Sunday, December 30, 2012

Can You Love What Drives You Crazy?

I'm certain we've all been here at some point.
The easy answer to this question is yes, yes you can. All those little flaws that make you want to deck your brother or sister, slap your lover, or tear the page out of a good book may seem like pure hatred, but the truth is it comes as part of the mental package. The flaws that drive you crazy do so for a reason, and often those reasons are nearest and dearest to your heart. I know there are things that I do which I will never understand. Procrastination for one. They make me want to tear my own hair out almost as much as watching people destroy themselves or each other out of selfish wants and needs. The world is a messy place and it's more than just bodily problems. We make "drama," add to our emotional problems, and do down right crazy things for those we know and ourselves.

Let's face it, no one is a saint. We try, we really do, but at the end of the day we are only human.

Some of the best stories I've read involved characters who felt just in what they were doing, and I almost loved them as much as I hated them. They were ruining or thwarting my favorite character's efforts in a way that seemed downright dastardly. Thing is, stuff like this happens in our every day lives all the time. Some girl stole your best friend's boyfriend and mercilessly flaunted the fact to her face. Your grandparent got robbed by some kid who was just trying to make it into a gang. Your school rival got the job you had been trying to get for the past five years and it was only because he or she was flirting with the boss to get it. Crazy crap happens and it's all around you. The key is writing about some of that stuff when you are angry or peeved. Capturing the thoughts of that moment are so revealing about what is happening to a person in a rage. Then, after some time trying to see what you have written in another light. I, for one, had a moment like that tonight.

There's nothing like experiencing a bit of my own stupidity. Even now I'm shaking my head wondering how in the heck I managed to miss that tomorrow was New Year's Eve. Time flew right past my brain and made me think it was next week, not tomorrow. Somehow, I managed to believe that December deserved another week of existence for 2012. There was so much I was going to get done in that extra week too! I wanted a certain project for Musa done by tomorrow and was supposed to be working on my notes for my 50,000 words in January. That has all been reduced to one day's work and as luck would have it the road will have a couple hours of my attention (again.) I'm seething and have no one to blame for myself. Sometime in the future, I'm certain I'll look back at this and laugh. Who knows I may even be glad I was late because of some of the inspiration I got from the film adaption of Les Miserables tonight!

I'm definitely hitting a learning curve. Now, I have some work to do! Happy Writings to all of you and may it be an outlet for all those moments in your life you feel the steam pouring out of your ears.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Do You Develop Your Writing?

This is The Buck. However, it wasn't full when we were there.

It's amazing how ideas come in the oddest times and places. The shower is my temple for thoughts that are here one moment and gone the next. Thankfully, my most recent experience at The Buck in St. Joseph stuck with me.

After having spent the majority of the Christmas holiday with family it seemed only logical that I go and visit my beau. As usual I had fun and was thoroughly distracted until he finally went to work. It is challenging to ignore your loved ones when writing calls. I still need to gain a little will power in that area. That aside, we had a marvelous time yesterday gallivanting about St. Joseph, Michigan. I bit into the most juicy burger that had fresh crisp vegetables, perfectly melted cheese, and fries that had all the right seasonings to make a girl forget about calories and consume the whole plate. Guilt followed a bit afterwards, but I went walking in a blizzard afterwards. I'm certain I shivered through enough energy to worry about calories at another time.

While I was dining on this perfectly pulverized patty and devouring every morsel a thought jumped into my head. I should discuss one of my recently discovered writing flaws, my inability to describe why something was, cool, really nice, awesome, great, good, okay, or fine.

In my mind I was finding it hard to move past those words. To go from, "they were awesome shoes," to "they were fun emerald green triangular flats capped with gold metal at the front," was something I had been having a problem with. Pinterest made me aware of this issue.

I use Pinterest as a social media meeting of the minds with both individuals that I know well, and people that I do not. Whenever I add a picture I always include a description. However, as time passed I realized I was adding simple descriptions that didn't emphasize why these pictures I was collecting were interesting to me. All I had were a bunch of pictures that essentially said "This is SO cool!"

