The Genesis of a Project

It’s no secret that I sit on stories for a long time. Like, a ridiculously long time. Longer than anyone I know. And when I say “sit on them,” I mean I will maybe write down a few details and impressions so I don’t lose them while all the moulding of the story takes place in the confines of my brain. I rarely sit in front of a blank screen without having thought about the story I intend to impart.

I’ve got one such story churning right now, inspired by events that occurred in December 2013. Yet another is spinning into shape sparked by a dream I woke up to in March 2015. A third has been haunting my mind for months and months, the dream I had made such an impression I didn’t mark down any notes, so I can’t give an exact date. The fourth has been swirling far longer than the others but I hadn’t felt prepared to write it before.

For the record, dreams are very rare for me. Especially those that I remember. And even rarer are the ones that inspire any kind of artistry. But that’s not my point.

Initially, I thought that each of these stories would be their own full length novel. Yet the more I mull them over, the more holes I see in a long arc. For all of them. Filler would weaken the power I felt in each of these stories, but I didn’t know what complexities I could add to make them work. Then the other night I had an idea.

Short stories. Common themes. One collection.

So I’m now making plans to write stories for my collection, currently called Mind and Body. I have four stories in mind; I’m not sure if there will be more since this idea is in its infancy.

I love having a solution to a problem though. Now that I’m not anxiously trying to make each story longer and stronger, I can worry about making their themes have greater impact via brevity. I can’t wait to get writing.

The genesis of every one of my projects amuses me to no end. I never know where they’re going to come from.

 

*Featured image source: Cocoon by Internets_dairy via Flickr

Who Are You Jealous Of?

Winsor McCay, 1930 by Alan Light via Flickr

Winsor McCay, 1930 by Alan Light via Flickr

While meandering the multitude of articles covering aspects of writing earlier this month, I came across one that presented something I’d never heard before. While the article is called How to find your voice, I didn’t take much away from the topic of voice because not only do I agree wholeheartedly with the author, but it’s nothing new.

However, he covers a workshop, and in part of the transcription provided, is this little gem:

Read widely, read all the poetry you can get your hands on. And in your reading, you’re searching for something. Not so much your voice. You’re searching for poets that make you jealous. Professors of writing call this “literary influence.” It’s jealousy. And it’s with every art, whether you play the saxophone, or do charcoal drawings. You’re looking to get influenced by people who make you furiously jealous.

Read widely. Find poets that make you envious. And then copy them. Try to get like them.

I’ve heard of finding writers you admire and emulating them. I’ve heard of writing the books you want to read. I’ve heard of rewriting books that you think you can write better. This idea of jealousy is novel and exciting as far as I’m concerned.

Because Collins, the lady transcribed, hits the nail on the head!

The stories that stay with me, and I mean really stay with me, are the ones that kind of make my chest swell. I read them and get helplessly absorbed in them, to the point I wish real life didn’t exist so I didn’t have to eat, sleep, or all the other necessities, so I can just keep on reading. The ones where when they end I feel like a piece of me has broken off and I don’t know if I’ll ever find it anywhere but in the pages of the book I have to put down. The ones where if someone says they’re name my heart ka-thunks. I’m sure if someone were to scan my brain in the middle of reading my synapses would be flashing like fireworks.

There have been very few books that I’ve finished and stared at the ceiling wishing I’d written them. Hell, wishing I could write anything half as amazing. I used to think this was admiration, but it’s jealousy.

I’ve tried to do the emulating thing and I come off sounding like a hack. But that’s a good thing. The story wasn’t mine, or at least didn’t have the proper flavouring to make it mine. Yet it still let me learn something new. And I’m not going to stop trying, because obviously the goal now is to make some future writer equally jealous with my work. And that’s no small feat.

What stories have inspired this reaction in you?

Deadlines, the Glory

Happy New Year! Welcome to my first post of 2016. I debated talking about the goals I’d set for the year, but I went on at length about them on Anxiety Ink. Today’s topic absolutely ties in though.

There’s something about a deadline that spurs you to get your butt in a chair and write. Especially when you’ve made that deadline with another person. Perhaps it’s a mix of competitiveness, integrity, or accountability. I’m not positive what gets you to get things done. All I do know is that it’s awesome when you do.

I’m not sure if I’ve brought this up before, but Kate and I made a pact the very first day of our When Words Collide workshop: we’d both have a completed manuscript to show the other on January 5, 2016.

