Inspiration

It’s finally Sring time! The first official day of Spring was Friday, March 20 and I know I’m not the only one who was excited about that.

sunny_daffodils-2This is a time of renewal and rebirth. And allergies. So many allergies.

Do you find inspiration in this time? In the yellow daffodils and your ability to walk outside without a jacket? I feel like this is the poets’ time. Or, at least a time for those poets who have a passion or attachment to nature.

I know that the weather has inspired me to shave my legs for the first time in months and also to contemplate an attempt at gardening on my apartment balcony. And part of me keeps contemplating tackling the idea of Spring cleaning, but it seems that I’d rather cook and go to the gym.

My fiction writing tends to be affected by the season in which I’m writing it. Is anybody else like this?

I typically start a work off in the season that I’m currently living. I’m sure this doesn’t always hold true, but it’s so much easier to look out the window and be inspired by my surroundings to create a scene than to try to remember what the world looked like before that particular temperature change hit.

Take my novel, Collecting Humanity as an example. I currently too buried in track changes to remember what scene I start it off in, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t the Fall. I did, after all, write the entire thing in November.

Too Many Thats

I have been making more of an effort to edit Collecting Humanity. The main reason that I’ve been having trouble doing so is because I’ll edit some and then go a long stretch without looking at it. This means that I forget what I was doing, why I was doing, and at what point in the story I’m actually in.

So, a few weeks ago I decided to focus on one specific project that needed work. I tackled the word that.

this-that-these-and-those

What does that mean? Well, I had the pleasure of being able to take a creative writing summer session at WKU.These summer sessions were (and are?) on a rotation of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Time for  A Tangent

In 2011, I took the Visiting Writer Summer Workshop (Eng 467). I was worried that I wouldn’t have another opportunity to take it during my college career while fiction was being taught and everything I’d heard about this opportunity made it sound like something I couldn’t miss. So I signed up to learn some fiction from Professor Robert Olmstead. During this four-week course, we studied fiction by reading some great published works along with writing and editing each others short stories.

In the end, I had three new short stories to continue edit, some lessons on fiction writing, and, more importantly, I met some amazing writers who I still maintain some contact with. One lovely lady even introduced me to Doctor Who later on!

Back to That

One lesson, in particular, that has, for some reason, really stuck in my brain is the lesson on the word “that.”

Olmstead told us that, in many cases, the word “that” is superfluous. If you do a search of the word in your writing (I like using the cheat ctrl + f), you can easily determine whether or not the word is needed in a sentence. Sometimes, of course, the decision isn’t very easy. And, there are also times when the word is needed.

When you are trying to determine this, first read it as you have originally written it. Then, read the same sentence without the word “that”. You can even use your finger to cover the word if that makes it easier.

Here’s an example from Collecting Humanity:

But all his nose was picking up was the fruity bathroom soap that Suzy had picked out.

Read the sentence with and without the word “that.” Technically, the word can remain there, but it isn’t needed.

Now, to me, this is more of a style type rule and maybe even something that I wouldn’t actually call a rule. If you like that that, then you keep that that. But, in this stage of my writing career, I’ve decided to get rid of that that.

That in My Novel

When I set out to write my NaNoWriMo novel, I decided that I was going to try my damnedest to finish this year. That’s part of why this novel needs so much editing.

I try to be more self-conscious about my use of the word that, but as I was writing Collecting Humanity, I wanted to get as many words as possible. This mean that I didn’t care about using the word “that”, and that I probably sprinkled in a few extra where I might not have usually.

After I went through and eliminated the thats that I didn’t want to keep, my word count went from over 53,000 to its current 49,728 word count.

That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? But I still have a Word document that’s over 100 pages long, which is something that I hadn’t accomplished before last year.

Due to its length, it took me several weeks to go through all of thats and decide which ones I wanted to cut. But I’m glad that I’ve finally finished editing at least some portion of my novel.

The Importance of First Lines

The somber group of men sat in a large room that rested far belowground, accessed by only a single, high-speed elevator.

David Baldacci

In case you missed it, I really like first lines. There is such a graveness and beauty about their importance. Some readers judge a book by those first lines instead of by its cover. Imagine, a stranger picks up your novel in a bookstore, reads the first few lines, and crinkles their nose as they place it back in the shelf…what a nightmare!

Baldacci, David. Saving Faith. New York: Warner, 1999. Print.

Disbelief

Note: My apologies for the delay, but here’s another little piece of the story.

“I’m still not sure if you’re ready,” Tressa said.

“What makes you think that?” Gwen glowered at her.

“You didn’t even remember that fairies existed…I don’t want to overwhelm you.”

“Try me.”

Tressa sighed. “Well, there’s an army preparing to destroy our home and you used to be the only person who could reason with them.”

“Oh.” Gwen took a long swallow of her coffee, wishing that it was the sort she could get at the bar across the street. “Is that all?”

“And you don’t remember me, let alone them, so how can you be expected to solve anything?” She pressed her face in her hands rubbing it until her palms pressed into her eyes and she saw stars. Finally, she looked up. “It’s like you’re not even you. You don’t know how to stop a war and I bet you don’t even remember how to use your magic—”

“Wait.” Gwen cut her off.

“What?”

“I don’t have any magic. There’s no such thing.

