Category Archives: Writing

Dabbling

I haven’t been writing a ton lately, still. I was off to a decent start this month, until I bought 22 books and got really excited to start plowing my way through them. Add to that the renewed job hunt (OK, so that’s been going on like two days. It’s mostly that I’ve worked a lot of closing shifts, which means I don’t do anything but sleep and read for an hour or two before work), and I’ve got a pile of excuses to roll my eyes at.

After dabbling in fan fiction a little, I’ve set that aside because it was feeding into my obsession and continued sadness that I’d finished my show without realizing (and I still have a few weeks before more is available). However, I did start a new little short story project.

It’s very short, and it’s very silly. But it’s about a girl who is introducing her boyfriend to her friends. He’s supposed to come over for a small get together to meet them. It’s not until he arrives that he finds out she was telling him about her favorite books (which all happen to have movies as well, that wasn’t exactly planned, it just sort of happened as I was trying to think of my favorite fiction characters who would be reasonably well-known by the general public). While he was looking forward to meeting these people who could give him an insiders look at his girlfriend, she’s playing a little joke on him. However, if you really think about it, the kind of people from fiction that someone would choose to name as their best friends really does say a lot about them. And if you read the books (or even watch the movies), keeping in mind that someone relates to these characters, you can still learn new things about the person.

I’m not sure what I’ll do once I wrap this up.

I’m kicking around the idea of starting something new. I feel a strong urge and desire to write my own weird, darkish story set in a Pacific North West town, full of rain and pine trees (confession: the show I’ve been obsessed with is Riverdale. I know it’s probably not even set in the PNW, but it feels like it could be. And, since I’ve run out of episodes, I’ve returned to watching Twin Peaks, because it’s weird and I love it). I’m not 100 percent what the story will be, and it’ll definitely be heavily influenced by my current obsessions, but right now I’m not worried about writing a debut novel that will get picked up by some publishing house and become an overnight success.

I’m trying to remind myself why I love writing. Why I identify myself as a writer. Why creativity is so important, and if it can’t be my job, why I want to make sure I have time and energy for it.

I’m really burned out right now. Doing much more than existing takes monumental effort some days. Some things are within my control to change, and some aren’t. And some things fall somewhere in between (like a job. I can apply, but I can’t make anyone hire me, or even interview me). So I have to find life and energy somewhere. I have to find a way to turn off when I leave work, and re-energize the rest of my life. It’s a struggle. A daily one. And it’s not going to go away any time soon. But if all I write is a few sentences a week, I’ll call it a success. And I’ll keep calling it a success so that I don’t allow myself to give up on something that I know I love.

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Fanfic as a creative tool

I haven’t been writing a ton lately, I admit it. One of the biggest lies I’ll ever tell myself is that I’ll return to a project with renewed passion and excitement after a short break.

That said, I have found a little creative inspiration in writing fanfic.

First off, that’s a little embarrassing to admit. Not that I have anything against people who write fan fiction, it’s just not something I usually do. I don’t have a reason to be embarrassed, in fact. It’s just some weird thing in my brain.

Anyway, the first little bit I wrote was through and through fan fiction. But what I’ve continued writing, though borrowing characters to a degree, has become almost more free writing. I don’t know where it’s going, I don’t have a plan, I’m just letting the scene unfold as it will, allowing these characters to do their thing.

I used to write like that all the time, even completed NaNoWriMo novels with that method. But I’ve found it only gives meaningful results for me if I have some sort of deadline (and self-imposed doesn’t work). That is, even though it’s allowing me to be creative right now, I’m still only writing a paragraph or two every now and then. It’s better than nothing, certainly. And if it’s the break I need to get my creativity flowing again so I can get excited about writing, that’s great.

I keep thinking I need to start over, start from scratch on a new project (or resurrecting an old one from scratch). But, that’s a lot of brain work. It’s difficult, living in a slump where it’s hard to find excitement and motivation even to do the things you love to do. It’s hard to love anything that doesn’t help you escape the real world. And while writing can do that, it’s not always as easy to lose yourself in creating as it is to lose yourself in something someone else has already created.

Waiting and Rediscovering

Well, I managed to get my three pieces finished and submitted just in time for the deadline. Now all that’s left is waiting to see which, if any, get chosen.

