Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And Now What?

(This may be a rambly sort of post. I'm making it up as I go along.)

So, NaNoWriMo. Yeah, it was fun. I wrote just over 30,000 words, meeting my target while still managing to keep on top of all my coursework and stuff. Pretty good, overall, and I managed to bring a plot from half-baked idea to completed story in a month. Which begs the question, where to next?

I'd like to start editing and working into my NaNo story (yes, it is untitled, just like almost everything I write). But then I thought, well, I've been writing nothing but that one story for a whole month. Ditto with my notebook story, as the two are very interconnected. I am just a bit tired of both of them now. I can hear Prototype agitating for a re-read and edit session, and I have a new story in my head which sounds good when I think about it, but to make the plot work properly it would be quite boring to write at first. And I don't want to set myself word targets and things for a while any more. So that's out for now.

The other thing I may take up again is something that I have tried on and off for many, many years and have never quite gotten the hang of: I speak of the realm of poetry. I love poetry, in fact I love it even more when I get to take it apart and see how it works. We're doing that a lot at school right now. And one of my characters that I have spent a lot of time with over the past two months or so just happens to be a very talented poet. I'd really like to have a go at ghostwriting some poetry for him, but I'm quite scared of accidentally creating toxic naffness. This is the usual result of my forays into verse. Hmmmm.

I reckon the notebook story can take a break for now. I have writer's block on it anyway; I can't figure out how the next bit of plot can be connected to what I have. Instead, I will start attempting to improve my poetic abilities. And Prototype will need revisiting otherwise I'll never get rid of the itch. Right. That's my writing life sorted, at least until Christmas.

How's yours?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Musings on Angst

It's been a while since I had anything to say about writing. In fact, its been a while since I wanted to write about anything other than how much I hate my life, which is quite irrational given that I'm having a great time.

But after the past couple of weeks of midterms, problem sets, papers and purposeless angst, I've realized what might help with the angst. I'm going to start writing again, not little short stories that I can't do a thing with. I'm going to start a new novel. Hopefully instead of thinking in circles about my angst, I will delve into a labyrinth in my head to create my characters angst.

It's going to be a space opera centered around a ship's doctor and the first contact Earth has with the rest of the intelligent universe. I hope to write about 5,000 words a week on it, and that they be air tight words. I will try to post updates on the blog here, and my series on style is on hold for a while (if anyone hadn't figured that out yet, and cared).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en!

Happy Hallowe'en everyone! I figured that since it was written as a creepy stroy, I should post this today. This story is entitled, The Madness of Faith.

The leaves of the trees made a thin blanket over the forest, blotting out all but the most determined rays of sunlight. In the dim half-light below the canopy layer dwelt birds and creatures who enjoyed the peace and solitude of their home, and deeply resented the intrusion of Faith Amanda Richardson.

Faith Amanda Richardson was travelling through their forest, though the animals did not know it, because she had been entrusted to deliver cloth and chicken-feed from Salem to one of the newer pilgrim villages. She had the things in a pack on her back, and did not notice the animals because she was concentrating on keeping to the narrow, winding path.

The animals watched Faith as she wound her way through the trees. They saw a girl of the normal height for a fourteen-year-old. They saw a plain, puritan beige dress with a plain white apron and cap. They saw straggly, dusty brown hair escaping from under the cap and falling over a pale, rounded face with large brown eyes. They saw a pair of small black-booted feet emerging from under the hem of the dress and stumbling occasionally on stones and twigs. And some of the more intelligent animals, who had learnt not just to look, but to really see, saw a girl who was terribly, terribly afraid of being so alone.

Faith Amanda Richardson was not used to being alone. She had grown up in busy, bustling London with a large family full of siblings and cousins. When the family had left for the New World, the ship had been cramped and noisy. Salem, her new home, was a fairly large town with a strong community spirit. Faith had never been alone before. There had always been someone to talk to, to befriend. Faith got along with everyone. As far as she was concerned, all people were friends. But in this forest there were no people, and the world as Faith saw it was suddenly very still and quiet. Quiet worried Faith as well. Darkness and silence were the sort of things that could hide monsters, and Faith had been brought up to believe in monsters.

