Friday, October 29, 2010

First Draft--Mission Completed!

Staring at the ceiling, it seemed that the entire house had been engulfed in silence, as though the lack of noise were some terrible beast who had flexed its jaw and swallowed the building whole. She’d been awake for almost an hour now but dawn had broken ages ago. Tiny slivers of light strewn across the carpet were the only hint of this, her dark curtains unforgiving in their relentless pursuit to block even the tiniest bit of illumination, giving her a familiar sense of an all-too-early-morning. She knew couldn’t stay in bed all day, but that didn’t mean she didn’t want too.


That's the first paragraph of my First Draft! By First Draft, I mean the first in a series of two drafts that I am expected to turn in for my Creative Writing class. The actual submission was the 3rd draft of said story, and I've modified it 3 times since. It was due 6 minutes ago, so I have to live with what is out there. I'm fairly satisfied with it, and I think it will do well.

Meanwhile, I haven't worked on my NaNoWriMo project at ALL. I still have quite a few unanswered questions (although the NaNoWriMo Twitter says that it's okay to let the answers come to me, or accept temporary answers and to stop being so critical!). I also need to look up delicious recipe's for Tucker's restaurant (SPOILER ALERT! WHOOPS!). I've more-or-less decided to title it Necessary Fiction. The title comes from the G.K. Chesterton quote:
Literature is a luxury, fiction is a necessity.
I really like the idea, and it kinda goes along with some of the different subplots and...well, let's not SPOIL anything, lol. I'm really excited to start Monday, I think I've mentioned that a bunch of times but it is still true. My one fear is not being able to keep a regular word-count but my husband Marcus has been enlisted to ensure that my word count gets made BEFORE I'm allowed to do fun extras like watch TV or make cookies (okay I bet I still get away with the second one even when I'm behind on words!). I've told a lot of people about NaNoWriMo, so failing to at least do something substantial could result in epic embarrassment. I'm willing to use ANY kind of encouragement to see me through to 50,000 words. Being a writer has always been a dream of mine, and my goal for this year was to stop putting things off. NaNoWriMo might just fulfill that resolution by itself. I can't wait!

Fall Cleaning


I have no idea why I wanted to say that, but it's been said, so there you have it. I've had the last 3 days off, and got nothing done :o(. I still have a rough draft due tomorrow that will be VERY rough because of my lack of attention to it. My desk is a mess and nowhere near ready for NaNoWriMo, which is now less than 3 days away. We haven't decorated for the Halloween Party we're having Sunday, and I didn't get any studying or writing done for my Anthropology classes, both of which have tests next week. Three days and I did basically nothing! Ugh!

I really hate being non-productive. I should have gone to bed 2 hours ago but I've been working on getting this blog moved over to my gmail name, so I didn't have to keep signing in and out all the time. Also, I did get my housing and school applications into San Francisco State University. I need to apply to California State University East Bay as well, but that's not a priority, since it isn't my first choice. I lost my phone, which will cost 130 dollars to replace. That is a real heartbreak, not because I am attached to objects, but because I don't have 130 dollars to spare! Ugh!

Getting this blog moved over and re-setting everything up was a pain but for some reason felt really pressing just an hour ago. I mean, I'm glad I did it, but it's really not making me feel better about the lack of progress I made this week. Perhaps I should stop blogging and get some real work done?

Or at least go to sleep, sheesh, it's late!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Long Road Ahead

I am still here!

Sort of.

Currently hard at work at a draft for Creative Writing on Friday. Trying to take my mind off Necessary Fiction and think about that, but I'm finding it difficult. I still have a few days, and I am off tomorrow, so I have plenty of time.

Necessary Fiction is the name of my NaNoWriMo project. I'm really excited about it, and trying not to over-think things. None of my plots are all that original, but lately I've been reading a lot of Kristan Higgans, who I love, but who uses some fairly obvious plots as well. Even though I know what will happen, I still enjoy the books because she makes you love the settings and she almost makes you feel like her FMC (that's NaNoWriMo for "Female Main Character") is your best friend. Besides, I am shooting for 50,000 words and that is all that matters. I can revise later, if I feel like it. 50,000 words. It's not that many, but I find the number intimidating. Just big enough to be an accomplishment AND realistic.

