Writerly Notions: blogs and purpose

tl;dr: I’ve tried various times to create and categorize writing (and related) blogs. But I can never maintain interest (except in ones I delete or revise the intention of). Until I know what I’m doing with my writing and my various categories of purpose (for me, for fairy tales, for sharing stories, for sharing experience), I won’t be updating this blog on a regular basis, if at all. Thank you to everyone who read and commented on my weird little posts. 🙂

At the beginning of the year (February, to be precise), I typed up an initial post, which has been on my to-do list for…maybe a year?, about this blog. And it’s various incarnations.

The central question was why? Why do I even have this blog?

It started as a place to post detailed responses to books I’m reading or have read. But my motivation and interest in that only lasted so long.

Then it was supposed to be a writing blog, with posts of my writing, especially my daily writing exercises. The trouble with that was two-fold: making sure I didn’t publish anything online I wanted to publish in some other way (and the added analytical sieving to make sure the stories or vignettes I post/posted were not something I wanted to publish in some other way) and a lot of what I would post/posted weren’t really that important. About the most important bits I’ve posted about my writing is my Writing Demons posts.

Then it was supposed to be a place to post my experiences, struggles, and thoughts as a writer. But doing that felt too messy for a blog, so I made a writing journal. But that has since ground to a halt. Likewise, this blog’s venue as a writing blog has ground to a halt. And my question is why?

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Writerly Notions: Stress & Focus

This morning I spent a few hours calibrating and analyzing what causes me stress and my stress levels. Or more specially “needling things that send me into a mental whirlwind panic/confusion.”

I won’t go into the details. Suffice to say, the categories of Creator, Writer, and Promotion feed off one another to create the highest levels of stress and the highest amount of stress. Additionally, as with this blog, some of the trouble comes from the simple question of: what am I doing? What do I intend? (I hope I’ll be able to post my thoughts on that, which have been waiting in my drafts, soon.)

A few, unrelated tidbits I learned about me and my writing today:

  1. a playlist I made of songs I can listen to over and over without getting sick of them lend themselves to worldbuilding and character development in Nights of Heroes. Which is interesting since it may imply that if left to it, I might think about that series a lot.
  2. I realized the third section in my recently complete novel (which is in revision) is more incomplete than I realized. Getting a handle on the chronology has helped a whole bunch (i.e. cementing dates so they don’t wiggle around; I have a tendency toward flexible dating…) Additionally, I realized why the second section comes off as different than the rest — it has subplots! The trouble is I’m unsure how much the content of those subplots plays into the larger story. So anyway, it gives me focus. I can work with that.

Sorry if this was a short and brusque.

I took an iPad photo of by analysis notes, if anyone’s curious.

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Writerly Notions: The Right Revision

I apparently struggle with revision.

So, it’s not hard to conceptualize a pattern of how to revise. I theoretically break revision up into multi-steps, to address more detailed attention. Like start with making sure the structure works, and so and so until you reach sentence structure. So, yeah, I get that.

But I realized there’s an aspect of revision that really throws me:

how do you know what the right order of a story is?

I can string events in order in my mind, especially if I write it out, but how do I know whether that order — event to event to event — is the best order for the story to unfold in? My criteria right now is whether it flows smoothly; does it seem as if it fits together and does the previous events seem to hook up with the following event. But how do I know for sure it’s best?

Some of this is probably predicated by how I feel writers (and creators) often operate on a “what if?” scenario basis. Which is really odd to me. If I write a story one way, that’s the way it is. Characters might change. Ambitions might change. Plot might change. If it changes as a result of discovering and revising the story, sure. But consciously sitting down to play out different scenarios is kind of…weird to me.

I guess what I’m getting at is that my impression of writers is that they mix and match events (or scenes) to get the best string of events (or story).

My question is then, how do you know which pattern is the best story?

And that gums me up in revision because I don’t know. Or don’t feel like I know. I wish there was a criteria to let me know when I’ve reached the best string of events for my story. That would really help. But I don’t think that exists.

As always, feel free to share your experiences or thoughts. I can’t guarantee I’ll respond quickly, but I wanted to extend the offer.

Writerly Notions: Characters & Negativity

One thing I’ve found out about myself, and which is part of why I’ve begun to think that I’m not future-author material, is that I can’t see the appeal of writing about sad or difficult things.

To be a little clearer:  if I’m feeling crummy, why would I want to actualize my dense, dragged-down, twisted, tangled feelings into words? Won’t it just leave me more exhausted and drained and defeated?

Additionally, why would I want to write about characters’ (whom I like) suffering, be it mentally, physically, or emotionally? (Okay, that’s not entirely true; there is a kind of…satisfaction from watching a character go through struggles and change as a result.)

I suppose it’s truer to say that I have a hard time getting why a writer would create characters who do intentionally terrible things.

I can get characters doing what they think is right or characters acting on their own sense of identity and integrity. But that that identity or sense of right would be to compromise the humanity of others…like why? What’s the appeal?