It was the fall season, and the days were getting shorter, but it wasn’t too cold. The pale path in the sandy soil glowed faintly in the failing light, as did Faith’s pale clothes. As the sun set, the shadows of trees and undergrowth and animals merged and blurred, until either side of the path lurked a menacing darkness which appeared to shift and shiver and move by itself.

And suddenly, the darkness broke and released a shadowy animal onto the path in front of Faith. It looked like a deer or possibly - as it moved its head and the fluid light blended shadow with substance - a wolf? The mysterious animal watched as Faith froze in horror, staring at it. There was no point in screaming for help, because no-one would come. The animal was glaring at her. She decided to run.

She turned slowly, then broke into a sudden sprint. She ran and ran and ran, but then she turned her head to see if the animal was following and ran headlong into a tree. The world spun. It heaved and shifted, and the scene swirled violently. Faith staggered a few steps in no particular direction, and fell. And then, much later, stood up…

The forest had changed. The sky was dark between the leaves, and the moon shone ghostly shapes on the tree trunks. And in the silver moonlight, every animal track, every disused hunting trail, every random clear line through the trees, shone as brightly as the true path through. There was no way to distinguish between them all. Faith hesitated, then began to walk along the path that lay directly in front of her. In the threatening darkness around her, the animals chuckled to themselves. They knew she had taken the wrong path.

The darkness thickened as Faith stumbled on. The moonlight couldn’t find any way through into it, and the temperature dropped as the clouds drifted away. From far away, or it might have been quite close by, Faith thought she heard a wolf howling. She jumped, shook herself, and walked a little faster. She could hear something in the darkness, but the night air seemed to twist the sound. Two legs, four legs, six legs? One animal, two, three, four? Hooves? Paws? Claws? The sound suggested all of them, and none of them. A monster?

Faith blinked, and a flock of huge black birds erupted across the path in front of her. Then they were gone, into the darkness or her imagination? A scared whimper escaped through Faith’s lips, and she sped up again. Her speed was not enough to blur the forest, though, and she still noticed the faint pricks of light in the blackness. Moonlight? Or eyes? The horrible, unidentifiable, monstery sound was following her, keeping pace with her.

There was a rush of wind behind her. Faith spun around in time to see a large something melt away into the shadows. There was a snickering sound. Underbrush, breaking under heavy paws? Laughter? Laughter meant people. Exhausted and terrified Faith needed people. “Hello?”

No reply. It must have been underbrush breaking. This was enough to start Faith running again. She was crying. The monster was following, she knew. From around a corner, there came a sudden, terrible sound. A snarling, menacing growl, like nothing Faith had ever heard before. A wolf? A pack of wolves? A bear? Images flashed through Faith’s mind. A blunt muzzle covered in blood, sharp teeth, claws like steel, and maddened, glowing, blood red eyes.

Eyes which Faith was sure she could see watching her from the shadows. She blinked. Nothing there. Blink. There they were, on the other side of the path. Blink. Red eyes on both sides of the path. Blink. Nothing but blackness, pressing in…blink. Red eyes, a million pairs, advancing from every direction…run.

Brambles ripped Faith’s ankles, branches pulled her cap from her hair. She dropped her pack so she didn’t need to carry the extra weight. She thought she could hear something savaging it behind her. Stones tripped her, but she got up and ran on, driven by pure terror. Her apron came off, her dress and her skin tore. The monster was still following. The red eyes glistened. Howls, footsteps, cruel, cold laughter…Faith sprinted on, and suddenly broke through the forest, out into a large clearing. She stopped short.

It was the village. A dozen houses, a village hall-cum-church, a granary store and a well. Deserted. No lights on in the windows. No late-night wanderers. No animal noises. No hushed, don’t-wake-the-children voices. No-one. And the light, pouring into the clearing from the fat silver moon above, hurt Faith’s eyes. Too bright. Suddenly, she was too exposed. The open area was too cold. But Faith was thirsty. She moved slowly to the well. That felt wrong too. She should be running. Suddenly, Faith missed running. The monster had left, too. Faith thought the world seemed too quiet and lonely without it.

