Thursday, May 21, 2020

Studying Never Stops

One of the reasons I fell in love with writing is that I can always find something new to learn. I love, love, love, learning new things. 

I got super lucky, someone posted a link to a free lecture series on one of the writing subreddits I follow. It is a creative writing lecture series at BYU that focuses on Science Fiction and Fantasy, taught by Brandon Sanderson.

I am enjoying it. There is so much good information. As much as I do by instinct or self-study, this has been very helpful. 

Anyone interested in watching the lecture series, here is the link:

I will warn you the first video (posted here) is the introduction to the series, and you mainly get to know Sanderson. The technical stuff starts in the second video with Promise, Progress, and Payoff in the plot. I'm currently in the third video, which is specifically looking at Plot Outlines.

So far I have been a discovery writer (someone who develops the plot while writing, with little or no outline). It is interesting to see the outlining method explained. I could definitely adapt a few of these techniques, but like he says in the first video, discovery writers write in order to solve the problem, so if they solve the problem before they write, they get bored because they've already solved it!

But I'll be honest, I have 222 pages of the first draft written, and I feel like I'm somewhere around the middle. But I'm fairly certain I know how it is all going to end!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Inspiration from Le Guin

One of my writing heroes is Ursula K Le Guin. If I had my way, my daughter would be named Ursula, but that is another tale. I was reading today and came across a few good examples of the things I love about her and I wanted to share them.

Both are from The Left Hand of Darkness.

1. She speaks through her characters and she has beautiful thoughts...
"How does one hate a country, or love one? ...I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession..." 

"A man who doesn't detest a bad government is a fool. And if there were such a things as a good government on earth, it would be a great joy to serve it."

Somehow this character's words spoke to me. He is a person who committed treason against his mad king in order to save a stranger's life and try to help his entire planet. Could a real person be so selfless? What an absolutely fascinating character to read about. Le Guin does not make him a hero, though, nor does she make him an enemy. He just is.

2. Then there is her scenery...sigh...
"We are still in the ice-pass between two volcanoes. Drumner is in eruption. Worms of fire crawl down its black sides, seen when wind clears off the roil and seethe of ash-cloud and smoke-cloud and white steam. Continuously, with no pause, a hissing mutter fills the air, so huge and so long a sound that one cannot hear it when one stops to listen; yet it fills all the interstices of one's being. The glacier trembles perpetually, snaps and crashes, jitters under our feet. All the snow-bridges that the blizzard may have laid across crevasses are gone, shaken down, knocked in by the drumming and jumping of the ice and the earth beneath the ice."

"The sleet on one's lips tastes of smoke and sulphur. A darkness loured all day in the west even under the rain-clouds. From time to time all things, clouds, icy rain, ice, air, would turn a dull red, then fade slowly back to gray. The glacier shakes a little under our feet." 

So much sensory input! 

Le Guin was 40 years old when this book was published in the late 1960's. I can only imagine what writing was like in that time. I permanently keep a tab open for Google define, just so I can pull in new words and use the thesaurus. Did she keep one nearby in print form? How can I get a vocabulary like that? She always has the exact words to paint a perfect picture, and I admire it.

Interested in reading this book? Follow the link below to order your copy.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Checking for Holes

I have been free-writing for the past couple of weeks. I decided to just follow wherever the characters would take me. It was very productive and I have completed over 200 pages but it just wasn't feeling right. So I decided today, I would map my story so far and make a list of holes that would need to be filled in. This is what I found...

But I realize that this is a phase in the writing process. I am creating something new, I am sewing together a story from a scrap drawer called my imagination. I know the basic themes, I know the main inciting incidents and dramatic questions, and I know my characters and how they fit in the broad galaxy of my story. My task now is to use only words to invite others into that galaxy. My goal is to give readers a chance to materialize in a different realm and feel what it is like to be somewhere else. 

This is the hardest part of sharing what I create. I have to not only record what I see, feel, and think in this new realm, but I have to make sure my readers understand those sights, feelings, and thoughts as well. What may be a perfect connection in my mind, may be hidden to someone else. And sometimes, because I have the whole picture in my head already, I can forget that a reader can only see what I show them.

Try this. Think about your car. Picture the whole thing. Now say out loud what you would say to describe it to someone who had never seen it. I'm guessing you mentioned the color and the type of vehicle, and perhaps a few other details. Did you mention that the tires were black? Or did you assume they already knew that? What about the setup of the dash? Did you explain what the tachometer does? Did you mention the color of the numbers on the clock? Or describe how the starter motor sounds? How about windshield wipers? Those are pretty important to how cars function during specific weather, and if the person had never seen a car, they might not know about those, or even a windshield for that matter. That is my point.

So while mapping my work so far (at least the first half), I have identified seven holes that need filling in order to give my readers a clearer understanding. These aren't mistakes, they are simply things that naturally get filled as the story unfolds over time, and sometimes after writing hundreds of pages, you can forget what you were supposed to do. 

To be honest, I love this. It is like putting together a 1000 piece puzzle but someone else has the box and they are only giving me ten pieces at a time. 

...I will leave you with this word...