Repetition drives me nuts, and I am certain does so for many other readers as well. Thus I made it my prerogative to start stretching the boundaries of my descriptions. Writing can be so rich with different textures of language. It can be so much more than one word exclamations of "coolness." This writing challenge is taking what I would say in conversation and morphing it into something that others will actually enjoy reading. Like a verbal chocolate truffle that melts in your mouth, I want the words that are written to be captivating and melt seamlessly into the folds of your mind.

Development of writing comes from many different places. It comes from social media use, speech, blogging, and article construction. Self observation, which can be slow and difficult, is essential to self improvement. Consistent Pinterest descriptions and elevated blog writing is my first stepping stone. Though with January so near God Syndrome may be the bearer of some of my small successes.

Happy Writings!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Musings

Mom took this picture a week ago from our living room.
The fire is blazing in the fire place as we play sappy hallmark movies on the TV. My mother and I baked a German cheese cake, which is light and fluffy and only a little sweet. The baking has caused the house to fill up with the smell of lemons. It's all intoxicating enough to lull me into dozing on the couch.

I've been bad about writing notes for my book since I went north. It's hard to stay motivated around the holidays. Especially with all the lovely cooking that is constantly being pumped out of the kitchen. It's enough to put a girl in a permanent carbohydrate induced stupor. Despite the holiday slow down I've continued to work on a side project for Musa, which I'll pick up again tomorrow night.

For now I will simply reflect on all that I am thankful for as a writer and editor this year. I am thankful I have a family who supports me while I'm on transition towards my new career. Without Celina Summers and Brandie Tarvin I would not be growing as a writer or having this amazing opportunity with Musa Publishing. My family is comprised of some of the most amazing story tellers I know and I will always be inspired by their tall and fantastic tales that lead me to the industry. I'm thankful for the brush I had with Michelle Bardsley (a romance novelist) a few years ago and the guidance she gave me then.

I have plenty to work on for the next year including finding a writing group and reading through the brand new sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style that is sitting under my Christmas tree. My mother and I know our gifts to each other, but we wrapped them and put them under the tree anyway. Forging a path forward for the new year is something I'm enthusiastic about. Leaving a string of ink, type, and graphite trailing behind me in ever greater volume.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Friday, December 21, 2012

How Do You Make Holiday Deadlines Fun?

The most beautiful thing to this writer on a deadline!
So, I've come to the conclusion holidays and work should never mix. Ever. Then again, if I had my way, there would be no Penumbra in November and December. Readers would be very sad to have to live without their speculative fiction. That and they may demand to have their money returned to them. Something I'm certain my boss would not be pleased to hear.

I have far too much fun visiting family and kibitzing with friends around a table full of warm seasonal drinks. I enjoy hugging my sisters and scratching the ears of my old dogs as we discuss favorite foods, funny stories, and cute quirks. I also enjoy the prospect of ending my day without having to write, though this box of chocolates I'm gnawing on is making the whole experience much more marvelous.

Tomorrow one of my blogs for Penumbra is due. It will be an easy thing to write, but it is not my ideal of fun at the moment. I will just have to motivate myself with some music or continue to down copious amounts of sugar until I can't help but smile. I'll work on it tonight and edit it tomorrow before I send it in for posting. I won't have "bellow" instead of "below" this time. I don't think I could take the humiliation if I did.

My writer's block left me on the drive north today and I quickly wrote two pen and paper pages of notes for God Syndrome. I'm not wholly satisfied with it at the moment, but at least I got my grey matter into functioning order again. Next week I start the plot mountain for the book; I was surprised to find myself excited about the prospect of moving forward with it.

I'm exercising regularly now, so I'm sure just a few more pounds of chocolate will get me through the rest of the holiday season.

Have a Merry Christmas this weekend. Happy Kwanza. I hope your Hanukkahs went well. And for all the Pastafarians happy Holiday. Good will to all!

Happy Writings.

Rambling Through Writer's Block

How writer's block feels. 
The past few days I've been reworking the look of this blog. I'm still not one hundred percent sure about the typography, but overall I like the page set up that I've chosen. I;m trying to find how personal versus how professional I want to make the page look. I'm also planning the Ray Bradbury blog post for Penumbra and putting together a long overdue list for work. Honestly, the last thing I'm thinking about today is writing.

