Sunday, December 4, 2011
If you're wondering what happened with me and NaNo- I won! I nearly dropped out a few times; rehearsals and schoolwork were keeping me really busy, but I just have to win now that I have twice before. So I finished with a little over 51,000 words.
I'll just reiterate the tip I gave in the last entry: DO NOT do NaNoEdMo. It completely destroyed my novel and I think I'll have to do a complete rewrite. It just takes your mind to the complete wrong place when you're writing and editing at that speed. Next year, I'll be doing NaNo the traditional way.
When I have time, I also need to check out what's up with my word count; Scrivener says I only have 32,000 words, but that's impossible since I had 33,000 words before I even started NaNo. Thankfully, I have this novel backed up several times. I learned my lesson from the Great Word Loss of NaNo '09.
Now back to the play. As I believe I mentioned, it's a brand new play written by a very young playwright, a recent graduate. However, her credits are quite impressive, and I'll admit to being sort of star struck whenever I saw her (which wasn't often before this weekend, as she lives in New York and I'm in Philadelphia.) Even though she's only two years older than I, I always felt like a little kid around her because I was so intimidated by her credits and her writing skill. Last night, however, I got up the courage to ask her about something mentioned in her program bio: being produced at the Actor's Theatre of Louisville. I happen to be looking there to do an apprenticeship, and who better to talk to about it than someone who's already done it?
As it happens, she hasn't done it; her friend did, but the playwright's work was the one the friend produced. But with that one question, doors were opened. Besides being introduced to the friend when she comes to see the show next weekend, it also finally started up the conversation that I've been longing to have with the playwright about playwriting in general. She's such a nice person and I very much enjoyed talking to her. She asked me if I wrote too, and when I told her I did and gave her the plot of my play, she said she'd love to read it! That was a "whoa" moment for me, and now I'm nervously looking over my most recent drafts to make sure they're not embarrassing. But what an opportunity!
The process of working on this play has been nothing but inspiring to my own playwriting endeavours. When next semester starts, I expect I'll be writing a lot more, as my play is my thesis!
Thursday, November 17, 2011
To be honest, the situation is not as dire as it seems. Because I made the decision long before NaNo to include editing in my work count, it's much easier to make up 5000 words or so than it would have been in previous years. (By the way, by "editing," I don't mean a word here or there. I mean like really working on a scene and polishing it.)
However, as I knew would happen, I'm suffering the guilt over not doing NaNo traditionally. And besides the fact that that's stupid- people do this all the time- I also know that if I were doing NaNo traditionally, I would have dropped out by now, as the show I'm in is taking over my life in a very wonderful way. We open in two weeks exactly, so things aren't going to get any easier.
One day, I'll come to my senses, either about being crazy enough to do this every year or about accepting my own decisions without guilt.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Like all my other technological items, I have nothing to hide on my computer (computer here meaning documents, pictures, etc.), nothing I'm ashamed of, even if I'd rather people didn't see my awkward adolescent years in photographs. But I have a mini panic attack at the thought of someone going through my documents, and that's because of my writing.
I've always been protective of my writing. I don't know why. I suppose that a good part of it is definitely that writing is one of my favorite forms of expressing myself, so it's me in those words, my ideas, both good and not so good. I experiement, I explore, and I take chances in my writing. And while I may not be the best writing, I do consider myself a fairly good one. So why do I want to make sure that no one sees what I write?
I know that a lot of it comes from my being a perfectionist. I want my drafts to be flawless when I show them to someone, despite that the word "draft" implies everything but perfection.
I've had this blog for a few years, and I think maybe one person I know in real life has read this blog, and he found it on his own just recently (hi, Caleb!) I haven't even shared this blog with my critique partner, whom I trust implicitely.
I wish I had the courage to share my writing more. I don't think the reactions would be bad. But I think it'll take awhile for me to get up the courage.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
I'm a little OCD- I like to do things the same way, all the time. I make bets with myself: I bet you can't keep this up for the rest of your life. I betcha. And so even deviating from an annual thing is kind of screwing with me. But I both want and need to do it, I think, and it's not an unheard of thing and so is still officially accepted.
I'm going to be doing what is usually called NaNoFiMo. I will be finishing up a novel I began to work on in September of 2009 (the sci-fi YA one.) I will probably not write 50,000 more words of it (as it's already nearly 35,000), but I will be adding possibly a good 20,000, maybe more, and I also plan to edit the book in November.
There are a few reasons for this choice:
1) I really want to finish this novel. I've worked on it sporadically for over two years now, and I really want to move on with it (though not from it.)
2) There are a few people (and by a few I mean two :p) who want to read it, and by editing it, they won't be reading complete brain vomit, which is always what my NaNo novels are by December 1st.
3) While I'm not busier than I was last year, I'm more worried about the busyness, and I want to be able to concentrate on outside things more than I usually do during NaNo.
I want to get as much as the novel done as I can before November so I can edit thoroughly (including rewrites of existing scenes and most probably adding new ones) when NaNo comes along. I'm very much looking forward to this November, however unorthodox it will be.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Anyway, my WFC class is still lovely, although there is one part that's not so great: the grad students. WFC is a combined undergrad/grad class. Even last year, I would have found this daunting, but I don't feel that the grad students have that much more experience than I do in this class' speciality. One thing about the grad students, though, is that most of them are teachers themselves. This, apparently, makes them think that they have a free pass to talk ALL THE TIME. I don't mean give their opinions a lot or dominate conversations; I'd be fine with that. No, I mean that they whisper and giggle through every class.
It's no secret that I'm a bit of a nerd and a bit of a teacher's pet, but I don't really think I'm being either when I say that this is distracting and very rude to our professor. Sometimes there are so many of them conversing behind me (because, of course, that's where they all sit) that I really can't hear the professor, and I can tell she gets distracted by them sometimes, too. I'm not sure why they think it's acceptable behavior. I get that they're teachers, but in my mind, that means they would understand how distracting they're being. Would they allow that in their own classrooms? I highly doubt it. Sadly, I don't have the nerve to turn around and tell them to shut it.
Besides my irritating graduate classmates, I'm still loving WFC. We did an exercise about beginning a story in which we had to write three different beginnings going off of the same prompt. It was really interesting and I liked my results. I was hoping to get that back today, but we had to use the same prompt result for this past week's exercise. On this one, I didn't do too well. See, I have two problems. One is that, as I'm sure I've mentioned, I am horrible at writing on demand. I'm all about making myself write even when I don't want to, and I'm not a slave to a muse. I do find it difficult to write when I have to start from scratch for a specific assignment, though. My brain goes into panic mode and I can't think of anything.
This time around, there was the added difficulty of taking the beginning I'd already created and plotting out the novel that would result from that composition. The beginning I had written was not novel-length worthy. It was probably more short-story worthy or, to be honest, just exercise worthy. There wasn't enough conflict presented in the intro to merit an entire novel, and I couldn't fathom one that I could just make up. I started work on that assignment the day I got it. A week later (meaning last night at 11 pm), I still had next to nothing.
So what did I do?
Oh, just threw in a random road trip. Yeah... I felt pretty crappy handing that in to my professor. I guess it was better than giving her nothing.
I also was almost denied being able to use my WIP as my to-be-critiqued piece. I asked my professor today how long she wanted the required synopsis to be and she told me that she would prefer I wrote something original for the class. Thankfully, I think my telling her that it is still very much a WIP (as opposed to a novel I finished over the summer or something along those lines) made a difference, and she's letting me use it, thank God. At least for this novel, I know exactly what's going to happen for the rest of the book (well, in general...) so I can easily write an outline for this one.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
I want to talk about my children's writing class. I almost didn't get to take this class because it runs at the same time as my required stage make-up class. Fortunately, my advisor is letting me work around this and take the writing class. It meets once a week for three hours and I'm totally in love with it.