Assuming, of course, I can get my two Anthropology Papers done this week. Both are due in November but I don't want to waste precious writing time. Maybe I should hit the library this Thursday and crack them out quick. For my fellow Delta students, check out the Goleman Library. It is an amazing piece of College Architecture. Easy access to materials, desktops with built in power access for laptops, group study rooms. It's amazing!

I really should cut this here. Trying to get ahead of the Shakespeare reading game, again, so I have more time for NaNoWriMo. I mean, I have plenty of time, I just know how badly I spend it >.<. Oh well...November is less than a week away now, and ready or not, here I come!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's Only Sucking Up If I Say It To The Teacher

This might be the BEST Midterm project I have ever been assigned. I mean, I know the usual idea with projects is personal enrichment or whatever they call it, but let's be honest: when you hear the word "project" you think "headache" "time-suck" or "how-can-I-get-out-of-this?" That goes double for any project involving the word "group." Still, this Midterm project has been an excellent help to me in sticking to a writing schedule, and making sure that I am on track with assignments. I think that, if I were to continue (which I hope to do) it can only help me further, getting my work out there, and helping me to keep my writing muscles finely tuned.

As good as all those things are, they aren't why I think this is the "best" Midterm Project EVER. What I really love about this project has been reading the blogs of my classmates and fellow writers, and really feeling like a part of their journey as well. As fledgling writers, of course we all share similar fears and trepidations. Seeing my classmates lay those bare, the very same worries and fears I have felt since I first hit that "register" button for Creative Writing, has done wonders to improve my self-esteem when it comes to my writing. Naturally I never expected to be the only one who felt the way I felt and thought what I thought...but seeing/reading/hearing that we are all in the same boat has made that fact more tangible, more comforting. I've made a point of commenting and following all of my classmate's blogs that have been posted this far. That isn't part of the assignment, but it is something I want to do. I am in a class with a very talented group of people who have some BRILLIANT ideas. As an avid reader as well as budding author, it is joy to both write my own works and read those of my classmates. Sharing this journey with them has truly been an honor of mine, and I feel like it is important they know that. Also, since their blogs give me the comfort of knowing we are all in this together, commenting seems the easiest and best way to return the favor.

Halfway through the semester and I continue to be happy with my decision to take Creative Writing. As previously mentioned, it was not a decision I took lightly. Still, it has been everything I had hoped it would be, not only because the class is so brilliant, but because I have been making it the priority it deserves. 

Next week our first drafts are due. I am still intimidated, and haven't made much progress since my last posting, but I would like to blame NaNoWriMo for that. I've been very busy using the Storybook program (shareware that I recommend to ANY writer who, like me, has a difficult time getting organized) to get the plot and characters for my novel Necessary Fiction (tentative title) set. I'm really excited for the 1st to come, but if the very rough schedule I have designed is anything close to reality, I now find myself VERY intimidated at the thought of generating 2,000 words a day. That's roughly 4 times as long as this blog. ACK! Ah well, no pain no gain, right? Right.

Let's just hope I don't draw blood! >.<

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I want to make this brief, as I don't want to jinx it. I'm working on my novel for NaNoWriMo (pre-writing, creating character profiles, designing a plot, etc. etc.) and so far it's been going really well, no major stumbling blocks *knock on wood*. I think I mentioned this before, by pre-writing is not my strong point, and I have real difficulty with planning and completion. That's why what happened means so much to me.

I was just brainstorming ideas about a character that I have really been struggling with. The main character and her two best friends were easy, by Mr. Right is giving me a long of trouble. I've got a name but that's it...and it's just a first name. Today I decided I would just brainstorm a bunch of different guys and then mix and match til it worked.

Except that I couldn't, because I'm surrounded by plot bunnies. Did you know they can be loud? They can. They are also soft and tickle your feet when you ignore them. So what do I do? I reach down to pet one fluffy bundle and then BAM! It hit me like a truck.

I just plotted my entire novel.

Just. Like. That.

Granted it is VERY rough (as soon as I came to this realization I came here to blog the incredible news rather then work on a second draft) and definitely will need major additions (like sub-plots and details) but it's a framework. A foundation. Something I have never had, in any writing project I have ever completed or dreamed about.