Part of my lack of focus may be from my notes for God Syndrome.  Last night I realized I hadn't done some basic character building for the book. So I spent a good hour or two writing little notes about hobbies, interests, family, education, physical looks, and locations for the book. I filled only three quarters of a page and felt like I hit a wall. It's some of the most basic stuff, but I was so focused on research I forgot to start building some basic profiles. Now I'm having the challenge of trying to build a character I don't feel entirely familiar with.

The holidays are upon us, meaning that I will be migrating back and forth across the great state of Michigan. I'm just thankful I don't have to traverse an entire country. At least not yet! I wrapped Christmas presents and made plans to visit my Father tomorrow, before Christmas Eve. Though whether I'll go or not will depend on how clean the roads will be tomorrow. Snow is pounding Michigan, but not where I currently am. All the schools in my hometown have already closed for tomorrow, essentially extending the Christmas vacation.Though, my younger sister is probably sad since her band concert was cancelled. I however have been deprived of the traditional winter wonder land, I am stuck in the gray land of cold unrelenting rain. The kind of rain that makes you want to get back into bed and dream of better locations.

Part of me hopes that going home to my Father and my half sisters will bring back some of my imagination and that I can dive back into my notes and my blog with vigor. I need a recharge and some silly inspiration. For now I'm going to get some rest and hope that dreams may be inspirational.

Happy Writings and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When Does Fiction Become Reality?

I follow Media Bistro's RSS feed, Galley Cat. They recently released a list of TED Talks that were made by writers. John Green talked about learning communities and his experience with them online. However, the most interesting aspect of his speech was the idea for something immaterial to become material. His example was Agloe, New York. Agloe was a town that only existed on a map as a matter of copyright. However, because the town was printed on so many maps people started to visit the area. Eventually a general store was set up and the town became real.

The idea that what we write or draw may become real someday is not foreign. We have been seeing science fiction become part of our everyday life for years with things like holograms, small computers, better space technology, and medicine. 

I can imagine in a few years a couple fantasy creatures coming to life with the use of biotechnology. The movie Splice really pushed the boundaries of what biotechnology could create, even if it did have a dark twist. We already have glowing cats and rabbits that have been created in labs by taking the genes from luminescent jelly fish. Spider silk is being harvested from the milk of goats who've had spider DNA injected into their code. I imagine eventually you will be able to pick up your very own norwegian ridgeback dragon in the store. Of course it would have a better temperament than the one of J.K. Rowling's imagination and come in toy size, like poodles.

What we create in fiction in any way has the possibility of coming to life. Especially if we find people who have an interest in that fiction. Agloe, New York became a real place because there was business driving through trying to find the town. It made sense to set up shop at the crossroads. There would be a market for dragons I'm sure. Though not ones that could breathe fire! Think of all of the lawsuits that would bring.

I will be curious to see what future minds will imagine for their science fiction stories, and what pieces of fiction will make their way into reality. 

What Does Writing About Tragedy Help Us Accomplish?

Ernie Pyle, the man with the white goggles, was a WWII
journalist . His experiences were cataloged in Brave Men.  
The shootings in Newton, Connecticut were a tragedy. Something, I admit, I have a hard time feeling sad about. I am human. I cry when people I know die, when my animals die, and when I know a person's story. Fred Weasley never existed, yet his passing still made me cry simply because I knew enough about him. However, I have a hard time feeling any sadness when tragedy strikes outside the scope of people I know.

I imagine immersion has a lot to do with feeling close to the situation. Immersion in a community, a family, a fake world, or a town can certainly effect you. Journalists have to deal with this whenever they immerse themselves in a community.

A couple of days ago The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma released a guide  on how journalists should deal with tragic events. They mentioned Ernie Pyle (picture above) a WWII correspondent who wrote from the battle front. He was one of the first writers to travel with soldiers and write about war in as we know it today. His accounts would capture the death of people he knew, the mental break down of soldiers on their way home, and the horrors of war in general. His book Brave Men is an excellent depiction of the horrible things that occurred there. His book was something that allowed the reader to become immersed into the midst of the war.

Writing is a communication tool that helps translate a tragedy into something everyone can feel. To watch the soul poor out of a child's or soldier's eyes is something that when put into narrative form tugs at the heart. When the details are revealed, a person is known, an experience is described in detail we begin to understand that outside community.