We cover everything from picture books to YA novels, including writing for magazines and non-fiction books. At the moment, we just finished reading and discussing The Tale of Despereaux, which I loved (and had never read before.) We're reading so many great books and I get so excited during every class. During yesterday's class, I had a bronchitis-related fever and I still thoroughly enjoyed myself.
The thing I love about it is that it inspires me not just to write, but to write what I love, and outside of it, too. Sometimes it's hard to be a YA writer in a school full of people (and a group of friends) who don't read YA, but my teacher is so passionate and supportive of children's lit that I feel I'm given permission to do my work. Also, after reading Despereaux, I think I'd like to write a middle grade novel some day.
As with my last writing class, it's a critique class part of the time. I'm not being critiqued until November, but I need to start getting my stuff together now. One scene that I wanted to present was deleted when my computer crashed, so I need to start putting the pieces back together. I'm excited to get their feedback, though. The response from my professor on my first (ever) non-fiction magazine article was much better than I expected. I was afraid to look at her comments, but aside from a few words suggestions here and there, it was received quite well. At the end, she wrote that she could see it being published, which caused me to happy dance in my brain :)
Speaking of things that cause happy dances and inspiration- if you haven't bought Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star, DO IT NOW. I've always been a fan of MJ; she hasn't written a single bad book. This one, though, is simply amazing. She writes with a bravery I can only dream of. Plus, it takes place in London (almost exactly where I went to school, down to the street) and there are ghosts. What more could you want?
Sunday, August 28, 2011
I've mentioned how honest my friend is about my writing. I mean, he told me straight out that the intro of this book sucked. In fact, it sucked so much that it actually made him much less eager to read the rest of the novel. He has started it since, however, and is teasing me with Facebook messages that say things like, "Just thought I should tell you, I'm reading TOSOL again. The darkness is overwhelming." When we got together last, he asked me who I was reading when I was writing the novel. I mentioned John Green, and he nodded. "You can see his influence," my friend said, totally making my day. Another thing that did so? Him saying he was pulled into my novel. I was practically dancing.
I think this all goes to show that a) one can recover from a bad beginning and b) I am growing in my writing. :)
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I don't know if I've ever mentioned what my current novel is about, but it's a sci-fi YA about a fifteen year old girl who contracted a disease two years before the novel begins. Unless a cure is found, it will kill her within the year. If you watch the trailer, there are similarities.
Of course, a few days later, I've calmed down enough to see that there are more differences than similarities. Yes, the characters in the movie contract a mysterious disease that kills quickly. But it's more quickly than in mine. It also hits a lot more people- the disease in my novel is extremely rare. I also only tell the story from a patient's point of view- I never go into the minds of doctors or parents or friends. Still, it freaked me out a bit.
I guess there are no original ideas... and I wouldn't stop writing my novel either way.
Friday, August 5, 2011
One of the great offerings of NaNo and Screnzy is that they have leaders for every location involved in the projects, and these leaders organize get-togethers so that participants can meet up and write together. I'd always wanted to attend one of these, but was unable to do so until I did Screnzy this past April. Transportation was a problem in previous years, but London is so easy to get around, even (or perhaps, especially) without a car, that I was able to attend most of the writing sessions.
While at these sessions, I discovered the joy of writing with others. Writing has always been a solitary thing for me- I don't write with anyone and I show very few people my writing. But meeting up and writing with the new acquaintences in the Costa at Piccadilly Circus made me extremely productive. There's something driving about sitting with other writers who are writing. You feel you need to keep up, and there's just this inspiring atmosphere.
I loved attending these meetings, but due to traveling around Europe in the same month, I didn't get to go to all of the meetings. However, I got so much done in that environment that I was determined to bring it home.
I've talked a lot about my critique partner and friend on this blog, and this summer, I suggested to him that we write together. He assumed I meant our collaboration novel. I told him that, while that would be nice, too, I thought he should try just writing his novel while I was writing mine. I found out just this week that he wasn't too sure about that; he'd never done it and wasn't sure it would work for him. We've gotten together a few times since then and he told me he loves it. It's even better to work with him because he knows me and he knows my writing, and vice-versa. It's a really awesome experience to be able to talk through hard places; last time we wrote together, I needed to have my character transition from homesickness to determination in what she was doing. On my own, I probably would have just moved on to a different section, but with my friend there, I was able to discuss the section, read him what I had, and he gave me this great idea that helped me finish not only the section, but the chapter. For his part, he asks me things like that, too, but mostly uses me for a dictionary/thesaurus :p
If you're wondering what I was working on during these sessions, it was not TOSOL. Though my friend has given me suggestions on how to fix that awful introduction, I'm waiting to get some edits back from other readers (my friend is currently finishing up edits on his own novel to turn in to me in a few weeks.) I was instead working on the novel that used to be called Q/Quarantined. It no longer bears that title, but I haven't yet found a replacement. I did, however, discover something interesting about said novel: it's officially science fiction. I never, ever though I'd be a writer of science fiction, but I'm definitely having fun with it!
In other news, the lovely Deirdra from A Storybook World has granted me the Powerful Woman Writer Award. I'm honored to be given it, and you should go and check out her blog!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I was in a wedding this past weekend, and while I was at the hotel, he and I were chatting over Facebook. I complained to him about how much I hated the intro of my novel- it's one of the last parts I wrote, and though I've fixed it up a lot, it's still clumsy and just bad. My friend wrote, "Do you want to know what I honestly thought of it?" "Yes," I replied. "It sucked. I'm sorry, it just sucked so much that I had to be blunt about it."
And while it seems blunt, and maybe it was... I wasn't upset. In fact, I smiled because I was glad he was willing to be so honest with me. I was fine with this all night. But the next day, the day of the wedding, I started freaking out. It was like I was going through the seven stages of grief.
Shock: A combination of "wow, that was a blunt way to put it" and "I can't believe I let people see that."
Denial: "It's not really that bad. My other reader liked it, so nyeh!"
Anger: "There's a ton of important information in there! I can't put it anywhere else! What does he expect me to do?!"
Bargaining: "I'm going to take the novel back, from both him and Chloe. Then they'll forget about it and it'll all be fine."
Depression: "I am a sucky writer. I will never be published. I've peaked with this crappy intro. It's all over."
Testing: "I'll rewrite it. It's not a big deal."
Except... instead of acceptance coming next, I just went backwards. I was in a complete tizzy. I wasn't mad at my friend at all- I'm still not. I was upset with myself.
He and I met up the other day face to face. I was so upset and embarrassed about the intro that it took everything in me not to cry as he talked it over with me. He was the true friend/critique partner that he is and helped me brainstorm ways to improve it. Then, he highlighted all four pages of the intro and hit 'delete.' I thanked him profusely and still tried not to cry.
I'm better today- still embarrassed that I let that writing see the light of day, but I'm saner :p I know I was upset because I really like the story and I want to publish one day in the probably far future. I need to accept that this might be another practice novel. That thought upsets me, but I know it shouldn't. TOSOL is only my second completed novel and I know published authors write practice novels, and most likely more than one. I'm being unrealistic.
I'm not giving up on TOSOL- I still love the book and I still want to work on it and I still want to get it published one day. Maybe it is a practice novel. Maybe I'll need to work on it for a decade or two before I can do anything with it. I don't know. I guess we'll see. But while my readers work on that, I've got a few other projects to keep me going! :)
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
It is an actual, honest-to-God copy of MY book, bound and printed like a real book. I got it from a site called CreateSpace, and winners of NaNo got them for free. As I've said before, this is not the version I'd sell to anyone, even my family, but I wanted to preserve that version of the story and I'm so glad I did it like this. I was so excited when it arrived (seven days earlier than anticipated.) All I did for awhile was hug it to my chest.
