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Camp NaNoWriMo: Week 2

The second week of NaNoWriMo is upon us! Now that the first week push is totally over (and motivation is waning, might I add), it’s time to bring it back home and address all the things that currently might be standing in our way.

I, for one, have started out pretty droopy. Even though I am trying to use NaNo as fuel to get me to the end of Disconnect, I am finding myself still getting stuck in the mud of discouragement, writer’s block and misty character motivation. My plot that I thought had all figured out decided to take a small twist, giving me whiplash and leaving me feeling disoriented for a few days, I did manage to hurtle the initial writer’s block I was experiencing before Camp started only to faceplant into the one only a few feet behind it, leaving me with should-I-keep-this-character musings that I would much rather not deal with.

But enough kvetching about my week one woes. It’s time to talk about the solving of them.

Discouragement is a horrible thing to encounter. If you are anything like me, outputting an enormous amount of words in one day is like trying to lift a 1,666 lb angry cat with one hand and no glove. In other words, it hurts and you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. 

The solution is simple: Do what you can do. Don’t hurt yourself trying to kick the angry cat’s butt, go kick the butt of the weight machine first, and maybe go shopping for body armor. Work up to that 1,666 words per day. Sure it gets you behind, but after sitting on the couch your whole life, you aren’t going to one day be able to stand up and say “Hey! I’m going to run a marathon today!” You need to begin training. If the word count you can pull of in your best day is only a few hundred words, then great! Try to add another hundred to that the next day, and the next day, and the day after that, even if you have to carve an extra three hours out of your day to do it. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo isn’t just about finishing off a novel, but also pushing yourself to do your best and reach a goal.

The next thing to address is the bane of every writer’s existence: Writer’s Block. Having been wrestling with my own sever case of WHY-ISN’T-THIS-WORKING, I discovered that you can’t take the inspiration train to happy land through a wall of death. It’s one of those things you need to get up, face and start knocking your forehead against until you see the light peeping through tiny cracks and make them big enough to shove through. Writer’s block is work, and you have to keep clocking in and force yourself through slogs of nasty, cheesy dialogue, bumpy prose and embarrassing cliches.

The directors at NaNo recommend throwing in something unexpected like ninjas (my personal favorite) or stampeding elephants and seeing how your characters react from there. Even though you’ll probably have to delete the scene in later drafts, at least you learn things about your characters like how they react to absurdity, or what their fighting skills are like, maybe even who would throw who under the bus in times of life and death. Who knows? You could uncover a plot gem! A new twist! A sub plot! The possibilities are endless.

Something that seems to be working the best for me in times of writing block is switching mediums and the occasional environment. For example, I since summer started I started going to sit outside on the deck with my laptop perched on the bistro table, watching the hummingbirds divebomb each other while the sun rises. For me, the change from my desk to outside in the cool morning helped a lot. When I’m super blocked, I resort to the good ol’ writing journal and handwrite it out. This allows me to get over the mentality that everything has to be perfect and that I’m allowed to make mistakes. A lot of times I’ll write out the same scene several different times in my journal to help me figure out what I want to accomplish.

But probably the most important thing you can do to help yourself with a block is continue writing. Those walls slow you down and bring all the fun to a stop. Don’t let that happen, and a lot of the time, everything will work itself out. You’ll be back on track and getting things done before you know it.

The last thing I’d like to quickly address is  busting your way through character motivation. This first week, a scene occurred to me that didn’t really seem congruent with the rest of what I had written. I really liked it, and my IR said it was one of her favorite scenes I’d done yet. My only issue I had a character take a full 360 turn for about 2 pages then reverting back to the original personality I had given them. I couldn’t figure out if this was a part of the character I didn’t know about yet, or if I was just tailoring things to go my protagonist’s way for the sake of building his character. There are really only two bits of advice I can think of to give in situations like these.

The first mirrors what I said about writer’s block. Try journalizing about it. Write different scenes with them. Try some choppy pieces of dialogue with them. Introduce them to ninjas. Do something away from your manuscript to try and figure out who they are and why they act certain ways.

The next involves interviewing your character. I’ve only done this a couple times, and not with this particular storyline, but it works, and I enjoy it a lot. Having a back and forth or even an arguement with the character as an author lets you know a ton about motivations, especially if the characters are open enough with you to come out and say it. I’ll admit, it’s a little eerie when that happens, but totally worth it.