Writing does more than this however, as the Dart Center pointed out writing can help the writer deal with a  tragedy. They do this by writing for themselves about the events. Reports are simply not enough (It is speculated Pyle still had post traumatic stress disorder). There are things journalists know that they cannot share with the public. Things they might hang on to that they shouldn't. Writing, talking with others, and any other manner of therapy can help in those situations. It can essentially help everyday people deal with the most abhorrent of situations.

Writing can help us communicate on a deeper level. It can help us know our fears and nightmares in a way that can be communicated to all. Fiction can do this just as well as a journal of real events. That communication of every aspect of life is something that can help console not only a reader, but a writer as well. Sharing these thoughts can even make a person like me, who feels detached from Newton, find a way to feel its effects.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Do You Have a Mothering Complex?

A close up of Tell Me Your Happy
by Wenqing Yan
Mothering Complex- Wish to keep your characters safe from truly evil individuals. Unwillingness to allow your characters to die. No trauma of any sort befalling any main character, often causing little to no character development.

I'll admit right now this is a term I made up. If there is a real mothering complex in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders I apologize. This blog has mainly to do with writing, and since I made up the term I will admit I have a problem.

I have a mothering complex.

I like my characters to be happy, to be quick on their feet, and I don't like to see them get hurt. I don't like to see them have their friends die or experience heart ache. I like them to be safe and sound.

Part of my upcoming notes for God Syndrome will include a detailed plot chart. In there I hope to create some true hurdles for my characters. A place for them to experience life to it's fullest, including the crappy parts of it. I'll make it a personal goal for my character to experience death in some way. The reason I'm doing this is because I have a tendency to tell a story full of roses with only minor characters dying on the side. Often the deaths have gone unnoticed by the main characters. I've been analyzing some of my old writing and I've come to realize how little readers and characters get to know those who die. It's a clean cut that doesn't have you balling like when Fred Weasley or Sirius Black died in Harry Potter. 

I suppose you could say that you don't need to have those moments. However, I think it's important that on some level writing mimics life. That sometimes when shit goes down everything isn't okay. My favorite pieces of writing have always had a bit of tragedy in them. Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Harry Potter, and from my comics The Demon Ororon are among the pieces I have read that I loved and yet made me cry. So one more writing goal for myself is to break my mother complex, and to give my character a life. One that is measured by both successes and failures. One that has that little stroke of reality to make you feel your own life in that moment.

Its one heck of a goal and I certainly haven't decided who will pass on, but in the end it is something I want to experience as a writer.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Is It Possible to Write an Original Story?

I made the cover for a SF course I took in college.
I had decided to make a comic out of the manuscript.
One of my greatest fears as a writer is to write a book that's already been written. I admit sometimes I'll see a book already published with a flap copy that is similar to an idea I have. So, instead of reading it, I put it back on the shelf. Afraid that my thoughts were already someone else's.

I think that's why I stopped my first major project, Dreida. I had written two full chapters, almost thirty pages, when I became acquainted with the movie Blade Runner. While the stories weren't even fifty percent the same, they did have very similar elements. The main underlying question they both had was, what makes us human?

I had plans to add alien cultures. The story was going to take place between India and Germany. The characters were going to be a bit over the top, a little science fiction mixed in with fantasy. I had side stories about the scientists who created the humanoid beings called humanisapiens. Humanisapiens are biologically human, save for a few minor brain adjustments that makes them emotionless and obedient.

The thing was, those plans felt silly after I had watched the movie. Part of me is now worried that God Syndrome, my current project, will be similar to some other story line I'm not yet aware of. Part of me thinks I need to get over this worried mentality. The story, as far as I know, is original. Unlike Dreida I've been taking notes on this baby for almost a month now. I have thirty pages of just notes on viruses, deities, doodles, and plot ideas. I should feel secure that even if this sort of story has been written before, that I can do it in a way that is better. In a way that is all my own.

However, I won't lie I'm hoping that God Syndrome is an original piece. One that won't make me want to chicken out. Right now though, I feel pretty certain I'm on the right track.