There are some things I don't like about the layout, but that's my fault, not theirs. They asked me to select options, I did incorrectly, and they followed what I said. No matter, though, because I still love it.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
I'm not as happy with the draft as I could be. There are still two or three HUGE changes that I didn't make. One of them was something I've talked about before, that being the MC's mother being crazy. I was really stressing out about that, and I do plan to apply it, but after wailing about it to my critique partner, he finally said "Just leave it the way it is, let me read it, and we'll work it out together." This is why he's awesome- after that, I was able to step back and focus on the rest of the novel.
The revision was really hard, especially at the end. Even though I'd cleaned it up in draft three, I really cleaned it up this time. I made that timeline I posted a picture of, which was invaluable to figuring out what happened when. I cut some scenes and did a complete facelift on others, and I added a few, too.
Now that I'm "finished", I don't know what to do with myself. If I was ever bored, I'd work on my novel. Now... what? I think I may start plotting the rest of next year's NaNo, or at least time-lining out what I already have, since time is such a problem for me.
This morning, I put in the draft for my free proof copy from CreateSpace. They work with NaNoWriMo and give every winner a free proof copy of their book. I didn't do it last year because my book was nowhere near ready by June. While I know TOSOL will be undergoing major changes in the next few months, it's at a place right now that I want to preserve. I really like the MC's mother as a sane woman and I want to keep that draft somewhere before I have to dissolve her mind in the next one. Of course, just as with the films I'm in, I'll probably get the copy and hide it somewhere, but at least I'll have it!
Monday, June 20, 2011
Of course I've rewritten scenes before, I just recently pulled some scenes out (something I don't do a lot, unfortunately), and I've added new scenes. But last night, I knew I needed to buckle down and start finishing (start finishing? Odd and possibly incorrect pairing of words...) a few certain scenes in TOSOL.
The reason that this problem even exists is because I write out of order. While pacing-wise, the scenes were in the right places, they were almost the wrong scenes in the right places. My main character degressed from the maturity she gained halfway through the novel because I never revised the third training scene. In others, information was repeated or confusing.
This has happened before, but usually I'll just type away at them, cutting and rewriting until it seems like I've fixed the problem. But in order to fix this one, I needed to see all of the related scenes at one time so I could pick and choose what I needed from each one, as I knew a few would have to be combined with one another. I copied and pasted all of the specific scenes into one document, printed that out, and then tried to figure out what I needed. Once I knew the requirements for the first scene (which included much less from the original first scene- that'll be going in the third- and a ton from the fourth), instead of copy and pasting from the same document, I just retyped the whole thing. I'm so grateful I did this- copying and pasting allows me to be lazy, and I realized as I re-typed that if I had done the first option, I would have missed fixing a lot of tiny things.
Right now, I'm still trying to fix those scenes, but it's getting closer to the end. I'm actually kind of on a deadline right now: I really want the free proof copy of this version of the book, and one of my readers will be sans internet after the 26th of this month, so I need to get it to her before then. Rush rush rush...
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Right now, I like my characters, but I don't like their choices. Well, that's not true. Individually, their choices seem brave, sometimes selfless, and often something I wish I could do. But looking at them together, I'm starting to sense a message that I'm not sure I want to send. I can't even really say what it is, because I'm not entirely sure myself, but it runs along the lines of being rather anti-feminist, and I don't want that. I didn't set out to write a "I am woman, hear me roar" novel, but most of my characters are strong females and I think it's counteractive to have the cumulative message be what it seems to be.
I could be wrong about this. After all, it's been read a few times and no one's mentioned this. I'm very Type A, so there's a good chance that this is all in my perfectionist head. I also noticed that this "crap, am I being antifeminist?" worry only began to dawn after I began reading Libba Bray's fabulously empowering Beauty Queens.
My novel's also teasing me, as all of them seem to do, with knowing things about myself that I don't even realize. As I was revising yesterday, I started to see new meaning in some of the scenes I'd written, meaning that had always been there, speaking things I believe in or am scared of, but that I never consciously wrote to represent that. It's scary the way these things happen some times.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
I had hoped to get the fourth draft to my two readers by the beginning of June, but I don't think that's going to happen. I have almost five days before my family arrives in England (!!!), and of course I'll be spending my time with them until we leave on the twelfth. Besides all of those excuse-y reasons, there's still a ridiculous amount of work to be done on this draft. I've already made a ton of changes, all of which I'm happy with, but there are other changes, some huge, some tiny but still significant, that need to be made before I can even think of sending them off. Those will take serious time to accomplish in a way that won't make me cringe as I hit the 'send' button on those e-mails to my readers.
In other news, I know I haven't been doing WIP Wednesday for, well, a really long time. This is for a few reasons. The first is that I learned that posting on the internet is technically using your first publishing rights, which can hurt you if you want to get that work published in the future. Since both of my current WIPs are two that I want to publish, I've decided against posting sections from those. (If anyone knows differently about the publishing rights thing, please correct me.) The second reason is a little more vain: through my England blog, a few people I actually know have discovered this blog. *waves to people I know* *hides* I created this blog under the safety of being anonymous (though I suspect at least one person I know discovered it nearly a year ago), and in real life, I'm very shy about my writing. This has also made me a bit reluctant to post my work. (Note to said people: it's not you. It's me. I'm ridiculously shy.) It's not that I'll never do WIP Wednesday again... I just don't know when it will be back.
Until my family gets here, I am free to write as much as I want, so I think I'll visit a cafe or two over the next five days. I write so much better in a cafe environment, and hopefully I'll get a lot of work done.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Since I finished that, I've been working on more additional scenes than I realised were going to be added. One thing I'm definitely not good at is cutting scenes. I'm fine with writing scenes and not putting them in- I do that all the time. But cutting things after they've been in there for awhile? Not so great. I may have to do this with TOSOL, though- my last reader pointed out two or three scenes that, while well-written, don't give any new information and therefore aren't necessary. In fact, I just now made the decision to cut a scene. See, I'm growing right in front of you :p
I'm still feeling guilty about not working on my script while here in England, so I vowed earlier today that this coming week, I will work on it at least a little bit. I've been focusing on TOSOL because two people are waiting to read it, but I really want to get some of this script done as well.
Now back to studying- I'm terrified of this English-style exam and I've been studying my butt off for the pas week and a half.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Now I have a new obstacle. In the end of the novel, right before everyone dies, they need to fight back. I didn't have them doing so and both of my readers wrote "WHY AREN'T THEY FIGHTING?!" And why don't I have them fighting?
Because I've never written a combat scene before. Not a real one. I've had characters captured and hurt, but said characters have always had zero knowledge of any combat skills and didn't have the skills or the chance to defend themselves. In TOSOL, Lyddie has limited (still some) knowledge/skill, but her aunt has more, and the villain has even more. Even though Lyddie is disarmed fairly easily by the villain, I need to know how one can fight with her prop as well as how she can be disarmed. These are all things I'm not good at, so I've taken the coward's route and avoided it... until now.
The muses are not smiling down upon me. I've been trying for days to write this scene. The pace is all wrong, and it sounds like I don't know what I'm talking about, despite the reading I've done on the subject.
Ugh. And I thought writing the make-out scene was hard. Any suggestions on how to write a fight?
Monday, May 2, 2011
I decided that for next years NaNoWriMo, I'm going to finish up Q/Quarantined/whatever it's going to be called once I'm finished with it. Long-time readers may remember that I started this project back in September/October 2009. I've been working on it on and off since then, and as of now, I have around 31,000 words. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words, and while I'm not sure that Q has 81,000 words to it, I chose to finish this project partially because I know I will be challenged to try new approaches to the story to get those 50,000 words. Plus, whether or not is has 81,000 more words to it, I know it still has a lot; I have so much still to say about the story, and I'm excited about that.
Also, I've found that one of my favorite things to do as I figure out a story is to write a scene or two from a different character's perspective. This allows me to see the same scene from a different angle. For example, for TOSOL, I wrote about Lyddie's mother's capture from the mother's point of view. It didn't go into the novel and I never planned it to, but knowing what happened to her was really helpful, and I can look back on it now months later as I reassess and completey revamp her character. I also wrote a flashback scene between Lyddie and her sister that occured right after their mother had been taken. It's adorable and touching, and while it didn't make it into the novel, I know that they had that moment together and it helps me to write other scenes between them. This is something I never did when I was a younger writer.
