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.

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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.

And so it begins…

“Her Royal Highness, Kelisin Adira Melisse Ellora Peronell, Princess of the Blood!” The herald’s staff pounded on the flagstones.

Kelisin grimaced. “Princess of the Blood” was such an ugly title, but — as everyone loved to remind her — this birthday was a special occasion and deserved extra formality.

Trumpets sounded a fanfare and Kelisin stepped through the open doors onto the grand staircase. A thousand candles flickered in their gold candelabras, making the jeweled mass of courtiers below sparkle as their finery caught the light.

If only their conversation sparkled as much as their wardrobe.

And with these words the Great Novel Adventure, Princess Edition, has begun!
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In which Faith uses a Bad Word

I sat down with the intention of writing that post on rereading that I said I was going to write like two weeks ago, only to discover that I actually don’t have enough to say for an entire post. I mean, I probably could get an entire post on it if I tried but seeing as I’ve been putting it off for so long obviously it’s not going to happen. So instead, a series of comments, starting with rereading and ending with blog things:

1. Rereading is totally acceptable, and I will happily ignore those people who don’t understand my desire to reenter worlds that have particularly engaged me and revisit characters who I’ve particularly identified with.

2. Sometimes I reread a book from a long time ago and I have changed so much that I no longer feel the same way about it. This usually happens when I’m rereading a book with writing flaws (info dumps, flat characters) that I was too young to notice the first time around. I find that I’m a much more critical reader than I was (though not as critical as many).

3. A section of the princess plot decided to make itself known to me yesterday. Progress! And yet, a lot of work remains to be done.

4. I will be doing NaNo this year, although I will almost definitely be participating with a reduced word count goal. I shall consider myself a winner if I get, let’s say (excuse me while I do some math here)…15,000 words, a.k.a. 500 words a day. This is kind of a low bar but A) I have waaaaay to much work this semester, seriously it’s insane and possibly unconstitutional, and B) then I can be pleasantly surprised and feel all proud of myself if I write more!

5. I may have said this already (I forget) but the progress bars will be staying exactly the way they are until I get out of the planning stage and into the writing. I don’t even know how to begin estimating percentage completion for world building, when I won’t know how much I need to do until I’ve already done it!

6. Marvin posts are now scheduled to run on Wednesdays from next Wednesday  until it’s done. There are a lot left so it should last a while. Will there ever be a Marvin sequel? I really don’t know. Perhaps a Freddy spinoff? [EDIT: Marvin will run once a week until February, at which point it will speed up so certain significant installments coincide with Valentine’s day and my birthday]

7. I have a confession to make. I AM A BOOK GIVEAWAY WHORE. (There’s your language). I appear to have notoriously bad luck in anything chance related that has to do with winning things (I’m looking at you, Urban NY), but I figure if I enter every single one I come across, I will eventually win something! Probably. Hopefully. Maybe. Knowing my luck, not until I’m 80. Anyway the point is that means my twitter is currently almost nothing but tweets/retweets about giveaways, which is usually counts as an additional entry. So yeah, I will at some point attempt to tweet more other things so that my twitter is not just a giveaway entry machine, but:

8. This is the order of things which I do: 1. Homework (at least in theory), 2. Writing, 3. Ballet, 4. Reading, 5. Other fun self-fulfilling things, like photography, or talking to other humans, or eating food, 6. Sleeping, 7. Blogging, and finally 8. Twitter. So, priorities being what they are, you understand why the blog has such long gaps between posts and the twitter is mostly barren.

DRAGONS. PLOT DRAGONS. Which squiggle.

I don’t have plot bunnies. I have plot dragons.

They’re infinitely more difficult to find and MUCH harder to catch – there’s that whole they might fry you to a crisp and eat you thing. Or that disembowel you with a claw and eat you raw thing, if they’re in the mood for rare.

I have SO MUCH TROUBLE with plots. I have to sort of come at them sideways or they squiggle around (yes, that’s a word). If I grab them by one part, they go all silly putty on me and squish out and then go reform a few feet away and laugh at me.

Okay, those metaphors are totally different and don’t really make any sense, but the point is there. That point being that I needed to find a new way to think about plots.

It’s all about conflict.

Well, um, yeah, you say, or actually you probably don’t because you’re very articulate and don’t stoop to the use of such words. This is obvious, you say.

Yeah, well, it took me a while. Even after reading all these wonderful blog posts and articles and other assorted pearls of wisdom it didn’t really sink in. It took one – ahem- interesting practice novel and some time to reflect before it really hit me.

Goals. Obstacles. Conflict. OH!

I’m sorry, I’m not usually this slow. Please, bear with me.

Wouldn’t it be cool if I wrote the next Harry Potter?

PROM.

It wasn’t in the school gym. I didn’t have a date, I didn’t wear a long dress or a corsage, or ride in a limo, or do any of that stuff you’re supposed to do at prom.

It was fun, though.

But it did mean that I spent most of Thursday getting ready, and most of Friday sleeping.

Anyway, right now I’m still working on editing “The Butterfly Effect”; I’m hoping to get that done in a couple of days so version 2.0 can be a sort of graduation present for my friends. I also have to write a “self-reflective paper” about my senior spring – actually that’s due on Monday – so I’d better get cracking.

In our yearbooks we have what’s called a “rag sheet”: for each person there’s dream, reality, heard saying, perfect mate, biggest secret, we leave her, will end up, etc. I just thought I’d share that mine reads: we leave her writing a novel, will end up J.K. Rowling.

I WISH.