I have felt this feeling just one other time, after saying my vows when I married the man better than my dreams. Is is a feeling of rightness, a feeling of...stability? I don't even know if I can describe it. It is not the feeling that I have all the answers...but the feeling that I don't need them. The feeling that more questions will come, questions I can't even dream of, and some of them will be hard and hurt to answer...but it will be okay. It will be okay because the biggest, most important questions have been answered and, in comparison, there really isn't anything else worth worrying about. It is the feeling that, one way or the other, everything will be okay.


Oh, November 1st, I am SO ready for you!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Way Too Proud Of This

This was not going the way she had expected. Why was it so hard to write 1,000 words? Usually limits were a burden, something to persevere against or labor under. Staring at her blank computer screen, infinity seemed a different kind of burden, an endless pit or never-ending night, some giant room devoid of oxygen. There had to be a generator something…some list of neglected and forgotten ideas free for the borrowing, the adjusting, and the fulfilling. A farm somewhere filled with soft, snowy white plot bunnies just waiting to be invited home. 


Dear Me-Two-Days-Ago,

You are much wiser than I gave you credit for. Moments ago I found myself bitter and angry with you, wondering why you would commit me to more work and stress, as if I needed any. But I was wrong, and I am sorry



Getting my Shakespeare midterm complete early gave me a feeling of satisfaction and pride I probably didn't deserve considering it was only "early" by a few hours. Still, when I remembered that I had set a deadline for more work on my story by Sunday, the wave of my self-satisfaction I was riding crashed. I re-checked my original commitment, and it was vague, as all the easiest-to-keep are. 

When I opened the story to add something worth posting, it was not the burden or chore I expected. I told myself "Just one paragraph" and then it came: a fully formed idea for a handful of sentences. It's true, it was just one paragraph, but I am feeling that self-satisfaction again, as though I am finally starting to beat this Writer's Block. Hopefully this one paragraph is the first of many.

And I do mean many. Kelly, a long-time close friend who has moved to Utah and whom I miss dearly, invited me/challenged me to participate in NaNoWriMo, and because I love her and want to do something with her and because I'm crazy, I agreed. If you haven't heard of NaNoWriMo, then I will tell you it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Should anything about that title intrigue you, I direct you to for more information. Check it out, consider participating, I think we'll both get a lot from it. 

So, now I've got NaNoWriMo in the background, but I'm feeling as confident as I think I could feel about it. I sketched out a few character profiles and came up with a few plot concepts and conflict scenarios. I have 2 weeks to flesh it out, but I have a really solid starting-point. Also, I'm not going to stress about quality. The key here is quantity, and I'm going to let myself create without critique. If the idea warrants revision, certainly I would do so. But to start with, I'm just concerned with length and word count. A second draft can flesh out concepts requiring, culling of useless bits, adjustments where necessary; what I am doing is giving myself the freedom to be terrible, which ultimately releases me from the fear of failure. Somehow this has resulted in the biggest creative spurt I have experienced in months, and it has translated into completing my Shakespeare midterm moderately early, as well as the posting of this blog and the progress within it. 

Feeling pretty good, which is a remarkable change from the last few days. As the Junebug would say--ONWARD!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blogging Is Fun!


Just. Wow.

At the start of this assignment, I posted a status to my friends on Facebook asking for blog-host recommendations. BlogSpot/ was recommended by 2 people, WordPress by another. I chose WordPress because they offer an "app" for my phone, allowing me to blog at work (I often think about writing during slow periods at work). A friend who had recommended BlogSpot also told me that WordPress' customization options were nothing near what BlogSpot was, and I would be able to make a better "home" there. I hadn't had too much trouble setting up my blog there (although I admit it was a bit tricky and did require a few hours of my time) so I just dismissed it.