I've spent the past couple of days since making my plot chart working on some new scenes. I have a few that I need to write, and as I work on them, I feel like I'm looking at them with a better eye for wording and the like. This is not only from writing, I think, but from editing. I know that if I'm not careful, this "eye" will turn into my usual Type-A1 fear of not being perfect, but I'll try to stay away from that, as that's what keeps me from writing, not spurs me on.
I'm excited to see these changes happening in my writing and I hope they continue. I know I've got a long way to go, but growing bit by bit all brings me closer to my ultimate goal- to be published. And I'm not going to lie- I got an e-mail from a girl who I was in a creative writing class with in the fall. She and I have a lot in common, but we've both been too shy to communicate in anyway but over the internet. I had written and asked her if she was taking any writing classes this semester, and in her answer, she wrote, "I hope you're keeping up with your writing- you're so good at it." Even little stuff like that can make my day :)
Saturday, April 30, 2011
I'm at the "talking to myself" point in editing this novel. There was one time this afternoon when I just threw up my hands and cried "WHAT IS GOING ON?!" at the computer screen (but really at myself.)
My novel needs sosososo much work. Last night, I spent hours making this:
It's a timeline of all of the events in TOSOL, because the more I read through it and the edits, the more I realise the problem is that I write out of order; times don't line up. And while it is definitely a fixable thing, it's going to be really hard and take a long time. I want to cry. The only thing that's keeping me working on it is the love for this novel, even if I do feel like I hate it right now. I can't believe I let it be seen in a state that was even worse than what I have now. Ughhhh.
I'm just having major writing frustrations right now. It's not just the novel. I didn't win ScriptFrenzy. I petered out at 69 pages, mostly because the plot didn't have enough to it; what I do have is a lot of repetition. This is okay- it's the same problem I had with my first NaNo. You just have to learn how to do it. But I feel like a little bit of a failure for not finishing, and as much as I repeat to myself that the only person I made a promise to was myself, I still feel a physical weight over not finishing.
And then there's my other play, SOTM. I feel guilty for not working on it for a month or two. March was taken up with essays and April was filled with travel, but why am I not devoting time to a play that takes place in London while I'm in London? My time here is running out (only a little over a month left- eeee!) and I want to apply the atmosphere here to it while I can still feel it around me.
Basically, all there is is frustration right now...
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Here's the sitch: I exchanged novels with a fellow writer. Hers was really good and I hoped that because of this, she would give me a top-notch editing job. She did- it's nice without being sugar-coated and brutal without making me cry. She pointed out all of the things I knew were there but didn't want to see and some other stuff that I didn't even know needed to be fixed. I am extraordinarily grateful for this review.
But after reading this review, I know that I have extremely daunting changes to make. Some of them are more on the mundane side- my character has an important job, and I wasn't sure of everything that went into it, so I wrote just the important details and left a lot of it out. My reader pointed out that I really do need to include this and change the stakes a little bit (or a lot, depending on how things work out.) While this will definitely be work, it's not terrible. Same with making her boyfriend there for more than romance. And then there are the really hard changes- or, in this case, the one that's so hard, it actually makes me want to cry. That's how much I don't want to do it.
See, in the story, Lyddie's mother has been absent from her life for eleven years. Lyddie was told that her mother ran off and so Lyddie has hated her for most of her life. Toward the end of the book, Lyddie discovers that her mother has actually been locked in an underground room since her mother went missing. In the original version of the novel, I had her mother be very rational- perhaps a little emotional, but very logical and calm. Someone pointed out to me that eleven years of solitary confinement would not allow a person to act like that. A person would be driven out of their mind. I ignored this- I didn't want her to be crazy. Besides the fact that I just didn't want it for her character, there was also the issue of this happening towards the end of the novel. It's already a huge reveal that Lyddie meets her mother. Now she had to be crazy, too? No. I wouldn't do it. I kept the mother rational and sent it off to my reader.
The draft came back and my reader made the same comment the other person had- the mother was way, way too level-headed for her situation. I wrote to her, basically saying, "But it's so late in the novel *whimpercrybeg*..." She answered, "That's okay. Make her insane. I want to see some crazy."
I still don't want to do this. I am pretty much having to drag myself in this direction. Because more than one person commented on it, I know I have to make her crazy, but I still reallyreallyreally don't want to. I love this character the way she is. It's so tragic to me that Lyddie will never get to know her real mother. For more technical reasons, I'm not sure how to get the mother's story out now- no one else knows it and it's going to be difficult to have her spit it out coherantly when she's crazy. And then there's the fear of me writing crazy poorly. I've never really done it- at least not this kind. In Remembrance, I did psychotic crazy, but this is different. This is splintered mind, hallucinating, unpredictable, mental breakdown crazy.
I suppose this is what they call killing your darlings. I thought I'd done it before, but it's never made me this conflicted. I'm so sad to let go of the character I initially created and replace her with a broken version of the woman, but I know I have to to make the novel realistic.
Any words of advice?
(In other news, I'm 59 pages into my Script Frenzy script!)
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I just finished the third one a day ago. It was good. Really good. Like, if I pulled it off the shelves and bought it, I would be happy with it good. The author, a girl the same age as myself, asked me to return it to her within two weeks (it was pretty short.) The only reason I didn't have it back to her after two days was because I thought she would think I was a freak for reading it that quickly and/or suspect a shoddy editing job.
But no (or, well, I hope not.) I sped through that story because I couldn't not. It was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I considered e-mailing her and asking her for mine back because hers made it look amateurish.
It wasn't perfect. I definitely made some suggestions about it. But still, wow. When she e-mailed me back, she told me that I was the first person to read it. I felt honored.
Yes, I've read some crappy stuff that resulted from NaNo (and I am by no means excluding my own work from that statement.) But stuff like this makes it worth it.
Plus, editing is the best procrastination tool I have :)
Thursday, April 7, 2011
I've posted excerpts of the novel I call Q here, and so most of you know that it partially takes place in a hospital. When the novel begins, the main character has spent the last few years of her life living in one, and therefore I need to know some things. The nice thing is that I don't need to do any disease- specific research because I made up the disease from which Eliza is suffering, which therefore means that if I want her to suffer from some symptom (and boy, do I make her suffer), I can just do it without being afraid some med person is going to read my book and get annoyed.
But there are still many things I've kept the same or close to the same to today's medical world. The novel is slightly futuristic, but not too much so- I've set it in 2025. Therefore, though Eliza isn't anchored to an IV stand, for example, she does still need an IV, and I needed to figure out how they worked.
I had posted a question on the NaNo boards about IVs, asking if someone could pull one out of their hand. The (paraphrased) resulting conversation occured:
Me: blah blah blah, need info, help please.
Person 1: [insert helpful info about IV needles here.]
Person 2: Uh, highly implausible. Plus, what would keep someone in the hospital for years? And wouldn't she need an IV stand?
Me: Well, I made up the disease, so some of the symptoms require her to stay at the hospital round the clock. The novel also takes place in the future, so I've "invented" a device that allows her to have an IV but not the stand.
Person 2: Wouldn't she need a port of some sort? And you didn't invent it, we have something like this. (Links to picture that doesn't actually relate to what I'm talking about, so I'm not sure why they bothered.)
Me: Person 2, perhaps she might need something like that today, but like I said, I've set it a little bit into the future, and in this future, we're more medically advanced.
It went on, and in the end, I got some helpful information from other people and I've figured out that part of my story. But after the frustration of Person 2's "yeah, but"s, I decided to ask a person who knew and could answer me in real time- my sister!