When I read back through them, I came to realize that the third piece was the one I liked best (or is it just because it was the most recent?). The first two, despite my initial excitement, I wasn’s as keen on. I think because I didn’t buckle down as much on those, so I see potential, but didn’t give myself time to maximize it. I suppose it’s part of my journalism background, I work better under pressure, with a deadline looming.

One thing I noticed the last few weeks, it was easier for me to write when I’m using pen and paper, versus on typing on my computer. Maybe it was just that I was using my short breaks at work and having a harder time using my free time at home, but either way I found I got into the zone more when using pen and paper (even if I was doing it with the tv on). This poses some interesting decisions for me, moving forward with other projects.

I’ve managed to write every day so far this month, and I plan to keep that up, which means returning to one of my other projects. Do I use pen and paper, or push myself to get back to using the computer? Pen and paper obviously takes up physical space, as well as time transcribing everything I’ve written. But if it keeps me from getting distracted by the internet or other digital temptations, maybe it’s worth it.

I guess I’ll work it out this week, as I try to sink back into the world I left a month or so ago. Hint to any new-er-ish writers, it’s very hard to leave a project and then come back to it. It’s hard to get back into that world and rediscover the excitement and passion. So that’s my task in writing this week, find the excitement for my project once more, and find a way to make it work.

Choosing a voice

If you’d asked me five years ago, I would have adamantly said I didn’t like first person stories.

If you asked me now, I’d tell you first person stories require special care. While still not my favorite, I recognize that sometimes that is the best way to tell a story. And sometimes it’s the worst way.

My latest short story is in first person. In the last paragraph, I started to write that first person stories needed a strong reason for being first person. But, I erased that sentence because my reason is that that’s simply how the first lines of the story went, and I ran with it.

It’s a story about a woman who signs up for a one-way trip to a new planet, wanting to escape her life and anxiety, only to find that running away doesn’t solve the problem. In this case, I think it’s easier to express the feelings and emotions, easier to paint a picture of anxiety, by using first person. She can tell the reader exactly what she’s feeling.

One thing I’ve noticed, writing in first person, I’m not quite as obsessive about dialogue. In my first two short stories, I was extremely conscious of how long I was going without dialogue. Dialogue is what keeps most stories moving. But when you’re writing first person, in a way everything is dialogue. The character is speaking to the reader. It makes it easier to move the story along without dialogue. Which is good, because when you use first person dialogue must either be with your character, or take place where they can overhear it. If they aren’t there, you can’t use it.

While I’m still not entirely sold on first person (I’ve read too many books that should have used a different voice), I see that it does make a more intimate story for the writing, too. This story has flowed much faster than the others, even though I haven’t quite finished it yet. Maybe it’s because the whole story is an expression of the things I’ve been dealing with, and an easier description of it. Either way, it’s a little more personal, or maybe differently personal. My characters always contain at least a little piece of myself. But this one is me in a lot more ways. So maybe it flows easier because it is my own story.

Working through the pain

I missed last week’s post because, surprise surprise, I didn’t get a lot of writing done. It’s hard to write when you’ve got family visiting.

But I’ve put myself to it the last few days of this week (it’s cathartic, writing about the things I’m feeling), and I’ve wrapped up my second piece for submission.

With the deadline coming up quickly, April 15, I now have to decide if I want to try for a third piece, along with naming my first two. I definitely need to read over them and check for spelling errors and any changes I want to make, but that’s the easy part. A third piece would mean buckling down this week and really carving out some time to write–not impossible, but difficult for me when I’ve got books and documentaries calling my name.

Not to mention I never fully fleshed out the third idea I had. But, maybe that’s something I could do quickly. And maybe that’s what will decide me.

In the meantime, here’s a little excerpt from my second piece, the main character explaining to a young boy how she ended up being the lighthouse keeper.

“When I was younger, my heart was hurt very badly. So I came here to be alone. I’ve been here ever since.”

“Don’t you get lonely?” he asked. “There aren’t many people around.”

She smiled. “Well, that’s why I came, at first. I was sad and people hurt me. Being alone wasn’t lonely, it’s what I wanted.”

“But now? Do you get lonely now?”

“I suppose I do sometimes,” she said. “But I’ve been here so long, it’s all I know how to do anymore. And no one else steps forward to do it. We can’t let the light go out.”