Well fellow NaNoers and non-Nanoers alike, this post has run long enough, and I hope it helped at least someone out there struggling with their own week one woes; I know it’s certainly helped me!

Time to get back to that manuscript! Stay strong and write on!

ACE

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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Camp NaNoWriMo: A Kick in the Pants

Camp NaNoWriMo is upon us! And I am stoked! For all you Wrimo’s out there who have not heard of Camp NaNo, I’d suggest you get out there and check it out! Basically, what we got going here is another chance at NaNo in a month maybe a little less hectic than our traditional November. The Office of Letters and Light have camps set up and ready to fly for June and August. I personally have been struggling with a vicious case of writer’s block and am fighting all forms of writing (my apologies to all you readers out there). As such, I have signed up, and am excited to begin that writing sprint that will (hopefully) yank me out of this ridiculous writing funk that seems to be plaguing my existence. I plan on working on Disconnect, because theoretically, if I just write that 1,666 word quota every day, the wall will disintegrate. And don’t worry, it’s not going to be cheating because as of tomorrow morning, I’m starting the count from numero uno, just like everyone else.

And thus I extend an official invitation to join me this month in breaking out the camp chairs, and hot chocolate mugs, pop tents, or whatever else you need to produce the flurry of panicked, seat-of-the-pants writing that will carry you to the end of your own manuscripts!

Pip Pip and Happy Camping!

ACE

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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Disconnect Excerpt 2

Just to give a little context to this excerpt, Adam and Mike are attending an end-of-finals party in Virtual Reality (or Virtual Conferencing, as I refer to it) for an exclusive club called the Elitists. This picks up right after they arrive at HotSpot, a popular social networking “site” on the Mainframe. –ACE

Mike plopped himself down and leaned to Adam. “Stop making goo-goo eyes at her.”

“What?”

“You’re drooling all over the table man.”

Adam tore his eyes from Vonya to glare at Mike. “You’re not funny.”

He held his hands up. “Just sayin’ you’re being really obvious about having the hots for Fynn’s girlfriend.”

“Shut up; you don’t know anything—”

An enormous sausage of a tentacle slammed into the table in front of Adam, nearly knocking over the whole table. He jolted and yelled, falling out of his chair. A large ruddy face peered at him from around his now vacated chair. One half of the face was encased in a network of wires and metal plating that whirred and blinked. “Haha whoopsie. Scared ya.”

“Watch it Arnold. You almost spilled my download.” The female avatar to Adam’s left scowled, clutching her glass and trying to steady the table at the same time.

“Oh, sorry. Hey anyway…brought you your faaavorite download A’dm. Right here for ya.” He jabbed at the table with the tip of his tentacle. The lone sucker on the end made a wet kissing sound as it attached and detached from the table. In his other hand, he gripped an empty glass tightly with all eight fingers and set it solidly on the table. Arnold released the glass, his eyes widening. The camera lenses creating his eye slid back and forth as he focused on the bottom of the glass. “Hey…where’d the Brin go?”

Regaining his feet, Adam straightened his jacket and tie, disgusted.

“Get lost Arnold. I’ll order my own drink.”

Arnold blinked, confused. He looked back down at the glass. “D’j’you drink all the Brin already?”

“No I didn’t, idiot. Why would I have a Brin when I could get a Page?” Heat rose in Adam’s chest. He turned to the rest of the avatars at the table. “Who let him get overloaded? He shouldn’t be overloaded.”

“Calm down man. He’s only trying to help—” Mike tried pulling Adam back into his chair. Adam ignored him.

“Why do we even keep him around?” He jerked his thumb at the blinking cyborg-octopus.

“For the same reason we keep you around—he’s a genius,” Fynn interjected. “Now get a hold on yourself and sit down. You too Arnold.”

Fynn steepled his fingers for a moment, waiting. Adam slowly sank into his chair, still fuming. As soon as Arnold made his way back to his own chair, Fynn spread his arms wide. “Now that’s settled we can get started. As you all are very well aware, we have reached the end of another testing cycle. Tomorrow you will all receive your scores, and for those graduating, the statistics that will carry you to graduate level and decide your career. As such, each one of these contains 1,000 credits to spend as you like.” Fynn put a thumb and forefinger together then drew them apart. A gold card embellished with purple and black lettering grew between his fingers, rotating in the air a moment before descending into Fynn’s open palm. He pinched the back of the card, pulling up and the card duplicated to fill the space. “Keep in mind they expire at the end of your V-Con session and that Commencement starts at 10.00 hours sharp for Graduates.”

