Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Two Captains

Or, as I affectionately see it in my head, "Two Catpains". (That which has been seen...)

Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it: I freaking love this thing. I love it. I will never stop loving it. It is, in all of its typo-ridden, grammatically sketchy, angsty, melodramatic glory, one of my favorite things in the world. And I am so, so sad to be finished with it, once and for all.

The alternate ending turned out really well. Like, really well. I'm proud of us, and I hope that it isn't too confusing for people who haven't read the novel itself (it's almost 200,000 words, I can totally call it a novel, thank you), because I think it really does manage to stand on its own as a story, as well. And going back and rereading the whole thing, I'm rediscovering things about the story that make the alternate ending even more meaningful, both for us and for the characters. Is it even legal to do that with one's own writing?

Actually, I'm still having some trouble believing that, nearly a whole year after we posted the final chapter, we sat down and plunked out another 34 pages. Miguel is completely to thank for that - she's the one who found the Fandoms Fight the Floods project and urged us to do it. And the best part, aside from giving the characters lives and families post-adventures, was what wonderfully maddening fun it was. And I think that feeling, more than anything else, is why I want to be a writer. It's the most enduring feeling of accomplishment I've ever had.

And this was only a fanfiction.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Tardy Post

I haven't posted since Monday. Way to be consistent, right? I've still been writing this week, though - our deadline for the Australia Flood Relief project is coming up this weekend, and I think we have somewhere between 5-10 pages to go? I'm not sure.

I don't know. My mind has just been on other things. A lot of it is close to home - family conflict, trying to get a car to replace the two that winter so handily destroyed this year, the upcoming move, trying to deal with my best friend, writing partner, and roommate moving halfway across the country. That one is probably the biggest. Like, no matter how much I understand that we have a lot to do before the end of March, I still want to put off packing as much as I can, because if we leave things alone, if the way the apartment looks doesn't change, I can pretend that nothing else will. For a little while. And it sucks. We'll probably never have a writing situation this good again. That might be too pessimistic, but seriously. I just don't understand how it could happen (though if it ever did, I would be so incredibly, ecstatically thrilled).

So we're going day to day, doing the things that we love to do, like getting coffee and watching TV shows and writing, and the end of March is just looming there the whole time. Like something that you can't avoid seeing, no matter how much you want to look away, but you pretend that you can't see it anyway because it's just too much to deal with. (Oh my god, on that note, why did I look up anything having to do with The Human Centipede. Seriously, why. Nightmares forever. If I ever see that movie, which I won't, I may actually expire from terror.)

Anyway, the point of all of that was that of the big changes coming, that is the one that I'm the most not okay with, and it's messing with my concentration and everything else.

When I think about trying to write anything original, I feel like I've hit the edge of the world. You know how in Coraline, when the Other Mother's world starts to unravel and Coraline finds herself walking through nothing? Everything is just gray or white and blank? It's like that. I have nothing new in my brain to work with, and nothing new to say. I know that you're "supposed" to just plug away and keep working through periods where inspiration is lacking, but...I can't. At least right now, I can't. So instead, I'm going to read. That seems like a much better use of my time. I'm in a bit of a YA kick right now, and I'm fully planning on unashamedly enjoying it. Here's my list for the next couple of weeks (some of the books have been ordered but haven't arrived yet, and some I still need to track down):

Salamandastron, by Brian Jacques

Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce (Holy crap, this one came in the mail today, and best cover art ever or best cover art ever? I love it.)

Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan

Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott

The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson

The Things a Brother Knows, by Dane Reinhardt

I also just finished Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins, and it was a whole lot of fun, though it made me sad that I am not, nor will be in the near future, in Paris. Damn it all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lightkeeper: A Love List

So today is Valentine's Day, and while I, like so many others, tend to deride the commercialism of it, I also have absolutely zero beef with the celebration and expressing of love. Because this is my writing blog, however, I'm going to channel this in a particular direction. A while back, I read a suggestion by an author that went something like this: if you feel like your interest in a story is flagging, it can be helpful to make a list of all of the things that drew you to the story in the first place. Like a reminder of why you two decided to get together in the first place.

