Writing Quote

"Don't write merely to be understood.
Write so that you can't possibly be misunderstood."
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, May 27, 2013

*gasp!* A New Post (and a new talent, too)

2013 is rushing headlong toward its halfway point and I have yet to write any fiction this year. That's okay because I say it's okay. Instead, I've been learning why I do not, under any circumstances, want to become a literary critic. Of all the papers I had to write for that class, this is the paper I should have written, but never got to and never will. I've already gone too far on this subject. Since that isn't the point of this post, lets shift gears.

The other thing I've been doing is giving the right side of my brain a run for its money. I took a drawing class this last semester and even though I put in three times as many hours (at least) for this class as I did for my blankity-blank Lit. Crit. class, I love love LOVED it. Before this class, I could not draw to save my life. Okay, I could do a passable stick figure, but that was about it. Now you can actually tell what the thing I drew is supposed to be. Actually, I was completely surprised at how well some of my drawings turned out. Yeah, I'm going to brag a bit. Here I go:

Her Magic Wands

First Generation Heirlooms

Crosshatched Fish

India Ink- Do Not Eat

More India Ink

Bathrobe on a Chair

Blue Bin Reject

Bibbity Bobbity Booboo

Legendary Huntsman
 Okay, bragging over. There are a couple of reasons I decided to include my drawings on my writing blog. First, my writing is the reason I took the drawing class. I hoped if I could draw better, I might be able to use drawing as a kind of exercise to help me get unstuck with my writing. I could sketch out the scene I'm having trouble with; draw a character that I need to get to know better. Second, I learned some things which made a huge difference in how I approach drawing that I hope might help me with my writing.

My teacher talked a bit about learning to see what you're looking at. That resonated with me in a way I can't describe. The brain automatically interprets what you're looking at, so you don't really see it at all. You don't notice how the shifts of light on a person's face defines their features. You don't notice how a red rose might have blues and purples in its more shaded areas and yellows in it's lighter ones. You look at a person at 3/4 profile and you know they have two eyes. So your brain interprets the face as having two eyes. But what you may have failed to see is that the far eye is all in shadows and you can't actually see it at all. If I were to draw that person based on what I know rather than what I see, the drawing would come out looking odd, and I might not be able to tell you why. In most of the above drawings, I spent more time just seeing than I spent drawing.

What's that got to do with writing? I am told all the time to write what I know. I hate that expression. It doesn't help me at all. Instead I'd like to write what I see. I don't always know exactly what is happening in my stories. For a least part of the writing process, even if it's just during the planning stage, there is an exciting discovery happening inside my head. So even if I can't accurately describe what's happening, I can describe what I see. When I read a book, I don't want to know what's going on. I can get that by reading reviews or asking my friend who just finished the book to tell me about it. I want to see what's happening. In fact, I want all my senses engaged. I want my emotions jostled. This idea makes me want to avoid interpreting my own fiction for my audience and, instead, present what I really see in my mind.

And now that finals are over and I have the whole summer off from school (but not from life, unfortunately), I can put this new theory to the test. Time to dust off my pen. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My kind of history

School's out and I'm back! For a few weeks anyway. Day one of summer break and I felt so lost without homework to do, I set some for myself. I've got a book of writing exercises that I've been meaning to look through for a while. So my assignment was to read a chapter and do the exercise as it relates to Armathad.

The exercise was all about finding the history of your story. I hate history. HATE. IT. But then my History tests might have been a lot more fun if I could just make stuff up. You know like, "and George Washington, he had wooden teeth..." wait. I think he did have wooden teeth. Anyway, history is fun when you get to make things up. The idea behind this exercise is to find out why your story ends up the way it does. Particularly if you start in medias res, you're going to need that back story to make sense of things.

I had already done this history making with a lot of Armathad's plot. But when I went back and thought about it, I realized I had not done it on most of my main characters. I know who they are and who they become later on, but I don't know who they were before page one. I don't know why Dop became Athelell's ward, who his parents are or what his relationship with them is like. What is it that gives him that youthful, spunky, trying-too-hard-to-please personality despite the underlying hurt that no matter what he does, he doesn't seem to be able to win his peers' respect?

