Monday, December 21, 2020

Happy Hogswatch!

I want to use this winter solstice to shine some light on one of the greatest authors of all time and to explain why a moral message even matters in a story.

First of all, Blessed Yule to the Northern Hemisphere. A celebration of the sun standing still. A time when the nights are the longest for inhabitants in the northern half of our beautiful world. One of my favorite stories to enjoy this time of year is Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. I am very embarrassed to say that I have not read the book (yet) but have seen the film multiple times. I wanted to be thorough in my understanding of the book and its superb universe, so I decided before reading this particular book I needed to read the ones that came before. I asked a friend for advice because there was not enough time to read ALL of the books from Discworld, so he recommended I follow the subseries that focuses on Death. This was awesome advice, because these turned out to be my favorite. Unfortunately, I got stuck in Soul Music, the third in the Death Books. I don't know why, perhaps it was lack of time, but I never finished it. Ironically, if I every finish it and read Hogfather, the final book will be Thief of Time. I believe this is a story about my life and how it has been impacted by external forces that seek to control me. Just a theory...

I was watching Hogfather last night and Death looks down at his granddaughter, Susan, and issues the moral message. She is trying to determine why Death went through so much trouble to keep the Hogfather alive. Why was it so important that everyone believe he was real? How could a fat boar in a red fur suit who visits one night per year and exchanges free gifts for a glass of sherry and a pork pie be real?

Then Death tells her. If no one believed, then the sun would not come up tomorrow. Instead it would be a giant burning ball of gas. He explained that if we did not allow humans to believe the little lies, then we would not believe in the big important ones that come later. He was referring to justice, liberty, freedom, etc. The dialogue here is so important to the story. In my opinion, it gave the viewer (reader) a purpose for reading the book, besides entertainment. It makes readers think. Is he right? Are these things lies? Would the world still exist if we did not believe in them?

I have been chewing on these thoughts all night and day. I would say that justice is probably the biggest lie we tell ourselves in this country. But at the same time, if we did not believe it was possible, the alternative would be unimaginable. 

Terry Pratchett knew how to write the most humorous and enjoyable stories about a completely fantastic world. And he also knew how to hide the deepest philosophical thoughts inside them. Or perhaps he was not intending to hide them at all.

As a thief has once again stolen my time, maybe you know the answer to this question. Did Pratchett want his readers to know he did this? Have you read something about him? Tell me in the comments.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Image of a Plotter

I finally made a breakthrough today. I have been trying and trying to plot this... plot. Something had me stumped. The reader needs to experience the chain of events, the growth of the characters, and the feeling of a new galaxy all at the same time. This means completing an outline of character arcs, moral growth, and worldbuilding exposition. No one likes an info dump so important information should be spread throughout the novel. At the advice of my writing coach, I created a full picture of my story down to the moments when I will tell my readers the secrets of my universe.

To give you a better idea of what you are seeing, each of the boxes above represents a scene in the novel. Within each box is a summary of what happens and a card noting important information like character weaknesses or realizations. 

This is what success looks like to me today. It is not the final plot outline, but it is the closest I have come. I sense there will be a few additional scenes since a work in progress is never perfect. Regardless, I am happy with this. I am ecstatic and over the moon that I have managed to finally create the entire story as it will be written. 

The benefit of this is I will now have the freedom to draft and draft and draft all the way to the end. There will be less confusion and desire to edit while I write, due to the work being completed up front. (Never mind the fact that I have drafted the story three times without doing this. I am still counting this as up front since the plot has changed each time. Don't judge me.) 

Why is this important to me? Have you ever watched a really awesome Indie film, or "Budget" movie and fallen in love with the story, but not necessarily with the acting or the score? I love stories, and therefore I love movies. I watch all kinds of movies. On occasion I see one and think, "What a fantastic story, but I wish they had a better director or bigger budget." It somehow felt "cheap" or unpolished. It was hard to get lost in the story because either the acting or the writing was mediocre. This is my biggest fear. Obviously there will be criticism no matter what is produced, but I hate to create something that falls short of my own expectations for a well executed story. Going through these steps and working with a writing coach are my own ways to make my story the best it can be. There is no doubt that this is a phenomenal story. I just need to make sure the writing matches.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Support Local Bookshops!!

Tomorrow is the last day for priority shipping to arrive by Christmas!

Support local bookshops but order online!

If you have not visited the website, you should.

I love studying Icelandic culture. I even use the language to inspire my novel. They have a rich history and many wonderful traditions.

One of my favorites is called jolabokaflod. It translates to Yule Book Flood. Books are given as presents on Christmas Eve and the night is spent reading. I have shamelessly adopted this tradition for my family. This year I bought an illustrated copy of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. My family has always enjoyed the stories and it has been so long since I read the books, it seemed like a good pick even the kids could enjoy. I also sent books to family from Arkansas to South Africa. 

Be Inspired! Read! Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Premise I Presume

For whatever reason I have struggled more with composing a premise than any other step in developing my draft. Perhaps because I did not do it first.

Some of you have read my previous posts and know that I wrote an entire manuscript already. It was submitted and rejected, for good reason. When I first tried to create a new novel in the same universe, I made many adjustments. The truth is there was a forbidden relationship in the first version, and I wanted to eliminate it, or at least make it much more subtle. I have no idea why, but I absolutely HATE wedding scenes. Having one in my novel was not an option.

Unfortunately, once I removed this subplot from the story there was a lot to fill in. What is my book about? What is my main character's goal? Who is the villain? What are they fighting over? Things cannot just happen to the MC. She needs to be active. She needs plans and motivation.

