Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Special Day

It's Leap Day, a once in every four year phenomena, and a day where out-of-the-ordinary things are expected and encouraged.  Now, in the life of a mother caring for two young and energetic children, nothing too bold is going to be happening.  Right now my 9 month old is trying to chew on my keyboard, and I'm typing with one hand while trying to distract him with a toy with the other.  Impressive, maybe, but certainly not out of the ordinary.

My goal for the day is to have a creative day.  Hopefully my writing, as I find time for it that is, will benefit from the unusual, and relatively rare, nature of this day.

BTW-this is my 29th post on this blog, made on February 29th.  Unintentional, but cool, huh?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Being a Writer Isn't Only About Writing

Sometimes it amazes me how much time I spend doing things related to my writing that don't actually involve writing.  I spent a good portion of yesterday looking at maps to get a good idea of the geography of the specific location my main character was in.  I used Google maps to create an underground railroad of sorts for refugees.  I also looked up agricultural reports so I would know what kinds of food would be available for the people in this new novel to sustain themselves with.  This also includes research on weather patterns.

Granted, I wrote a lot of notes while doing this research, and in the end I even hammered out a few paragraphs afterwards.

My husband saw what I was doing and said, "I thought you were supposed to be writing."

Well, yes.  I kind of was.  Maybe it doesn't make sense to some people, but writing isn't only putting words to paper.  There's an entire process that goes along with it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Progress Update

Okay, so now I'm officially writing a short novel instead of a short story.  These things happen, especially to me.  Anyway, I have the beginning and the ending written, along with a thorough outline.  I'd guess I have approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of it written.  Hopefully I'm not being overly optimistic.  I'm confident that this one will turn out well as long as I devote the appropriate amount of attention to it.  That's why I haven't been blogging as much as usual lately.  So everyone knows, I'm still here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trouble with Tots

It’s been a little while since I last posted, at least for me.  When I promised myself to post as often as possible, I knew some days might get too hectic.  Oh well.

I’ve been busy writing, and now I think my short story is going to be a short novel.  Other than that, I’m pleased with the way it’s going.  Today has also presented its obstacles for my writing in general, although I’m still making the time to write about it.  My two year old son spilled water on my notebook that has a lot of my writing notes in it.  I remained calm, knowing that it would dry, although some of the words were nicely washed off the page.  These things happen.  That's why it's a good idea to have back ups for everything when possible.  

At least he didn’t spill the water on my keyboard.

I always find myself having to rescue my writing from my kids in one way or another, but ultimately they’re the ones who inspire me most.  All in a day’s work, I suppose.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reading Not So Straight Forward

I'd heard of this phenomenon before, but I stumbled across it again and I thought it would be appropriate to mention it here.  Apparently context helps us to make sense of words, even when the letters are all jumbled up. It's only important that the first and last letters of the word be in the correct place, or at least a symbol that looks only remotely like the correct one.

Crazy huh?  Makes me wonder why I even try to hard to sepll wrdos crroeclty.  

Hmmm, not sure I can pull that trick off too well.  The good example was done by someone else.  Maybe I'm just doomed to be a good slleper.

Still bad, huh?  Dang it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Word About Length

I vaguely recall a goal I made to try to limit the length of the short story I'm working on.  As it is, it doesn't look like it's going to be a short story at all.  It seems like it'll be more of a novella.  I would reprimand myself for this if it wasn't for one simple fact.  After reading what I have so far, I can't escape the conclusion that it needs to be that length.  The story arc, and the world I'm creating, demands more.  I shouldn't be surprised.  In fact, I'm not surprised at all.  Stories seem to bloom before me, growing until I realize they've taken on a life of their own.

I'm now left with the question that I always find myself asking.  Should I try to restrain it, or should I go with it and allow it to take whatever shape it wants.

For now, I think I'll go with it.  As a story, I see great potential in it.  I only hope I can do it justice.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Balancing Sex and Violence in Fiction

Right now, I am dealing with an issue that comes up frequently when it comes to my writing.  Sex and violence are an undeniable part of human existence, but I don’t want to use them gratuitously.   I use them a fair amount, don’t get me wrong, but only when I feel the narrative calls for them.  These are strong elements that, when used incorrectly, can really detract from the story you’re trying to tell.  But when used appropriately, the story can make a big impact.

I’ve learned that these two elements make for great character development, and they can often advance the plot in useful, engaging ways.  In the midst of a sexually charged moment, we can see how the characters feel about each other.  Are they open to the other person?  Are they defensive?  Can we see hints of impending changes in their relationship that might be important?  Their actions speak volumes about how they feel about the other person and how they feel about themselves.

Violence, which conveys much about the world the characters inhabit, can also be transformative.  When confronted with a violent scenario, we can see that character on the most fundamental level.  When things get tough, what kind of risks are they willing to take?  Do they turn and run, do they fight, or do they join in with the madness?  Can they be trusted?  Or perhaps violence is in the character’s past, and it forged them into the person they are in the present.