My sister's a freshman in college, studying to be a veterinary technician. I was telling her about my earlier conversation and she gave me some helpful advice. Then I started talking to her about TOSOL, partcularly the end where Lyddie is killed with an injection. I told her how the villain went about doing it and she gave me some tips to make the process a little more medically sound.
A conversation I had with my mother (who is a respiratory therapist) about the very same scene in November:
Me: Hey, Mom, what's the thing called on a syringe that you push down?
Mom: What, you mean a plunger?
Me: Ugh, is that what it's called? That's a really ugly word. Are there any different ones, because that just won't work at all...
In the end I had to use "plunger," even though I hate it. Of course, I don't need to be incredibly medically correct- this is a novel, not a medical textbook. But I couldn't very well write "he depressed the pushy-downy part of the syringe." However, there are parts of med procedure, like the preparation of a syringe, that I'm leaving out, simply because a) it will slow down the scene and b) the character doesn't know or care to know that he took off that piece because it was a protective covering. She's about to die, she has other concerns.
Either way, though, I'm grateful to have some medical knowledge in my family to exploit when I need it ;)
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
"How have you been feeling lately?" Dr. Trescott asked.
Eliza thought back over the last week, the sudden, constant nausea that had been lurking since the Saturday before. "Not as well as usual. Kind of sick," she reported.
The doctor nodded as he jotted a note in her file. "Yes, we expected as much."
"What do you mean?"
"Last week, we took you off the C23, which is one of your usual medications. Its absence most likely the cause of any nausea you're feeling."
"Why did you take me off of it?" Eliza inquired.
"We wanted to see how your body would react."
"Because at this point, it's... well, we just need to experiment at this point in the game."
Eliza felt the burn of annoyance flar inside her. "Experiment? What does that mean?" Eliza had never spoken so sharply to Dr. Trescott, and he looked surprised.
"It means that- that we don't have-" he faltered, and Eliza didn't want to acknowledge the fear that threatened to overtake her.
"You don't know, do you? You don't know how to cure me. None of you- you don't have a clue." She got up from her chair and strode to the other side of the room, away from the window. She couldn't look at the doctor because his eyes would confirm it. Eliza hadn't realised until this moment that she had always had a little bit of hope, a bright thought that people went into a hospital to be cured. Somehow, she'd always managed to ignore the other reality, that the were people who went into these places and stayed there for a long time, people who never got well and who died there. People like her.
She was pacing now, pacing in tight circles as far as she could get from the window and the doctor and the reality of the situation.
"Eliza?" Dr. Trescott said softly through the intercom. Eliza stopped pacing, but she didn't answer him. "Eliza, please look at me."
"No." She was shaking, though with anger or fear, she didn't know. "What has all of this been for, then?" she demanded. "If none of this works, if it was never going to work, why couldn't you let me live my life outside of here?"
"You know why," Dr. Trescott said with irritating patience. "You're highly contagious. We can't take the risk."
"But even in my own house!" Eliza cried. "A place that's not a hospital. A place that's not so... blank. There's no life here!"
"Your parents would have had to live with you wearing protective suits." Dr.Trescott's voice was still calm. "They may have had to quit their jobs. Is that what you would have wanted?"
"I don't know!" Eliza shouted. "I don't know what I would have wanted then or what would have happened by now, but I- I want to get out of here. If I'm going to die, what's the point? What's the point of this?" She gestured with the arm bearing the IV bracelet.
"We're using it to help you-"
"But you're not! It's not helping me. It's worthless!" She tugged at it in frustration, and to her surprise, the IV came out, slid right out of her arm and dangled there by the tubes that wrapped up her forearm and bicep. The sight of this made Eliza cry harder, though she hadn't realised she'd been crying in the first place.
"Eliza, listen to me." Dr. Trescott's voice was kind. "We're trying as hard as we can. You've known from the beginning that a cure was a goal, not a guarantee. Giving you medication is the best we can do today, but we don't know what miracle might present itself tomorrow. Don't give up on us yet, because we haven't given up on you."
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Tonight, I had some free time and thought, I'd really like to know more about the Vestal Virgins. Wouldn't it be cool to take some inspiration from their true story and insert it into my novel? So I began to Google. What I found actually had me going, "Oh, my God" aloud more than a few times.
Before I point out the similarities, remember that all I knew of the Vestals story was what I posted above. I'd never done any further research on them.
The similarities: Vestals: The sacred fire of Vesta, which is fundamental to the security of Rome, can never, ever go out. TOSOL: The dual lanterns, which keep the world in balance, can never, ever go out.
Vestals: Women chosen as Vestals are free of the "social obligation" of marrying and having children in order to devote themselves to the study and duty of the fire. TOSOL: The keepers of the lanterns are not permitted to wed or have children, as they may prove a distraction from training and duties of keeping.
Vestals: The College of Vestals was disbanded and the fire extinguished by a leader named Theodosius I. TOSOL: The lanterns are extinguished by the leader of the society that watches over my MC's family line, who also disbands the keepers. (Sadly, his name is Christopher and not Theodosius or any variant on the name.)
Vestals: The women selected begin their training before puberty, around ages six to ten. It is now that they are sworn to celibacy. TOSOL: Training begins anywhere from ages eight to ten. The trainee understands that she will never get married.
Vestals: The women serve ten years as a student, ten as a Vestal, and ten as a teacher. TOSOL: The girls first train under the current keeper, then take over the duties themselves, and then train the next keeper.
Vestals: To be allowed to serve, they must be in good mental and physical shape, without any deformities. TOSOL: Lyddie is given a mental test to record her intellect as well as her deep-seated fears. If she fails the test, she will be pronounced unfit to do the job and her family will be shamed.
Vestals: If a Vestal broke her vow of chastity, which would lead to the fire going out (because she was neglecting he duties), she was put into an underground room with a few day's worth of food and water and then the steps were pulled up and the entry sealed over with dirt. She was buried alive, but giving her limited provisions allowed the government to say that she went willingly to her death. TOSOL: Lyddie's mother is accused of neglecting her duties due to going against the rules by marrying and having children. As punishment, she is kept in an underground room with very limited food and water for eleven years.
Vestals: Killing a Vestal (even if it was because she broke her vows) by spilling her blood was forbidden. TOSOL: Four women in the story break their vow in some way. All are killed in a bloodless manner.
I was so freaked out by all of these similarities... has this ever happened to anyone else?
Monday, March 28, 2011
I think the most rewarding thing about it is the fact that someone is trusting you with their writing. I am very protective of mine and it takes me awhile to share it with someone I know. In fact, I still only show a few people and even fewer on a regular basis. The fact that someone is willing to hand over their baby to me and let me hack at it with a pen is pretty awesome.
I love editing other people's work- it's one of my favorite things to do. Even if the work is terrible (which my critique partner's never has been), it's still fun to go through and make suggestions. I feel like I'm really doing something. It's even better when it's good and I just have to make small changes.
Recently, my critique partner was getting some writing ready to submit for publication at his college. He e-mailed me and told me that he was submitted one of my favorite pieces of his. This was exciting enough, but then he wrote that he had attached it so that I could edit it one last time- he trusted my judgement. That was incredible.
If you don't have a critique partner- a steady one- I think you should get one. It's rewarding on both ends :)
In other news, my two essays are done, which means that I'm almost done work for the entire school term! I have lines to memorize for a performance, but writing-wise, I am FREEEE! April is full of European exploration starting on the first, and I can't wait!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
To get you up to speed on what's going on before this moment, let me give you some background. The novel takes place over one day. The MC, Lexi, is a successful interior designer in Philadelphia, and when she goes to work, she finds out that her friend and competitor Carrie has died. This has special weight because all through the scenes before this, Lexi has been pining for an assignment that she really wanted, but was given to Carrie, and she thinks that perhaps if Carrie can't do it for some reason, Lexi might get the job. Then the news is broken, and this is afterwards. (Oh, one more thing- Lexi doesn't use clocks. Ever. She doesn't even allow them in her designs.):
Lexi stepped outside of the conference room, but didn’t go further than that. She couldn’t seem to remember where she needed to go. People squeezed past her, standing in the threshold, and finally she moved forward. Which way should she go? She chose left just to get out of people’s way and to be doing something. It was the correct way, she realized as she caught sight of her desk in the next room. Her desk- if she could just make it to that familiar world, she would be fine.