I'm going to make my list about Lightkeeper, the solo novel that I started for NaNoWriMo back in 2009, and the one that keeps coming back to bug me because it just needs to be written so badly. Here's what I love about it:

It's got a lighthouse. Like, a really big one. Lighthouses are the best. I love them forever.

Really big, craggy rocks that jut out of a cruel and temptestuous sea.

Small islands in the north that are mostly cut off from the mysterious main continent.

An inscrutable agent of divine powers carrying out an awful, but necessary, punishment.

Three protagonists with no knowledge of each other.

Tragedy and guilt stemming from something that was completely out of a character's control; parallel quests for redemption.

Loneliness, estrangement, and suicide.

Ships and nautical adventuring.

It's based on a song by one of my top favorite bands ever, Sonata Arctica.

So, um, yeah. Kind of a crap list, now that I look at it, but it's what I've got. I'm sure there are probably all kinds of reasons why I shouldn't talk about the contents of stories I'm working on, but...screw it. If I can't ramble about my work on my own blog, then I don't want to do it. I'll still try to keep it kind of vague, and I won't post snippets of Actual Things, but this is about what you can expect to see from time to time.

You know what the biggest problem this novel has so far is, though? Hold on to your hair, it's a doozy.


Seriously, I have a conflict that gets the protagonists out in the (as-yet-mostly-undefined) world, but I have no idea what they're actually fighting against.

This is a serious problem, and it's one that I've encountered a few times. I think I may need to start coming up with the villains and main conflicts before the rest, because my brain seems to shy away from them like there's a Doctor Who perception filter blocking me from seeing the whole thing. Like I'll get part of it, and then when it comes time to look at what, exactly, the climax of the story will be about, sorry, what was that? Was there a story there? I could have sworn there was, but I sure as hell don't see one now.

And that is why there is not more of this novel so far.


Words Written Today: 520
Category: Two Captains Alt. Ending

Friday, February 11, 2011

In Tribute to Brian Jacques

I am but an orchard shadow in the sunny
tide of noon,
The dust of olden seasons on a stone.
My paw is light and silent as a waning
autumn moon;
I walk the halls of memory, alone.
- Brian Jacques, Salamandastron

I've been stalling on writing this for a few hours now, because I'm not sure I'll be able to do it justice. Therefore, I think I'll keep it simple and short.

When I was about eight years old, a friend in elementary school introduced me to the Redwall books. I'm not going to pretend to remember the details; it was probably Mossflower, but it really doesn't matter. What does matter is that these books have given me some of my best memories - getting in trouble in class for reading under my desk, staying up way past my bedtime with a flashlight under the blankets, zipping through new releases in a day, borrowing people's copies and lending out my own, making makeshift cloaks and going out into fields with friends to pretend we were on quests (duck and weave, guys, duck and weave!), trying to recreate some of the Abbey recipes in the kitchen, memorizing the poetry and setting some of the songs and riddles to my own melodies - the list goes on.

Brian Jacques passed away on February 5th, and while I regret never meeting him, it's okay. I think it's very possible that anyone who's read a Redwall book knew him, just a little, through his stories.

These books, with their roving, fighting heroes, dangerous quests, and treacherous villains have left an indelible mark on my life. They've shaped the way I read and write, and the way I experience stories. Brian Jacques left behind an unbelievable legacy, and if I ever have children, I'll be proud to share these adventures with them.

Rest in peace, Mr. Jacques. You will be missed.


P.S. For a much more elegantly worded tribute, check out Jason Pinter's piece in the Huffingtom Post. It made me cry.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who is qualified to write about writing?

First thing - the monster cold seems to have mostly cleared up, and [almost] all of the cotton has been cleared out of my skull! It feels so good! Also, the weather for the upcoming week is looking extremely promising: the day after next, it's supposed to get into the high thirties and actually stay there. I am so ridiculously thrilled. Minnesota winters are just brutal.