Truth be told, the name for this blog was one I had registered here at BlogSpot/Blogger.Com over almost 3 years ago. I had only just begun dating my husband then, and I wanted to start writing again. This was the home I created for myself to do that...but then never followed through. For this assignment, I knew we had to create a new blog, and I worried that the creation date would affect my grade. I stuck with WordPress for these reasons until my professor posted a comment on my WordPress blog regarding my progress. I thought a minute about the value of being able to follow her blog, and another classmate's blog who also chose Blogger.Com, and decided that, as I have already submitted a brand-new blog for the assignment, there can't be any harm in copying the content over here. I deleted all previous information from this blog (which there really wasn't much of) and carefully copied all of my other posts, making sure to reformat them, label them, and date/time them correctly (to keep the right chronology). When I was done, I thought I would have some fun setting up a new layout.

Wow. Fun was right.

I just spent about an hour messing with different settings and finding great templates and background suggestions. My friend wasn't exaggerating, this interface is both user-friendly and highly customizable. I built an entire layout before I realized I could add a type-face with a Halloween theme. LOVE IT! I am even more excited to change next month for Thanksgiving, and then especially for Christmas (my favorite time of year). WordPress' options are nothing like these, and don't really allow for those kinds of on-the-fly adjustments. I am really happy with what I have seen thus far, and I have decided after the assignment is over that I will move my blog here full-time. The ability to follow my classmates and professors is what drew me here, but it is the services provided for my own blog that are keeping me. I'm sorry I ever went anywhere else.

Naturally, I will not be cross-posting this to the WordPress version. Guess that makes this a Blogger.Com exclusive!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Reverse Reverse Psychology

"The glare of the computer screen cast a pale hue…


Her palms were sweaty as her fingers flew from key to key…

Really? Sweaty palms?

It felt as though her eyes could spend no more than a moment…

I don’t even know where you are going with that."


Those are the opening moments of my current work-in-progress. This is extremely rough, and I kind of hammered out the outline and idea on my phone during slow periods at work yesterday. I still don’t feel ready to post an entire thing, but this is what I have that I am confident of, and I promised myself I would post ORIGINAL fiction tonight by 10:00pm. I think it is important to keep that deadline, because I want to make posting original fiction by 10:00pm every Friday a regular thing, even beyond the submission of this mid-term project.

So far I am off to a not-so-bad start. I’m setting a not-so-formal goal of posting something else from this story by the end of the weekend. Hopefully, for the sake of my sanity (and my grade) I can keep this commitment too. The subject of the story is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek attempt to defeat this Writer’s Block.

Anyone want to take bets?

Childish Beginnings

Nope, sorry, still no original fiction. But I was just thinking about something I wanted to talk about...
My first experience with the Internet.

Most people remember where they were when Kennedy got shot (I wasn't born), when the Twin Towers fell (I was watching live on CNN...I used to watch the news every morning back then but that was the last morning I ever did), or when they heard Michael Jackson had died (I was driving through the Bay Area to visit my cousin while my husband built a shed in his father's backyard). Children that were born in the last decade can never understand what it was like, this magical moment, not unlike my inability to understand that neither my mother nor father owned a television set growing up. Still, I remember my first experience with the Internet vividly.

My parents had driven me to Castro Valley, about an hour from our home, to visit with my aunt and uncle (my father's brother and his amazing wife). Unlike my parents, they had no children (my uncle had one son from a previous marriage but he was grown by then) so their house was filled with expensive things I could only admire, did not dare to touch. Their backyard was always well-groomed during their numerous barbecues, barbecues that offered salmon and real steak to the masses, rather than burgers and hot dogs. They owned the first big screen TV I ever saw (it was huge, took up a whole wall, and even when they moved to Florida they still had it). My uncle David had an impressive amount of law enforcement paraphernalia (something he and his brothers share, as they were once sheriff's deputies together in Alameda County). My aunt Marney kept birds that frightened me. Among their many amazing possessions was a computer in a back office I only vaguely remember...and that is where I encountered the Internet. I don't remember if I was allowed on it, or even how I came to be using it, but I remember clearly sitting before the old, grey desktop as the tunes of the modem hummed next to me. I'd never heard those sounds before, such a strange screeching, a weird beeping.  Then suddenly, a window opened.

"You've got mail."