Happy Writings!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Futility of Utopia

A piece I did for Penumbra's blog. I had to laugh though. As soon as it went live I realized I made one of my notorious spelling mistakes, using bellow instead of below. Not only that, I used are instead of were in a terrible tense mix up. Grrr. Oh, well it's out there for all to laugh at. I checked over that piece too! Though, I probably didn't let it sit long enough. Here's the link and a really short excerpt...

Penumbra eMag: The Futility of Utopia: by Kristen Saunders What is utopia? It is an ideal community or society possessing highly desirable or perfect qualities. The problem lies...

The next issue deals with Ray Bradbury. I'm currently acquainting myself with his works. I never read Fahrenheit 451 like everyone else did in middle school. I picked up Lord of the Rings instead. So we'll see what Bradbury's works inspire me to say.

This, as ever, was a shameless plug.

How Many Habits Can You Try To Start At Once?

I can still hear Daft Punk's Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger ringing through my head. Yesterday I burned 500 calories on an elliptical. I felt great all day long, I got my notes up to date (I was a day behind,) posted on my blog, and got one of my work assignments in. Finally. The exercise kept me energized well into the early morning. It also made me ravenously hungry.

Thing is I had no motivation to do anything today. The thought drifted through my head that maybe I was trying to change too many things in my life at once. Psychology Today confirmed my suspicions with the article What Went Right? You Focused on One Habit! Ian Newby-Clark goes into how it is almost impossible to try to change too many habits at once. Trying to accomplish all those "should do's" Steven R. Stewart talked about, is something that must be done gradually. Clark also mentions "will-power."

Will-power, I recently learned, is a limited commodity in the human body. How much will power we have has to do with the choices we make during the day. President Obama actually has his wardrobe chosen for him, all blue, so that he doesn't have to make choices in the morning. In a way he's conserving his will power for more important things. I wish I could give you the source of that information, but it has honestly skipped town and taken the nearest train to the forgotten recesses of my brain. I am sure only hypnosis would bring the source back to my mind. The only thing I can remember was that it was on a T.V. show.

The conservation of will power is easier to do with a habit that is firmly in place. For instance, my mind isn't bothered by brushing my teeth. It's something I do every day. Blogging, is becoming the same thing for me. It's been almost a month since I started and I haven't let my self off anytime except for the weekends. Workouts, notes, working hours, and sleeping hours are still a shattered mess right now. This is where I'm spending my will power daily, often switching my focus and never feeling satisfied that I've made a change. I gave up on fixing my sleep patterns awhile ago. They got really messed up in my final year of college, when I was getting an average of three to five hours of sleep a night.

I'd say to make my workouts and working hours have the maximum effect I want, I'd have to alter my sleeping schedule. It's not something I really want to do. However, I used to be an early riser and that was when my mind was at its best. So in order to forge a new path into my future I have to do it one step at a time. However, it doesn't mean I can't make a bit of a sound track for motivation. Technologic by Daft Punk, for a little editing encouragement. (There's nothing like typing to this tune for me. Though I do find the video a bit disturbing.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

When Should You Give Yourself A Break?

Today I went to SFWA and started reading from the writing tips section of the Information Center page for Authors. The first article I read was The #1 Rule of Everything by Steven R. Stewart. His basic message was that you will never be able to keep up with all of the "should do's" that the writing and publishing industry will throw at you. At least, not if you want a life.

Patrick Star from Sponge Bob Square Pants.
He talked about his anxiety and depression with writing and how, even though he had won an award, he still didn't feel like he was doing enough. Mr. Stewart is a published author and is a member of the SFWA which means he had to have three short story sales, one novel sale, or one professionally produced full-length dramatic script. He's walked the walk and knows what he's talking about.

I, however, am new to writing. I'm working on it day by day, page by page. I'm just starting to fill my days with "should do's" of my own. I'm writing this blog, doing my page a day of writing, am trying to find a writing group, and read in my free time as well. Though, I will admit, the television tends to skew my focus and steal me away from the work I could (and probably should) be doing. The point is I have only one published short story. That story is published in Ferris State University's 2011 PRISM compilation and wouldn't count towards the SFWA.

I am at square one.

Finding my voice is something I should work on more than anything else. The humor I talked about just a week ago seems to have left my veins. It's fun to stay on the light side, but when it's forced it can be draining. I'll learn to use Bryce's lessons when I need to. To lighten a dark situation by pointing an over-sized spotlight on the middle of every day life shenanigans.