And the face in the still water of the well was not, could not be, Faith’s face. It was dusty and dirty and bruised. Its hair was matted and tangled, coming down out of its bun and floating in wispy strands. Its lips were split and bleeding in several places. And its eyes…its eyes were huge, wild, desperately terrified. They reminded Faith of the street cats back in London. Except that no cat ever had eyes that glowed more than faintly red where they should have been brown and white.

Faith screamed, but it came out as a feral snarl of fury. There was surely no-one in the village, or they would have woken. Faith howled again, in misery and pain, before darting off into the forest at random. The dark and warmth wrapped around her like a cosy blanket. Faith was not going to leave. She liked it here. She ran with the monster now, not from it. She was wild, free, running, running, running with exhilarating speed, missing trees by inches. A huge rock, the kind that could smash your skull if you ran into it, loomed out of the darkness. Faith dodged it with barely a second to spare, laughing madly.

Colours began erupting out of the black, spoiling the lovely darkness. Dawn already? Couldn’t be. Faith had lost track of time. A large part of her mind told her to run, hide in the shadows, remain a feral creature of the dark. A smaller part pointed out that now the light was back, she had no reason to be afraid and could find her way home. The very smallest part of her subconscious, however, knew that the dawn was not really here, and the colours were not real.

Virginia Stewart wandered along the edge of the forest, picking wildflowers and thinking to herself. It was so very sad. Another village wiped out by disease, but that was not uncommon. The saddest thing was that the delivery girl who had been going there - what was her name? Fate, was it? No…Faith? Yes, Faith - had been found dead in the forest. She had apparently run into a rock in the dark. Her skull had smashed to pieces, poor thing. They had thought the forest was safe, having eradicated the wolves a few months ago. Faith’s body had been so badly bruised and battered, too. The priest suspected that she had gone mad...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's Working, Guys!

Hello again, everyone. Wow, echoes. Please someone start posting again soon! I know NaNoWriMo is coming up, so maybe that will inspire a few posts. But that's not the point: I have something to write about!

Remember in my last post that I was going to start writing in a notebook instead of on the computer? Well I am pleased to report that it really is working! I've been working on it pretty much whenever I have a spare moment at school and in the evenings, and in my A5 notebook I have written 38 pages. I started typing it up the other day, because when it's finished I want a digital copy of it for easy editing and it's probably better to do it a bit at a time than all at once; and I got about 11 notebook pages onto 3 and a half typed-up pages. If my calculator serves me well, that means that what I've written so far should be about 12 pages. Doesn't sound like much, but.

Dudes. My computer is full to bursting with stories that never got past page 3. That's why I decided to try this alernative method. So now I've done twelve pages without really noticing it, and by working on it all the time I've made myself think about it all the time and so I have a much better idea of where this story is going than I do with most of them. This story is going to get finished, I can feel it. That would bring my finished story count up to three: this one (currently unnamed); Prototype, which is still locked in its endless revision cycle anyway; and a short story called The Madness of Faith, which I wrote years ago as schoolwork and kept because I think it's pretty good. That one's only two and a half pages long. Maybe I'll post it up here someday.

So yeah, I really recommend switching to a notebook if you don't already use one. It gets things done and it boosts morale. Also, if anyone is interested in reading Madness, let me know and I'll see what I can do!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Writing, Where Art Thou?

I'm frustrated, guys. I can not deny this. I'm absolutely fed up with me and my seeming inability to write anything. Like, actually write out a story. The most I can seem to write is a plot summary\idea, and the first couple of pages of a rough draft. Then my brain completely jumps off the tracks of "writing for the heck of it" and instead goes, "WHOOO gotta be publishable the first draft around! Gotta make big bucks, gotta be material for INSTANTANEOUS FAME."

I've got to wonder... what happened? I used to love writing just because it was something I could do, because it was a way to express myself. But now? I equate writing as a way to potentially make money and be recognized in the world. Why? I realize that, yes, I do crave positive attention. This is a throw-back to another period in my life when ANY sort of attention was zip, nada, zero. And the money... well, I'm not in a position to get a job right now, and I suppose I'm frustrated because of not being monetarily independent of my parents.