Blucher! (Which by the way does not mean glue or sound anything like the German word for glue. It is just a surname. Those horses were just responding in dramatic irony to the name of the villain the viewers didn't know about yet. -See, if the writer doesn't explain something, then the audience doesn't get it, or just makes something up!)

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Happy Mother's Day

Despite being woken three times by a toddler in her recent effort to pretend to be a needy infant again, I would say it was a productive night, since I woke up with a perfect short story. I've been trying to get a short story going for a month. I want to get some work out and my novel is far from finished. I might be one third of the way finished with the first draft. But this morning I woke up with my inspiration.

First, a mother's confession. I get a little extra time to lie in bed on weekend mornings because I have chromecast. As soon as I hear my son run to the bathroom, I open Netflix on my phone and chromecast to the TV. Thomas appears all cheery and ready to greet my kiddos. That way I can snooze until the 30 minute Netflix message appears and I have to hit the play button again. So brilliant it is almost villainous. 

This time, however, I used that time to construct the basic short story elements. I forgot to take my journal to bed, so I needed to get everything settled before I left the room and got surrounded by my fan club. And I'm pretty sure I have what I need to get it going. 

I really wish it was already finished, because it connects to the sacrifice a parent and child can make for each other. It would be a great mother's day short story, even if it is a bit dark.

So here I am, morning hair and tea, ready to start the day. I even got the perfect message from my tea...

Apparently, I'm fascinated with time travel, because it keeps coming up! I'm calling it the Time Stitch, ...and Holy Mother there is jelly on my computer mouse. I love my children. Back to what I was saying... It follows the life of a very unfortunate woman, her battles to be a good person, and her ultimate failure. Sounds bad, but trust me, there is a good side to the story, and I can't wait to share it with you.

Happy Mother's Day to all the women in the world who have ever felt the weight of love in their hearts. We are all mothers to life, the women make the world glow.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Insecure Writers Support Group - May

This month the insecure writers are discussing how they get in the zone.

This is an interesting topic for me. Getting in the zone isn't really something I do. The closest thing to a "zone" for me is my kids being relatively occupied enough, and quiet enough, that I can have a moment to myself. Of course, there is usually a cup of tea involved, and some breathing as well. My laptop is on the dining room table located on one side of the living room in our 800 sq ft apartment, so aside from my angry mom stare and yelling the phrase, "I'm busy," there is no protective barrier for concentration.  Writing isn't a result of a zone I get into, it is what creates my zone!

Let me explain. I work full time at a childcare center, have two children of my own, two cats, and a husband. I'm a terrible housekeeper, but there are some things that just have to be done every day, like dishes and sweeping. As most of you know, taking care of a family is a full time job by itself. I make it more difficult on myself because I'm old fashioned about a lot of things. I don't like disposables, so no paper napkins or towels, and no paper plates. We eat home cooked meals everyday, and boxed meals don't count. Yes I make my kids yogurt, scrambled eggs, and toast every morning before we leave the house at 6:40. Most of our food is prepared from whole ingredients. Even if the kids do get a frozen corn dog for dinner, I still have to make something for myself. So basically, no corners are being cut in that department. I don't exactly have free time. That's the simple truth. I'm at work, I'm cooking or cleaning, I'm caring for the kids, or trying to squeeze in some quality time with the man who lives in my house (after all it is the only love language we have in common). None of this is a complaint, it is just a reality. 

So, I don't create a zone for writing, the writing creates the zone for me. It is my expression. When I write,

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Naughty Characters

Well they have done it again. Those naughty characters. I spent the week doing a very rough outline of what I wanted to happen in chapters 9-11. But they just have a mind of their own! It is like raising several more children. You think you know them well, and you have an idea of what they will do next and then they off and travel to a different planet, or fall in love with someone completely different. The ones you thought would be inflexible are being so open minded and the adventurous ones sometimes just want to play it safe. 

I know what you are thinking. No, I have not lost my mind. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I have found it! In case you haven't seen this article floating around the last couple of weeks, take a peek. The Majority of Authors 'Hear' their Characters Speak, finds Study.

The good news is, I am nearly done with chapter 11 and the things I planned out haven't even happened yet. I like this. It means I have more to give my future readers than I ever knew. Maybe it was the change of scenery at my new desk this weekend...

Coming later this week:  My first Insecure Writers Support Group blog entry. I will be participating in their monthly blog hop and talking about the insecurities of being a writer. Get a glimpse into the life of other writers by visiting the badge I include in the post on Wednesday. It is a great way to find new authors you might enjoy. This week we will be talking about getting in the zone.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Beltane Camping with Hermes

Rain, rain, torrents of rain
    trickster tricking, soaking tents through,
    forgot extra shirts, everything floating,
    all is dripping, pan is burning,
    nothing's cooking, people arriving,
    allergies speaking - coconuts, bananas...
    Plans changing, gods laughing,
    crows waiting, cranes flying,
    fire's dying.
More oil, more wind, more straw,
    breath of fire, blow and glow,
    children running, mothers eating,
    clouds hanging, spirits calling,
The May Knot, we may not,
    we did.