Once I find that voice and have a published piece or two; then, maybe, I'll relax. I'll take a chill pill put up my feet and take a week off. Until then I don't think I deserve a break. like Patrick in the picture above I want to cross off that nothing from both my To Do list and my Completed Works list. There's far too much for me to learn to sit idle. Currently I have some notes that are calling my name.

Happy Writings!

Monday, December 10, 2012


Sometimes when you sit alone in a quiet house you hear the little creeks in the wood and think maybe it's whispering to you. The television, books, radio, and computer may help you to forget you're alone, but when you look away from your choice of distraction you realize that you are. That there is no one there.

I've found in the past that I'm more productive when I'm alone. However, that has often been after a day full of seeing nothing but people. The constant feeling that I must rush to finish what needs to be done haunts me as I fill my day with friends and family. When I am truly alone and left to my own devices I find I am more selfish. Procrastination becomes a partner. Today I was alone and sadly I made no progress towards my future.

I watched several episodes of American Horror Story on Netflix and cuddled into my warm red blanket. I read chapters from A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. I neglected to finish what little work I had left as I gave myself over to the little comforts of entertainment.

Tonight (technically this morning) I'll finish my work. It took all my strength just to start up again. No one is here to remind me that time is passing and so I take it at my own pace, occasionally looking back and realizing time was following me all along. However, I feed into my own farce, turn around and continue to waste the time I should have used on other projects instead of my own amusement.

I did check out the SFWA or Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Becoming a member is something I should try to do. If nothing else trying to attain membership will help me improve my writing. They also have a nice site to help writers navigate their way through the publishing system. Their blog Writer Beware is another source that is nice for writers new to the industry like myself.

These little finds aside, I am in need of a rebirth of sorts. I need to burn out my old bad habits and become the person I want to be. The focused editor, writer, and reader whose voice can help those around me, whose mind can help herself. I want to burn some of the tiredness out of my veins. I was almost successful a couple weeks ago. I need exercise. I need to wake up early. I need to eat vegetables. I need to breathe healthful habits into my life. I need to rekindle the ambition in my heart and find within me the girl who took on the world and didn't dread the sun's call to morning. I need to forge a path for myself.

To start I need to get back to work both in the house and for Musa. This day of distraction is wreaking havoc on my mind and I'm so close to the finish line for my project. This little post has been my match now I'll have to monitor myself before the flame of achievement goes out.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Can You Train Yourself to Think Before You Speak?

Today I went to a holiday party that my mother's company threw. There was shrimp, tenderloin, dancing, karaoke, champagne, and good cheer all around. My mother introduced me to a very nice gentleman who spoke very eloquently. I, however, felt I was a tongue tied bumbling idiot for a good portion of the entire evening. Often having to reword or rephrase what I was saying to make it intelligible 

On the way home my mom and I noted that he must have thought about what he was going to say before he said it. He took a moment to answer your question, but when he did it was always a well formed answer.

I couldn't help but think as I sat in the car on the dark ride back to our house that the way I talk is precisely like the way I write. When I write, I throw a garbled sentence on the page and I go back and edit it until it sounds right. A conversation with me is like watching this process in action and is slightly awkward. I'll correct something I've said in a confusing manner, but I always feel that I come off as unintelligent.

I may get my bad speaking habits from my family. We use words and expressions like thingy, stuff, that one time, and thing-a-ma-jiggy. We also have a habit of responding immediately after we hear a question or something we feel like commenting on. While the prompt response may show interest, it may not be the best thing to do.

I feel like I should start editing what I say before I say it. Taking that extra moment to make my thoughts fluid and easily understandable. It may help me to write better in the future. My thought process is this, if I can learn to say what I want to say in the heat of an active conversation, then I can learn to write what I want to write accurately the first time.

Don't misunderstand me, editing will always be needed in writing. If I don't continue to edit I would be denying everything I've taught myself up until this moment. I'm just hoping that by changing the way I process what I'm about to say or write I might find that my first drafts won't be as much of a nightmare anymore.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Planning Ahead

I'll admit it, I used to be a worthless writer. In high school I received mostly A's. So, thinking all was well, in my junior year I took Advanced Placement Composition, a college level writing class. I received an "A" and decided to take the eighty-nine dollar test. A.P. tests are scored 1 through 4 with four being excellent, three being normal, two being poor, and one being awful.