Now that I've analyzed this and put it down... I still desire a solution. Do I have one? Not at the moment. I will continue to try writing, but... I just don't want to lose this. Writing has been a very important part of my life. It has always been with me, always been there for me. This is a time where I would appreciate support from my fellow Mission: Write authors. Thanks guys.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Strategy Rethink

Since I got back from holiday, I haven't posted anything because nothing has really been happening with me writing-wise. Today I finally worked out what the problem was, and I think I've found a solution.

The way I see it, writing a story can start in basically two ways: conscious planning or accidental inspiration. My writing nearly always begins in the second way, mainly because most of my stories are based on the ones I used to make up for myself when I was little, to help myself sleep. Who am I kidding, I still do that. A lot. So, my stories start verbally and then if I decide they are good enough then they are typed up onto the computer.

And this is the problem: because telling stories verbally is quicker than typing, I'm always ahead of myself when I start to actually write a story and I then get bored and impatient to get to the really good bits. And then I end up getting tired of the whole thing, leaving off writing it out and just finishing it verbally. This has happened with the story I'm currently writing, working title Contact 2010, and so I've decided to give it a rest and try a new approach.

Today I went into Paperchase and bought a nice new notebook. Then I went onto Seventh Sanctum (what an amazing website) and generated prompts until I got one that caught my imagination. I have written this prompt out across the top of the first page in my notebook, and instead of telling a story to myself verbally to help myself sleep tonight, I will use this prompt and actually start writing a story with pen and paper, something I haven't done for years and years. I really hope that this change of pace will help improve my ability to actually finish stories for a change.

Also, you may have noticed that my new strategy basically combines PandaLark's tip about Seventh Sanctum with Nephilim's dirty notes idea. This is not a coincidence: thank you so much guys, for giving my writing technique a breath of fresh air.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To Heck With It; or, A New Start

I am WAY overdue for a post on here, I feel. I just have not been feeling my writing mojo, which is my excuse every time, and a pathetic attempt at avoidance at that. If there is anything I have learned about writing, it is that mojo does not come from the heavens by way of a miraculous beam of light shining down upon the mojo-istic writer. It comes through simply sitting your butt down in front of your computer's word processor, or notebook and pen, and just WRITING. Or just staring at the screen or paper until you finally write the first word, the first line, then the second.

Then again, this is, as they say all too often, easier said than done.

Remember how I said that I would work on my story Six Gifts? Well, that failed. I have to admit that it failed miserably. I just... am not getting anywhere with that story. I keep going around in circles, trying to work things out, running into walls, attempting to claw my way over them, only to find a raging river with no bridge to span it. My desire to work on this story has been slowly dwindling over time, to feeling that it is not a cherished brain-child, but a chore that needs to be done someway, somehow. So I am going to take a break. Put it out of sight, if not out of mind, and start on developing an entirely new story.

The idea for said new story came to me only recently, and it's a wonder that I did not think of it before... It will be about one of my not-so-secret loves.


I love myths, legends, stories of magic and unhuman wonders. They have allowed to me to escape within my mind for my entire life, to imagine and expand upon countless 'what-if's. This story will be no different in allowing me to explore existing stories about goblins, and perhaps their magical cohorts (elves or fairies, anyone?), as well as applying my own spin to said existing stories. I look forward to this breath of fresh air, to laying aside Six Gifts for a while until I feel ready to come back to it and work on it with a renewed passion.

And before I forget: my Dirty Notes. I haven't been following up on them, as you may have guessed from the start of this post. At least, not so much as you would immediately notice, but I have done a little writing--just a little, but surely better than nothing--about my goblin story. Some is in a notebook. Some is on the computer, and I intend to print that bit out and look it over after I finish this post. I am thinking now that perhaps it might not be the best thing to quit putting my ideas on the computer cold-turkey. There can be a sort of harmonious balance between the computer and the notebook. But at least I can make sure the writing on the computer gets put on physical paper to be "dirtied up" later.

FOR TODAY, HOLD ME TO: Printing out what I have on my goblin story and looking over it. Sitting down with the intent to write for a minimum of a half-hour.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Named It!

Hi everyone! This here post is an announcement that I have actually decided on a name for my story, and I'm fairly sure that I wouldn't've done it if I hadn't said I would on here, so thanks!