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Writerly Notions: Revision & me

So, for awhile my approach to revising stories, be they short or long, was to either literally revise in-text or to re-write from scratch. The latter was not…the best idea. To wit, I rewrote a 68k word story, to make it fit better with where the story had gone (which is now obsolete), and it ended up at 111k words, having only made it to 2/3rds of the original plot. In other words, it became even more rambling than before.

Recently I came across a suggestion that for revision one should rewrite, not from scratch, but from the already written story. Which I took to mean following its scenes and its order, rather than letting the story meander on a completely new path. (Nothing wrong with letting a revision go to new places, I think, but not letting it just be a new story.)

I’ve always had a puzzle with revision. If I rewrite completely, with only a loose thread, I’m afraid it’ll be a new (worse) story. But if I do the rewrite I read about, it becomes the struggle of not rewriting each scene word by word from what I just re-read so I can remember what’s in the each paragraph/scene.

I wish there was a step by step procedure that would let me know I’m hitting the right “marks” to let me know when I’m revising my story in the right way. Or getting my characters right. Or whatever I need to do. It’s not very clear.

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Writerly Notions: Experts and Imagination

So I was re-reading Histoire d’Aladdin ou la Lampe merveilleuse (as one does), and I was forcibly reminded that writers need to know what they’re writing about. If say, I write about a character baking a cake, I have to know what kind of cake they’re baking and, more importantly, I need to know how that cake would be baked. And that’s where experts and connections and all that is important. Knowing who to ask and getting input from people who know what they’re talking about. Experts.

But what I think is interesting is that I couldn’t write:

She baked a werthor from a bowl of leftover isluuma blossoms, dried up after last winter’s molt and stored by her grandmother. After all adding a dollop of yurna berry juice, with just the right thickness to keep the center stiff, she popped the feathery dough into the fire-orb, watching as it expanded into a firm round werthor.

Because it’s not based on an actually recipe or method of baking.

What to write?

11 December 2016:

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a lot of my thoughts and feelings down. It felt as if I was pushing myself to really think and consider things: how I felt, what I felt, my situation, who I was, what I believed.

I didn’t post any of it; I never post those kinds of reflections. I have a writing document, or a journaling word document. It’s where I can work through thoughts and confusion and realizations. Or at least it feels like I am. I don’t have to worry if the paragraphs fit together, or if it makes sense, or if it has a unified topic, or if it is writerly or witty or just good writing. I don’t have to worry about if my feelings sound good. I can just focus on what I mean or what I feel.

Almost two weeks ago, I posted a verbatim one about my purpose and why I write. I hadn’t written anything since then.

Today’s the seventh Anniversary of The Princess and the Frog. It’s the only Disney movie that directly influenced my writing. That winter soon after it premiered, me and my immediate family went to Walt Disney World and stayed at resort near Animal Kingdom. It was an awesome place. (It was connected to the safari/savanna so there was a waterhole area outside where you could view animals; we saw a giraffe drinking on the last day.*) But it was really out of the way.

More importantly there was a lot of PatF stuff being promoted. So, the African décor, animals, PatF, and the Christmas lights and spirit mashed up in my mind to deter and take over the second book of my Aladdin-lyric story.

That’s a really bad working name, but it’s the best I can think of to explain it.  Essentially, I wanted to take the cut lyrics from Disney’s Aladdin and see if I could create a compelling story out of it. Or more precisely, if I could take a lazy character and a spoiled character and see if I could make them compelling. By the end, it had begun to deviant from that idea and sink into a strange fog focused on the early stages of my Dreams. Then PatF came out. And I got two new characters that changed the plot.

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Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth

or The Debate of Finrod and Andreth

by J. R. R. Tolkien

from The History of Middle-Earth: Vol. X Morgoth’s Ring

So, I finally got around to reading this. I had heard about it – a human woman and male elf discuss the differences between human and elven nature. It was definitely a very heavy read, since most of the text is concerned with esoteric questions of what distinguishes a human soul from an elven one, and more specifically, how do the traditions of humans differ from elves.

Even more specially, it is strongly concerned with death and how each race interacts with death. Elves accept death as a shadow in their future, that will cause them to end when Eä ends. Their body and soul (or hröar and fëa, the specific in-world terms) cannot exist without the physical world existing, which will not be forever.

In contrast, Andreth alludes to the assertion that humans were meant to be eternal – both hröar and fëa – even beyond the existence of the physical world. But they did something wrong and were cursed with death, changing it into that which stalks them. They live in constant fear of it. As she tells Finrod even if they are good and fair and righteous, they will still die. Even if they are cautious and healthy, they will still die. Death is the one inescapable quality of human existence.

What fascinated me about that, as I’m almost done in a re-reading of The Silmarillion (as of this posting, I am done), is that Elvish understanding perceived human death as part of their gift. They’re ability to die was their gift from Eru. Andreth, a human, contradicts this.

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Writing, Worth, and Purpose

Dying is easy. Or giving up is easy. The trouble is how to know when you’re wasting your time on something (even if it’s what you decided to do since you were ten) or whether you just need a good dose of focus and hard work.