I had no idea how iconic those words would become, that I would remember them more than a decade later. I explored AOL's many offerings (it was the beginnings of the Internet, after all, AOL had the monopoly) and eventually lighted upon the idea of "Chat Rooms." I grasped their concept clearly and searched until I found the one I wanted to participate in: A chat room for writers. As young as I was, I loved it then and I wanted to share it with the world, wanted the world to teach me to do it better. I engaged in conversation with strangers for over an hour, discussing the pros and cons of getting published, the differences the Internet would make to budding writers, how our contributions to the Internet could make it better. Then I figured something out, something that would color all further interactions with this wondrous idea, the Internet: You could lie, and no one would no.

The first lie I told was a simple one, I thought, but once it was out the people in the chat-room responded with disbelief. It didn't yet occur to me to lie about my age (I would do that later, with varying degrees of success), what I chose to lie about was simple: I had written an absurd amount of novels. Not short stories, or various types of works, just novels. I justified this to myself saying it was possible, there was nothing to say that any were any good, how could they react with such disbelief? What made it so astonishing, yet seemed believable enough that no one outright questioned me?
I know now what that difference is. It is not that no one person cannot write as many novels as I suggested (something like 47 I believe) but that...the emotional commitment to do so is staggering. Even if I had the time, would I have the mindset? The ability to sit down and think of nothing but to story, to plan characters, develop a plot, and write for so long that it would result in one novel, let alone 47? Children are prone to fanciful lies, but this is one in particular I remember clearly. Until this afternoon I'm not sure I really understood what kind of lie I had told, how impossible it was, where that astonishment came from. Sitting here, struggling to compile even a simple short story, just 1000 words, for no one but myself, I feel that same astonishment.

Oh, Internet. We have both changed so much.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Continuing Struggle...

I had really hoped to post some original work by now, at the very least a work in progress. Unfortunately, as I was discussing with a close friend last evening, I am too afraid. I know that I am afraid, and yet I find myself unable to conquer the fear. It is a fear I cannot understand at all.
As a child I was always praised for my writing. Even today, I know I possess a good vocabulary and an above-average ability to wield language. Still, I fear people reading my writing. When I was younger I would write long works for friends, often letting them read portions after I had finished only a preliminary draft. Today, I couldn’t imagine sharing anything rougher than a second draft with anyone. Even personal emails and Facebook comments/messages go through a rigorous screening process. It’s time-consumingly ludicrous. Extemporaneous writing was a specialty of mine growing up; I won many awards on second draft essays. Now, presenting a second draft of a story makes me break out in a sweat, and I’d sooner not turn something in then submit anything without multiple
thorough re-readings and re-considerations.

This insecurity is confusing to me, given that I have no idea where it comes from. As I say, I have been quite successful in my writing. Even the poorest of my efforts scores higher than average. Where does this fear come from? Why? I don’t know and so I feel unequipped to combat it. I am hoping to post something here in the next post, something original, something rough. Our drafts are due in class just next week, and I have another outline to write this week (I don’t think we have to use the outline as our draft). This blog is really helping me keep track of assignments in Creative Writing, and I admit that sharing these issues I am having with the process has made me feel so much better. I really hope I can keep this focus going, not just through the semester, but in the semesters to come. The enrichment I sought feel better then I predicted. Who knows, maybe I’ll try a theatre class as well next semester!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Four Steps To Starting A Story

Drafts are due in just a few short weeks but now comes the ACTUALLY hard part:


There is a model in our textbook for very loose outlining. I would love to use it, it seems simple and usually what deters me from outlining are the many (unnecessary) steps. Still, something in my head says don’t commit to an outline, because what if I can’t write a story from the idea that is as good as I want? This seems like a silly problem but once my mind starts working like this I end up with a giant mental block that stops all thoughts except “What if it sucks?” I would love the opportunity to find out, but this giant question forms at the front of my brain and stops all processes behind it. I’m not suggesting here that I have never written anything bad, of course I have, the bulk of what I write is terrible! When I get this “What if it sucks?” block I simply find myself incapable of writing anything! It’s very frustrating, and is the reason that, despite my vows to the contrary after missing last week’s assignment, I sit here now, still struggling to post something just three days before it is due.

