the view – and getting distracted by eagles, water buffalo, wild boar and the like! If you want to know what the view from my desk is like it is the header at our guesthouse website http://www.lakeside.co.in If you fancy a change of scenery you could always hire a cottage here for a few weeks to write undisturbed! 😉
    Looking forward to finding out all about Nueva California!
    Dorinda

    • Beautiful countryside there in India! I can see how it would definitely inspire the work. But in my case I totally “zone out” when I am working and never notice the sights and sounds that are around me. Put me in a mine shaft and I wouldn’t know the difference. Wait. Except I’d be claustrophobic. So yeah, maybe a mine shaft wouldn’t be the best place for me to write. But I’ve had some of my most prolific writing sessions sitting in the back seat of my van parked in a parking lot overlooking an empty field of weeds. For me, it’s all in my imagination and the outside world doesn’t exist when I am working.

  6. Dear Darlene,
    What a sweet note of reconnection! Thanks for the update on your book birthing process. I’m so proud of you for following your bliss. Keep at it. We are here in the wings quietly cheering you on.

    • Thanks so much, Nancy. But I’m not so sure on my worst days of writing I would call this my “bliss.” I’ll keep that in mind, though, when I feel my crankiest and the next time I have the urge to toss all the pages into the nearest shredder.

  7. Darlene, Congratulations on your focus! So happy to hear that you are taking the plunge and swimming towards the novels end. I started a novel this summer – based on an earlier screenplay – and thought – whoa I need a lot more words. You’re an inspiration. Keep it up.

    • Ah, a fellow traveler! I never understood this preoccupation with word count that every writer I know seems to have. I never counted words as a screenwriter. Now, I understand why: There aren’t that many words in a screenplay! Simply tell the reader where the scene takes place (Slugline: “EXT. AIRPORT RUNWAY – DAY”), add a couple of lines of description (Action: “The pavement is wet from a recent rain as an expensive lear jet lands in front of the CAMERA.”) and maybe some dialogue (O.S. (off screen): LT. MURRAY: “So he couldn’t fly coach like everyone else?!”) That’s only the skeleton of a scene that will be fleshed out later by a director and actors. But with a novel…Well, you know how much more work is involved in making sure the imagination of the reader “sees” everything the way you want them to see it. Good luck to you, Midge!

  8. Hi Darlene, I have missed your blog but know that things come in waves and was looking forward to the next set! I personally can’t wait to read your book and discover more rich shared history. I am searching for published articles and pictures of ancestors and can get “lost” for days doing that. You have a true gift in your writing style that I love! Thanks for sharing the journey with us all. Debra

    • The toughest part of writing a long project has always been the loneliness that comes with it. With most jobs you can share your day’s adventures with friends and loved ones. You can say, “I met such an interesting person today at work,” or “The funniest thing happened today,” or “You’re not going to believe what I saw this morning!” But you can’t really share your writing work with most people you know because it’s just so intangible in this first draft stage. Something feels right and so you write it, but it might only be a moment, or something that will only have an impact further on in the story, and you haven’t really worked that out yet. I find that it’s just too difficult to talk about what I’m writing when I’m writing it. And there are those nagging self-doubts: What if this isn’t making any sense? Why if this isn’t working? What if this just doesn’t come together at the end of the story? So to tell a little piece of the whole picture when you are not even sure of the big picture is just too difficult to articulate. The least I could do, though, was to check in with all of you and let you know: Yep, I’m still on this adventure and that’s why I’m not here on the blog.

      • Interesting to know the process! I have no idea how to write but I do know it is a gift.

  9. Thank you in advance for the gift you are creating for us! I cannot wait to read it, and I am thrilled you are including us in your process! I love your outdoor office! I wish I were there…I wish I were there…I wish I were there! Eyes open, and…alas, I am still here! You can’t blame me for trying.

    • Nice try though! Pam, I will be so excited to share this with you when it is finished because YOU are the one who said to me that I should write it. You should know that this story is really starting to roll along now. I can’t believe all the research I’m having to do. And then, once I do the research I have to translate it and distill it into something that makes sense to a reader, that will be rich, and yet entertaining. I just wish I could write it a little bit faster!

    • I’m writing about four generations of Californians beginning with the first Spanish who settled here as colonists. I wrote a blog series about the research I had uncovered within my own family, and I am borrowing the names of my ancestors (along with some of their own history), and building the story around them. Here’s one of the blog posts with links to the entire series that I called “Californio.” That’s the name of the novel, by the way… https://darlenecraviotto.com/2013/08/21/searching-for-the-garcias/

  10. I ran on to your blog just as you apparently started the novel. The rss reader put your blogs entry at the end so I noticed the dearth of updates but that’s not all that usual. Good luck, keep at it. Consider a pre-order link.

  11. Dear Darlene, welcome back! I love the view from your office. I have missed your straight-from-the-heart posts sorely and have meant to write to thank you for posting anew for some days now, but have not been sure I’d make much sense. I am still not sure. The part of the world I live in is at war and so much that I hear these days is like “sounding brass” and “tinkling cymbal.” It tends to make a salad of the brain.I wished I could hear your voice. I knew you were writing a novel and had to disappear to do so. I know you’ll need to duck down again beneath the radar to finish it. May you have all the luck you need to do so. I look forward to reading it. Your ability create a calm, other-worldly landscape within your reader will assure you of resounding success.

    • I’m so happy to see you, Yasseen! I was thinking about you yesterday and wondering if all was okay. Today I was going to search for your email so I could write you, but it seems as though you must have read my mind. Please let me know how you are doing, and how life is in your corner of the world. Email me, if you like. In the meantime, I thank you for the luck you are sending my way. I will use it today as I start my writing of the novel. Every day it is like stepping into a cold stream, and I ask myself: Do you really want to feel the first chill as you enter? Why not find something else to do instead? I will think of what you’ve written me in today’s comment and maybe that will help me get over that fear of that first freezing step into the water. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much, Shirley! It’s getting more difficult to concentrate on the novel with Christmas knocking at our door. But I will think of you today and that will help me focus on the writing I’d like to finish before I take my holiday break. I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas!

  12. I can’t wait to read this new book of yours! I really really enjoyed the first one! I loved how you wrote about Michael and stated your reservations without being judgemental. I liked that you didn’t try to sway people’s opinions. You are an amazing writer Darlene!

  13. Darlene, the topic is of your book is interesting and I look forward to reading it. Keep at it, you are certain to succeed in spectacular fashion. By the way, your office is incredible! Peaceful.

    • Thank you for your kind words! Yes, my office is beautiful, and now that I’ve finished the novel I miss it so much. Luckily, I live close by and I take daily walks there. But it’s not the same as sitting in the middle of those magnificent redwoods and reading to them whatever pages I wrote that day. That’s how I found the “voice” for my novel – by reading it aloud. I’m sure that the many children and adults who were walking on the path nearby were certain I was a bit crazy, but I was willing to risk that label in order to make the writing perfect.

      • Your finished? When will we be able to purchase your book? Apologies for not visiting and commenting recently. I either lost my portable device, or it was stolen during an event I hosted for my job. Hopefully, I lost it. Not being able to communicate for 3-4 days has created quite a backlog. Reading what you have written out loud is a great editing tool. We should always hear what we read.

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