Structural Integrity

Thursday. End of July. Another month gone. Another set of challenges overcome. And so life continues on.

How did my weekend go? Amazingly, of course! The screenwriting workshop was EXACTLY what I was looking for. Three days of intensive lessons on plot structure with loads of charts and examples provided. It built on some of the stuff I learned in Paris in terms of structure and character development, but they really took the time to break it all down. I also had the opportunity to chat with other writers and pitch some of my story ideas. I am continually surprised that I’m getting good feedback on my ideas. People see a lot of potential in my stories about South Dakota. That’s really great to hear, especially since it feels like all anyone in my life ever does is drag me through the mud.

By the third day, I had my Verm manuscript outline and notes out again. I mentioned previously I’ve been taking periodic breaks from it and coming back to work on it. I think I’ve been through about 10 versions of it at this point. I can tell you with full confidence that the post-workshop version I’m working on now feels right. I admit that writing this book hasn’t been the easiest process. I’ve collected SO MANY stories about SD that I am straight-up overwhelmed. Thanks to this class, I’m starting to sort them out. Here’s what I’ve got:

  • The Main Story aka The Life and Men of Betsey Horton, Writer Extraordinaire – Fabulous!
  • Bloody Mary’s and Other Stories from the Bars – Pretty much over it at this point. I thought these people were interesting, but it turns out they’re just a bunch of petty, immature jerks. Boring! Make no mistake, I will be recycling some of those characters, if only because they were involved in major life events. There’s nothing to “just get over” here, people. It’s time for you to accept that this is part of my story and let it go. And here’s the thing… if they didn’t like the way I wrote about them before, they’re definitely not going to like it now. That’s on them. They knew I was writing this and they chose to present themselves poorly. That’s not my problem and I don’t really care how they feel about it.
  • The Island of Lost Guys – Mix of characters from SD and NoVA. Has potential but needs a MAJOR overhaul. On hold until further notice.
  • Andrew — AKA the Completely Unplanned, Unexpected Disaster, parts of which are still available to read on The Secret Menu, but will ultimately never see the light of day as a complete manuscript.
  • Mad Dog’s Life Stories — increasingly of less interest to me since he is a massively ungrateful jerk.
  • Bad Bosses — collected short stories of all of my bad experiences working in the service industry. Highly relevant in this day and age. I just came up with this idea within the last 2 weeks.
  • Travel stories — reserved for new blog project that I’ve been struggling to start due to writer’s block.
  • All of the Native American stuff — difficult to write because I am not Native and thus struggle with anxiety over cultural appropriation, taking away someone else’s opportunity, telling other people’s stories for them, etc.

Whew! That’s a lot! Jeezy Creezy, no wonder I’ve had so much trouble with this thing! I keep trying to smash it all together when it CLEARLY needs to be separated out! Suddenly, it all makes sense!

As a result of the workshop, I was able to extract The Main Story from everything else. Once I cut away all the external factors and focused on her alone, I could see the character’s journey clearly for the first time. The Town and the bars are just the setting. The exes and bartenders at Bloody Mary’s are the antagonizing force. The majority of stuff I initially thought was important isn’t really important at all. There’s a bunch of side stories that aren’t relevant to the main character arc. This woman is on a journey to find herself in an unfamiliar environment full of strange and terrible people, all while struggling with her own mental health. She overcomes many challenges and finally becomes the person she always wanted to be. Spoiler Alert: it’s just my life story with a rigid structure forced onto it. And guess what? It turns out that story has far more universality to it than I thought.

By the time the workshop was over, I had charted out my character arc and the full plot. All in all, I would say the investment I made was 1000% worth it. Not to mention the fact that I got to walk away feeling fantastic about myself because New Califor-kers like my style. That’s pretty much all I care about at this point. We already know how the Vermin feel about it. Guess what? No one cares. The only people whose opinions matter to me live in DC, New York, LA, London, and Paris. It is what it is!

Other important pieces of info to note:

  • It’s normal to go through dozens of drafts and rewrites
  • It’s normal to sit in public places, people watch/eavesdrop, and use it as inspiration for your work
  • It’s normal to write stories based on your real life
  • It’s normal to create strong characters who seemingly have a mind of their own (ie; Andrew)
  • It takes years to write anything good
  • Sometimes the smartest thing you can do as a writer is take a class
  • Networking is not quite as terrifying as it seems
  • Some people are actually pretty cool!
  • Personal attacks/insults are not considered “constructive criticism”
  • Not every piece of feedback you get should be taken seriously
  • If you have to argue with someone in order to get them to see your worth, they are not someone you should be wasting any time on
  • It’s totally fine to tell overly-critical “friends” and “family” members to stay in their own damn lane. Are ANY of these people out here trying to write multiple books, scripts, short stories, and blogs? Are they trying to build a professional career while everyone around them constantly criticizes them? No? That’s what I thought.

So, there you have it. Once again, I have proven that I’m right and all of these ridiculous people who keep coming at me with judgment, criticism, and screaming meltdowns are wrong. They are not professional writers. They are not editors, agents, or publishers. They don’t know shit about shit about shit about shit. From now on, the only people I’m taking writing advice from are other writers. Everyone else can shove it.

And in the end, I realized everything is going to be okay. I am okay. The person I am becoming is okay. There is nothing wrong with me. I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I am right where I am supposed to be. I made the best of a really bad situation. Now I’m using the sour, rotten lemons given to me in a compost heap to grow a beautiful lemon tree.

Speaking of Lemon Tree… I still desperately need a writer’s retreat so I can work on all my stuff in peace. I am so tired of the screaming meltdowns! I got more done this weekend with my horrible mother gone than I’ve gotten done in months. Y’all need to make sure you get vaccinated so this stupid virus goes away and we can live our lives again!

I’m going back to bed now. I have been on and off with sleep the last few nights due to all the stuff going around in my head. Pretty sure I woke up at like 4:30am. I finally got up and went for a walk around the property (we have like 10 acres) around 6ish. I started writing at 7:30am. Now it’s 8:30am and I’m exhausted! I have a lunch date today so I’m going to give myself a break to nap. It’s safe to say I definitely earned it after writing all of this stuff out.

Have a lovely day!

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