Posts Tagged ‘prose’

Spring Revision

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

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There is something uplifting about the early spring: crisp air and hot sun or the neon green of new grass against the grey of cooler rainy days. When I was a kid, our neighbors forsythia would burst into canary yellow blooms and in it’s shade was a small patch of vinca, a spring flowering ground cover. I loved those little purple flowers so much. I would pick a few and put them in a glass of water, then present them to my father with a sandwich for his lunch.

I knew when we moved into this house that vinca grew all over our property because there was still a flower lingering here and there, but it’s another thing all together to see our home blanketed in it. It feels right and special. I miss the gardens we’d begun at our old home – lightly neglected herbs and perennial flowers that bloomed throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Some fragrant, some colorful. But the vinca and forsythia and azaleas are enough for now. I traipsed around the yard with my oldest child this weekend, searching out these early blooming flowers, discovering the plantings around our new home. We started up the grill and I even broke out my iced tea press so you know I’m committed to this fresh, fine weather.

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Spring should be the season to review feedback — see where the revisions you’ve made have born fruit, as it were — but here I am still revising: planting the bulbs late, moving things around, hoping nothing sprouts stunted. This winter/early spring has been mostly snow and sick days. I should just give in to the fact that nothing of significance ever gets written in February in my home. But the sunshine and above freezing temperatures, the pastels and yellows and greens of April are warming me up. So! Writerly updates!

  1. I wrote a short story! And I submitted it to an anthology! And it got rejected! But that’s okay! It was about a boy and first contact with an alien shaped like a tiny pink pony and it was really fun to write and totally one hundred percent different from my novel which was a much-needed change of pace.
    1. I thought writing short stories after writing a novel would be a piece of cake. I was wrong.
    2. I really want the next big project I work on to be funny.
  2. I taught another event building workshop in March. In fact, I’m making a bit of a side business of helping authors plan and market book events. Because apparently I need more to do.
    1. When I couldn’t think of how to fix my novel, I made a website for my event coaching business. I  am now taking select clients.
    2. I have another workshop scheduled in June. You should come!
  3. I’m now doing a monthly marketing blog post for the Writer’s Loft blog, Loftings.
  4. I’ve been plugging away at revisions but it’s slow. I hit a big snag with The Month of February and then working through a really thorny chapter that had me stumped. Plus planning for my workshop. But! It goes!
  5. I read some books in January and February (highlights included Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson and the first few Company books by Kage Baker) but nothing much since. I’m currently enjoying the compilation of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto because I love J.C. and because I can read it in little pieces before bed.

I am almost through revising Part 2 of 3 so that is a good feeling. I need to go back and continue to comb through the rough, messy parts. I was so hoping this draft would be wrapped up in another month or so but it may need longer. And then reading. And probably one more draft (not sure how deep of one, hard to say).

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I have days when I swear I am not smart enough for this, that I have nothing original to say. I have days when things slot together like an elaborate line of tumblers, unlocking something deep inside the story so I can see a bit of light shining through from the end, from the place this story could be.

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Draft #2 or Revising the Ghost, Take 1

Monday, February 22nd, 2016
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That’s iced tea not beer. Though if I drank beer, I totally could have used one.

It has been moons, fair readers. Like, a ridiculously long time. But I am sure you are all dying to know how The Ghost Story novel is coming along. Good news: IT’S COMING ALONG.

In November I took a class on revision at The Writer’s Loft in Sherborn, hosted by the delightful and talented Erin Dionne. I had grand plans to dive right into the revision process but that didn’t really work out. In all honesty, I barely did any real writing at all at the end of 2015… I read through my draft, made notes, did research, twiddled with outlines, notecards, and all the various tools Erin walked us through. I was scared, intimidated, and frankly, tired. A lot. And so, I didn’t get cracking on actual revision until January 2016.

The first week was wonderful and terrible. It felt good to be writing but I kept having existential moments of GAH WHAT IS THIS and HOW DO I FIX and OH THE FUTILITY. It took me two weeks to get through most of Chapter 1 and I thought: This will take forever. I have at least twenty-two chapters to go through. And this is just draft two. But I realized I just had to sharpen my scalpel. I have to be unforgiving and relentless with the writing, but forgiving and patient with myself. And that revising can contain just as much writing as it does cutting.

