Connective Tissue



How about a biology lesson today?

Anyone heard of Connective Tissue? Connective Tissue maintains the form of the body along with its internal organs, providing cohesion and support. It is a scaffolding for other cells to rest and where nerve tissue and muscle tissue are embedded.  The entire body is supported from within by a skeleton composed of bone, a type of connective tissue able to resist stress due to its laminated structure and hardness. The individual bones of the skeleton are held firmly together by ligaments, and muscles are attached to bone by tendons, both of which are examples of dense connective tissue. At the joints, the bones are covered with cartilage, a connective tissue with a substance that gives it a consistency adapted to permitting smooth movements between surfaces.

Additionally, blood vessels and nerves travel through connective tissue. Some types of connective tissue play an important role in providing oxygen and nutrients from capillaries to cells, and carbon dioxide and waste substances from cells back into circulation. They also allow organs to resist stretching and tearing forces. Most significantly, our body’s immunological defenses are found within connective tissue.

Our organs…heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, brain…might give us life, but without the connective tissue, what kind of life would it really be?

That’s all very interesting – you say – but what’s my point?

Those of you who follow my posts regularly know that I’m deep in the throes of a first draft. This is my 4th book (none published yet), and consequently many of the posts I’ve been uploading lately have revolved around my writing process…specifically the first draft kind. I’ve talked about my “Blow & Go” method of creating a first draft, and today I’m using a different analogy to delve a little bit deeper.

I purposely leave out a lot of connective tissue when I begin a new project. Not all of it of course, as the skeletal framework is representative of my outline, but a good portion won’t be layered in until the 2nd or 3rd drafts. That’s one reason anyone reading the first version of my work would be unimpressed…to put it kindly. Character arcs will seem choppy and uneven, mood setting devices completely absent, descriptive language almost non-existent, and the pacing will resemble the heart rate of an elderly two-pack-a-day man with arrhythmia.         

If I’m shooting for an 85,000 word novel, then my first draft will usually come in around 60K, and that’s so I leave enough room to surgical implant the connective tissue. This analogy makes it sound like I’m simply adding filler or padding, but in my opinion the connective tissue is what turns an average novel into a great one, or a great one into a spectacular one. The proper amount of added character traits and quirks bolsters an interesting personality into someone memorable. A couple words here and there, or a succinctly placed narrative, make the words flow from the page as opposed to being pulled from it.

Be careful though, too much connective tissue and you could end up with a dangling participle! :)  

Two Worlds



I don’t know what it’s like for the rest of you when writing on a new project, but for me it can be trying. During the height of my involvement, when I’m so wrapped up and agonizing over every single detail in an effort to spill my imagination onto the page and bring it to life, all the while making it as believable as possible, my mind tends to splinter. For that period of time I live in two worlds…the one my body exists in…and the one my mind gets sucked into.

I find myself constantly thinking about people who don’t really exist, but mean everything to me. I envision how they look, what they’re wearing that day, situations they might be forced to deal with, emotions tapped into by interactions with others…which surprisingly include people from my other world. Because I tend to use places and settings I’ve experienced first-hand, it takes no real effort for me to slide back and forth between my real-life world and my imaginary one. It’s not unusual for me to tell my wife that I feel like I’m forgetting something important or a task I was supposed to accomplish, only to remember that it wasn’t me…but one of my characters who was having a memory lapse.

I’m guessing this sort of behavior is normal for us writers, though I imagine it might be a tad easier for those who write Sci-Fi or Fantasy, given their two worlds are so dissimilar. That is unless the authors plot already involved two worlds (i.e. alternate reality), then they’d have three worlds to contend with. :)

It’s really during this stage of my writing that my other world is so dependent on me…and vice versa. The longer the break between writing sessions, the more I feel my other world begins to dwindle. Everything turns bleak…colors fade…shapes lose their definition…and the dialogue between characters loses its sense of spontaneity. I must plug in…like Neo jacking into the Matrix…if only for a small time to keep the world vibrant and alive. And when I’m in that world, I become a just a shadow in the other. Straddling both worlds’ leads to distraction and confusion, but living in one or the other is just as unsatisfactory.

But that’s our life as writers…right?  An inhabitant of two worlds, and where the question of which one is more real, is not always a simple answer.

Pivotal




I spend a lot of time here talking about aspects of the writing/publishing process that I feel is relevant (and interesting) to other writer’s. Sometimes I ask myself -- “Self, why is this relevant and/or interesting?” I mean, who am I to decide that? What I’ve concluded is that although I haven’t been published yet, I’m what you would call representative. I am the Average Joe of the writing community. If writers were grouped into a consumer category, marketing firms would be tripping over themselves to have me participate in their focus groups. What I like, usually everyone else (writers) likes. What I struggle with, a lot of other writers struggle with.

Take today’s topic for example. In every book I’ve tackled there’s always been at least one particular scene/chapter that causes my anxiety level to rise when I think about writing it. Trepidation is what it’s called. It could be a scene/chapter that involves intense emotions…or high tension…fast paced action…or deep retrospection, but whatever the challenge is – it concerns us because we’ve never gone there before. Have you experienced this? My money is on the answer being yes…and I’d be willing to postulate that if the answer is no, then you haven’t written your best work yet.

I just finished one of these pivotal chapters this past weekend. How’d I do? Let’s just say there was a smile on my face at the end of that session. I feel it’s these kind of chapters that really define our work and the type of writer we want to be. Wherever you set the bar, clearing it with space to spare is what fills us with pride. And the next time, the bar will go up a little farther and the butterflies in your stomach will turn into twin-winged WWII fighter planes. That’s why you always hear the advice – no matter what, keep writing. While you’re surprising yourself with each pivotal chapter you churn out, the quality of everything you produce rises right along with it.

What about you? Care to tell me about your last pivotal chapter?
 

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