“Oh,” he said, screwing up his face in thought. “When I’m scared of trying something different, I think of how good it might be, and that helps me feel brave enough to try.”

“That’s a very good thought,” she said. “But I don’t stay because I’m afraid. What about all the people who come for help? Shouldn’t someone be here to take care of them?”

The boy shrugged. “Shouldn’t someone take care of you? My parents love each other lots, but my mom still complains if my dad doesn’t help out and take care of her sometimes,” he explained. “It makes sense to me. When I’m sad or scared, sometimes all I need is a hug from my mom, or a snack. But I never get better if I just stay by myself.”

That’s what I’ve been struggling with lately, isolating myself when I’m hurt. And it doesn’t get better, not truly better, if I just stay by myself. In the end, I have to open up and let someone come along side to help me heal. It’s hard and scary, especially when you’ve been hurt before. But, as Emmalyn is finding out, life is about more than finding a tolerable pain threshold.

One down, two to go

I didn’t get quite as far as I intended this week in my new projects, but I definitely made a dent.

My first piece is done, just needs a read through before submission. And I’ve started the second piece, building up the story to get to where I’m going.

I’ve found that it’s been tricky with these first two ideas, because the main character is fairly isolated in the beginning. This leads to a lot of description, scene setting, and explanation, but little to no dialogue. Which makes me nervous that people will lose interest. But, this also pushes me to write through it and think about new ways to include dialogue, whether through memories, or uncovering new characters to interact with.

I’ve got until the middle of April to get all my submissions ready, so this next week is going to be about focusing on writing this second piece. Then I’ll work on fleshing out the idea for the third.

Writing for a goal

I’ve long since recognized that I do better with some sort of deadline in place.

I can write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days doing NaNoWriMo, keeping a daily word count and racing to fill up that little bar to reach my goal, but set myself the same task nearly any other month out of the year, and I’ll flounder, unlikely to make it work, despite my intentions. It’s a mixture, I think, of the visual representation and the community that circles up around NaNo.

Another great way to get my butt in gear and get things done is when an opportunity comes up to submit work, and I’ve got nothing ready to go.

Last year I submitted work to and was published in the 2018 California’s Emerging Writers anthology. I whipped those two submissions up in like two weeks. I recently was invited to submit work for the 2019 edition, and I’m trying to give myself more than two weeks to work on some pieces.

What I like about this is that it’s a chance to write up some of the ideas I’ve got that don’t really feel full enough to be a novel. It’s a great way to just get writing, as well as a good way to see what potential an idea may have. I some feedback on the piece I had published last year, some people wanted more to the story. So I thought on it, and came up, loosely, with a way that I could turn that little piece into something fuller. I haven’t done it yet, but the idea is there.

I’ve got three ideas this year that I’m working on (slowly but surely).

  1. A girl is caught in a time loop, where she does the same things over and over again everyday, hoping to break the cycle. But it’s not until she tries something completely different and stops focusing on changing the unchangeable that she breaks out of the loop and discovers what else life has to offer.
  2. A woman took the position as keeper of a remote lighthouse to escape the chaos and stress of change. Over the years she’s developed as much reputation as the lighthouse, and people come from all over to see the beautiful scenery and to get her advice and wisdom. One day a young boy visiting with his parents poses a challenging question: she takes care of the lighthouse, but who takes care of her? The boy’s questions help her start to think about stability at the cost of community, and whether it’s worth it.

The third idea I’m not quite ready to share, having just come up with it over the weekend (OK, so it was really a dream I had, don’t laugh. I get good ideas from dreams, sometimes). But it fits right in with my recent theme of being overwhelmed and anxious about the future, trying to run away from everything in life, and realizing you have to eventually face life head-on and answer the questions and make the choices to get to where you want to be, wrestling with being active or passive in life.

I’ve made a good start on the first story, and I’ve got a pretty clear idea where I need to go to wrap it up. I expect in this next week to really set myself to the task of finishing that one and starting the second.

While I may not actually be dealing with any of the issues in my own life (writing is just another avenue of escape, at the moment, even though I’m using it to wrestle with those tough questions about dreams and hope and giving up), I think sometimes it can help uncover the true strength and courage that’s inside. Realizing that you know what you have to do, and if you can write compelling stories where little pieces of you triumph over the overwhelming odds, maybe you can triumph, too.