With a flick to the rear of the stack, the cards zipped to each avatar surrounding the table. Adam snatched his out of the air, pulling his suit sleeve up in a swift movement and placed the card on the underside of his wrist. He watched the card liquefy and sink into his skin. A faint tingle spread through his forearm as the credits loaded onto his signature; he heard the sound of children yelling “Hooray!” and a bright purple “+1,000 C” exploded off his wrist in bubble letters, spraying the table with confetti. Adam’s hands shook, fingers aching as he pulled down his sleeve.

A chat notification appeared on his screen; Adam smiled as he read it.

Vonya: Meet you in Sector 12 at 22.00. Come alone 🙂 21.20.00 hrs.

Before he could reply, Mike slapped Adam on the back, almost knocking his forehead into the table. “Come on Adam; let’s catch a round of Code Bender in that arcade over there.”

“Don’t touch me.” Adam growled.

“Lighten up already.”

Adam took a deep breath and followed Mike out of the privacy bubble into the chaos of the club, formulating a plan to lose him.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Writing Excerpts

 

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Revision: Its Bark is Worse Than Its Bite

Revision is a scary word, a scary idea, hard to start and overwhelming. Over the course of the past two weeks, revision is all I have been doing and I am here to tell you that “revising is a process more dreaded than dreadful” (Burroway 341).

I have always been afraid of the “R” word. No joke. Ever since I began writing it has been a block to me. Just like with the journals, I have been under the impression that revising would ruin the integrity of the story and take it from its purer form. In this case I am right. It does take it away from its “true form”, but like a diamond goes through many stages of cutting and polishing to produce the gorgeous sparking gem we recognize, a story must go through the same process. While in the cooling stage of first drafting, your diamond is in its roughest and purest form. Don’t be afraid to chip it out of that dirty piece of coal and polish it to perfection (or at least as close to it as you can get, anyway).

This is what I have been doing with my first 25 pages of Disconnect, and I’m happy to say I now have a solid prologue and first two chapters.

Back to the quotation by Burroway, revision is harder the longer that you are not doing it. As I began pulling apart my manuscript (a feat that took a good week’s hard work between classes and riding buses), I discovered that I was actually enjoying myself. I liked returning to old work I had let cool off over the semester while I moved forward with narration from different sections of the book, and seeing how much my character and narrative had developed as I fleshed the story out. Additionally, I found I kinda like the way red lines, scribbles and margin notes look across my sheets.

When I finally finished marking up my manuscript, it was time to take to the keyboard and hash out all my notes. This was the hardest part for me. Once I had all my notes figured out, I needed to bring them to life, make them real. Seeing as my deadline was fast approaching, it took three days of at least 8 hour sessions a day to finish.

I’m going to be frank with you. It sucked. I felt like I made it worse. It’s been a week and a day exactly since I submitted what I had to my professor and still have not gone back to read what I did. I’ll go look back eventually, but not until I have made sufficient distance between me and those chapters.

Now as you are revising your own work, I would highly recommend a few things:

  1. Look for sentences that are unnecessarily long and wordy
  2. Look for descriptions you could succinctify
  3. Ask yourself questions like “Would my character really do or say this?”, or “Is there a way I can show this through dialog/action rather than telling?”
  4. Allow yourself to explore the possibilities. Keep in mind that if there is a gun on the mantle in Act I, it has to go off by Act III.
  5. Keep every draft you complete. I have a program called Scrivener on my laptop that works wonders for this. It has the option to create folders and sub folders that can house multiple revisions and things of the like.
  6. Don’t get discouraged. It takes you nowhere. If you are feeling down, go talk to your wonderful IR and they should have no problem cheering you up.
  7. Reward yourself when you finish. Why wouldn’t you crack open that stash of Cadbury’s Eggs? Or ice cream? Or chocolate bars? Believe me when I say you deserve it.
 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in On Writing

 

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Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway

Here is a book that is absolutely essential to any writer’s library: Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed reading a textbook more in my life! This amazing book is a wonderful guide on how to deal with elements of craft such as characterization (and all types of characterization therein), place, fictional time, revision and much more. Burroway goes through and takes apart the different elements required to effectively write each aspect of a story giving examples of what to do, what not to do and references to authors who are exemplary in their execution of each element mentioned.