My villain, I did do a back story on. I had an entire chapter in which he sits and broods on his past. Yeah. That got cut. It was mostly for my own information anyway. But I also decided he doesn't get a voice in this book. In thinking about his history, I've decided he gets his own book; a prequel. This may end up being this year's nanowrimo project. We'll, see.

As interesting as this history-making is, I just need to be careful not to let it take over. I still have a book to write, after all.

How do you find the balance between the helpful history invention and moving forward with the plot? Ready, set, go.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Up to my Neck in It

So here I am again, despite my desire to avoid any sort of accountability for the month of March. The Nanoedmo site was down for several days and I wasn't so good at tracking my time without their handy logger. But I estimate I finished the month with about 21 hours of editing, which is nowhere near 50 hours of editing. My other confession is that I missed three days of writing altogether. School has had me inordinately stressed the last few weeks. One day, I decided to escape into a book and I did not resurface until I finished that sucker! It was one a.m. and I hadn't written. Doh! A few days later, I started a puzzle with my son, who walked away after about half an hour. I didn't walk away. I finished that sucker! It was one a.m. and I hadn't written. Doh! Doh! Then last night, I was working on a cross stitch, which I haven't touched in about six months, and was trying to finish a particularly detailed section, but I finished that sucker! It was one a.m. and I had not written. doh.

Lately I've been wondering if I can actually do school and take care of my family and my house and serve the members of my church and write and and and AND

And breathe. and breathe. and 1&2&3&4&5&6&7&8&9&10&11&12&13&14&15&16&17&18&19&20
and breathe...

*cough, cough* Sorry. I flat-lined there for a minute, but I'm back now and dealing with it all. There's not a lot of things I can cut out of my life right now and I don't want writing to be one of them. So I'm going to forgive myself for not having a perfect record this year and just pick up with April 1st.

It's a new quarter and I'm starting it off with another one of Tristi's challenges. In an effort to keep things simple and fairly attainable, I have three modest goals for April.
1. write in the morning instead of the evening. If I can get my sorry tail out of bed at a decent time, I can get at least half an hour in before the kids open their eyes.
2. finish the editing for chapters three, four and five of Armathad. Really, I'm trying to figure out a way to combine three and four, since neither one is really pulling its weight on its own, but each has some valuable information AND they're connected anyway.
3. get my research paper written. It's due at the end of this month and I don't know how I'm going to carve out the time for it. But I will figure it out and not flat-line this time.

That's doable, right? What are your goals for April and how will you manage them with your busy schedule?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Creating as an Editing Tool

Hey! I made it back before the month ended. Look at how good I am!

I'm a little behind on my editing for this month, but I've gotten some time in every day and I've scratched one item off my list already. The problem I'm running into now that keeps me from spending more time actively editing my MS is the need to create. I don't mean that I want to work on something new and it's distracting me from editing. I mean that as I edit, it becomes necessary in the editing process to create something new.

For example, the scene I'm working on right now is super short compared to all the other chapters. That's not a horrible thing, but it has me questioning whether the information revealed in that chapter is essential. Some of it is. So I figure I can either try to extend the chapter with some new material that will make further necessary revelations or I can try to combine a couple related chapters, which means writing this information from a different character's perspective. In either case, I'm creating new material. And that's where I'm stuck. In one case, I need some stock characters that I don't really need to keep track of later. In the other case, the information will be presented second hand, after the fact.

I have to remind myself that I don't have to keep any changes that I make. I could write the scene both ways and see which works better. I'm having difficulty switching from edit mode to create mode. So my question for my fellow writers is:

When you need to create during the edit phase of a project, how do you get your brain to shift back and forth between the edit mindset and the create mindset?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

No time to say hello. Goodbye!

Just popping in for a quick breath of noveling community before plunging back into writing, family, and school work (not always in that order).

I'm still 100% for writing every day in 2012. Though I didn't quite get through all my goals in February. Okay, I only got about half of them done. But still, I got HALF of them DONE!! I could have fizzled out and done nothing, but I'm still making progress. And I'm very happy with the progress I'm making. That's all that matters, right?

With a truckload of school reading to do, a couple of tests and an essay or two (and that's just THIS WEEK), I have been reluctant to commit myself to anything official this month. But this is March, and NaNoEdMo is on. That's 50 hours of editing in a month, which is roughly 97 minutes a day. My entire body freezes up at the thought of giving up that much study time/play time/cuddle time/cleaning time/reading time EVERY DAY. And I've never won a NaNoEdMo before. I don't know if I can do this...

