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Archive for November, 2011

Have I been zipping through my daily 5,000 word counts like a good girl? Nope. I’ve been lazy and ambitious (AKA procrastinating) all month. I’m finding this more and more difficult but I remain optimistic! Perhaps I’m just not a scifi person (sorry, Dad!) or maybe I made it too complicated yet again. None of my characters have names, numbers or any other sort of identifiable attribute so it makes it very difficult to articulate what’s going on in my head.

I may have had a good idea with this story but the complicated style really did not inspire me to stick with it. Or maybe it was the story itself. For every 20 ideas I get, there seems to be one that I see to completion. I may let my mind wander where it wants but rarely do I benefit from these daydreams. Sometimes it really seems that the idea isn’t worth the struggle to describe it. Or maybe the idea is half-formed and it still has to percolate before I can express what I’m thinking. This does not give me the excuse to stop writing though.

My troubles these past 3 months has been in my lack of writing. Just because a story isn’t working out doesn’t give me the right to give up completely on this project and wait for the next month to begin. I have to keep trying at this. It’s never been fun working through something that’s a weakness but in many cases that weakness can turn into a strength because you’ve spent the time fixing the trouble spots and really understanding the components.

Therefore, I think I need to issue myself a new challenge:

As of December, 2011, I am going to do my best to complete a novel a month. If I do not reach 25,000 words by the 15th (or the struggle to work on it is obviously counter-productive), I will write an at-least- 500-word short story in the genre-of-the-month each day. This way, I will continue writing daily, stay focused on the genre and feel productive without the pressure of a giant novel looming over my head. And who knows, i may end up with a little gem to develop later on at some point.

I am frustrated with myself for slipping back into my old routine. It felt so wonderful to be productive and to see a creative project blossom and flourish. I really miss that spark in my life but as with all things, I can’t just sit back and expect it to come to me. If I truly want this to be a part of my life again I need to put in the effort to make it work. As with my other passions at the moment, it takes time and sacrifice.

So, with this in mind, I’m looking forward to December 1st and the world of Steampunk. Beyond the rough idea for the first page of the story and my characters names, I know nothing. I have a feeling there’s going to be a flying machine and a time machine but will they go back in time or forward? I even miss Pascal (my inner critic) and Josephine (my inner analyst). Although I’d prefer Pascal to Josefiend.

It will never be too late to get back into the saddle with this project but I do regret waiting this long to kick myself in the pants. I’ll look at this as the battery-recharging that I need for the next 7 months. 7 months… 7 stories, 7 genres. I get shivers of happiness when I think about all there is left for me to attempt and the potential for creativity.

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Liar, Faker and Poser

That would be me. I feel like at this point if I were to call myself a writer I’d be stating an untruth. I’m sure there isn’t a quantifiable definition and that I can still be considered one but with the daily output of zero, I doubt I could squeak past the minimum requirement.

Yes, my soul is that of a literary being; trust me when I say that I will be far more likely to publish a story than I would to learn an instrument and play in a band. However wonderful it feels to have the inner being of a wordsmith, what good does it do if it just lies there, dormant at best, stagnant at worst? I have to stop thinking about the ideal place to work and get on with it. I have to stop thinking, period.

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to live in your head if it’s full of positive, creative ideas and stories that are unfolding and bursting to be shared. It’s another thing, altogether to live in your head and dream of the creative process you’re too lazy to engage in or worry about that freckle that you’re sure wasn’t there this morning. Is it just a freckle or could it be more you wonder. That, my friends, is a dangerous, slippery slope, best avoided at all costs.

I don’t want to be a LFP, and hate the thought that I might be one or becoming one. Is scifi going to be a weak point in my writing ability? For sure. Would I want to return to it? I think so. I’m not a fantasy person- I was scared to death of “The Labyrinth” (David Bowie gave me nightmares) and “The Never Ending Story” creeped me out as a kid. Faeries and trolls, goblins and leprechauns are fantastic in short stories but nothing more. I always amalgamate scifi and fantasy because their characters seem closely related, if not interchangeable.

Over the past little while though, I’ve given scifi a chance (beyond “Star Trek”) and it’s opened my eyes to the possibility that the genre can be more realistic. I don’t need scary muppets or giant flying dogs in order to write a scifi story. When it really comes down to it though, we all have our own definitions of what constitutes a specific style. For example, I consider Margret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale to be science fiction, though according to classical definition it isn’t. And just because my western has desert and cacti, that doesn’t mean it’s a real western. Maybe it’s truly an adventure.