From now on, my story is entitled Prototype. It's so simple I nearly hit myself over the head for not coming up with it earlier, but I'm really pleased with it. It's relevant to the story, but it doesn't give too much away and doesn't sound too melodramatic. (Which some of my other ideas did. A lot.)

I suck at writing plot summaries, but I named the story Prototype because that's basically what the main character is. She's a genetically engineered clone with cybernetic implants, and she was created as a prototype for a secret army that's set to take over the galaxy. She escaped the facility where she was made and lives on a spaceship, trying to avoid being captured or killed by the government who created her and then outlawed her when she escaped. Generally, therefore, she is not a happy, emotionally balanced person. She has violent (sometimes literally) moodswings, and every now and again she tries to kill herself, which is hard because she was built to be pretty near invincible. She's extremely strong, she has a perfect memory, she's brilliant at just about everything and can do all sorts of stuff normal humans can't, like using her spinal column to connect to wireless networks. But she's also a mess. She just can't get over the fact that she isn't like everyone else. I still haven't figured out why the two other main characters both fall/have fallen for her, because I've been writing this thing for so long that sometimes it feels like it writes itself and just borrows my hands to use the keyboard.

What I'd really like to do is make a cool cover for Prototype, like the one TheBookWorm made for her novel-in-verse (brilliant and very professional-looking, by the way), but I think I ought to actually complete the thing first, and anyway I have no idea what I'd do or how I'd do it. I'm going on holiday on Tuesday so I won't be posting for a bit. See you in about two weeks!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This is the first of my seventh sanctum prompts. I will continue with my essays on style, but I need to write more, and this is a way to force myself to do it. These come essentially unedited from my word processor, and criticism is always welcome.

PROMPT: The generous poet haunted by dark memories.

The words haven’t flowed from his pen in more than a year. He has not been seen outside of his home in more than three months. The townsfolk have started to wonder about him, about the man who grows ever more mysterious with each passing day.

Well, for all of those townsfolk, and all of the other people who speculate about the man living in 1741 Durhurst Lane, wonder no more, for I shall tell you everything. I am not his daughter, nor his wife, nor even a lover but I can speak of him with some degree of accuracy.

His name is Rehael, and he is handsome enough, in a brooding, take-no-nonsense kind of way. He is not marriage worthy now, and he was barely acceptable before… well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

We met two years ago on the Triage Monchet art circuit, which, for lack of a better term, is a take-all-comers series of shows. There are sculptors and painters and musicians and writers and researchers and poets and… if you can think of a way to make something remotely elegant, there is a place for you at Triage Monchet.

He was there with his poetry, I was there with my wire sculpture, and we met as I was walking through, with spools of wire filling my arms to a height where I could just barely see more than five feet in front of me. He was darting past on his own business, and I fell flat on my back when we collided. Spools of brightly colored filament flew up from my arms, and fell down to make gentle tinkling noises as they rolled away on the dirty gray floor.

He didn’t even stop until I shrieked after him a comment which I won’t reprint, but involved his mother in an anatomically improbable relationship with a rabbit. Not my best insult, but I was winded and lying there with my skirt bunched up around my thighs, and hundreds of dollars worth of wire rolling away in the huge convention center.

I rolled over onto my hands and knees to get up, already tracking where the wires must have gotten themselves too as they rolled through the crowd. My background in analysis reared its ugly head as I calculated, with flawed assumptions, how much of the valuable material would be stolen while I was looking for it.

That flawed assumption was that the jerk who had knocked me over wouldn’t help me. By the time I’d gotten to my feet he’d collected everything that had had a good bit of momentum, and handed it back to me, all with that slight smile that, in anyone else, would say that they were laughing at you. On him, it just seemed slightly confused, like he didn’t smile much.

“Sorry about the collision,” he said, a deep basso rumbling from deep in his chest. I still remember that exact conversation, not for its depth or even being interesting, but well… with what happened… I’m getting ahead of myself again.

“You really should watch where you’re going.” I was finally vertical again, and took back my supplies with a slight glare.