But I'm going to try. And if I only roll out 20 hours or even just 1 hour for the month, I hope that time will have made a difference to my novel.

Here's how I'd like to spend my 50 hours of editing:

Finish outlining my existing story (only 3 more chapters to go)
Begin outlining the rest of my unwritten story
Fix some of the plot holes I've noticed

That's about as far as my ambition goes at the moment. If I don't make it back here until next month, I hope your nanoedmo goes well, too.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

If January was any indication...

...I am so going to OWN 2012! January was a great month for me in every way. As far as my writing goes, I could not have been more pleased. It turned out that my goals for the January writing challenge were a bit lofty. Even my revised goals ended up being bigger than I thought they were. So I didn't quite meet all of them.

BUT the amount of work I did get done was pretty substantial, so I call it a win.
I spent part of every single day in Armathad, which I've never done for an entire month before.
I did a detailed plot outline of 19 chapters- somewhere between 30-35 thousand words.
I transcribed 15 thousand words which I had hand written a while back. I still have several thousand more words to transcribe before I'm done with that.
And all the while, i was able to see, with a clarity I've never had before, what is working and what needs to be changed.

I did have one little snag, though. Our home server crashed earlier in the month. My files were completely unavailable. Both hard drives were on their last legs (our backup drive went out at the same time as our main drive- worst nightmare, realized!) and we didn't know if we'd be able to retrieve all our data before they died completely. Fortunately, my resident nerd got us a new sever and worked tirelessly to retieve all our data. It took DAYS for everything to transfer safely, but as of last night, all our stuff is safe and the tension in my chest has finally been released. My digital manuscript is open. Making a copy of all my writing to my desktop now... and I can breathe properly for the first time in three weeks.

My husband is a lifesaver. *Ahem* but I never doubted him for a second. All along, I've have nothing but the firmest confidence in his super-human computer skills.

Moving on-
I don't have an official challenge to join for February, but I'm so on top of things, I don't need one. Er... something like that.

In February, I am going to:
1. Write every single day.
2. Reconcile the differences in my digital manuscript with the ones in my hard copy.
3. Finish outlining the 10 chapters in my digital manuscript that aren't in my hard copy.
4. Begin plotting the rest of the novel/series

Okay... GO!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 9 and Still Strong

Today is January 9. The 9th day of the new year, the 9th day of January, the 9th day of the writing challenge. I have worked on Armathad every single day so far. Some days I didn't get much done, but I've done something every day. For me, that's great progress. Today's post is partly a follow up on how I'm doing in the challenge, and partly a note on some small observations I've made.

First, I should mention that Beyond the Veil of Armathad or The Veil of Armathad or just Armathad is the story I'm most excited about. It's kind of a big deal to me. It's a massive project and I have a lot invested in it emotionally. That said, I haven't touched it in a very long time. And that is actually turning out to be good for the book. As I'm plotting out the story I have thus far, I'm seeing areas that need work which I just never noticed before. I'm seeing chapters that can be combined, altered or omitted.

This last semester, I've had to do a lot of reading (yea!), and a lot of note taking. This has been fabulous for the plotting exercises I've been doing. When I originally plotted out this story, my notes were very general and vague. I wanted to just give myself little clues as to what was going on in each chapter, trusting to my memory to fill in the details I was looking for. Bad idea. My memory sucks. When I took notes on Dracula, I got pretty detailed because I had no idea what my teacher was going to think was important and what was superfluous. That ended up being incredibly helpful. I was able to skim my notes and find the exact point of the story I was thinking of within moments of needing the information. It's taking a little time to re-plot my 17 chapters, but I think it will be worth it. When it comes to plotting new, unwritten ideas, less may turn out to be more until the editing begins. We'll see.

In the mean time, I feel really good about how things are going. I don't know if I'll meet my stated goals this challenge, but if I can at least get some new material out this month and write every day, I'll still feel happy with my progress.

On the horizon: spring semester starts up next week. I have one Internet class and one on-campus class. If this semester resembles last semester in any way, it's going to be hell. But bring it on. I'm up to it.