This book drastically changed the way I write. I found myself really enjoying the activities provided for practice at the end of each chapter and I found the text to be super engaging. I would recommend this book for anyone who is looking for “How To Write Fiction” help.

Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. International 8th ed. Crawfordsville:                              Pearson, 2011. 410. Print.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Disconnect Excerpt 1

Name: Adam Johnson

Age: 17

Height: 5’ 8”

Current location: UNKNOWN

Last Status Update: 3 Months ago

 

Rex tapped his teeth with a holo pen. This whole thing was a mess. Several power stations shut down, throwing half the population into panic. Entire communities locked down to prevent panic from spreading—

A small beep issued from the ExPC dash and a small microphone icon flashed and faded in the corner of the wide screen. Rex swiveled his chair to the right, placing two fingers in front of his ear. The icon solidified, indicating a successful link. Rex cleared his throat:

“State your business.”

“We have him, sir.”

“Good. Is he cloistered?”

“Yes sir.”

“Let’s get this over with.”

The communication link disconnected. Rex massaged his forehead above his bushy eyebrows. Even with a more than recognizable signature Johnson had proved untraceable.

Blast; he hated hackers.

 

***

BAM!

The noise echoed through the room.

“Come on, let us out!”

“It’s useless Mike. They can’t hear you.”

“This is all your fault Adam!”

“Calm down. Everything will be fine. It’s all according to plan—”

According to plan? Adam, I have no connectivity!”

Adam closed his eyes and leaned his head against the cold wall. He resisted the urge to run his hands through his sandy hair. It fell down to his ears. Turning out around the edges. Too long. An itch pricked the top of his ear and he rubbed his shoulder against it. He couldn’t remember his las hair cut; as soon as The Operation was underway, he couldn’t risk his signature showing up in the Frame and stopped going. The binders holding his wrists bit his skin. He tried to relax.

BAM!

“Mike! Cut that out!”

Mike answered by throwing his broad shoulder into the wall a third time and howling. He slid to the floor. Suppressed sobs reverberated from the walls of the cloister.

Adam breathed deeply, trying to control the suffocating grip of his own anxiety. After living almost 18 years constantly connected to the Frame, it was disconcerting not to feel the omnipresent tremor that came with it.

Out of habit, Adam pulled up the Frame Access Menu on his InPC. The white login screen filled his vision and a small green cursor blinked in the dialog box asking for his signature. An animated icon demonstrated the correct way to swipe his signature across his wrist tablet.

He flexed his right hand. The tendons slid the flexible slice of silicon beneath his skin along the curve of the binders. A distant impulse to ‘tap the Frame’ tugged his mind.

The Mainframe. The government’s base for the entire society. Adam’s brows drew together. He glared at the twisted crest faded into the background of the login screen.

The government penetrated all aspects of life, but no one was awake enough to realize it. Everyone plugged in and tube-fed information. Torrents of information through enormous webs and networks; the useless, the pertinent, the frivolous—shoved down throats of open, willing mouths. And all of it censored. Controlled. Regulated. Nothing came through the Frame without the small official seal signed into its code. Adam minimized the window. The government was hiding something, and he was going to find out what.

Adam blinked the remainder of white from his vision left by the blaring screenlight. The grey walls of the cloister seemed even more foreboding and rose high, ascending into what looked like a black eternity. Across the room, Mike’s silent form huddled on the ground, unmoving. Adam sighed, wondering how much longer they would be cloistered. He dug his heels into the slick floor, using the wall as leverage to stand.

“Mike.”

Silence.

Mike.” Adam walked across the room and nudged him with his foot.

Silence.

Adam swallowed. He knelt beside Mike, leaning over him so he could read the vitality display on the back of his bodysuit.

The display glowed dimly in the half light of the cloister. A jagged line blipblipbliped across the screen, indicating an increased heart rate. His breathing came in quick, sharp breaths, back jerking with each intake. The pulsing light trailing down the micro-coils that lined Mike’s bodysuit trembled and his white-knuckled fists shook in the binders holding his arms behind him. Adam shifted his weight to his heels. He should have realized Mike would be feeling the effects of disconnection.