“Three… four…five…” a quiet voice was counting as she walked, and Lexi realized it was her own. She was counting her steps as she made her way to her desk. It made her look crazy, she was sure, but she didn’t stop.
“Thirty-four,” she announced quietly to no one as she reached the desk’s corner. She looked down at its surface, the row of Post-its, the pencils in their cup, the paperclip dispenser with its neat multi-colored circle arranged in the order of the color wheel, and her laptop open to her designs, all in the exact same place she had left them, and suddenly she couldn’t stand to see it anymore. How could anything possibly be the same as before? Surely something had to change with the absence of Carrie. The world had to stop, at least for one minute, and take in the absence of its former resident.
Desperately, Lexi pulled her gaze from her desktop and it roved around the room, searching for something, anything to anchor her and help her think clearly again. Her eyes did find something- the clock on Taylor’s desk across the aisle, creamy numbers framed by blocks of black, telling her the thing she wanted to know less than ever. The time was 8:03.
She jerked her gaze away as suddenly as it had landed. God! When was the last time she’d actually looked at a clock? Her eyes were caught by the circular analog that sat watching over the rows of cubicles like a task master. Agonizingly, the red second hand crept over the stolid numbers scorched into the whiteness of its face. Somewhere, as if in another world in another office where Carrie Pritcher was still alive and time had no ordinance, a telephone rang. Entranced by the foreignness of the passage of time, Lexi was barely able to move her lips as she whispered, “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone…” But she trailed off.
Seeing this moment in her life— never to be a moment in Carrie’s— reported to her so blatantly shook her. She dropped down into her desk chair, looking for anything except that mark of time.
People in the office were starting to busy themselves at their own desks, their faces set determinedly. Lexi tried to do the same. She glanced back down at her desk and was overwhelmed. Suddenly, there was so much to do. But that knowledge of time, how constricting! When she hadn’t know what time it was, she had felt a whole day stretching before her. Now a mere eight hours ebbed and flowed—a tide washing away her stability, her stamina, her strength.. So what to do first? Those finishing touches on her designs before meeting with Sandy in half an hour. So many more plans to see to, though! To spend precious minutes on something that was already presentable—what waste, what a crime when time is so valuable. And now her half hour trickled away into an ocean of worry. The weight of that ocean crashed its waves against the shores of her consciousness, and her face fell into her outstretched hands. Maybe she should just ask to go home. Twenty four hours away from this would be enough… she hoped. Yes, she’d ask to go home, promise to show up early tomorrow, ready to go.
Friday, March 18, 2011
My mom sent me an e-mail almost two months ago with a scanned attachment. It was an article from my local paper at home announcing that a theatre in my home county was taking submissions of pieces by poets, playwrights, and the like for a festival. This was already enough to get me interested, but the article went on to say that this festival's focus was on work that was inspired by other writers' work; the submissions didn't have to fall into this category, but those that did would be given more consideration.
I got very excited. I am a playwright, if a budding one, and my play was a piece directly influenced by J.M. Barrie's novel and play. Perfect!
I sent off the current draft to my critique partner, asking him to get it back to me a few days before I would have to send it off to the committee for perusal. This way, I figured, I'd have time to adjust at least a few things. He complied a few weeks later, I edited, and then off went the e-mail to the theatre.
A response came back almost immediately- I hadn't filled out a form. This was because they hadn't mentioned a form in the advert, but I filled it out and sent it off. Another response came, this time asking if my submission was a full length play. They weren't sure how they'd do with that- they had been looking for shorter pieces, like monologues and poems. What did I expect if my piece were to be chosen?
This irritated me a bit. They hadn't specified what kind of pieces they wanted. If they had only wanted short pieces, no way would I have submitted my ninety-three page script. But I did not show this irritation. Instead, wrote back and said that even a staged reading would be wonderful.
The decisions were made earlier than was expected and I got my "thanks, but no thanks" e-mail on Wednesday. It wasn't unexpected- I knew from the second e-mail, the one that mentioned the length, that my piece wasn't right for the festival. There are also a few other reasons why there would have been small problems. For example, they wanted the playwright/writer to come to dress rehearsals and things like that, which I would normally love to do, but would have been unable, as I'm still in England then. So while it may have been the writing that drove them away, I'm hoping it was one of those issues.
I think my mom was more disappointed than I was that it hadn't been accepted. When I told her the news this afternoon, she started listing other theatres that I should send the play to. I love that she's so supportive, but I know that the play still needs some work. Just as with the school submission of this play, I didn't have enough editing time and had to just send off the copy I had at that moment. To submit it to other theatres, I'm going to need to work on it much more, and I'm happy to do so. I love the play and one day, when it's truly finished, I hope to see it onstage.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
But anyway, here are some more random snippets from TOSOL:
Page 63, line 26: I’m joking, but Dr. Philips says, “Yes, a bit like that.” He presses a button on the side of the goggles and puts them into my hands.
Page 135, line 24: I don't nod, just take a steadying breath, but he seems to take this as affirmation.
Page 35, line 5: I have no idea how she knows about Aaron, but I don’t ask her; before I know it, I’ll be in the middle of a game of Never Have I Ever.
Page 26, line 23: I have every intention of following her to the door and eavesdrop, but a board under my feet creaks and when Julie sees me, she gives me a “don’t even think about it” look.
Page 156, line 2: But my mother immediately draws closer to my father, and Aunt Kelly and Julie sit stock still, their faces pale.
Page 153, line 17: "All I can guess is that perhaps because you are not yet the official keeper, the fact that they burned down on your watch has no lasting effect."
Page 13, line 15: Next to him stands a boy of about twelve, who I assume is his brother and who is wearing one of those ridiculous hats that kids seem to think are socially acceptable.
I'm getting very excited for Script Frenzy, but I've had to stop my planning to get these ridiculous essays done. I'm a bit worried that my idea is juvenile, but what better way to find out than writing it in a month? Plus, I really want to write it, so whatever it turns out to be, it'll be worth it, even if I do nothing with it :)
Friday, March 11, 2011
Page 127, line 27: “Good- looking, that one,” Mr. Rampart continues. “And smart, I hear. He would have been a perfect match for you."
Page 6, line 2: In my opinion, she should be less worried about the fact that Julie’s my mother’s daughter and more concerned that Julie is Julie,
Page 73, line 14: Aunt Kelly gives me a look before continuing. “There’s a reason we have to guard the lanterns at all times.”
Page 83, line 29: “Yeah. Important and interesting.”
Page 162, line 9: In the split second before I stop thinking, it occurs to me that this might be the solution I’ve been looking for my entire life.
Page 40, line 30: Synonym… can’t think of any. Now who’s the loser? “I thought, um…”
Page 78, line 1: "You just remind me so much of her," he says, and my internal alarm system immediately goes off.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I will admit to prompting my readers a bit. I sent them my novel on Christmas day, which seems like forever ago to me. I didn't write them an e-mail saying, "Uh... what's taking so long? Gimme my book!" because I realise that people have lives and amateur novels with an embarrassing amount of formatting mistakes (*blush*) are not always at the top of people's lists. But sometimes I forget that people aren't, well... me.
See, writing is my relaxation activity. While it sometimes kills me during NaNoWriMo, writing is what I do for fun. It's also my main procrastination tool. My friend and critique partner have been exchanging a lot of writing lately, and he always asks me how on earth I get his stuff back to him in two days when it takes him two months. It's not because I'm more dedicated. It's because I am a slacker. The reason I get edits back so quickly is because I'm avoiding other work and having fun editing people's writing.