The expression on his face next, that wistful look, that showed a hint of the depth he had… that was the one time I seriously considered becoming his lover. I wish I could say that honestly. “You’re right, I should. Perhaps I can make it up to you with dinner?”

I was an artist, I wouldn’t turn down a free meal. “Fine. I’m in A8137, I should be done around eight.”

He waved at me and left, and when I got to my booth it didn’t look like I’d lost anything.

The show went very well, someone from a major museum came and looked at my work, asked if I might want to exhibit there, and the excitement from that pretty much wiped the morning’s encounter from my mind, until he showed up at 7:59 prompt.

It took me another few minutes to pack, and we chatted lightly. Turned out he was a new artiste’ trying out his luck at the Triage Monchet, and a local, so he knew a good place to eat. He didn’t mention his name then, but I didn’t either. It was pleasantly casual, and we ate well.

I’m not one of those women who will say that she had too much to drink before describing what happened that evening. For one, we didn’t wind up doing anything like that, and for another, I didn’t have that much to drink, I went with him to his apartment quite antsy, and quite sober.

Before I could… initiate things, a light flickered on in a back room, and I heard the click-click of high heels coming from a back room. I let go of his arm and backed off a few steps. Of all the luck, going with a married guy, and a married guy who’s woman was home?

She came out into the hallway, holding a gun. I backed off into the other room, watching in horror as she said, “Rehael, I can’t take this anymore! You don’t deserve me or her or any of this, and I won’t let this continue!”

She wasn’t hysterical, she was speaking in a cool, clipped tone that sounded rehearsed, and almost emotionless. He matched her tone almost exactly as he approached her and gently took hold of her wrist, “Baby, stop it, you know this is okay and safe and gentle and good and kind and proper and opportunity and-“

His soothing voice was cut off by a gunshot that went into the door frame behind which I stood. I backed up a few paces, and they started struggling. The gun went off once more, twice more, and then there was a heavy thud as her body hit the ground.

He was staring at her, remorseless, his brow furrowed slightly. He reached down and closed her eyes as I tried to back away, call the cops, something. “Stop.” He said, and I found myself obeying.

“I’m sorry you had to see that.” A second apology, though this one sounded even less sincere than the first one.

“I don’t want you to have to get involved. I can give you everything you’ve ever wanted, just promise me you’ll stay quiet.”

I stared at him. Here he was asking me to participate in a cover up for a man I barely knew, on the promise of something he couldn’t possibly deliver.

I don’t remember what exactly we said, what exactly he did, but I woke up in my own hotel room, and read about it in the next day’s papers. He was on the run, he had gotten out of the country, he’d bought a new identity.

Out of the blue I got a call from someone in my home town a year ago. It was him, and he had a signed contract between me and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to exhibit my work. There was also a bank account with several million dollars in it, and he gave me the PIN for it.

I didn’t question it. I probably should have. I probably shouldn’t release this either, I did make a promise after all. But two months ago I went to his place, and found a stack of poetry about a quiet maiden who protected the foolish. It was right next to a stinking corpse that was handsome in an ugly way, and had probably been dead for ages. I closed his eyes and called the police, and now you all know what happened to him. I hope that the kids who were messing with his property all catch something from the plants.

Seventh Sanctum

There is a website, seventhsanctum.com, that randomly generates prompts, characters, settings and everything else you can think of. I'm having a bit of an inspiration slump, and a problem with being way too verbose, so I am committing now to writing a 1,000 word or less story from a seventh sanctum generated prompt each day until I move. I will post them here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hello Blog!

Hi there, this is Tangela. I'm a british bibliophile with a computer full of half-finished stories. I meant to post something here ages ago, but I've only just got around to doing it! Sorry!

Right now, I am editing the one story that I have actually finished. I've thought of it as 'finished' for about a year now, but every few days I add a few lines here and there, maybe reword a few paragraphs or sometimes add in or redo large chunks of it. I've kept a copy of the original, from when I first declared it 'finished', and it's 26 pages long. The current, heavily edited version is now 51 pages long, and every time I read it I find bits that need tweaking. I doubt it will ever be properly completed.