Authors have consistently said at events I’ve run/attended: “Oh yes, I had to cut the first 100 pages of my first draft” and it always made me blanch. How? Really? Impossible! Well…

For the numbers people, as of 2/18/16:
Number of writing days since revision began: 20
Chapters Revised: 6.5 (mostly)
Word Count (New Material): ~16,000 words (50 pg)
Word Count (Revised + new material): ~25,700 words (85 pg)
Word Count (Cut from 1st Draft): ~24,500 words (80 pg)
Current goal for 2nd Draft Completion: April 30, 2016 (then a month of “polishing” before off to beta readers)
Cups of tea consumed: Countless

Want to know what has needed the most revising? (more…)

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Finished First Draft

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

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On Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, I completed the first draft of The Ghost Story novel. I COMPLETED THE FIRST DRAFT OF A NOVEL YOU GUYS!

Also, I turn 31 today. Happy birthday to me!

**fireworks to the tune of the 1812 Overture**

So how does it feel? Exciting + anti-climactic. I’m not super pleased with the ending, not to mention the last, oh, third of the book (Ch. 19 excepted). When I got to the last lines my first thought was “Really? This is it? This is how you end it?” But heck, I WROTE A NOVEL. It’s 120k words closer to something I can be really proud of. That much closer to sharing a remarkable with you: a story, a vision taken out of my brain and put into yours.

For those following along at home:

  • According to Scrivener, I wrote a 123, 670 word manuscript, which comes to 383 printed pages, or ~313 pages in a paperback book.
  • I began the draft in earnest on Sept. 1, 2014, so it took me 386 days to complete.
  • That means I averaged something like 380 words a day for a little over a year. More accurately, since I mostly just write three days a week the averages comes out to ~750 words/writing day.
  • If you just include the chronological chapters and not the folder of documents I’ve entitled “Scenes That Need Chapter Homes” etc. the actually manuscript comes is closer to 97k words and around 300 pages
  • If you count all the words I’ve written in Scrivener, including: brainstorming documents, outlines, research, character sketches, freewrites, notes, and the occasional old draft, the total word count comes to 182, 603
  • The book has a prologue, epilogue, three Parts, twenty-one chapters, and about a dozen “interludes” or mini-chapter/flashbacks.
  • The most I ever wrote on a given day (since Jan. 1) was on Sept. 2nd when I plowed through to the end of Chapter 19 with 2143 words in about 3 hours (that chapter’s a doozy, let me tell you)

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Most of you are asking: What’s next? When will I see it on the shelf? while I appreciate your enthusiasm and faith in my abilities, the truth of the matter is this is Step 1, Phase 1. First step: writing a novel! CHECK! Now I need to make it the best possible novel it can be. And let me tell you, iy will need to go through several rounds of revision before it even makes it in front of beta readers, then another round or two before it gets to the point where I can start querying Literary Agents (as I plan to go the traditional publishing route to start).

Let’s put it this way: If I managed to revise everything perfectly on the first go, then queried agents and got the very first one I queried, then they pitched the book to editors and the first one of THOSE bit, and they put it on a rush schedule to publication with no edits… it would still be at least two years from now before I’d be announcing a publication date. That’s just how the industry rolls.

For now I have two major plans:

  1. Begin a 6-week class on Revision this evening at The Writer’s Loft
  2. Read & Research: issues of gender and race, the transmigration of technology and ideas, PTSD, the psychological implications of grief, river ways, how dams work, ley lines, mourning practices, political history, and all KINDS of other things.

So while I’m classing it up, I’ll be reading it up too and spending lots of time in the library and on the internet diving down the rabbit holes of these topics. So come November I can really jump into MASSIVE REVISING TIME and have a bunch of fresh ideas and strategies to tackle it. Hi-yah!

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First day on the job

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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I don’t have a desk yet. Or business cards. And this website needs a major revamping. But ladies and gentleman, my summer break has ended (with a flash and a bang and some Bollywood dance numbers at our cousin Max’s wedding) and I am diving into writing.