Regardless of whether I’ll be staying true to the genre or not, I think I have a scifi story floating around my little head. Perhaps it just isn’t the right time at the moment. Maybe I don’t yet know what I’m trying to express or there are more important stories to process and complete first. Whatever the reason, I’m looking forward to returning to this genre in the  future in some capacity.

At the end of the day, I have to work on the story and not care how it turns out or what criteria it ends up satisfying. There’s a story in me that is waiting to come out and it will be whatever it will be. Stories really are like children in that respect- you have hope for their future, you nurture their potential but at the end of the day, they’re going to be what they’re destined for. As an author (and a parent), you just want the best possible outcome for your creation.

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They say ignorance is bliss. I say ignorance is denial’s bedfellow. I know this month has been as bad as September and October were and there’s no reason for it. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me when I say I miss my writing but I really do. I wish I could sit on the couch for hours and whiz through a few thousand words and earn the satisfaction of seeing a story come to life. But I’m no where near accomplishing that again. Call me optimistic or call me delusional but I still think there’s hope for me.

I honestly don’t know how to get back my discipline other than by brute force. And I suspect that’s the only way. I keep wishing I had my own apartment so I could spend time in say, the living room, without fighting dogs for couch space, allergies acting up or who knows what else. What can I say? I spent 4 years on my own in Toronto- I doubt I can co-habitate unless I marry my roommate and even then the situation’s iffy. I keep telling my Mom that my ideal future involves buying two adjacent condos and installing a connecting door for my husband and I. But I digress.

I don’t seem to be doing too well, am I? Is it too unrealistic to expect to be able to complete a full novel each month in 12 different genres? Am I trying to force myself to succeed when it’s a rare talent to be a versatile writer? I keep thinking about the Western and Eleanor. I seem to be missing her and thinking about her next adventure. But, I set a project out for myself and I want to stick with it. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll have a few more manuscripts at the end of the year. I still have 3 of the original 4 novels left to complete- the steampunk (December), chicklit (April), and mystery (May).

Each month I don’t succeed makes it harder to believe I’ll end up with another manuscript and that makes me sad. I love writing and really miss it. You would think that that would be enough so why isn’t it? I love working on the big pieces; sure short stories are fun and they can be whipped up and are fun little quickies but I’m becoming addicted to the character development and suspense of a novel. I just wish I came across another style that seems to work we ll for me. Only time will tell. I mustn’t give up though!

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At Least for me it is. (By the way, I’ve just hit the 3,000 word mark- needless to say I didn’t reach my 25,000 word goal.) I was thinking about this today and realized I’ve been living my own personal “Never Been Kissed” life. Not the kissing part but the fitting in. I was one of those lucky kids who lived in the twilight of high school society. I ran with the free spirits but I had no problem with the cool kids either.

There were times when I wish I was a little bit cooler but that really just happened around prom when dates were arranged and post-prom parties were clandestine appointments. It was those moments that I re-live as I work on my stories. I will gladly admit that I wish I could run with the big guns in the genres I’m working in. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Agatha Christie, Danielle Steele, Mary Higgins Clark, Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, the list goes on.

When I’m not feeling like the socially awkward 15-year old who’s still wearing acid wash jeans, high tops, a side ponytail and a headgear (for those of you who haven’t needed one, count yourself lucky. And those of you know don’t know what it is, it’s an orthodontic torture device guaranteeing untreatable headache whenever its worn), I’m feeling like the kid sister that just can’t keep up. Most days though, I feel like the high school nerd. I need to re-watch that afternoon special about how to embrace my individuality.