The editing I'm working on right now has to do with the part of the story involving time travel. I've fixed it so that when the characters return from their stay in the past, no time has passed in the present. Since all they have to do in the past is wait until they can return to the present and continue with the actual plot, I'm using their time in the past for character development. The other thing I really ought to get around to doing is actually naming this story, and at no point in its very long life have I ever come close to deciding on a name for it. Now that people besides me are aware of the existence of this story, I think it ought to have a name.

By the end of the week, hold me to: coming up with a name, or at least a short list of possible names, for this story.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dirty Notes

I have nothing against writing on the computer. I also have absolutely no qualms about writing with physical paper and pen or pencil. But I have to admit that for me personally, writing has come to be a sort of balance between the two.

I mostly write notes--and sometimes the actual stories--for my fiction ideas on the computer, either with Microsoft Word or Notepad. I do my personal journaling of things I have done and how I have or do feel in a notebook, with a pen that I keep clipped on the metal spiral so I don't lose it. The cleanliness of the typed notes and the physical act of writing my personal thoughts both largely contribute to keeping me sane about my different writings, and sometimes life in general.

Until now... Did I say there was a balance? I should have said, "a gross over-balance," with writing on the computer looming threateningly over writing on paper.

I said before that the cleanliness of typing appeals to me, but on the other hand, I am coming to realize that it has hindered me somewhat, in that I am afraid to change whatever I have written on the computer. If I feel the need to change or delete things from notes, I will make an entirely new Word document rather than "tamper" with the one I currently have. This has led to a lot of mess and chaos and many folders meant to organize everything, while in reality, it's hard to find things even with accurate names, just because of how many files I have.

Well, no more! The files will stay because I am loathe to trash anything that I might want to refer to later, but as of today, I am going to be experimenting with writing down anything story-related in notebooks. I will code-name them "Dirty Notes," to emphasize the fact that, since the notes will be on paper, it will be OKAY to scribble, cross things out, write in the margins. Basically go crazy and don't care about how the paper looks afterwards... Well, while making sure the essential words themselves remain legible, of course.

If all goes well, I will be color-coding my Dirty Notes with sticky tabs for notes on Setting, Characters, etc. as I accrue more notes covering different aspects of my story on paper.

FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW, HOLD ME TO: Starting off my "Dirty Notes experiment" by working with Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes, and applying certain topics of the book to my story Six Gifts.

On Words

I'm going to start this series on a heretical note.

A thesaurus is not a particularly useful tool.

Every word has an exact meaning, varying connotations, and a different rhythm. There is only one word that can fit in one place and be perfect, as you'll know if you occasionally are jarred when reading someone else's story by a word that just. isn't. right.

If you do not know what that word is that fits in the place in your piece in question, then the place needs to change, rather than squishing an inappropriate word into the writing. There are usually several that will fit and though any with the right dictionary meaning can be used, the connotation will shift, or the rhythm of the piece is thrown off, or worse, the tone is altered. Other than that one "right" word, or a very general word, nothing fits without being jarring. "We are going to the fair", "We are going to the carnival", and "We are going to the show", all mean completely different things, and sound different from one another, despite the change of just one word, and that change being to synonyms according to thesaurus.com.

Of course, sometimes you do need to change what words you are using. The rule of thumb I use is ten times five hundred words. Let's suppose my character were wandering around the fair grounds, and wondering about the changes at a fair since her youth. The word "fair" would be accurate in all instances. As a monosyllable, it would also be rhythmic. But hearing the word fair every ten or fifty words? It starts to grate on the reader's senses, which can lead them either to think that the word is very important, or that you aren't writing well.

Now I am fairly confident that all of you are going to be pedantic and say that I am being inconsistent, saying that you shouldn't repeat words, and that you shouldn't use a thesaurus. Where can one find words that fit, or how can one alter their writing to make inappropriate words match up?

