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.

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?

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.

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.

Piece one of Gwen and the Fairies

Note: This is a rough draft! Know that anything from names to scenes to what a character looks like is subject to change, but I will try to give you a heads up if anything changes that will affect how you read.

Please feel free to offer feedback in the comments. Tell me what you like, what you don’t like, and what you think needs to change. Thanks and I hope you enjoy!

She used to think that she had a normal life, boring even. Every morning, her alarm clock went off at 6 am and she’d haul her ass out of bed after the first or second snooze alarm had passed and march to the bathroom where she’d use the toilet while mushing her face with her palms in an attempt not to fall asleep while peeing. And then it was time to get dressed, eat breakfast on the couch while watching the news, leave the apartment, and then frantically turn around to reenter said apartment in order to brush her teeth, causing her to run just a tad bit late.

Then, one morning, when Gwen reached over to slap the alarm clock until she found the snooze button, it—no, whatever squishy thing that was on top of it—yelped.

So she shrieked and jerked backwards, causing her head to slam into the wall behind the bed. Rubbing her eyes, blurrily, she couldn’t decide if it was worth the potential risk to reach over to the same side table that held the thing in order to grab her glasses.

“Here,” a small voice said.

And Gwen’s glasses were suddenly being slid onto her face. She gasped when her vision cleared and she could fully see the tiny creature fluttering in front of her.

She, at least Gwen assumed it was female, looked exactly like a miniaturized human, except in the face. The features there were a slight degree sharper with prominent cheek bones, a tiny pointed noise, and tiny pointed ears beneath the curly, long brown hair. And the eyes looked old. Far too old for that unlined face.

And there was the matter of the wings.

They were whirring too fast for Gwen to get a good look at them, but they looked iridescent, like dragonfly wings.

It took a bit of effort for her to resist the urge to swat at the—fairy?—that was studying her face just a foot or less from her.

“What are you?” Gwen finally said.

The fairy winced, flying backwards easily to return to her spot perched on the alarm clock. “This is awful.”

“You’re not the one hallucinating.”

“This is so awful.” The fairy sighed, pressing her face in her hands.

“What?”

“You don’t remember. I was sure that you would, even if the others thought I was crazy.”

“There’s more of you?” Gwen said, then winced at the look on the fairy’s face. “I mean. Of course there are more of you. You can’t be the only fairy in the world. You are a fairy, right?”

She nodded her head.

“Well, um…” Gwen noticed the time on the clock under the fairy’s swinging legs. “I’m going to be late for work!” She frantically peeled herself out of her pile of sheets and blankets to propel herself to the bathroom. She slammed the door closed with her heel as an afterthought to keep the fairy out.

She didn’t want company while she peed and she needed time to process besides.

As she brushed her teeth, she wondered if she should just call into work. She figured that the appearance of strange creatures—i.e. hallucinations—was a damn good reason to take off work.

Besides, whatever the little being wanted was probably at least a little more important than accounting…

When she opened the bathroom door, the fairy wasn’t anywhere in sight. Gwen sighed in relief, sagging against the doorframe. She wasn’t crazy after all, or, at least, not that crazy. But she should still probably call into work and tell them that she was sick. She obviously needed more sleep. Or something.

“I thought you said you were going to be late?”

Gwen clamped a hand over her mouth to prevent the shriek that was surely there below the surface. She didn’t want her neighbors checking up on her. “You need to stop doing that,” she said, glaring at the fairy.

“Doing what?” The fairy glared back at her from her perch on the ceiling fan. She was hanging backwards off one of the blades with her legs hooked over it at the knees.

“Scaring me.”

“Well it isn’t my fault that you don’t remember anything.”

“Right,” Gwen said. “What’s your name, by the way?”

“I’m called Tressa.” The fairy unhooked her legs and did a little flip to return right sight up. She flew to Gwen to return to her place hovering close to the human’s face.

“Why have you been crying?”

“We used to be best friends,” Tressa said. “And now you’ve forgotten about me.”

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