Anyways, it dawned on me that I’ve been pitting myself against the writers who have been writing for ages and expecting I can achieve their level of wonderfulness but that’s unreasonable. I’m not even close to their calibre and my style may be influenced by them but it’s not the same (if it was, I’d most likely be plagiarizing). Besides, I believe that imitation is the sincerest form of failure. I should be proud of my own distinct voice and appreciate my strengths. There’s nothing wrong with any genre I end up excelling in. Just because I love specific genres, it doesn’t mean that if they’re not my strongest match that I’m any less of a writer than one of my idols.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing myself to any of the authors I listed above, in fact I’m not comparing myself to any published author. I just wasn’t giving myself enough credit for what I’ve accomplished so far and failed to see the potential in my stories. I’ve always been one to edit restaurant menus and texting shortcuts drive me crazy so I know there’s a lot of work ahead of me that I should enjoy. This process is so far from over. Maybe the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Perhaps it’s Kentucky Bluegrass on my side versus the good old fashioned lawn in your local backyard (unless you happen to have some bluegrass, of course) on the other side of the fence.

Regardless of what’s happening, I realize the story is progressing much more quickly now and I’m enjoying it so much more since I’ve given up hoping and forcing it to be something other than what its destiny dictates. And that makes my writer’s soul content.

*Luckily I’m young enough to have not suffered through the 80’s in high school. The late 90’s was tough enough.

**Someone needs to burst my little egomaniacal bubble. Where’s Pascal when you need him?!

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That’s right. I’ve begun to care about the outcome of each month’s story. Thus, the entire premise of this project is in jeopardy. How was I able to write the first two in a month each? Because to be perfectly frank, I didn’t give a RA (you know the swear) about how terrible they were or about their childlike simplicity. I had a story in me that was forming as I worked and I focused on it to express what needed to be said. I’ve lost that ability.

Now, I care about how realistic my dialogue is and about how complex and sophisticated my story line is. I want it to be 3rd or 4th draft quality when it doesn’t matter. This is the shell of something that could turn out great. Or, it’s a month-long project to help me maintain my sanity and keep the creative spark going. This desire for perfection will only cause trouble (and already has).

Writing for me is as natural as running is to an athlete. It should be automatic and easy. There should be a natural high from the exertion and the journey. Thus, this shouldn’t be about the destination but rather about the whole process. I should be able to sit down and spew out whatever ideas are floating around my mind. It shouldn’t be this hard but it is because I’ve gotten caught up in performance anxiety. Just like an athlete- I can’t get caught up in the hoopla surrounding this. If I do, I might trip over my feet, slow down to check out the spectators or not even manage to leave the starting block.

Considering a marathon for me is a city block and that I see running as a form of self-defense, I think that’s enough with the sports analogy. My point is that I’ve lost sight of what attracted me to this project and made it into something much more than it should be. I’ve started writing for an audience I don’t have and have no right to expect instead of for myself. This will have to change. It might take some time to change this mindset but I’ll do my bestest. The best way is to just write and not care how much I do and how it’s turning out.

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Final Word Count: November 9, 2011- 59 (a smudge on one page); 2,138 (8 pages)

I froze yesterday. I finished my work Tuesday night with a real puzzler. I’ve succeed in really confusing myself and setting up a character who I have no clue what’s going to happen. And it’s not a good kind of clueless, either. So I went to bed satisfied with a measly amount of work I had accomplished and determined to forget about the fiasco I created. Talk about burying my head in the sand (well, actually my pillow)!

So what did  I do? I had a wild brain storm yesterday afternoon using my e-mail. I thought it might work if I free write using the story to date as a jumping off point. Perhaps I could figure out what I’ve done and some way I could fix this bump. Well, it worked! I started off with a bang and could have gotten into the groove easily but then life resumed and my little writing break was over before it really started. By the time I got home, I was lucky if I didn’t fall over Yesterday stumbling around my room with my tired eyes. Trust me, I was not at my most attractive.

The secret regarding this small triumph? I just started a new chapter. Yup, if in doubt, just start a new chapter. Flashback, dreams or throwing a new character in the works can all help getting through the writer’s block. Now to just et back into the story for real tonight. It’s another toughie this month. *Sadly shaking head* Sometimes I wonder if all my successes happened already. I hope not! The trouble lies in the fact that each month is different so it’s not like I’m going to be sure that the genre I’m working in is going to work.

Someone suggested to me that I write whatever is floating in my mind and throw in bits and pieces of the genre-of-the-month. I wish I could do that but I’m one of those creative types that needs structure. I love letting my imagination go but if there are no rules or boundaries, I freeze up. It’s like writing poetry- I can write one (or used to be able to, I haven’t written one in years) in perfect meter in an hour. Is it crap? Probably but I don’t expect to become a poet. The point is, in the far reaches of deep space outside the box I need to run into the edge of the sphere.