On the three days a week I have to dedicate to writing, my plan goes thusly:

  • Write for three or four hours in the morning, likely beginning with a warm-up exercise
  • Break for lunch (and the occasional social engagement)
  • Use my three-ish hours in the afternoon for either writing (if I’m feeling the momentum) or writing-related activities which may include but are not limited to: plotting, outlining, research, reading, blogging.

At the moment, that’s what I’ve got. We’ll see how the shoe fits. I also plan to incorporate some form of exercise into this whole plan (a lunchtime power walk? an early morning yoga class/routine?) but one thing at a time.

A number of people have asked me what I’m working on. Over the summer, most of what I worked on you saw here: book reviews, the Rumpus flash fiction piece, rebooting old stories. This fall I plan to focus on what I shall hereby dub The Ghost Story because it has ghosts in it, kind of. It’s not really a ghost story in the traditional sense, but is about a town that borders the land of the dead. It has bones in it and birds and ghosts and gravediggers. In it’s current incarnation, it’s a 5600+ word story (17 pages) plus 3500+ words of “so what now?” and many pages of “If this, then that…” type notes. The short story ends with a lot of questions, a map, and what may or may not be a mission. So it seems only natural that it turn into a longer piece. How long, I don’t know. But I am intrigued and need to pick a project so that’s the one I’m picking for now. Today I added 800 words to it so far.

When people ask me what I’m working on I say “a novel” (and I may add “about ghosts” which gets an interesting range of responses). But it’s like when I ask someone to “meet me for coffee.” I don’t drink coffee, but that isn’t what it really means. It means “I want to see you and find out how you’re doing and maybe have a snack/beverage while we’re catching up.” Working on “a novel” to me means “I am writing this story until I can’t anymore and then a little more anyway and maybe it will fill enough words and have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And maybe people will want to read it when it’s done.” I don’t know what it’s like to write a novel but by Jove, I’m going to find out and I intend to let you know how it’s going while I do.

Today has been a good day… in addition to those 800 words, I revised another flash fiction piece that I’m working on for this contest. I was asked to be part of a panel at a local high school on the topic of love in YA fiction. I also took twenty minutes to read to myself aloud from The Ghost Story as it currently stands. I found it really helped me to immerse myself into the world, cadence, and atmosphere of the story, which I feel are equal parts the strength and challenge of this project. And of course, I wrote this blog post.

Don’t expect updates like this every day, but I am going to come up with some sort of accountability reporting. If you want to be in on that, hearing the nitty gritty of what I’m working on every week, let me know.

Most importantly, I feel happy. Happy and excited to be writing. As long as I write in the moment and don’t think too much about how far I have to go. Just one word, page, day at a time.

What has sparked your creativity this week?

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Rebooting your writing, Part 2:
By Example

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

By Frank Kovalchek from Anchorage, Alaska, USA [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

source: Frank Kovalchek [CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

 

Last week in my post Rebooting your writing, Part 1: Tips & Tricks I mentioned a story from my undergraduate senior thesis collection. The story is over eight years old. I know it has potential. I also know it has flaws, large glaring flaws. Flaws that weren’t necessarily flaws when I wrote the story but, with hindsight, don’t fit the writer I am now.

I took it to my critique partner and she came back to me with a very brief but potent critique. The story had good structure and characters, but the writing was mostly cringe-worthy. “You’ve grown as a writer since you wrote this,” she said, which I appreciate. I also appreciate that, where as ten years ago I would have bristled at the thought that a story I was once proud of didn’t hold up to the test of time, now I simply nodded. She advised, well, rewriting the whole thing. It’s frightening advice, but immensely valuable. I know as I progress in my career, I’ll need to be more and more open to rewriting and revisiting and revising.

Give it time… and space: Isn’t it interesting that a story that seems impressive when written by a twenty-year-old can seem cloying at thirty? Perfect fodder for a reboot. So I thought I would present you with the original opening and then walk you through my beginning attempts at a rewrite.