Then there is the question of supernatural abilities. No villain would stand a chance against someone with limitless power. I knew this, but the only limitations I placed on my MC were her ignorance and inexperience. It worked, but I knew I could do better. 

While I continue to struggle with the perfect premise statement, I feel that I am getting closer. I know more about my character than ever. I know more about the galaxy and about my villain as well. I certainly enjoy being a "pantser" and creating the story while I draft, but realistically there is much more value in having a clear picture. Although developing this clear picture is very difficult, I feel that the result will be a much better novel. At this point I have written well over 800 pages across multiple drafts. The end result will likely be less than half this amount, but the process is worth it. This is my education in being an author. It needs to be done.

My writing coach and writing group have already helped enormously with the entire process. My premise is still a work in progress, and my draft is a huge mess right now, but I know this mess is better than anything I have done alone.

I wanted to share a website I used today to rewrite my premise. Perhaps you will find it useful, or at least informative. Maybe next time I will start with this!

Fun activity, use this website to write a premise statement for your favorite story/book/movie. Post in the comments below.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Writing is the Tool of Passion

 I love to see how different writers use their power and their talent for different things. Last month I posted about the reasons for writing. I recently came across the most beautiful poem, and it really spoke to me. 

When they ask to see your gods
your book of prayers
show them lines
drawn delicately with veins
on the underside of a bird's wing
tell them you believe
in giant sycamores mottled
and stark against a winter sky
and in nights so frozen
stars crack open spilling
streams of molten ice to earth
and tell them how you drink
a holy wind of honeysuckle
on a warm spring day
and of the softness
of your mother who never taught you
death was life's reward
but who believed in the earth 
and the sun
and a million, million light years
of being.
'Catachism for a Witch's Child' by J.L.Stanley

I went in search of the source and was disappointed to find there was no trace of a published work. I found evidence that it was published in 1986 but nothing more. I found myself wondering if the author wanted this poem to be free or if she/he intended it to be everywhere on the internet. There are a lot of writers who do create beautiful things for everyone to see. While searching for this poem I came across another site that was full of beautiful and interesting stories.

Even if you have no interest in folklore or magic, The Sacred Familiar has some fantastic writing. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

My Writer's Dilemma

 I like to consider myself a rather hardworking person. This being said, there are some things I simply want to be done with, and I may not put in the extra effort to complete them. Does all of the laundry really have to be folded tonight? Or can I just put all of these random pieces into this basket by the bed? Because why would I want to spend two minutes folding them, and putting them neatly in a drawer when I can spend thirty seconds scraping them into a basket and then at least two minutes each day digging in the same basket to find the one article I need?

What is this part of our brain? Seriously, what is its purpose? I really want to picture the application of this attitude in a society of foragers. Is it because if we stockpiled too much food and meat at one time we would get bored the next day and the food would eventually rot? Are we leaving something to occupy our time in case we run out of things to do while trying to stay alive? 

I know some of this is burnout. I read an article a few years ago about my generation having severe burnout to the point they cannot function in everyday tasks like paying bills, housekeeping, and self-care.

Perhaps it is my form of writer's block, and perhaps it is my brain telling me that I am doing too much. It could be a red flag that I need to slow down. It could be a product of my anxiety disorder. Perhaps I have mentioned this on my blog before, but I am mentioning it again because it has stuck with me so vividly. In my first year of teaching, I sat behind a desk piled high with papers to grade, the floor was a complete mess and I knew the janitor would be in any minute to complain about the state of the room. I was staring at the wall across from me when the director of instruction came in and just stared back. I told her I did not know what to do next, I was lost and the piles and messes were growing. Then she perfectly articulated what was going on in my subconscious. She said, "You are so worried you will not be able to do something perfectly, so you are not willing to do anything at all."

This woman knew me. She had seen me in action. She had seen me pour my passion for learning into the classroom for months and knew what I was capable of. She also knew I wanted everything to be perfect. 

So, this is where I am. I have been shown a really methodical way to approach my novel. I have broken down the elements and dug deeper than I ever imagined. I know what I am meant to do, but now I am frozen. 

I have written the beginning chapters over and over. I have four different prologues and just as many sequences. I have a list of exposition, conflicts, moral themes, etc. and all that remains is for me to plug them into a scene sequence. When I do this, the scenes seem to dissolve. Huge chunks of my work seem irrelevant. Now I am creating new scenes to match what is "needed" and I hate it.

I am certain this is all a result of my desire to get everything perfect and my unwillingness to create anything less. Perhaps now I have named my evil and I can face it. But if it cannot be perfect, let it at least not be total trash, which is truly my greatest fear.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

December - Insecure Writer's Support Group

 What in the world? How did I forget this month!!!

Real quick, it is my lunch break, here it goes...

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre!

December 2 question - Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Not right now! That is the easy answer. I have had one load after another dropped, and I dare not complain because having a job in this time is a luxury many do not have. On the flip side, there is a shortage of people who want to work with me, so I am doing multiple jobs at once. Just yesterday, I cooked breakfast and lunch for sixty-odd kids, trained a teacher while monitoring a class of twenty,  then switched back to assistant director to close and disinfect the facility. By the time I get home these days, it has been dark for more than an hour, I've been away from my own kids for 11 hours, and I am exhausted.

Update on the novel:  I am pausing my draft for the moment to complete a final timeline that includes character conflict, moral themes, and world building. Once I have completed this, the draft will continue.

I literally wish I could just go without sleep at this point. I might actually accomplish something.

If you are interested in reading what others have to say about this question, please follow the link behind the badge below. You will find many, many blogs here, and can hop to any you please for interesting perspectives. 

Sorry for any typos, no time to edit...