Between August and November, as I know I’ve said, I got absolutely zero writing done. My story sat in the confines of my computer waiting for me. Begging me to finish it. And I had this damn deadline looming. November turned into my Holy Grail month; all of my concentrated efforts went into producing 50 000 words, but more importantly, finishing my book!

Well, I finished it and I started the second one.

I was not anticipating enjoying writing RA2 as much as I am. I’m still working on it because unlike in November the rest of the world can’t be ignored any more. I’m still producing words for it a month later, which is a far bigger win for me than printing my winner’s certificate off of NaNo’s site.

But back to the deadline. My manuscript is not completed even though I “finished” the story. Why? Well, RA1 has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The first chapter is polished, because it had to be for that workshop I mentioned above, but the four chapters that follow are in a different tense than the rest of the book because I figured out in chapter 5 that this had to be a first person narrative. On top of that, the document is riddled with notes to myself to fill in scenes and details in parts where I realized I didn’t know enough at the time to write it and I needed to do some research before I tackled it again.

A manuscript is finished, even merely a first draft, when all those holes have been patched to the best of your ability. I knew I wanted to do those things by the 5th, but I didn’t.

Time by John Morgan via Flickr

Time by John Morgan via Flickr

Then Kate messaged me on December 28th, guiltily confessing that she would not have her draft finished because her comic book project completely took over her life. More than she had ever anticipated it would.

How could I not tell her that that so counted when my sequel totally took over mine? I said in the face of the other projects we’d taken on, and the words we’d put into the original pieces we’d dubbed our deadline manuscripts, we’d made it.

I don’t have a deadline, per say, to get my edits completed for RA1 or my current draft of RA2 finished (with the same holes that RA1 is currently boasting). I’m letting RA2 continue its organic course right now because I’m learning so many things I need to incorporate into RA1. But I need to pick dates. I know I need deadlines to get things accomplished in a timely manner. And so I don’t fall into the same slump as before.

So that’s the next task, laying out all my projects and picking manageable dates to have them wrapped up. I may or may not lean on Kate again. I don’t know yet. It would be nice to know that I can be accountable to myself.

That’s how I feel about deadlines. They’re glorious; but I’m a person who works well under pressure. What do you think?

National Novel Writing Month: Completed

Way back in August I discussed National Novel Writing Month and my three month plan leading up to November. I had all these grandiose ideas to be well-prepped and roaring to go come the 1st.

Yeah, that kind of flew out the window. I had great intentions, but life happened, as it does.

However, I did manage some minor planning at the end of October –I do recall having a mini-panic attack on the 31st because there was far more I needed to know than I had anticipated– and made myself dive into my WIP (going forward called RA1) despite my anxiety.

You know what? It absolutely paid off. On November 27th I validated and came out with 52,803 words. What’s more, I finished RA1 and got well into its sequel RA2.

I (re)learned a lot about myself over the course of the month, mainly that when I set my mind to something I can tackle it as long as I set myself up for success. I need a plan, targets, and a goal to keep me going otherwise I flounder in indecision. But if I have those three things I can really accomplish anything. I’d forgotten I was so stubborn, and I’m elated I rediscovered that about myself. I needed the morale boost.

This was my plan of attack and the outcome.

This was my plan of attack and the outcome.

I (re)learned a ton about writing in general too, I covered that on Anxiety Ink though.

I’m still flying high on the tails of my success and honestly I never want to come down. But it’s been 9 days since I even opened the RA2 file on my computer and I’m terrified that might become the trend again. It’s one thing to tell everyone you’re participating in NaNo over November so you’re going to be largely unavailable and distracted. It’s not feasible over the rest of the year, and not only because attaining 50,000 words is too much for me to tackle on top of work and other life responsibilities.NaNo Win Selfie

I need to find a happy medium. I’m nervous but I do well with targets and I know I can hack it if I really set my sights on it.

I got more out of National Novel Writing Month than I ever anticipated. I can’t wait to try again next year and to keep my fiction writing momentum going until that time comes around. As awesome as it was to validate, get my hooray from the website, and print out my winner’s certificate, the big picture win for my fiction means the world to me.

I completed a freaking manuscript!! Yes it has holes and needs hours of editing but my story has a beginning, middle, and end!

