Writing Week • reminiscing [12/25/17 – 1/1/18]

I recently starting following a tumblr blog that’s goal is to share writers, and I assume, promote the writers’ writing. I browsed the first couple posts and a lot of those posts reminded me of me right before I was in high school, wanting to share my writing with a teacher. And thus began my odd trouble of never finding anyone to read or share my writing with.

I should clarify: people have read my writing, my mom, I think, being the one who read most of it (that was because she had a good eye for editing). But what I’ve never been able to maintain is a consistent reader and I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a beta reader, someone who reads me work and offers solutions or critiques on the content, plot, characters, etc.

I’ve been to workshops and classes that had an aspect of that, but when I did try to get in contact with the only person’s who contact information I had, I never heard back. This wasn’t more than a week after I got back from the workshop/trip where I met these people. Perhaps it was too long. (My advice book on networking says to contact sooner than later.) Perhaps I wasn’t involved enough for this person to remember me. I am pretty forgettable.

So finding beta readers would be a big boon. I think it would make my writing not only be better, but might help me write faster. Since I do everything on my own, it helps to take breaks between stories, to give myself time to note problems or inconsistencies. It’s a very slow progress, and I’ve suspected was part of why revision takes me so long. Oddly, writing the first draft is usually not hard. It’s revising that can take years. (Although some of that may also be or have been my lack of comprehension of how stories function.)

Which leads me to my next point: It’s strange, when I looked through various school projects from when I was in elementary school, I was surprised how many focused on stories and plot. I did fine on the assignments, but I don’t think I fully absorbed what the lessons were saying. But then, school was more about “doing the thing” than “knowing the thing,” since it was just filler time until I got home and could focus on what I wanted. Some of which included my oldest story ideas and characters.

But school and my writing or stories always had a strange tension.

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NaNoWriMo Update • short or long?

My goal, as it’s already been edited, was to start posting the chapters (and revised one I’ve already posted) today. But I’m waffling on how I want to divide my chapters up. Do I go for shorter chapters or longer ones?

One might wonder why it isn’t already divided. After all, I wrote it. And yes, there was a vague sense of “this is where this chapter ends” or “this chapter begins.” The problem is that the word count is just so…uneven, no matter which way I go at it. And it’s just…bugging me.

Short Chapters: 1424/1470/1655/1873/1544/2085/1575

(it’s that bolded chapter that’s giving me trouble! I can’t cut it up, since most of it is one long scene)

Long Chapters: 2895/2825/2237/1544/2085/1575 

Writing Week • NaNoWriMo retrospective (11/25/17-12/2/17)

Well.

I wrote A LOT last month. I nearly filled an entire, fat notebook.

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Not all it is part of my NaNo story; some of it (a small part) is notes and some of it is rewritten scenes and some of it is plot progression I cut and did over. So, I’m pretty sure I didn’t write 50k words for my story, although I might have gotten close to writing 50k words.

This NaNo has shown me that having a strong sense of what the story is about and the order it’s going to happen in and the aim of each section (and even some backstory) is a good thing. What I’d like to do for some other NaNo is do that — but for a full story. This one that I did was really three connected stories forming a larger story. Or at least that was the idea.

And that’s another thing last month taught me: that no matter how much I might plan and (think) I know what’s happening, that won’t stop the story from shifting as I write it. The order of events, how details are revealed, or where plot points are placed.

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to think of my NaNo end results, mostly because I wasn’t sure I had achieved my aim. Had I written all of what it was that had been gnawing at me for years? Well, maybe. Trying to figure it out led me to, once again, categorizing and calibrating all the tales upon tales that make up all the ~stuff~ I aimed to fill my NaNo story with.

And that’s when I realized why I started having trouble during the last two weeks: the content I was trying to write, while yes involved in the lineage of the Moon, really only connected tangentially to what my broader NaNo story was about.

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Writing Week • antagonists & outlines (11/12/17-11/19/17)

So, there’s two ideas this week. One, I was just thinking about (although my NaNo story probably helped), and the other is something I’ve learned doing NaNo.

