just vibes

how my story babies begin

I wrote last week with great enthusiasm. I Am Starting My Novel! Guess how many words I have added to the manuscript since then.

Thank you for your confidence, but it is zero.

The excuses: children. They’ve been home with plague, and now it’s spring break and an imminent birthday. There is nothing like small humans for providing distractions. I have the best of intentions, but it just becomes nearly impossible to have enough uninterrupted time to really get into the flow, especially when you add all the other things like reorganizing the basement and redesigning my website and looking up that thing on Wikipedia and following the trail for the next hour or so.

It helps to remember that writing a novel is not just plopping words into a document; it is also following the Wikipedia trail and doing stuff with the kids and reading other books. In fact, this is a really important part of my process. What usually happens is an idea hits me like a ton of bricks. My ideas are snippets; a character, a piece of dialogue, a setting, and a vibe. Vibe is a very gen-z word of the moment that really doesn’t have a meaning at all, and yet it is exactly how my story ideas begin. There are only a handful of words associated with it; it’s a sensation of how the story should feel. It’s often complex and layered. It’s not just “winter, but the snow is toxic” – it’s a love-hate relationship, a sense of not fitting in, how to get past a traumatic experience, the inevitable changes that come with growing up, trying to define oneself while also not hurting the people one cares about, a beautiful a-frame house, the joy of flying down a mountain on skis, wanting something you can’t have. All of that was baked into the vibe of my previous novel, although of course I took several thousand words to actually pull all of it out. But the story is baked into the vibe and I have to undo it like a great big messy knot, without cutting any of the strings.

I get a lot of these. Some of them I can instantly recognize as fun ideas that won’t translate into a good novel, or they’re glorified fanfic.. Some of them I work through a little bit and then realize that they’re much too similar to something that’s already out there. Some of them I start and then discover that they don’t have staying power. The staying power is pretty key; my ideas percolate in the back of my head for a long time before I can even start attempting to construct a plot. I have taken to not even writing them down for weeks while they simmer, slowly letting the outer leaves peel away to reveal some of the broad strokes that can turn into something with a beginning, middle, and end; a protagonist, an inner circle, and a supporting cast; a setting that influences them; a main throughline and subplots that I can develop.

That’s where I’m currently at. I have those things. I had the adrenaline-fueled compulsion to get it all down and set up my Scrivener file. Then, like always, life became more important and the next text of my wee little vibe is whether it can stay the course when the adrenaline isn’t pushing it forward anymore. When spring break is over and the kids go back next week, that’s when we’ll see.

Currently reading: I just finished Wintering by Katherine May, and loved it.

Currently listening: Nintendo Lo-fi – it’s not for everyone, but I like it as background music

Currently eating: Good ol’ pb&j.


One response to “just vibes”

  1. Mehmeh 🙂