So, off I go tonight, working away and trying to get into this story. Besides, it’s my Dad’s birthday month. So this one’s for you, Bubba! I hope I can finish it for him… it’d be nice to send him a full manuscript at the end of the month just like my sister got in August. Or perhaps I’m destined to write Young Adult Westerns and that’s my niche. Who knows.

 

*Note: I wrote this last night but I couldn’t post it because I live in the dark ages and have no internet. So, here it is!

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Final word Count: November 8, 2011- 1,191 (4 pages); TTC 2,079 (7 pages)

I’m getting better. Still far, far from my goal, Heaven help me but I’m chipping away at it. If it’s any consolation to myself, Sunday is the 13th, I’m aiming for 25,000 and if I achieve that, I’ll be ahead of my required word count by a whole 3,329 words. That’s quite a bit. It also means that if I’m that many short I’m still on track. Silver linings in blue skies! I’m taking advantage of the all day write-in on Friday and then the write-in on Sunday so I remain optimistic about my performance this month.

Things are kind of bumpy right now. I’m so super happy that I have my writing, I just have to be better behaved with the other goodies in my life at the moment. Remember, my friends, moderation is the key to happiness and a long life. A rich and fulfilling life has many components and a wide variety of successes and failures but life should move forward, not backwards. Right now, I’m fighting the snowball of disaster that is currently barreling down the proverbial hill into my adorable little life. Growing pains are essential for life but they should ease up at some point and DEFINITELY not revert to the initial stage. Afterall, they’re called GROWING pains- not grow, then shrink, then grow a bit more pains.

It’s frustrating when things happen and you’re forced back to square 4 when you’ve tasted the offerings of square 18. This can’t be karmic retribution because I haven’t done anything bad enough to deserve this kick in the pants. Ah well. Perhaps its reiteration of an extremely important life/writer’s lesson and not punishment. I promise, I’m paying close attention now!

With that off my chest, my writing progressed pretty well last night. I might be writing myself into a corner because I have a character who I have no idea what’s going to happen with her and my point of view is not 1st person even though it’s a flashback. I’m just not sure what the main character’s relationship is to this part. Is the story about him? Or is it establishing the main conflict for my character? I just don’t know. On one hand it makes writing this story exciting because I don’t know what’s going to happen but at the same time it’s tough because I want to understand what’s happening a little better. It’ll be what it’s destined to be so as long as I’m enjoying the writing process, I’ll be happy.

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Final word Count: November 7, 2011- 656 (1 page); Total to Date (TTD) 889 words; 4 pages

As you can see, I have a lot of work ahead of me. I forgot that it takes me close to 1,000 words to hit my writing groove as it is so I’ve lost a lot of potential writing sessions because I end up doing 50 words here, a paragraph there, rather than sitting down and free writing for a significant chunk of time.

I really do prefer working in the evenings so I can’t keep coming home and setting in to watch a movie or finish the book I started (although Tina Fey’s BossyPants was totally worth the low word count last night!). I’ve really lost my self-discipline regarding this routine. I have to start getting back in the habit of using books, movies, walkies, etc. as incentives and rewards for achieving specific word counts rather than excuses to get started.

The story isn’t really clear in my head. I’m having trouble seeing the detail I’m usually so good at picturing. I think I’m less focused now on the details this time than I am on the emotional, philosophical and sociological aspects. Perhaps this will turn into a commentary on society, technology and the consequences of crossing the natural boundary for science. Who knows. It not a common direction for me so I think I’m learning on the fly how to sustain this perspective and how to express what needs to be said. At the end of the day, aren’t most Sci Fi stories something along those lines?

I’ve finished the prologue and now I  can start writing “my” (remember, it’s 1st person narrative) flashback. I think the most confusing part for me is that I’ve picked names for organizations and groups of people that significantly reduces their individuality. I’m not sure how I’ll handle names so we’ll have to play it by ear (like I normally do). Like I said, this approach is going to be a steep learning curve. I’m hoping once I get into the Flashback it’ll take off.