So sometimes it's hard for me to remember that, while I got someone's novel back to them in two months, some people actually do what they're supposed to and leave pleasure reading for last.
Another reason I sent out feelers- last year, I sent my novel off to two people. One of them, a friend, took four or five months to get it back to me, but it was worth the wait- her in-depth edits kept me working for four or five more months. The other girl, after making sure that I got her novel back to her, promptly ignored my following attempts to contact her. I wasn't rude or annoying- I sent her two short messages over the space of about four months politely wondering if she had made any progress. She never responded. It's been over and year and I still haven't heard a thing. This bugs me because it's just rude. If you don't like my novel and can't bear to finish it- okay. Tell me that and I'll know that I need to do some serious overhauling. If you don't have time to devote to it, I completely understand. But don't ignore me. It's inconsiderate.
But anyway- I DID get one of my readers' feedback last night! She didn't give me a ton- she only edited my document grammatically/structurally, and even then marked only fourteen things. I definitely appreciated her answers to the questions I asked, things along the lines of, "Are the characters and their interactions realistic?" "s it appropriate for YA readers?" "Does the plot work as a whole?"
I was happy to hear that she really liked the book, and she definitely brought up a good question about the end, something I'd never considered. I'll have to figure that one out... it could possibly lead me to write a new ending *whimpers*
However, she asked another question about the end that, while it will involve work, made me happy- she asked why Lyddie didn't think about Aaron, her boyfriend (for awhile anyway), right before she died. This pleased me because that meant I did my job in making Aaron important to her, and not in a "I just really always need a boyfriend" way, but in a true, caring for him way. I had actually made sure Lyddie didn't mention him at the end because I was afraid she'd seem too focused on him and not her family, but I like that he was thought of by the reader, and I may change this bit, knowing that it won't garner an eye roll from the reader.
I do wish I had gotten a bit more feedback. Grammatical/formatting corrections are great, but I'd corrected about 95% of the ones she marked on my own, and her other comments were a cumulative few sentences. But it IS feedback, and more than I had earlier on Sunday, so I should probably shut up :p
Now I'm off to Derby, England, which is many, many hours away by bus.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011
This is KayKay's Catch Me If You Can blogfest, where a writer posts 550 words of their WIP (to see more in-depth requirements, go to KayKay's blog here.)
Here's the first 592 (I know, I'm cheating a bit) words of my NaNo '10. Though the novel itself is contemporary, I decided to open it with a history twist.
A very long time ago, a time before most people can fathom, there stood two lanterns. They were hand- wrought out of iron and burned only kerosene. They stood in the window of a large colonial- style house, burning brightly for all to see. Though no one in the small New England town knew what the lanterns were for, or even who occupied the house, all the townspeople soon grew to like the two points burning warmly at the front of the house.
“Have you ever noticed,” an old woman remarked to her companion as they strolled past the house in those early days. “That the lanterns never go out?”
“That can’t be true,” the other woman disagreed. “Just think how costly kerosene is. They must turn them down sometimes.”
“I don’t know,” the first woman countered. “There’s never been a time, day or night, that I’ve passed this house that they weren’t burning away.” At her friend’s long- suffering look, the first woman turned her gaze to the twin lights. “In any case, I find them comforting. Something constant in these changing times.”
“Just you wait,” the second woman wagered. “As soon as those new-fangled electrical lights become available, those lamps will be gone.”
But this did not happen. Electricity did arrive and soon all the other windows on the street sparkled with a power-driven glow. But number 42 continued to emit flickering lamplight. The other townspeople, who were frightfully proud of their new electric lamps, things that could be turned on with just the press of a switch, and so much safer, too, couldn’t imagine why those at 42 did not embrace the invention as they had.
“Perhaps the old lady who lives there wants to live life as she’s always know it,” a young gentleman commented as his carriage lurched past. He did not, in fact, know who lived there, let alone if they were old, but at this point in time, the town had begun to rather romanticize the old house and those within it.
But in truth, there was nothing romantic about the lanterns or the people that tended to them- or rather, person. For just one woman resided at number 42. She was, as the man in the carriage had conjectured, old, but she had not always been. It had been her job and her job alone to watch over the lanterns for the past sixty years. All day, every day, the old woman tended to the lanterns, refilling their kerosene, trimming their wicks, adjusting their flames lower or higher. When not tending to the lamps themselves, she would braid new wicks, tidy the house, and read. They were days spend in tedium, but better that, she knew, than what might happen if she neglected her duties.
She had been told as a girl, when her aunt had assumed care of the lights, that should even one lamp burn down, the world would experience instant devastation. Eventually, the old woman knew her time was running out. She contacted her brother and requested the company of his oldest daughter. The girl would make for fine live- in assistance, as she was single, had just turned twenty- five, and therefore had no marriage prospects. The woman wrote that the girl would assist with housework and the woman’s affairs, but she never revealed to her brother her true plans- to train her niece in lantern keeping so the girl could take her aunt’s place when she died.
Speaking of TOSOL, I got my first edits back, and I'll be talking about those on WIP Wednesday this week, so come visit me then, too!
Friday, March 4, 2011
I like to research. I am that nerdy girl at school who practically clapped when a research paper was announced. I do super in-depth dramaturgical work when I'm in a play... sometimes for every character or situation presented. Sometimes, my research goes horribly awry, like when I was collecting facts for my 2009 NaNo novel, Remembrance. I sent it away to be edited by a friend, and when it came back, she had noted that most of my research was incorrect. All of my hard work was for nothing, and now I had a very mistaken point of view of English history. Other times, I simply know too much-I research to the point where what I know about the subject can't possibly be worked into the manuscript, especially in a natural, non-info barf-y way. This is an issue I came across recently, when I decided to write my analytical essay for class on my favorite play and its film adaptation, which I also love. I re-read the play, watched the film, collected sources, and wrote ten pages of notes. The essay was only allowed to be 2,500 words wrong and by about 2,000, I had only talked about three of my points and hadn't needed to use a single source because I had so much to say on the subject in the first place.
This latter problem is what is going on for one piece, in a way. When I began writing my Peter Pan play, I waffled about whether to send my main character, Mary, to an insane asylum. As I started doing more research in about February of last year, I came to learn that in Victorian England, seeing things and talking too much about things that people don't want to hear merits you a one-way ticket to a nice padded cell.
I worried that this might be too dramatic and waffled for about six months as to whether to put it in or not. In the end, I decided that she would be sent to the asylum but skipped over the actual asylum part. leaving off when she found out she was being sent away and picking up when he returns. When I presented my semi-finished script to my playwrighting class around November of last year, my teacher specifically requested that I write a scene in the mental institution.
All through this, I had been thinking of doing so, if only for myself, and had been doing research. I learned a lot. A lot, a lot. My entire perception of the medical world in the Victorian era was changed because of the methods they used to cure women of the disease my character was thought to be suffering from (hysteria, the catch-all diagnosis for all inconvenient behavior in the 19th century.) I wrote the scene. I turned it in. I was happy with it.
Then I came to England and started a class called Madness and Medicine in Modern Britain. The class specialised in the examination of asylums in the Victorian era, with a unit devoted to hysteria. I read a dozen articles on it, covering them in highlighter. I took detailed notes during class. I gave my own presentation on hysteria. Then I went back to my script, armed with my new knowledge. Then I realised something.
I knew too much. There was no possible way I could go deep enough into the subject in two or three scenes without making it unnatural and/or confusing a potential audience. I needed to, not dumb it down, but keep it simple, on the surface. Let the audience know what the disease was and the milder ways it was treated (some of the more serious treatments not only shocked me and would be hard for me to write about, but there's no way my fourteen year old character would have been subjected to that... I hope.) However, it's been difficult for me to pull back and see just how much is too much to be dumping on the audience.
Then there's the problem at the other end of the spectrum: too little knowledge. This problem came in when I was working on my NaNo '10 novel, which I've been editing since December.