As to finding new words, the answer is pretty much what you can expect- read. Read everything you can get your hands on, or just read a dictionary, or study word lists for your SATs. The more words you know in some part of your mind, the more words you have access to when you are writing. Using the thesaurus is learning words for your writing, rather than using words you've learned for your writing. A very fine distinction, but an important one. Writing should reflect, on some level, your history, your personality, your life, and by going outside of your realm of experience, you create a distance in your writing. This is something that should be used sparingly, and if an appreciable fraction of your vocabulary is drawn from things outside the realm of your experience, it will show, and will likely not look attractive. Even if you are experiencing the sensation of research, that adds to your life experience, but if you are just getting the sensation, the associations, of looking something up in a thesaurus? Not so much. Now if you were to read the thesaurus cover to cover, that would add to your experience, and would probably make the thesaurus obsolete for you. But that's pretty much the only value that such a document has to a writer with a strong voice.

Altering your writing is sometimes easier, and I find it is my preference in almost all situations. Continuing with the example of a fair that a character attends, one might wind up overusing the word "fair" if there is a lengthy description of how she reacts emotionally to all of the sights, and with memories of previous fairs with the antagonist. There are nonspecific words which can be used a few times- event is the only one that comes to mind, but in such a spiel, the fair itself might need to be referred to ten, twenty, thirty times. Perhaps instead of saying that she remembers going to the fair when she was young, she can say that she went to the 4H club's display. Or the fattening, maddening play on culture. Or any of a number longer, artsier phrases. Those also should be used sparingly, since the more artsy something gets the harder it is to take seriously.

Next post will be on sentence structures.

A Quick Introduction

Hey there.

I'm PandaLark, a student of bio-engineering, a voracious reader, and I write a great deal, both for school and for my own amusement. I also work as an editor for people's papers- which is the best campus job ever, highly recommend it if you can hook yourself up, and are competent- and I have come to notice that lots and lots of highly educated people don't know the first thing about the English language, and how to use it and manipulate it to make your text readable, and, more importantly in many cases, enjoyable.

I plan to write a series of posts about how to write in English, and do it well, from the ground up. They will be published on a strict "when I get to it" schedule. Before any of you get too upset, it won't be any of that silliness you get in school about predicate nominatives and subject verb agreement. You know those things, and if you don't, you probably would not come here to research it. I'll be talking about stylistic concerns, and the few things that are absolutely required not to sound like an idiot. The reason there are so few of those things? Some people have really low thresholds for what is idiotic. I hope you enjoy it.

Expect the first one shortly after I finish cleaning my shelving unit for when I move back to school.


Hey, everyone. Neph here. I just finished reading a book that I bought a little while ago from Half Price Books called Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes, by Raymond Obstfeld. In concept, it is an extremely helpful book for me personally because, honestly? I had no idea how to work with scenes before. Not for novel-length stories, at least. Though I tried repeatedly to write a scene, from different angles and different character perspectives, nothing seemed to work out for me, and that made me really discouraged about my ability to write a good novel-length story. So when I visited the bookstore and saw this book on the shelf, of course I snatched it up, flipped through it a little, and then bought it.

The chapters include topics such as 'Determining Scene Length,' 'Using Setting,' 'Payoff Scenes,' 'Comic Scenes,' and 'Romantic & Sex Scenes.' In short, quite likely there is something in this book for every writer who is engaged in a struggle to write out a scene that does not suck--first and foremost to themselves, and secondly to potential publishers.

I currently fall into the former category, and as soon as I finish this blog post, I am going to attempt to apply a chapter's topic to the story I am working on, tentatively titled Six Gifts. The chapter will probably be 'First Meetings' or 'Focusing a Scene on Character, Plot, or Theme,' as I am currently in the process of planning out the first part of the story when two of the protagonists meet.

FOR TODAY, HOLD ME TO: Attempting to apply a chapter of Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes to the first part of my story Six Gifts.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Our Mission

The mission of the writers of this blog is to be improve in their writing through accountability to fellow writers. Exactly how they improve is to be up to each individual writer, but the accountability factor will be the same for all of them.

Writers will post what they wish to be held accountable for--say, writing 300 words by the end of the day. Their fellow writers are encouraged to post comments supporting them, offering words of wisdom, etc.

As well as posting goals to be held accountable for, writers on the blog may post anything writing-related that may come to mind. A method for character development that they personally find useful, a link to an inspiring writer's website, a review for a "how-to" book on writing... anything goes that may prove helpful, entertaining, or encouraging for fellow writers.

Now, without further ado, let the mission commence!