Adam sighed, rolling his sore shoulders. Nothing he could do but wait until the stress knocked Mike out. Closing his eyes, he began to wonder if all the trouble they’d been through over the past few months was worth the price they were paying. He stopped. Don’t forget why you’re here, he reminded himself. Don’t forget everything you’ve sacrificed this far. There’s no turning back. You have to finish this.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Writing Excerpts

 

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“Heart of Courage”

Play clip while reading excerpt.

Brock stood overlooking the mountain pass. His armies were in place. There was no turning back, and if they were going to survive this invasion, they needed to be strong.

He stepped away from the cliff’s edge as his command officer approached him, beaten helmet under the crook of his arm. A wind blew across the two men.

“The armies are in position Captain.”

Brock nodded slightly. “Yes Gabriel. Prepare the men for the fight of their lives. There is no way through this pass except through us. And only heaven knows if we will survive. We cannot let them falter.”

Gabriel’s face was grim. He, too knew the outcome of this fight. Brock turned his face upward. Dark clouds gathered overhead, and he prayed the gods were with them.

“Gabriel. I wish to speak to the men before the enemy arrives.” Brock placed a hand on the shoulder of his childhood playmate. “Take courage. Think of why we are here.”

Brock strode to his horse at the bottom of the slanted path that etched its way up to the cliff. Placing his helmet on his head, he stroked his Gallantra’s muzzle once, and pulled himself into the worn saddle. Head held high, he rode to the entrance of the pass, where his meager army of one thousand created a barrier to protect their liberty.

He urged his horse up a new trail climbing the side of the ravine until he stood, wreathed in dark clouds on top of the arch of the pass. From there, he could see their faces behind dull and battered helmets. Many of the men were weary, and knew they would not survive this fight. Brock held his head high. The wind grew as he spoke.

“My friends, our enemy has made preparations for an invasion to take what is rightfully ours. I know many of you are weary, and we are few in number, but do not be disheartened! Take courage in knowing why you are here, what you are fighting for!! Along this path we chose to take, we lost many friends, comrades, family members. Do not let them die in vain! The enemy is strong. We are stronger. We are still standing. Do not falter! Show them we will not yield. Show them they cannot stop us. Show them what it means to fight for Freedom!”

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Snapshot Fiction

 

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Disconnect

Adam Johnson lives in a world where everything is perfect. Technology is advancing at a swift, steady pace, he lives in the lap of luxury, and he is about to graduate at the top of his class with the highest statistic score ever seen. Everything he could possibly want is at his fingertips. But when the school board informs him his statistics are sorely below average, he is forced to leave the school and find a job to pay back the tuition credits owed.

Convinced there is a mistake, Adam hacks into the school system to find his scores to indeed be the top, just as he suspected. Unable to prove anything without exposing himself to the authorities, he joins forces with Mike Michaelson, his long time best friend and roommate, to hack the Mainframe and set everything right.

But as Adam begins to infiltrate the system, he discoverers a larger, more dangerous plot behind his suppression, that if exposed could throw the entire society into chaos.

Please note that plot synopsis is subject to change as writing progresses. –ACE

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in What I'm Writing! :D

 

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Research Can Be Fun!

For most people, the word “research” is a swear word. Those who have written research papers (or any kind of academic paper for that matter) know how painful research can be. But I am here to tell you that as my title states, research can be fun!

One of the things I have been really focusing on over the past couple weeks with my writing is doing research on things that would help enhance the worlds I’m building and make them more real. I’m the type of person who loves to read things that have that faint touch of reality; I try to write that way as well. But in return, that means I need to do a lot of research on those things I don’t know about. I probably haven’t won you over yet, but bear with me.

The fun part of research comes in when you are looking up things you are actually interested in, for example, your book. My story temporarily called Disconnect takes place in a futuristic society completely integrated with computers. They are so essential to their function in daily life that the computers themselves are implanted in everyone’s brains and their social life/human interaction take place entirely in virtual reality. Now, because I am dealing with a society of this nature and I’m no computer geek, I have to make sure I’m getting my research done.