My question for the day is whether or not it's productive to assign levels of qualification when it comes to writing about writing. It's kind of meta, I guess.

Most successful writing blogs that I've seen have been run by one of several kinds of people. There are the authors, the ones who without a doubt have the greatest authority when it comes to dispensing advice on the nuts and bolts (hmm. I think I might hate that phrase) of writing. They're the ones that newer writers look to when we want to know about the creating and refining process from those who have been there. Their advice is a step up from those who are on the same level as the unpublished writer because whatever they've done has, obviously, worked for them.

Then there are the veterans of the publishing industry, the agents and editors. Their perspectives are invaluable for learning what to expect from the querying point onward. An author can tell you how to survive on a demanding book tour; an agent or editor can tell you what needs to be done to make the tour a reality in the first place.

This question, however, is one that I've been struggling with for a while, especially as it pertains to my prospective place in the blogging world. (I refuse to say "blogosphere". I know it's the correct term. I just...refuse. Ugh.) Specifically, am I qualified to have a blog on writing?

On one level, of course I am. Anyone with an interest or hobby is well within their rights to write about that interest, even in a public venue like a blog. The process of writing out questions and issues encourages deeper, more critical thinking on those issues, and stands a good chance of increasing the likelihood of their solving. Furthermore, if one can establish a rapport with a group of readers of like minds, there's much to gain from the sharing of these ideas. It's a positive learning cycle, and I'm of the opinion that it will be an absolutely essential tool for me as I work on improving my work ethic, my understanding of the publishing world, and, most importantly, my writing.

However, as anyone who's read the first post of this blog knows, I am not a published author. I'm not even close. I'm a youngish writer struggling with one of the biggest impediments a writer can have: a reluctance to actually write. Starting so far at the beginning of the process, I have to wonder if perhaps I'm shooting myself in the foot before the race has even begun. I'm not likely to garner much of a readership here, and I'm okay with that - frankly, I don't think I'm at the point where I could really handle one. But one of my biggest fears is that this blog will fizzle and die, and I'll be left with yet another unfinished project to discourage me in the long run.

To prevent this, I've put together a long list of topics that I'm planning on tackling in future posts with every ounce of raw, inexperienced enthusiam I've got in me. A couple of them may even turn into series, and I've decided that this blog will be updated every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tuesdays and Thursdays I'm going to dedicate to my collaborative blog, Songs of Silence, and the weekends are going to be for me. In between, I'll make short posts on word counts, just so that I have a record of them. My goal is to write approximately 500 words a day. It's not a huge amount, but it should be enough to get the ball rolling. I'll make my first word count post later today, as an addendum to this.

So, to conclude: Sure, I'm qualified to write about the process of writing. It's a shared experience that anybody can discuss, and it is most definitely counterproductive and defeatist to tell myself that what I have to say about it isn't worth sharing. What I am not qualified to do is dispense writing and publishing advice that I don't have personal experience with.

Words written today: 320
Category: Miscellaneous fiction

Monday, February 7, 2011

Self-discipline and Extenuating Circumstances

Disclaimer: I am loopy on cold medication right now. If this post is incoherent or confusing, please accept my sincere apology. I'm going to try to keep this one short.

Word count since I last posted: approx. 55, on the collaborative Aussie flood-relief project.

Yeah, I know. It's awful.

The intersection of self-discipline and (seemingly/sometimes) extenuating circumstances is something that I come across fairly frequently when it comes to writing.

Example: I have had a cold since I last posted on Friday. My boyfriend, with whom I've been in a long-distance relationship for quite a while, came up to visit. The cold got worse, and has shown no signs of abating so far. I have enough trouble concentrating when things are normal; adding factors like this to the mix have basically guaranteed my inability to get any writing done.

What I'm asking myself right now, though, is this: if one is aiming to drastically improve one's self-discipline, where does one draw the line when it comes to reasons (not excuses) for not getting things (specifically writing, in this case) done? Is it okay not to write if you're sick, or should you just power through? Is it okay not to write if you want to spend time with your significant other?