Here is the loose outlining formula presented to us in the text and used as our assignment this week (and next):

a. Who the character is
b. What she wants more than anything in this story
c. What threatens her or stands in her way
d. What her first step toward the story goal is going to be
(Taken from The Truth About Fiction, by Steven Schoen)

Right now, this is how I feel:

A. Who the character is:

Tricia is a mid-twenties college student, struggling to balance life and college. She is married with no children, although she does support her older brother, a veteran of the most recent Iraq conflict. As the only employed person in her household, Tricia often struggles to balance the parts of life she prefers (time with friends, family, herself) with the parts of her life that bring in money (soul-crushing retail sales). The stress of supporting the household is starting to overwhelm her, growing almost insurmountable just as the semester seems to be dragging onward toward finals that will never actually arrive.

B. What she wants more than anything in this story:

To complete a very simple outlining assignment that should not be nearly as troublesome as it has been.

C. What threatens her or stands in her way:

Work demands a great deal of her time, and while home it is difficult to focus on scholastic tasks, as it seems there are rarely any chances to spend a moment with her husband. Aside from Creative Writing, Tricia also attends class on campus twice a week, and this week there is a test in her most difficult class. All of these distractions, and her on-going writer’s block, threaten to derail her chances at writing this outline (and, by extension, passing this class).

D. What her first step toward the story goal is going to be:

Opening her blog (at least she can work on her Midterm assignment ahead of time!) and writing a scathing, vaguely mocking version of her life as an outlining exercise to prove to herself just how easy it is. She will find that it is neither easy nor hard, but simply an exercise, not unlike a vigorous stretch, which is exactly what it is meant to be.

The only problem with this story outline is, I’m stuck at the cliffhanger ending–will Tricia be able to write her outlines after completing the exercise or will the block continue? I guess we all have to stay tuned...

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Writing Process

This explanation is pretty short:

I don’t have one.

Well, I guess that would physically be impossible from being true. Obviously there is some sort of system that ultimately leads to words on a page. What I mean to say here is that I have no formal process.

I don’t use outlines, although I wish I did. It is not that I think I am too good to use outlines, simply that I am not good with foresight. I find that, when writing an outline, I find it constricts the picture of action. Our textbook for Creative Writing, The Truth About Fiction (Schoen) offers a lot of good advice about outlining and planning stories. I’m hoping to put some of that advice to good use, and I’ll definitely post the results of those attempts here. Attempts to pursue a long-germinating novel have not gone well. The issue for me has been a difficulty following through. Writing brief scenes is something I excel at, but I find it difficult to draw those same scenes out, build suspense, complete long-term plotting.

These difficulties aren’t unknown to me. As someone living with Bipolar Depression, being able to plan in the long-term, as well as wait in suspense for things, is something I struggle greatly with. Real life, imitating art again. Luckily for me, the exercises for planning fiction and life are very similar.
Something I do as part of my process to keep my abilities sharp is writing fictionalized versions of scenes that I have experienced. This helps me stay observant in my personal life, but also helps me hone my ability to present and deliver details in fiction. As an exercise it allows me to concentrate on setting the scene, creating characters, and using descriptive language. Often I do this in my head while driving to and from places I am very familiar with (like work or school). When I am bored or having difficulty understanding a situation (like an argument, perhaps) I will commit the scenes to paper, to try to better understand where things deviated from my expectations. I’ll try to write a few of these out and post them this month so you can see what I am talking about.

Part of taking Creative Writing was me accepting that I would have to participate in the pre-writing process. As a teenager, when I did most of my writing, I disdained the pre-writing process as something lesser writers do. I now see that foreshadowing doesn’t happen on accident, but that it is very necessary to pleasing fiction. Last night I failed to complete two assignments in Creative Writing, entirely due to my failure to pre-write. I’m very upset with myself about this, and hoping to avoid it in the future, a process I will kick-start today by beginning my homework for Creative Writing this afternoon. In past weeks I have waited until Tuesday or Wednesday, with assignments due on Friday. This time, I will take the extra days to participate in the pre-writing process (actually pre-pre-writing process, since the assignment is an outline for a future story) using the suggestions in the text. I often tell customers of the cellphone provider I work for that “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Taking my own advice, I must accept that if it IS broken then I must fix it. I hope building my pre-writing skills can help me do that.