See, in the novel, my character has a boyfriend. The first time they get together in a romantic way, they kiss pretty seriously to the point where my main character gets uncomfortable and leaves. However, she does let herself get carried away before realising what she's doing.
Yeah... like I know what that's like. Besides not being great at writing kissing scenes- I've only ever written one, and it was more of a very chaste kissing moment- I have little personal experience with the act myself. I've never gotten to the point that Lyddie does in that scene.
I wrote it early in the process and when I shared it nearly a year later, people seemed to think it was realistic. But reading it over this week, I realised that it wasn't serious enough. While the reader knew that she was getting uncomfortable... there were really no details and so they just had to take my word for it, and I don't think that would satisfy many people. That's the problem with this being a novel and not a screenplay. I've written screenplay/play kisses and it looks like this:
I can do that (unless I'm the actor carrying out the direction, which I have been. Then I'm just as inept.)
In a novel, especially one being told in first person present like mine... you need more than "he kisses me" (well, at least for this scene. I do in fact have a few more, no-details-given kisses in the book.)
I wanted to add more but what? I didn't know what would go on in a situation like that. So I spent some time on the romance boards of NaNoWriMo.org, consulted my favorite book series, and added a bit to the scene.
I'm happy with how it stands right now, but I honestly don't know if it's realistic, and unless I find a lovely English boy who will love and care about me, I don't anticipate getting any real-life experience in the near future that would help me confirm it.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I've also come across the information that if you post your novel online, it can take away your first publication rights and therefore make you less attractive to publishers. While this isn't a risk for me at the moment- The Other Side of Light is my first piece of writing that I've considered getting published and I haven't posted enough of it here to make it a risk- I've decided not to post excerpts from it here. However, for this week, I decided to do something that my favorite author, Libba Bray, did with her last book in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy: opened the book, pointed to a line, and posted that as a teaser. While I don't have an actual book, I do have a word document and access to a random numbers generator, so here are the results of that:
Pg. 127, line 24: “He would have been a perfect match for you. But where is he now?”
Pg. 118, line 26: She walks the few steps to her desk, pulls out a drawer, and removes her wallet, holding it out it my direction. “Here.”
Pg. 72, line 14: This is the first I’ve heard of anyone besides my family being involved in this business. “Who are ‘the ones we’re working against’?”
Pg. 149, line 19: “Oh,” Aunt Kelly says. “Yes.” She guides me inside, never taking her eyes off of my mother.
Pg. 93, line 4: Finally, when I’m outside the school a few days later, digging in my bag for my cell phone and I hear, “Hey.” Oh, no. It’s Aaron. I knew he would find me eventually, and I’ve been trying to rehearse the conversation I need to have with him.
Pg. 13, line 13: The doorbell rings as I’m halfway through my first book. I have no idea who it could be. I mark my place and I open the door. Once I see who’s on the other side, I freeze. Because standing there is Aaron Tves, the guy I’ve had a crush on for the past five months. He is beautiful and smart and well spoken and he is standing on my porch.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
To reconnect myself with the blogging world, here's a meme I picked up from Hannah, who was my first follower!
How would people describe your personality (if they could only use ONE word)? Are they right?
My friend Megan just said “determined” and I would definitely agree with that. I am a very focused and sometime tenacious person when it comes to achieving goals.
What celebrity/celebrities would create a “Star Struck” feeling if you saw them in real life?
I am easily star-struck (I used to get star struck around leads of community theatre plays I’d be in), so the easy answer is “anyone with a higher coolness factor than I.” But to narrow it down a bit, I would (and have) gotten star struck around my favorite author, Libba Bray, and would around another favorite, Maureen Johnson. I was pretty bad around Keira Knightley when I met her a few weeks ago. Uh… Laura Linney. Emma Thompson. Kate Winslet.
Who is your favorite blogger? Why?
I love reading Hannah and Rachel’s blogs- they always remind me to look on the bright side and see the beauty in life. Libba Bray and Maureen Johnson. And The Struggling Actress, too!
What is your comfort food/drink?
I’m pretty addicted to Diet Coke, and chocolate is definitely my comfort food.
Be brave- tell us something very random and weird about yourself.
I have extremely dilated pupils all the time, so much that people have teased me about it.
Do you have a strong desire to do something you’ve never done? What is it?
I would love to go rock climbing on a real cliffside. I love rock climbing (though I haven’t been in years) and I think that would be so cool. Something that doesn’t jibe with my love of rock climbing, though? I’m afraid of heights.
Movies: Action, Drama, Romantic Comedy, Documentary, Comedy? What are your favorite genres?
I would say that I just like smart movies. If I had to choose from the above, I’d say drama, but really, if a movie is intelligent, I’ll probably like it.
Books: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Romance, Biographies, True Stories, Self-Help, Devotional/Study? What are your favorite types of reading material?
On a broad scale, I love young adult literature. Within that genre and branching into others, historical fiction is my favorite.
Music: Funk, Rock, Country, Jazz, Classical, Film Score, Blues, Classic Rock, Crooner, Alternative, Heavy Metal, Techno? What are your favorite types?
My musical taste is very eclectic. If I hear a song that I like, I’ll put it on my MP3 player, no matter what it’s classified as. My favorite it Broadway music- I love that it has a story and emotion to it. I also love music from the 1940’s and the only band I can say I love right now is ALL CAPS.
If you inherited a million dollars, what is the first thing you would do with your money?
Well, I’d love to go on a shopping spree- I’m a bit of a clothes horse. But I’d also give a large chunk of change to my university theatre department and my arts high school. Oh, and try to pay back my parents for this London trip- even though it’s part of my schooling, I know it’s expensive.
Name one weakness of yours.
I am the jealous type. I never, ever take it out on the person of whom I am jealous, but I get very jealous very easily, and I wish I didn’t. I’m also a workaholic when it comes to my acting, sometimes blindingly so. I gave up seeing my family over most of my Thanksgiving break this year so I could do a play two hours away from my home, and I felt bad about that.
If you could live anywhere at all (and take your loved ones with you), where would you go?
After living in London for two months now, with four more to go, I have to say, right here. I love London, and England, so, so much. Second to that, New York City.
Strange talent? Can you juggle basketballs, put your legs behind your head or perform some other strange feat?
Hm… I don’t think I have any, to be honest. Oh! I can be verbally fed long strings of numbers and letters and then recite them back from memory from smallest to biggest number and then in alphabetical order perfectly. I found this out when I was getting IQ tests done a few years ago. I think it comes from memorizing scripts and book passages from a pretty young age.
What’s something your consider yourself to be good at? (Don’t worry, it’s not bragging. It’s acknowledging a God-given gift.)
Well, I guess I consider myself to be good at acting and writing, though I know I have definite room for improvement in both. I think I take all right pictures, too... I hate questions like this.
What is one of your favorite things to catch a whiff of?
Freshly mown grass- the country girl in me coming out! Also, books. I love the smell of bookstores, new or used.
When you leave a social gathering, do you wish you would have talked more or talked less?
Always the former. I don’t talk much in social gatherings unless I know everyone really well. I’m very shy around anyone new.
If money wasn’t a factor, what stores would you shop in?
Anthropologie- their dresses are adorable, but their prices make me cringe. However, I’d still most likely spend most of my money in Target!
What is your greatest fear?
I guess… not achieving my dreams. I was going to say failure, but if I fail along the way to achieving my dream, that’s fine. But I really don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t do what I want with my life.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
My workaholic-ness coming out, but I’m really proud of my acting resume. I’ve worked really hard for the past eight years to get the credits I have, and it’s gotten me into some very exclusive auditions that people my age don’t usually have access to.
What are your favorite animals?
Are you a hopeless romantic?
Absolutely. Although I don’t believe in love at first sight- does that take away that title?
What movie or book character can you most relate to?
Gemma Doyle from the Gemma Doyle Trilogy. So, so much.
Starting tomorrow, I'll be back with a vengence!