(more…)

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Word Count: 832

Monday, March 4th, 2013

That is when he saw it, as if in a dream. It blinked in and out of existence as it cut through the waves of thick, hot air. A mast, a snapping sail. A boat, a boat here. I must be dreaming, Charon thought. Or maybe… maybe this entire journey had been a dream and this boat, this boat on the water was real. Maybe I’m home. He looked around himself, wildly. Where was Miranda? Where was the town of Lartukai and his people? Everywhere about him was a hot, white emptiness. Had Miranda’s future already come to pass? There was nothing but the false shimmer of the sand and the haunting image of a boat coming nearer and nearer across it.

“Here,” he croaked, lifting one arm. He could feel himself slipping from the back of the beast. “Here!” he called louder. The boat seemed to grow ever so slowly, the sail billowing out in a taut crescent. I’m hallucinating, he realized, This is it, this is the end. He looked up once more at the high city before him, the home of his ancestors, still out of reach.

The boat was almost upon him, he could see the two people manning it. Who are they, he wondered, whose ghosts? Who would be here to take him to the ocean beyond the sky?

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Word Count: 688

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Switched gears to a different story that has been tugging at my brain for many moons now. Tentatively titled “Drought,” it’s a sort of futuristic, climate-gone-to-hell, story that has some interesting implications. Told in the first person, which is also different for this kind of story. Is it fantasy? I don’t know yet. I don’t think so, but it could be in some respects

Or when he told us how, to melt ice in winters, he and his parents would sprinkle salt on the roads and paths around their home. That they did that all throughout Lartuka.
“More salt?” Ivon said, enraged, “You melted ice with salt?”
“I’ve never seen ice,” I said, “What is it like?”
“Like glass, but clear and cold,” my grandfather said.
“And made of fresh water,” said Ivon, throwing down his materials and storming out of the tent.
“Not always,” our grandfather said quietly, “When the storms came, some winters got so cold and long that there would be sheets of ice slamming against the shore.” He turned to me with sad eyes, “I’m sorry Garreth, for the legacy we have left you with. There was no way we could know.”
I wanted to blame him for the salt, for the water disappearing into the earth, for not knowing the taste of ice. But his sun-worn face and his eyes, the color of the inside of mussel shells, look so tired that I can’t help but forgive him. Who knows what actions I take now that I will regret if I live to be as old as he? Who knows how the world will look then?

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Word Count: 487

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Revising/rewriting my story “Heat Wave,” originally part of my senior thesis. I was inspired to come back to this by a talk one of our author’s gave about his new book. The subject? Blackouts. He said ‘You know, there’s very little Literature centered around blackouts.’ I almost wanted to raise my hand and mention that I had written a short story that took place during a blackout, but I didn’t.

My big struggle with this story is combining the feel of it, which I love, this kind of otherworldly sensation, with a strong narrative voice and a penetrating loneliness. The author’s talk made me think of another direction this story could take. Though I’m still in love with the final scene… we’ll have to see if it makes it back there. Anyway, I’ve begun re-writing from scratch, which I haven’t really done before. We’ll see where it goes! The opening lines:

This morning the power went out. It’s this heat, this heat that has wrapped itself around the city and is choking it. This heat that has paralyzed everything.

The temperature has been rising all week. Every day, a record breaking high; every night, a brownout. The power dips to a dull buzz, the fans turn languidly, the lights dim so that the filaments are exposed in bright, hot coils. Too many people struggling to stay cool. Sometime the grid sags for ten minutes, sometimes for two hours. But early this morning the power dipped and hummed and then flickered out entirely. Not just in this building, but half the nation’s capitol is in muggy darkness. I know because the silence woke me and it was darker than I have ever seen it this side of the Rockies. For a brief gasping moment I thought I was back home, back in Arizona. Then the humidity settled on me like a thick, hot blanket and I knew that I was still here and still alone.

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Writing I Submitted to the Oakland Review: Alumni Issue

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

PROSE

Elephants on Memorial

They lined up, as if for a parade, for as far as you could see, the people and beasts.

These Four Walls

The newest thing in the house is not the flat screen TV. The newest thing in the house is the lock on the front door.

POETRY

the sounds that carry

This house is built on stilts
for when the floods come.

Aspens

Fallow (more…)

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