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Goal-Setting

Hello, my love-o-lees. So I have yet to really make a significant contribution to my novel this month. I’ve had yet another epiphany (they’re really not that hard to discover, you just have to be thinking all the time) regarding the success of this endeavour. Some novels will crash and burn, like September and Octobers did and here are the possible reasons why:

1. The story line’s too involved/complicated to be done by a neophyte novelist (or perhaps any) in a month. This is pretty self-explanatory. I might have succeed if the subplot wasn’t so twisty and it could actually be broken up into 2 or more novels.

2. The genre is too specific and I can’t accommodate its style with mine. This means that there will never be a dick tracey-esque story in my literary career (other than the short story spoof that was based on dogs, not people à la “Dogs Playing Poker” idea). That’s okay because I really don’t enjoy reading them.And you should writer what you enjoy, correct?

3. There just isn’t a story in me at the moment that fulfills this month’s genre. With the horror, I love it, I had an idea but it wasn’t to the point where I was ready to write it. Perhaps nothing will come of it or perhaps it’s an amalgamation of too many that I’ve come across in the past so it’s at best unoriginal, at worst plagerism. Maybe one day true inspiration will strike and I’ll think of something original.

4. Pascal and Jose(fiend)phine won’t leave me alone. Writers have strange bedfellows sometimes. And the strangeness isn’t always all that great. Dreams and nightmares can be the richest sources of material (when you can remember them) but laying awake at night debating on what the best word is to describe a character’s underpants or fighting the impulse to edit/delete your work is not conducive to your writing. And please, think twice before defenstrating your computer.

All that being said, I’m really happy about this month’s story. I was hoping to make it to the Sunday write-in at a library yesterday but I got lost on the bus and found myself at a different branch. Instead of working on my piece I rented 2 books and they both are in the 1st person narrative that I decided to use. I’m taking this deviation from my master plan for Sunday’s writing as a sign that I’m on the right track. But more importantly, it’s shown me that narrative-heavy stories can be engrossing and that they can work. Yay for me because I’ve come to the conclusion that I suck at dialogue.

So with this in mind I’ve decided to go for broke and see how close to 25,000 words I can get by next Monday. If I manage to make that, don’t be surprised if i post on Monday that i’m on a transplant list for new fingers because I’ve worked mine down to little nubs. Let’s do the math:

I’m starting with 233 words today. 25,000-233= 24,767. Now 24,767/7= 3,538.14 but let’s just round it up to 3,600 because I like symmetry and 3,600 is much more aesthetically pleasing than 3,538.14. It’s like swearing- it sounds prettier in French but more literal in German.

So that leaves me with 3,600 words per day for the next week. Can I do it? Where’s my coffee and laptop? I’m determined to end this slacking off. Right. Now.

So without further ado, let’s get started. Keep me on track this week and hold me to this promise! I’ll resume my former practice of posting that day’s word count and will include the day end tally, both word count and page count.

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*Shivers of Anticipation*

So I finally started the story. (Happy Birthday, Bubba! As the bad daughter I am, I forgot to wish him a happy birthday yesterday and a happy gotcha day to Yesterday. Confused yet?) Since I’m on a roll as far as birthdays go, I want to wish one of my friends the happiest birthday today. I can’t wait until she gets her pilot license so she can fly out to see Yesterday and I. Happy Birthday, D!

It’s a beautiful wintry-fall Day- steely grey clouds are scuttling over the harbour and I saw real snow flurries! It’s the ideal day to stay curled up in a warm, nest-y place with Yesterday and write. After my dress fitting and before i get to go dancing tonight, I’m looking forward to some spectacular writing time. I’m really happy with the way it’s started out. I will admit, there were a few flutters of panic as I sat down in front of a blank Word document but I refused to focus on the monumental task at hand and just started writing.

The story is slowly evolving; I have a lot of work to do to catch up on my word count but I’ll do my bestest. I really do enjoy writing in the narrative voice so I don’t know what makes me think that a certain piece is better suited for 1st person or 3rd person. Obviously I can work in either but I think I do better in 1st since I’m so detail-oriented. I don’t think I’m going to have a lot of dialogue this month but then gain you never know. It could turn into something closer to a script than a novel. Anyways, whatever happens with it, I’m excited to start working on this story and see what comes of it. It’s a pretty straight forward storyline- no more convolutions and secondary plot lines like October’s monster was settling into and I have enough of an ide a of what might happen that I think I’ve set myself up for a successful month.

Now to get writing!

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