For example, on the Internet I’ve created (called the Mainframe) everything takes on a physical representation. Websites show up as businesses with advertisements and buildings that people can interact with. Because computers and computer viruses, worms, spyware, and malware are synonymous I have to do research on them to figure out their functions so I can give them the appropriate physical representation when my characters run into them throughout the story. It’s been really interesting to go through and read about all the different types of viruses a computer can contract like Trojans, ILOVEYOU viruses, and other things. Quite honestly, it’s made me a little paranoid.

I’ve also been experimenting with the interaction that my characters have with this internet I created. I realized it is so large and expanding so fast that there is no way these characters would be able to find their favorite “sites”. I needed to put an address to each place on the Mainframe, soI spent one of my daily writing sessions researching the Domain Name System, how it works, what makes a domain and a subdomain and all that jazz. At the end of the session I ended up with a URL system that directly parallels our own, is different, and allows the characters to find the places they like to frequent.

Additionally, I’m dealing a little bit with hacking because my main character is a genius computer hacker. One of my good friends knows a lot about hacking, and I’ve sat down and talked to him about all the different types of hacking one can do, the way they work, and the weaknesses and strengths of each method. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’d like to learn some tricks myself to get the feel of what hacking feels like, so to speak.

As an example not related to Disconnect,  for my novel Legend I am dealing with a lot of sword fighting, battle styles, armor, weapons and an extensive amount of geography, all of which I have only a limited knowledge on. The research for this book has been admittedly more fun than for Disconnect because it forces me to get out there and experience things. I’ve another friend who is big into weapons and fighting styles, and he’s offered to give me lessons on how to use different knives and bows. It’s been so interesting to go look at the different weapon types and to learn about their different functions so that I can create my own weapons system for Legend.

See, the idea here is that you write about something that really interests you, otherwise you wouldn’t write it, right? The fun in research comes when you want to do it and genuinely desire to know more about whatever it is you’re researching. Research helps give you credibility to your readers, because they’ll believe that you actually know what you are talking about, and the great thing is you do!

Please keep in mind to make sure you are doing the right kind of research. It’s really hard to filter out the stuff that will help you and the stuff that just gets in the way. It’s like those annoying story problems in math class; you have to filter out the useless junk. There is a plethora of databases you can go to–libraries, bookstores, neighbors, friends–but really you don’t need to consult them all. Thoreau put it quite nicely when he said “It is necessary to find out exactly what books to read on a given subject. Though there may be a thousand books written upon it, it is only important to read three or four; they will contain all that is essential, and a few pages will show which they are.” The same goes for outside resources. You only need to know enough to be able to sound like you know what you are doing.

Alrighty I sure hope this helps all of you out there! My apologies for my extended silence, but good news! Disconnect is a few pages longer!

Happy writing!

ACE

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in On Writing

 

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The Writer’s Journal

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted! Things got hectic those last couple days of the week! But good news! It’s spring break, and I hope to get at least three posts out this week. Maybe.

So anyway, my last post I talked about the Ideal Reader and how they are the best people to work with. Well today’s post is going to be about the writer’s best friend: the journal.

Now when I say journal, I’m not talking about your “Today the dog got sick on the rug” journal, I’m talking about a journal in which contains full blown drafting sessions, drawings, questions, character sketches, lists, notes–pretty much everything that makes up the foundation of every novel.

When my writing professor first introduced the concept of writer’s journals, I honestly didn’t agree with the idea. Internally, I fought against it because I believed that the manifested itself in a whole, unbroken shape, and that if I wrote anything outside the text as it came to me, it would compromise the integrity of the story.

How wrong I was.

At first it was really hard for me to journalize my writing. My entries started out as writing down names I liked, situations that would make great scenes, and I started taping things I would find in people’s pockets at the dry cleaners I worked at like ticket stubs and business cards in my notebook, hoping to finding something to write about. I thought the exercise was pointless, and I didn’t feel like it was doing anything for me at all.

It didn’t change until my first creative writing workshop of my college career. At the time, I had started a story idea about a weather mage that I was quite proud of, but come to find out my group felt like the characters were flat and had no motivation and substance. The suggestion was given by one of my classmates to sit down and have an interview with my characters in my journal. Feeling quite attached to the piece I had written I decided to try it with absolutely amazing results.