I received a two on the test. POOR.

I remember being stunned that I had done so badly. My grades certainly didn't reflect the score I received, but my parents knew. They had known for awhile. They were not happy when I showed them my final portfolio. My parents went to the principal to complain about my good grades. It was plain to them that I didn't grasp some of the basic rules of English and therefore didn't deserve them. It was humiliating to say the least.

The next year, against the advice of my high school, I enlisted in a remedial English course for college students. That course taught me grammar, spelling rules, and how to compose a paper properly. She drilled into our heads that pen and paper helped you think while writing. She mandated we edit every paper we turned in. We had to have a first and second draft for every paper.

I haven't picked up The Classic Guide to Better Writing since then. Part of me was naive and embarrassed  I never wanted to face my weaknesses or pick up the book again. Reading the book reminded me how feeble my memory can be and that even after my remedial class it helps to review some of the rules.

The first chapter is about mapping a plan for what you want to write. It basically says while you might be able to deliver a message nobody will want to listen to the garbled mess you'd make up on the spot.

The last few weeks I've been producing notes and research on various things for my future novel The God Syndrome. While these notes will help me keep information short at hand, they won't help me write my story in a fluid fashion. They are a garbled mess that have no meaning by themselves. My story requires a fleshed out plot mountain. I have one I did when I originally thought of the story four years ago. However, that diagram is very basic and doesn't help me know what I'll write in advanced or how I'll stitch together all the notes I've taken.

I think the last week of December I'll start fleshing out this plan. Making sense of the amalgamation of notes in my notebook. It will give me a good jumping point for those first 50,000 words in January.

I may have been a poor writer in high school but that won't hold me back now. I'm going to use every tool I know to make my writing enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Should We Try To Mimic Writing Styles?

Recently I've been trying to insert a bit of humor into my writing. I don't come by it naturally and what I do write is very dry. Some may not even pick up on it at all. I also fluctuate in how much comedy I care to insert every day. The reason I do this has to do a lot with art classes and comic groups.

 I like to occasionally draw comics. I love manga and anime (Japanese comics and cartoons respectively.) In order to become the best possible artist I could be people told me to copy the works of those I liked most. This got me used to drawing lines and forms in a certain way. Over time it did help me improve my art. I never invested the time to make it something truly spectacular, but it's not something I would burn either. So, I figured, if redrawing the artwork of others for practice helped improve my art, then maybe practicing writing in another's voice might help me improve my humor.

Bill Bryson wrote A Walk In The Woods and I fell in love with the book in my super senior year of college (year 5.) It was one of the few textbooks I actually enjoyed reading and ended up finishing earlier than the class schedule. I liked his writing voice so much that he inspired me to start putting a little levity in my own work.

I must admit I haven't talked about a friend, painfully over weight, heaving chocolate bars on a trip across the Appalachians. Nor have feared a wild cat would jump out of the bushes and eat me while outside in the evening. Then again my experience hasn't been anything like Bryson's. Mine have been with authors, conventions, books, and mostly indoors. The most recent bit of hilarity being my attempt at getting into shape. 

In the future I could make mention of my painfully out of date computer and it's many quirks. I could talk about the little irrational fears I've had, my pet peeves, or even the craziness that was Youmacon this year.  Bryson manages to write about fears and annoyances in his travels, while incorporating real history. He's my ideal as far as blogging is considered. He's factually funny. 

I don't think my style will ever be entirely like his, but I can hope that I'm learning lessons as I try to share the humor that I've kept hidden away for so long. In the end this could flop. A writer's voice will always be their own, but I think with a little practice I could learn to expand its range from old, sterile, and dark.

Does Exercise Effect Writing?

Last week right after I woke up, I ran for a half an hour down to the lake and back. I say I ran but what I really mean is that I ran, jogged, huffed and puffed out of breath, walked, and ran again in a repeated fashion. My lungs burned from the air and my nose stung from the cold. My body was screaming at me that it was out of shape.