First: I like to distinguish between “antagonist” and “villain”. The former is just what opposes the protagonist of a story. The latter is someone defined as “bad”, who may act cruelly, callously, selfishly, and manipulatively. I know villains can be nuanced, from backstory and dissecting whose POV the story comes from (a la monsters), but like… I think that’s why it’s taken me this long to start seeing the appeal of villains, rather than just antagonists.

Before, if I asked, I think I would have divided villains into: 1. transformed destructiveness which may be be resolved through commonality or compassion or understanding and 2. purposely cruel, manipulative, abusive, and possessive individual (usually male).

The first appears in Disney’s Moana, Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, and Novak’s Uprooted; these are some of my favorite and strongest influences. This is also one of my favorite types of stories. That, and the unexpected twist (all these do that, as does Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings).

The second appears in Revolutionary Girl Utena as Akio and my NaNo story.

There were a lot of villains in my childhood that didn’t fit either category, and therefore, didn’t really register. Or if I had a third category, it was: mean for the sake of being mean. (A lesser form of category 2.)

But I’ve come to see how writing about villains — and I mean actually not nice characters — can be kind of interesting. Case in point: a short story I finished right before November features essentially only villain characters, but it still has a protagonist(s) and an antagonist. Like, the characters are kind of terrible people, but it’s still about them.

The other point is that I think having an outline is really useful for me — as long as I don’t numerically break down scenes. Once I have a number value, say 10 scenes, it becomes like an equation. I have to hit the quota of scenes, say 1-5, rather than focusing on the story or how characters feel. My current solution? Outline. But use bullet points, not numbers.

How do other people outline? Does anyone have anything similar to what I’m talking about? Let me know, if you like. (As it’s NaNo, I might not respond until December, but I wanted to extend the question.)

Best wishes and writing!

NaNoWriMo 2017 • progress report

So, I planned to type up the next chapter yesterday, to post today. But I got gummed up on the next story. Not so much the what, but the how: how the next story follows, in what order should the events go, are these the events I want, is this the best order?

Spending some time in this season’s first snowfall helped. (Well, that and re-reading my list of Untrue Stories that form a basis for a lot of the belief in my NaNo story.)

As for now, I will have to rethink when I’ll post the story. I’m hoping, if I don’t post as much as I intended in November, than I’ll post in a more consistent pattern in December. Or I’ll post the next chapter on Friday or thereabouts. I shall see. Thank you for putting up with my inconsistency as I figure this out as I go.

Best wishes and (NaNo) writing!

Writing Week • story v. plot (10/21/17–10/28/17)

It’s wild; I haven’t written a post on my demons (or demons in general) this month. I feel like October is usually when I start thinking about that type of content. But nope, it’s been more backstory, story chronology, plot pulses, and better character definitions in an entirely different project. That and prepping for NaNoWriMo, which I’ll go into more when November arrives. 

So. The biggest thing(s) which have been on my mind is short stories. More specially, how stories (and plot) are constructed. This extends to novels too. For a long time, I could never quite distinguish between a story and a plot. I knew there was a difference. But I’ve finally, I think, gotten it through my head what the difference is. One is the chronological order of events. The other is the causality between events, which is strongly tied to character motivation and desire. 

The other result is that I really want to write short stories: old ones I want to rework, due to character history changes, and new ones, based on content, characters, and what I’ve been reading. These will probably plug along slowly, being of a lower priority than other objectives.

That’s all for now, I think.

Best wishes and writing!

Writerly Notions: to outline or not? idea or story

I think the parlance terms are “plotter” or “pantser”: Does one write a structured outline or structure the story as one goes along?

I’m trying to process this whole outline vs. no outline. And how that relates to revision. And where I fit. As I’ve done both, and I’ve done something in the middle, where I have a basic procedure of events following each other.

Like, if I have a rudimentary outline, but the actual first draft deviates from that and has developed a completely different tone and plot, which is the one that should be used in revision? The initial outline or impetus for the story? Or what the story became? Which is truer to the story?

And those questions open up a more important distinction: knowing what the engine or heart of the story is. This leads to what I’ve begun to realize: there’s a distinction between writing an idea and writing a story. This is where characters and character backstory and motivation becomes compelling.

More importantly, I’ve come to realize there’s a distinction between writing an idea and writing a story. This is where characters and character backstory and motivation becomes compelling.

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