Tressa stared at her with incredulity. “Then what the hell do you call me?”

“I still think that I’m hallucinating. Or still sleeping. And I hope that I wake up soon.”

“I’m a fairy. What more do you need to convince you that this is real?”

“You would actually probably be  more convincing if you weren’t a fairy,” Gwen said and then winced at Tressa’s facial expression.

“What is wrong with humans these days? You see a little bit of magic and automatically assume you’re insane. It’s like you’re so set on reality being crappy that you can’t accept any happiness or wonder that comes your way.”

“That isn’t true,” Gwen said quietly.

“Then why are you so adamant that this isn’t real? That there must be something wrong with you and not the situation.”

“What situation are you referring to?”

“Other than your excessive use of flavored creamer?” Tressa said.

Gwen just stared at her.

“The situation I’m referring to is the fact that you’ve lost a good portion of your memory. That doesn’t concern you?”

Gwen scrunched her face and returned her gaze to her coffee. “Can’t you cast a spell or something to give me back these memories?”

“It isn’t that simple.” Tressa sighed. “Magic doesn’t work that way, Gwen. “We’d have to request a meeting in front of the Fae Council and see if they would be willing to help us.”

“The Fae Council?”

“Yes.” Tressa finished her tiny mug of coffee and leaned forward to set it on the kitchen counter. “Maybe taking you to see more fairies would help to convince you that you’re not hallucinating?”

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Writing Goals for 2015

I know that there are a couple of days left in this year, but I felt like the beginning of the week would be just as good a place to put this post as any.

Looking back at the goals that I made for 2014, the only thing off of that list that I actually accomplished was finishing the novel I started for NaNoWriMo 2013. As you know, I did this by completely rewriting it for NaNoWriMo 2014. And, while I’m disappointed in myself for not having completed any of the other goals, I do think that the fact that I completed the big one, so to speak, is pretty exciting.

So, here are some of the writing goals that I have for myself for this upcoming year.

  1. This year’s “big” goal is that I want to finish editing my novel, Collecting Humanity.
  2. Another main goal for me is that I want to try my hand at freelance writing again.
  3. I’m also planning on blogging regularly both here and at No Penny Required. I made a commitment to both these blogs when I decided to purchase their domain names. I’m also playing with the idea of once again trying to create some sort of author website using Wix.
  4. You may have noticed in the sidebar that I’m going to give myself the poem a day challenge again as well. Even if it’s winds up being something I can’t use, I want to get something down.
  5. The same applies to short stories. I want to try to write as many of those as I can during the year as well, and the Story Pieces series that I’ve started doing here should help.
  6. I would also like to submit my work to different literary magazines,
  7. attempt to find a literary agent once my novel is complete,
  8. and get some professional head shots made for the web and also for, one day, the inside cover of my novels.

There are so many things to see and do and learn in 2015. What are some of your life and writing goals?

Citations

I know, I can’t bring another Story Piece today, but I can find time to give you two posts in one day instead? We already knew that I was strange.

I recently realized that I haven’t been citing from the book that I’ve been using to find quotes from. And, because I think it’s important for you to use citations in work, it must also be important for me to use citations in my work. This posts is simply giving you a head up that whenever you see some words in magenta at the end of one of my posts, that is a citation from Son of Citation Machine.

ExampleofMagentaCitation

Above is a better example of the magenta that will be happening. I know that it looks pink, but if you have a WordPress account, you can look at your color options and this one is, in fact, known as magenta.

Anyways, I’m going to go through the other few Weekly Quotes that I have and make sure that I have MLA citations for each of them.

QuotationaryThe book that I was referring to is the Quotationary put together by Leonard Roy Frank. This is a wonderful book that I’m pretty sure my grandma found for me somewhere at some point some years ago–it’s been a while. It’s also a book that I think you should make a part of your collection because it is wonderful and also because it is apparently only $0.98 on Amazon.

I’ve always found quotes to be fun to look at it and they can also be an inspiration for your writing. I find that it’s a great way to spark poetry, in particular.

And this book is designed wonderfully. For one thing, it’s huge! It’s filled to the brim with so many wonderfully easy to read and find quotes.

Frank did a great job when he decided to separate the quotes by subject, making it easy to flip through your ABCs until you find the type of quote you might be looking for. The index is also broken up into topic and author, making it even easier to find what you’re looking for. Each quote has the speaker of said quote along with what they might have said it in, be it a novel or speech or letter. There are even some classic, anonymous quotes at the end of each section.

Procrastination

Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination, never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

Lord Chesterfield

Believe it or not, I didn’t intentionally pick another Lord Chesterfield quote! I actually didn’t even realize that it was until I was glancing back at last week’s quote to see how I had formatted the post.

The reason I picked this quote is because it really applies to how I should be looking at life. This past year, I’ve discovered the art of laziness and I’ve been working on slapping myself out of it. Hopefully, this adventure away from laziness with continue on into the next year.

This quote also has a lot to do with writing. You have to “snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment” of writing that you’re able to get your hands on because sometimes a few moments might be all you get in day to let your creativity flow.

And when you do get your hands on it, you need to dig in with all of your focus.

I.e. it probably isn’t the best idea to write while watching Guy Fieri‘s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Which is not what I am currently doing. At all.

Frank, Leonard Roy. Random House Webster’s Quotationary. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.