CSI: A Fangirl’s Dissatisfaction and An Artist’s Promise

I need to start off by confessing that I watch a lot of TV. Like, a lot. It’s absolutely a guilty pleasure in my life, but I swear it helps me maintain my sanity. I know I would probably get more accomplished in life if I didn’t fill my evenings with time spent in front of the glowing screen. Alas.

CSI Brass and GrissomMany of these hours have been spent watching CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. When it comes to CSI, there are two people: those who love CSI and those who hate CSI. Regardless of what camp you fall in to, my post has something for you. Maybe.

This is also my mini-rant because I have nowhere else to share my thoughts.

Last weekend, on September 27th, the final episode of CSI aired. Shows end. I get that. There was absolutely no warning from the end of the season finale in spring to this September. I don’t follow TV show blogs and I did not see any previews, so I was really in the dark. I can get over that, but this alone was enough to upsets me because I’m really emotionally attached to the characters and the world. It’s not so much the loss of the show as the fantasy. I think any reader can understand where I’m coming from here in this regard. I had no time to learn the information about the absolute end, process it, and come to terms with it before I had to watch the episode.

You might think I’m overreacting, but you have to understand just how long I’ve been watching CSI. I’ve beenCSI Catherine and Grissom watching since the very beginning. I was 9 years old in 2000, but I remember sitting in the living room with my parents and brother watching the “Pilot” episode with its eerie green tinge and overworked forensic perspective. Those two aspects are what I fell in love with. And the science.

I’ve seen every episode over the past fifteen years. That’s fifteen years of me faithfully entering this world of crime and following the lives of the people who populate it. That’s investment.

What’s worse than an abrupt ending though, what I am legitimately angry about, is what a crappy ending the network powers-that-be created for CSI. I was up all night after watching it because I was so frustrated.

CSI DaveI warn you, there will be spoilers.

First off, the premise of the episode that brought all the major characters back into play, Grissom, Brass, Catherine, and Lady Heather, was so tenuous at best that I felt slightly insulted. Things only got worse.

There’s a love triangle, a ridiculous one, between Sarah, Grissom, and Lady Heather that was once again put into play despite the fact that Sarah and Grissom have married and divorced and the fact that Grissom has never been attracted to Lady Heather in a romantic sense. But how could the writers pass up a chance to make Sarah such a jealous nag? It was infuriating to watch her constantly snap like a little girl who’s pigtails were pulled.

Then, none of the current actors of the show were given much air time at all. I know they pulled in the big guns, but these people who have carried the show without them deserved more. And at the end we discovered one was dead via CSI Greg anda memorial plaque that was being placed in a box by another character along with a token mention. It wasn’t even explicit that she’d died.

Beyond all of that, the investigation was barely given any attention. Leads and crime fighting were spottily followed and there was absolutely no discussion or closure at the end which is very much a part of the CSI formula. At one point a third person died and we were never told who it was, why they were where they were, or how that tied in the eventual capture of the main culprit.

But to top off the heaping pile of BS, the story ended with Sarah and Grissom riding on his boat out into the sunset. I should mention this happened roughly five or six seasons back. Both of them quit the crime lab and took off together for happily ever after. Then Sarah came back, still married to Grissom, but wanting to be a part of the crime solution again. Eventually the long distance killed their relationship and it ended in a quiet divorce.

CSI Marcy, Hodgins, GrissomHowever, because they both realized how much they missed each other in this episode, doing the EXACT SAME THING made perfect sense. They talked through none of their problems of course repeating history would be the ultimate solution. My inner hopeless romantic fool couldn’t even swallow that. I won’t even get into how irate I am over them having a woman give up her career AGAIN because the man wants to pursue something else.

I feel robbed. The entire two hour story was fraught with basic plot problems and ended on such a bad note that I still have a sour taste in my mouth. I just want to know how the show’s producers and the TV powers-that-be could do that to their fans. I’m insulted. To the bone.CSI Nick and Russell

So here’s my promise: I will never, ever wrap up any story or series that I write this badly. If I can take away nothing else positive from this nightmare of a series finale, that is it. I promise any fans I may ever have that they will only be angry that the story is over, not that it ended on such flimsy, mediocre legs.

Thanks for bearing with me if you’ve made it to this point. Have you finished any TV or book series that left you dissatisfied?

 

*All images from IMBD.com