The language used must also be taken into consideration.  The words chosen during intimate moments greatly influence the overall feel of the scene and highlights the attitudes of the people involved.  Are the descriptions clinical, poetic, or verging on pornographic?  Any of these are acceptable as long as they are in line with the established characters and their situation.  The same goes with violence.  If a character is clinical in their analysis of a violent act, that can say a great many things about who they are.  They might be a sociopath, or a detective who is accustomed to approaching gruesome scenes in this way.

The trick is balancing the two, and making sure they always enhance the story.  If they don’t, then maybe it’s best that they aren’t there at all.  I can't pretend to be an expert at this yet, and I'm still learning, but I think this is an issue that most writers need to contend with, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Poetry Page

I've just added a new poetry page so I can share some of the better poems I've written over the years.  Most of it comes from middle school and high school.  Going through the old poetry book, some of the poems I'd written struck me as being terrible.  Some things simply don't stand the test of time.  I guess we all have to write bad things from time to time.  It's how we learn.

Anyway, feel free to check it out.  I plan on adding more to it later.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ahh . . . The Difficulties of Moving

My family moved last November, and as much as I hate to admit it, there are still some boxes that, while stored away in the appropriate closets, have not actually been unpacked as of yet.  Today I went out in search of a poetry book that I've written since I wanted to use something from it.  Well, I went through everything and couldn't find it.  Not a sign of it anywhere.  I am feeling infinitely frustrated right now.

This incident has brought me to a solid conclusion.  I need to set aside an area in the house specifically for my writing-related items.  That way I will know exactly where everything I need is supposed to be.  I won't lie.  This probably won't solve my issue of misplacing things entirely, but it can hardly make things worse.  There's a corner in my bedroom that I can use.  I should get a writing desk too.

If I'm going to try to be a real writer, I need to act like one.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Name Game

What’s in a name, really?  These days a name can easily mean the world, or in many cases, absolutely nothing at all.  Some people name their children after family members, or people who were otherwise influential in their lives.  Or perhaps parents, through research, discovered a name that had a meaning behind it that resonated with them.  And, of course, there’s always the equally viable “I liked the way it sounded.”  I, for example, have the middle name Gene.  Yes, I am female, and I know that my name is therefore supposed to be spelled J-E-A-N.  I get that, and I endured a lot of teachers misspelling it over the years.  Yet, my parents’ use of the male version of the name was quite deliberate.  First of all, I had an aunt named Gene.  And second, my parents loved Star Trek, so it seemed that having the same name as Gene Roddenberry would be a desirable thing.  This is just fine with me.  It proves that, from the very beginning of my life, I was always going to be a geek.

Anyway, getting to my main point, though our names may, or may not, have special meaning behind them, our culture accepts that titles generally convey a lot.  If they don’t, they fail.  The title of a book is an opportunity for the writer to connect with potential readers.  Now, I realize I am essentially unpublished (I’m not sure how much the occasional published poem and single essay in a small magazine over a decade ago count), but I have enough knowledge to say this with confidence.  And as I know that the titling process is important, I figured I would share a little of my process with the world.

First of all, I never start with a title.  I’ve tried to start with a title and work from there, and the title certainly gave me a launching point, but by the end, the story had outgrown the original title I’d chosen.  These things happen.  That’s why the concept of “working titles” is so prevalent.  And while I may use a working title along the way, I still go through a final naming process at the end.

The process begins with me making a small list of important themes and objects/places/events present in the story.  Sometimes it’s as easy as choosing an important object or event to double as the title, but in my case, it usually doesn’t.  I’m much too hard on myself for that.  I usually end up traveling the thematic route, though on occasion I’ve combined the two methods. 

When traveling the thematic path, I select a handful of words that go along with the themes I’ve identified.  For example, a theme might be death, so I might choose the word “darkness” to symbolize nightfall.  Yes, not original, but it’s just an example.  Once I’ve picked out a few I like, I compose a long list of variations that I think would accurately portray that mood of the story I’ve told.  Going with darkness, I could call it “Darkness Descending” or “Walking into Darkness.”  With the final list of options in hand, I read them out loud so I can get a sense of how they sound.  I may share them with others to get feedback.

Obviously this is a task I take quite seriously.  Sometime in the near future I’ll post a written example of how this process goes down.  The example will be given in precise detail.  I tried to explain it clearly here, but it can get quite complicated, and I know making sense of my ramblings can be challenging for anyone, even on the best of days.

Language in Reverse

Here's an interesting linguistic talent. I always liked to think I have a way with words, but I certainly can't do anything like this. It may be a talent with limited applications, but it's still cool. Maybe if we encounter a dimension where time is flowing in reverse she can be our ambassador.