New Year’s Resolutions

I feel like I might finally be getting somewhere with this whole “writing” thing — like I might finally be getting in the rhythm of producing stuff.

Still a long way to go, but I’m on my way.

So with that in mind, I’m sharing some of my goals for 2016, mostly so I’ll have some accountability. Someone to shame me when I fail at them.

In the interest of not driving myself nuts, I’m  going to limit these resolutions to the kinds of things I can control (so “publish a short story” is not a good resolution; “finish five short stories” is better).

Here goes: Continue reading

The First Rejection

Between Facebook and Twitter, I’m fairly certain all of my regular readers have heard this news already. However, I’m going to take a moment to repeat it here, because this blog is supposedly a place to chronicle my writing journey and this is an important milestone in it.

I got my first rejection.

And lest you fret, gentle reader, imagining my reaction to such a thing, I hasten to assure you: I’m actually pretty excited.

Am I disappointed that my story wasn’t accepted? Sure. I mean, the whole goal of this process is to end up with something in print. And I wouldn’t have submitted the story to the magazine unless I wanted it to be published there. But it’s a little piece of confirmation that yes, I am actually doing this author thing — even if the result isn’t ideal.

So now that we’re on the subject, let’s talk a little bit about rejections. Continue reading

Housekeeping, and Announcements

No Friday Fiction today — instead, some announcements.

The Hiatus

That last long hiatus? Was because of exams. Somehow, despite this semester appearing to be fairly light, I ended up with ridiculous amounts of work at the end of the term. (Seriously: FOUR TERM PAPERS, plus a final exam paper, three final exams, a stats project, and the 15-page summary of an 800 page textbook).

And now I’m done. Continue reading

IT’S DONE

FIRST DRAFT DOWN.

This story, this thing that started as a really bizarre dream and ended as a pretty bizarre short story, is D-O-N-E.

Well. I still have to go back and clean up the bits left in brackets, but that’s a piece of cake compared to the trial of setting down words on a blank white screen.

And then there’s editing, and rewriting, and all that jazz.

But for now?

IT’S DONE.

To Begin at the Beginning

It’s sort of an odd thing, really, that I’m writing a novel. I mean when I’m in the thick of it, when I’m smithing sentences and dancing my fingers across a keyboard (or dragging my hand through the ink till it’s black – ain’t it great to be a lefty?) it seems like the most natural thing in the world…but it wasn’t. Not for me.

The Question

Somewhere in my daily round of procrastination, as I trolled through the blogosphere to avoid doing something more productive, I cam across a post that asked a very simple question.

“What is your first memory of writing?” Continue reading

Princess Update, “Princess” Edition

Last night I finished something, and I decided something.

Chapters and Parts

In a published book, you’ve got lots of divisions you can make. “Chapters” are fairly obvious and widely used; sometimes a book is divided into “Parts” or “Books”, either numbered (Book One, or Part Two) or named (Random fantasy book off the shelf – The Dragonbone Chair – part one is titled “Simon Mooncalf”) (Or Mistborn is another example). There are also scenes, which are more of a hidden division. Sometimes one scene is a chapter; sometimes a chapter contains several scenes. I’m not going to go into what a scene is, as this post is long and other people have done it better.

So far, I’ve been writing Princess scene by scene. This is good for me – it keeps me focused on what has to happen to move the plot forward, and there’s a defined beginning middle and end so I stay on track. And although many of the scenes I’ve written will be fleshed out with more description in draft 1.5, they’re still on the shortish side to be chapters in their own right (often hovering just over 1k words).

So I’ve been thinking, as I write – not with any seriousness, don’t freak out, not getting ahead of myself – just idly, about where I would break up chapters. What scene endings have that powerful punch that will keep my readers racing on through the next chapter. (Not having a lot of luck, by the way)

And then I sort of thought about my “Act” divisions.

The Four-Act Story Arc Continue reading

I Don’t Write Fiction Like I Write Essays

Last night was a night of discovery.

No, seriously. I know that “waiting for your muse to inspire you” is a delaying tactic, that the very idea of a writing muse is nothing more than a comforting author’s myth (if you can’t think of something good, it’s not your fault – your muse isn’t behaving!). But.

If we posit that muses are real…I was visited big time last night.

Princess

Princess, despite only being four scenes (more or less) right now, has an ending and an epilogue. Yup.

Also I had a much, much better idea regarding the mythology of my world. I had originally planned for the magic to stem from some wellspring source, that was discovered by a group of explorers, and then some things happened that I won’t mention because spoilers, even with the changes I’ve made, and the people who are reading this blog are probably also the people who will be reading Princess. Then for hundreds of years there was magic everywhere and wars and bad things I will also not mention because spoilers, until finally a bunch of people cast a spell that prevented everyone from using their magic. Except it didn’t go quite as planned.

BUT. I decided to do away with the first event entirely for two reasons: 1) It made things overly complicated and 2) it was too much like Mistborn (I hadn’t read Well of Ascension or Hero of Ages yet when I came up with the idea).