There were several reasons I chose to take that jog and one of them was writing. I had recently been told through work that the best writing is produced by those who are in the best physical condition. While I was a little tired later that day, I did find that I was much more focused than usual. I was able to get through a great deal of work I hadn't had the energy to pursue before. I felt more in tune with what I was doing.

The next day I found Dottie, my dog, paralyzed. It broke the cycle for me on the second day I was supposed to maintain exercise. I didn't want to do anything after losing such a good soul.

I want to approach this again. The workout may not have been all fun, but it gave me a focus that I haven't really had since high school. It figures, high school was the last time I had mandatory physical education. Though I did participate in mixed martial arts at college I did that late at night. The rush of energy the MMA club provided me was at the wrong time of day. Night was not a time to be productive or creative.

Interestingly, these days I find myself tired if I don't exercise. A constant lethargy sinks in down to the bone. Fighting that exhaustion is one of the best things I've done since college. This weekend, when I'm back from traveling, I'll start running again. Hopefully able to accomplish more writing for work, more blogging, and more notes for my January novel run.

For now I leave you with the music that was running through my mind as I was writing this. "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" by Daft Punk.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How Logical Do You Have To Make Your Writing?

This weekend I visited one of my best friends. We've been besties since our sophomore year at Ferris State University. We met in the Honors Program, helping students carry their carpets into Puterbaugh Hall. We started talking while moving the hefty flooring and found that we had similar interests including anime, manga, movies, romance novels, and science. She was, and still is, studying to be a pharmacist.

When we were catching up with each other, I filled her in on the story I was planning for January. I asked her about my concept and the use of viruses and DNA in my upcoming novel. It sounded okay to her. However, she told me how viruses attack not only DNA but also RNA and other bits of genetic information.  I knew viruses acted differently but was unaware that they could target different things.

I'm beginning to wonder how much research I'm going to need for this book. I'm currently uncertain how much scientific knowledge I'm going to need before I go forward with my novel. My story The God Syndrome is a piece of speculative fiction that fuses sci fi and fantasy together. Fantasy is easy you can make up the rules as you go. Science fiction requires science behind the story that is thoroughly grounded in some fact. My goal is for scientists to read the book without twitching from incorrect terminology or impossible happenings.

The last week and a half I've spent writing notes on how the virus works.The kind of bodily changes it creates, when it was discovered ,and how much scientists know about the syndrome. I have more than ten pages and I've barely touched the tip of the iceberg. I may only use two pages of this information when I write the novel in January, but I want this disease to make sense even if it is fake.

My question is how many facts do you need in a sci fi story for someone to believe it? Especially when you're adding fantasy elements to it. How much do you get to cover up with fantastical elements before a sci fi story becomes completely ridiculous. My book is a sci fi novel first and fantasy second, finding that balance  of the believable and the fantastic may take some time.

When I start revisions, I'll send a copy to my dear friend so I can make sure that I'm not hurting her scientific brain with bad information. This time without any fear of being inadequate.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

When Demotivation Strikes

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball you aren't prepared for. Today mine hit me full on. I got up and followed my usual routine. I went out to feed Dottie, a rottweiler, bull mastiff mix.

She's a wonderful dog and has the best of personalities. Every day I clean out her kennel, feed and water her, and take her for a short walk. She has arthritis so too much movement was a no no, but a roll in the grass and a small walk was nice. Today she didn't come out to say hello or wander around like she usually does. She stayed inside her igloo house. She'd done it before, but usually because it was freezing outside. Today was a balmy forty degrees, which is great for Michigan this time of year.

Concerned, I went inside and told my mom. We returned to try and coax her out for a little exercise which she's usually happy for. She had been running around the day before chewing on grass like old, silly, arthritic dogs do.

She wouldn't come and as we found out couldn't. Dottie had a pinched nerve in her third vertebra and had been paralyzed from part of the neck to the middle of her back including her front legs. Tomorrow, barring miracle, she will be euthanized. She's getting a steroid treatment right now that may help, but the chances are slim it will help by tomorrow.

Family tragedy takes my will away to do anything. My dog is dying, but I have to trudge on. So I'm writing here and I'll write my page a day. Even if all I want to do is just stare at this screen until it melts from time.

If you're reading this and you have loved ones. Give them a hug tonight, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.