The interview ended up being only one page front and back, but what I discovered about my character changed the course of not only the story, but also the way in which I journaled. All of the entries that followed had substance and made my writing so much better than it ever had been! I couldn’t believe it! I was able to make my writing more succinct, to the point, and have my characters fleshed out better by the time I was ready to write the story. I was able to improve the quality of my writing by almost 100%! I was able to take long verbose descriptions and dialouge like this:

“Swiftly, I catch up and cut in front of him a second time. He turns to walk around me in a different direction, but I grab his sleeve, preventing him from getting any further away from me. ‘Alright, listen kid. There is something about you, something strange about you that I cannot explain. This moment our lives have crossed has really left me wondering about you, and I intend to find out why you are so different from everyone else. You may as well answer me straight.’

This caused the boy to stop, mainly due to my grip on his sleeve. ‘I can’t tell you anything.’ He shakes my hand off his arm and continues walking, very cold, very closed. I am determined not to give in to the temptation to just walk away.

I catch pace with him, this time standing exactly in his way. ‘What’s your name? Who are you? Where are you going?’ I demand again. He stops short, his face working as he tries to control his emotions. I notice the sky has suddenly become darker and rainclouds are beginning to collect. This was strange, seeing as the day had started out almost ethereal.

‘Looks like it’s going to rain. Do us both a favor and answer my questions before that storm hits.’  His eyes widen in panic, and we both look up to the forming black mass. Immediately, his head drops to his chest, and I can see him heaving deep measured breaths. His long fingers clench into fists, and for a moment, it is as though the air shifts because a slight shimmer appears all around him, like heat rising off of sun-baked asphalt. The air seems to get heavier. The sensation passes quickly and the aura around the boy dissipates, leaving me to believe it a figment of my imagination.

Slowly, he lifts his head, his eyes clenched tightly shut. ‘Listen girlie,’ he says through clenched teeth ‘I am in danger. You don’t want to get to know me. I can’t let you know me. Everyone  close to me gets hurt. I don’t know what you think you are on to, but trying to ‘figure me out’ and discover what makes me so ‘special’ could cost you your life. I can promise you my ‘special-ness’ isn’t worth that steep of price. It’s certainly one I am not willing to pay.’”

and transform it into much stronger dialouge and descriptions like this:

“‘Abigail Jayne! My favorite girl!’ Vinny Morano’s large belly fills my vision, held back only by one straining button of a bombastically colored suit. I blink, dizzy from the busyness of the jacket. Trapped.

Slowly, I back up, fearing for the safety of my eyeball and my pocket book.

‘Oh. Hello Vinny. Funny meeting you here. Look, can’t chat—left something important at home—’

‘Awh, come on now Abigail Jayne. You don’t come visit us poor lonely Moranos for months and expect me to just let you go without a nice chat?’

He places a large arm around my shoulders, smashing me to his side. He steers me toward the end of the street where his perpetual yard sale sprawls across his lawn.

‘No really Vinny. I can’t. And it’s A.J. I don’t know how many times I’ve told you that.’

‘Paw,’ he snorts beneath his greasy black mustache. ‘As I always say, always call something by its true name and it will forever be your friend.’”

Huge transformation right? I never would have dreamed journaling before composing would effect my quality so much, and I wonder how I could ever have gone on writing without one. It’s kinda funny because at my first turn in date in class for my journal, I found myself having an anxiety attack because I was so attached and dependent on it, and I literally limped away from class that day. My writing journal is now a part of me that goes everywhere I do (just ask my friends; they’ll tell you).

Now keep in mind you can do your journaling any way you would like. I personally write in the margins, I use sticky notes, I print and paste pictures in my journal, I have stickynotes with commentary or corrections on my writing if there is no room to make any on the page, and I draw maps. I also have an additional commonplace book that I keep the small things like one-liner ideas and names I like to help my journals keep focused on the story at hand. Another hint with journaling before I end this post is that you need to go out and find a journal that you know you’d enjoy writing in. My first journal was quite creatively decorated, if I do say so myself, to help keep myself interested in writing in it. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m stressing again and again doing the little things to help keep your writing interesting to you. It can be work, but if writing is something that you have a passion for and would like to do it for the rest of your life, you cannot allow it to feel so.

Alright guys! Enough of this talk. Time to do some journaling of your own! 🙂

ACE

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in On Writing

 

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