That’s been my dilemma for years now. I’m at attempt #3 for finishing a few novels, connecting with other writers, connecting with others in general, connecting with the writing world, finding people to share my writing with –

(i.e. beta readers! Cause I realized that I can write easily; I can even see where and how my rough drafts need help, but I have the hardest time trying to 1. Figure out to actualize these changes, 2. Actually actualizing these changes, 3. Seeing how to alter and change content/plot/characterization/dialogue. Basically, I’ve been thinking I could benefit from another pair of eyes on my writing. But that’s really difficult because I could throw like 10 things at a beta reader: 5 novels, 2 novellas, and a sprinkling of short stories and snippets. And that’s just included finished rough drafts.)

Sorry. Got distracted.

So. It’s the eternal question. Why do I write? Also: is writing worth it? Or more precisely: is my writing worth it?

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The Pearl of the Soul of the World

(READ IN FEBRUARY)

Ah, yes, the ending of this book. There are so many fine details of plot that stood out to me and that I still don’t know what to think of.

Irrylath’s feelings for Aeriel. Based on his protestations, he seems to feel he loved her.

Then there’s the allusion that Aeriel keeps claiming he’s hers. This is comparable to what the Water Witch kept saying. But in the end, Aeriel had to let him go. Set him free.

And then there’s Aeriel and Erin’s friendship. Why does Erin love her so much? We don’t see them spending much time together. Or is that the point? Erin loves her so quickly and is so loyal even after knowing her such a short time, so why doesn’t Irrylath?

But doesn’t he have his own internal demons to wrestle with?

Why is it all right for Erin to accompany Aeriel and not Irrylath? Well, he can’t because of his promise to the Avacorlon, but why won’t Erin’s company distract her? Can only romance distract someone?

Oriencer’s goals, her talks with Aeriel. The subtly, the language. Sympathy for the Witch.

Who has power. Does Aeriel have a say in what happens to her. Does she even want to become Ravenna’s heir? Well, she wouldn’t want the world to die. That was her motivation in book one. Where do the creatures created on the moon stand in terms of autonomy.

Gratified to see everyone fighting against the witch after the first two books.

What is humanity. What is life. The soul can be put in new bodies. Science plus magic. Mentions of science, such as water, but described differently. Beads of color correlate to molecules? I misremembered her chain. I thought it was a sign she was a golem not that the chain from the pearl was fused to her.

Her situation at the end is the inverse of Irrylath’s. He wanted to avoid her because he felt she saw everything that made him wrong, all his mistakes, all his inhuman crimes. Aeriel feels just as inhuman, since she can no longer die.

What does Irrylath think of all this? Is his interest in Aeriel simply the result of having her heart? Does he have more of a hero-worship complex for her? (Quote). She tries to tell him he is brave but he doesn’t seem to want to listen. Why is Sabr so desirous of claiming Irrylath? I assume she loves him but we don’t see it. I can believe by the end that Aeriel does still love Irrylath. In a way, she takes the final step in freeing him. How did sharing hearts a/effect their relationship?

Irrylath seems very…emotionally reckless. He’s passionate and sporadic. I wonder if some of it has to do with how he was raised and how, when he became human, he still seemed to be a six year old. His growth into an adult is complicated. He has a lot of stuff (the witch’s torture, mistrued interpretations of love, stunted maturity, manipulated memories, abandonment, guilt over crimes he did not realize he committed or would not have wished to such as killing the Avacorlon and drinking the blood and hearts of thirteen maidens) to deal with. I’m not entirely sure I can see Sabr helping with that. She might sincerely care but I don’t know anything about her so I can’t say if she would help heal him.

And what of Erin? I always remembered that her friend came with her. Why is she so loyal and in love with Aeriel? Because she saved her? Because she relates to her, since neither of them have homes? And why does Aeriel care about her?

Time that could have been spend on them was spent on Aeriel being drugged in Pirs and them being connectedthrough the   sword and pearl. Is it because she never gave up anything for Erin? Because Erin is her shadow, the part of her she cannot leave behind. Even while she learns Ravenna’s secrets and mends the world, Erin will not compromise her attention. She will not be alone. Doesn’t this implicate that romance takes more concentration away from other duties than friendship? Do I think that’s true? I’m not sure.

I definitely see some influence here. The renunciation of romance in exchange for friendship. Not precisely for friendship, but that relationship survives the change in the protagonist as they move into a new awareness or sense of self (Anthy*, Aladdin).

After the Witch’s defeat there is strong sense of a renewed world. There is rain. The world has changed. There is a strong change of the environment. The story shows the changes that have resulted from the Witch’s defeat. It feels like the world now belongs to those who were made there. Which is kind of what the remnant of Ravenna tells Aeriel. It is a new world but it still needs work.
*although I’m hesitant to use her as an example as its been taught to me that their relationship is not friendly, or if it is, it is also romantic in potential. (This kind of makes me wonder why very powerful friendships can lend to romantic interpretation. Not that that’s bad, but why can’t two people love each other so much, with the same devotion, constancy, and passion of what people consign to romantic and sexual relationships, and have it be neither romantic or sexual? I guess I’d just like more relationships like that.)