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.

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?

My Notebook Editing Process

I mentioned last week that I’ve come up with a new way to organize the scenes of my novel so that I can see what needs work. With the hope that it will be helpful, I’ve decided to break it down for you here.

So far, I’ve been writing down recaps of each scene with as few words as possible and then writing down little captions of what point in time they’re taking place. If said point in time needs to be fixed or if I think the scene needs series work, I’m going to write myself a note saying so. Later, once I have all of the scenes’ captions written out, I’m going to work on numbering them–figuring out what order they should be in and what chapters they should be in.

Maybe I should have been giving each scene an entire page instead of just three blank lines. Too late for that!

Anyways, I’m also planning on adding more sections to this notebook, including one for the characters that includes their description and character traits. There will more than likely be a section dedicated to scene too.

As of right now, the pen colors are:

  • Black –> Initial scene recap
  • Purple –> Points in time that the scene takes place
  • Red –> Notes about major editing fixes that need to happen

Those are the only colors that I’ve needed so far. Eventually, there will more than likely be at least one more color with the purpose of marking the order and chapter of every scene.

Slightly Random Note

I mentioned before that I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d spend the money on keeping this domain for another year. Well, while in the spirit of Christmas shopping over the weekend, I decided to buy it for myself.

Lord Chesterfield

Take care of the minutes, for the hours will take care of themselves.

I feel like this quote by Lord Chesterfield, a man who was born in 1694, really applies to what I’ve been talking about these past couple of weeks. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with time management, and focusing on what I’m going to do for a couple of minutes instead of the stretching hours, days, years ahead makes it much easier to focus and get things done.

This is something that I learned during NaNoWriMo because of my success in focusing on the 1,667 words every day instead of the 50,000 words that I ultimately had to have written.

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

Editing Progress

Over the weekend, I started more seriously delving into the editing process for my NaNoWriMo novel. I also did a little editing of this actual site along with a little bit of Christmas shopping.

No, I have not finished my Christmas shopping yet. Usually, I would have been done and had everything wrapped by now…

I’ve started doing more shopping online this year and discovered that it’s difficult to not shop for myself along the way. Somehow, it’s easier to control myself when at the store than when on my laptop. For instance, after having shopped for the few things that I wanted for family, I decided to look on the Bath & Body Works website where they had their three wick candles on sale for $12.

I’ve had a bit of a candle problem ever since I’ve moved out, though I’ve pretty much gotten it under control. Sales like these make things difficult. Maybe, I’ll just allow myself one or two candles.

Now, the real reason I’m writing this post is to tell you about my latest editing endeavors.

So far I’ve started doing a read through while doing some minor editing and attempting to organize the piece with chapters and real scene breaks, but I hadn’t gotten very far. I kept sitting on this idea I had to help me fix the organization of the novel that involved sticky notes, but I couldn’t figure out how that wouldn’t be a big mess.

LOTR sword penOn Saturday I decided to take the idea and tweak it to something involving a notebook. I’m writing down a little snip-it about each scene as I come across it and then, with a different color pen, I’m giving it a timeline sort of word like “day 1” or “flashback.” After that, I’m going to work on putting everything it it’s proper order and chapter while fixing timeline holes.

And I’ve already found a timeline hole. I have a scene labeled “day 2” in which one of my characters references “a month later” as if it were in the present.

As I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t written this big of a beastly project before, so I think that this will be the perfect way to organize lay out and figure out how to make it make sense.

I’m going to find a lot more holes that need to be filled because, during NaNoWriMo, my goal was to simply get all of the words down.

The sticky note idea probably would’ve worked just as well, if not better, because I would’ve been able to move said sticky notes around to get them in the correct order. I simply couldn’t figure out where I was going to stick all of them.

National Poetry Month!

national_poetry_monthDid you know that April is National Poetry Month? I had some plans for IBW for this month, but since I’ve been AWOL, they haven’t really happened. Tell me, how are you celebrating?

This would be a great time for anybody and everybody to submit poems here. I’m also going to share some of my own poetry this month. Since I missed the first two weeks of April, I’m going to try to share one everyday this week; otherwise, it’ll just be a couple times a week.

And, don’t forget that Thursday, April 24 is Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Anyways, here’s the first one.

Weedy Lots of Abandoned Sunflowers
By Seanna Lyn Wilhelm

Swallowing the sun
is like putting bathwater
into a brown paper bag.
You have to rise and dive under
as well as someone—Kiss Me
And Get Down
who hears a squeak
across some filmy surface
of a mega-jumbo scorpion.

It has been attempted once before.
But like Humpty-Dumpty,
the Martian’s body and head
were all one—Are you listening?
and he was unable to comprehend
his own folly. It was obvious to the
I’m not scared of you—other creatures
that something as mighty
as the—But you should be of me—sun
would never consent to being
consumed by something so small and round.

My inspiration is always seaweed
in that—Listen to me—it slithers around
the crevices of my brain in a slick
embrace of mind boggling ideas.
I know that it will one day rip me
apart into various unseemly—Do it
now—rampaging thoughts
but nothing else will satisfy me—You truly
know nothing of yourself—because
no idol, image, or anything
comparable to creation could ever capture
God’s essence…

This poem was birthed in Dr. Tom Hunley‘s class in response to one of the poetry exercises that are in his book, The Poetry Gymnasium. Said exercise involved a bag full of scraps of paper that Tom has accumulated over the years. Each scrap of paper has a word or phrase on it, and each student had to reach in the bag and grab a fistful as it was being passed around the room.

At first, I wasn’t so sure about the exercise because it is kind of complicated to take a bunch of random stuff and turn it into a coherent poem. The above poem is the result of much editing. If I remember correctly, the first draft was more gibberish than anything else.

And, like everything else, I’m still in the editing process with this poem. I’m rather fond of what I wound up creating, partly because I’ve never really written anything like it before. But, for that same reason, I’m not so sure about it. Especially  the parts in italics. Thoughts?