You know, now I'm not even sure why I'm asking this. The answer seems painfully obvious. Clearly, my sinuses were working to obfuscate my reasoning powers. Of course it's okay. There are no black-and-white cut-and-dried rules for this kind of thing. I don't think it's counterproductive to the goal of building self-discipline to say, No, not today. Now is not the time for this. I'm choosing to use this time for resting/recovery/relationship/whatever. It's the conscious delegation of the time for the purpose that's important.

Now, I'm going to go watch a movie and work on my knitting. And on getting better. This cold is pretty ridiculous. And if I feel up to it - and only then - I'll work on writing.

Hmm. I may not be totally resolved on this issue, actually. I'll have to come back to it another time.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What stops me from writing?

I want to write. Better yet, I want to be a writer, in much more than the sense of "someone who writes" (I mean, heck, I already do that. Sometimes). But lately, I've noticed that in both my solo and collaborative projects, I'll think about writing - I'll think about it a lot - and I'll read some articles, and I'll feel really good about reading these articles on writing and thinking about writing and getting warm fuzzies about all the writing I could do and ...and then I just...won't do it. It's like there's some serious cognitive dissonance going on there: I want to do this, but I don't want to do this.

A big part of it could probably be explained away by laziness: writing is hard, and it gives me a headache, and it's time consuming! Another part could be perfectionism: writing is hard, and it gives me a headache, and it's time consuming, and it won't be perfect the first time, and I might end up completely scratching what I've just put time into, so why try at all?

But I think that the biggest problem, the mother of all the problems, is fear. It's a visceral, multi-layered fear that makes my stomach clench up and my fingers automatically gravitate towards my mouth so that I can tear the nails apart. Sometimes it keeps me up at night, and sometimes I go to sleep just to avoid it.

Like most people, I'm afraid of failure. Deathly afraid. What if I write, and by some miracle of strength and determination actually finish a draft, and then revise until I'm bleeding from the eyes, and get outside opinions and good advice that I do my best to heed, and I still can't get published? What if I write a novel, get it published, and then find out after the fact that everyone thinks it sucks? What if - what if - what if - what if -

To which the stronger, better part of me gives a resounding SO WHAT? The laws of physics state that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (I know this isn't a perfect analogy, but stay with me, here. I'm gonna make this work). So say that the writing, and all of the work that goes into the writing, is the first reaction. It's the product of my desire to write, almost a reaction to that. What comes after? Well, obviously something will. The time that I put into that novel is not going to disappear into a void. I can't get it back, but I won't want it back, because I'll have something better: the draft of a novel. And that is something that I really, really want. So there's payoff #1.

Now, say that novel is no good. Say it actually really blows, and there's no way in hell that I'd ever even try to get it queried. The important thing to remember is that the time I spent working on it was still not wasted. It was put to very good use, because during that process, it's almost impossible that I will have completely avoided learning things about myself: the ways that I work best, the things that inspire me the most, how much I love seeing the words that I've put together marking the pages (okay, maybe I already know this one), and, hopefully, what I can do to improve the next novel.

I have a strong feeling that that is going to be so much more than worth all of the pain and time and headaches.

So what are my goals for this blog?

First off, I'm going to use it to keep track of the words that I write per day. It's not the best measure of productivity, but I'm only going to count those that belong to current projects, and I'm going to try and meet my minimum every day. I may give myself one day off per week, but I'm not sure yet.

Secondly, I'm going to use it to narrow down which projects I most want to work on - I have two solo novels, one collaborative novel/trilogy and one short story, and at least three solo short stories started right now. Some of these just need to be finished. Here is where I'm going to talk (to myself) about my projects: what I love and hate about them, ways to improve, probably some outlining, and lots of lists.

And thirdly, I'd like to use this to start building a base for myself. I'd ultimately like to have a writing group, but I'm going to work slowly towards that. Mostly, I'd really like to hear from other aspiring authors, and get some discussions going about the ups and downs of the craft as we experience them.