So yes. The new way is much better, even if none of you can properly appreciate it because I won’t fully explain 🙂

I also thought up some snatches of dialogue for the sequels – one for the second book, and one for either the end of the second or the middle of the third. I’m not sure because I haven’t even thought about plotting them yet. But I wrote them down, so I wouldn’t forget.

Writing Style

The other big realization I had last night was regarding my writing style.

When I write essays – say, for school – I start with the first body paragraph, write a placeholder topic sentence, and then go. Sentence following sentence, in order. When I have gotten through the conclusion, I go back and write the introduction and thesis, then refine the topic sentences so that they flow/mesh with the thesis/accurately reflect what’s in the paragraph.

But the general thrust is beginning-to-end, with very little editing. My first drafts are pretty much final drafts. If I’ve done my research and know generally what I want the paragraph to say, I can pretty much just sit down and go.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m able to do this. Firstly, I had really great training in middle and high school. Secondly, I’ve had a lot of practice.

I can’t write fiction this way.

First of all, a novel is a different beast from an essay. It’s much bigger, for one. You have to balance different types of writing, like action and description and dialogue.  It’s a different entity, and a more complicated one.

It’s also one I haven’t practiced as much.

All of that means that I can’t sit down and write a first draft of a novel that reads more-or-less like a final draft. It’s not going to happen. Maybe one day, but not now.

What was the point of all that rambling?

I hereby give myself permission to not worry about writing in a polished manner. I will write scenes as mostly dialogue and skip descriptions for later. I will leave things in square brackets and use all the adverbs I want. I will not worry about repeated reactions (every reaction is either a smile or a frown) and just leave them as placeholders and WORRY ABOUT IT LATER!

I have MOMENTUM! I will USE IT!

CHARGE!

Okay, sorry, I’m getting a little punchy. I shall go make myself breakfast. And then write. Messily.

The Glorious Creature That Moved Me To Tears

This is a Coquerel’s sifaka (pronounced shi-fahk or shi-fah-ka depending on who you ask), once considered to be a subspecies of Verreaux’s sifaka but since elevated to its own species. Its scientific name is Propithecus coquereli.

Last semester, I took a class called Explorations in Primate Anatomy. The overarching assignment of the semester was to select a “chosen species” and investigate, in detail, its distribution/habitat/behavior, cranial morphology, dental morphology, and postcranial morphology.

I spent three months immersed in this animal. (Well, sometimes I was looking at P. verreaxi bones but that’s just because we didn’t have the Coquerel, and besides they are extremely closely related and primatologists are notorious splitters anyway…)

Two weeks ago I went to the Bronx Zoo with my mammalogy class. We happily went around looking at geladas and giraffes and sea lions and brown bears and polar bears and tigers and then we walked into the Madagascar building and this is the FIRST THING I SEE.

I teared up. Not joking.

I was SO EXCITED AND SO HAPPY to see this little guy and I can hardly tell you why – I just spent so long with his species that I feel this very close affinity and to see one in person – the real, living creature to which the skulls I spent so much time with belonged – was just incredibly moving. And then he looked right at me and I pretty much did cry, looking at his adorable little face.

It’s a good thing that I’m not likely to ever run into a living Neandertal. I think if I ever met a Neandertal in person I’d expire on the spot.

The Title of the Blog

So…the title. “The Great Novel Adventure: Chronicling the Trials and Tribulations of a First-Time Author”.

The first part is more accurate than the second.

I’ve been writing semi-seriously (as in, trying to finish projects, educating myself, honing my craft, actually writing often, etc etc) for a couple years now, and it’s time to reevaluate the goals I set for myself way back when.

I was sure that this was going to be fun. See: “Great,” and “Adventure”

I knew I this journey was going to be about writing,  primarily long-from prose. See: “Novel”

I suspected there would be challenges along the way. See: “Trials and Tribulations”

I was convinced I wanted to be published. See: “Author”.

How much of that is still true? When I started this blog I had only the vaguest notions of what I was getting myself into. And this journey has turned out to be both difficult and joyous – more joyous and more exciting than I had imagined.

So…this is still a “Great Novel Adventure”, and it still chronicles my journey. But “Trials and Tribulations”, despite the way it trips off the tongue, is a bit of a downer! And yes, there are trials…but there aren’t really tribulations.

Okay, what about “First-Time Author”? Well, I’m not a first-time author, because I don’t have anything published and won’t for a while. And you know what? I’m fine with that. I’m enjoying this process, this adventure, and I don’t need to race to the finish line just yet.

Besides, with traditional publishing comes deadlines and schedules, and I’ve got too much on my real-life plate right now for that.

So not “first-time author”. 

What about “aspiring novelist”?

Well, I’m already a novelist. A novelist is a person who writes novels, which I do. So I’m not an “aspiring” novelist, or an “aspiring” writer.

But I am an “aspiring author”.

Because, you know what? I’d like to have my name on the cover of a book someday. And it may not be tomorrow, or a year from now, or even 10 years from now. But when the time is right for me, I’m going to do my damnedest to make it happen.

Welcome to “The Great Novel Adventure: Chronicling the Trials and Triumphs of an Aspiring Author”.

I hope you’re having as much fun as I am.