Monday, June 30, 2014

Writing on Writing.

*blows on blog and a poof of dust rises in a tiny little cloud*

HI EVERYONE. So in an attempt to start blogging again (remember when it was a thing I did?), I agreed to participate in a blog hop because all I had to do was answer some questions about the writing process and all the hard work was done for me, right? HAHA. So cute. I really meant to do it, I started mulling it over in my little writer-brain and then suddenly it was a month later and it wasn't done.

I was tagged by my friend Calee (her post is here) aaaaaaaaand I was supposed to go live with my post on June 7.  As you may have noticed by the fact that it's not anywhere close to June 7 anymore, I have clearly failed in that mission. But, as they say, better late than never, right? Right.

Always, always with the best of intentions.

Sometimes the best way to deal with a slump is to just wait it out. So I did, and here we are. 

So, onward. And we shall discuss Writing.

As I've probably mentioned a time or two before... I started writing as a wee Kellylet... I think around age ten or so. At least that's when it sticks out most prominently in my mind. I'd staple together sheets of notebook paper (or, sometimes, I'd fold them in half and THEN staple them, to give them a more book-like quality) and scribble my heart out. I would always include a "comments" page on the back for people to essentially leave a little review (yes, that's right - I invented the concept of comment pages, all the way back in 1994, because I am a hipster). It was my not-so-subtle way of seeking validation, though I wasn't aware that that was what I was doing until later. 

My friend and I spent our recesses in fourth and fifth grade writing and illustrating stories, which were largely, in hindsight, Disney Princess fanfic. (Yes, this was before Disney Princesses were a brand, and before we had any idea what "fanfic" was... MORE HIPSTER POINTS!). As we entered middle school, and self-consciousness took over, I still wrote, but not for anyone to read. (And yes, there was an angsty poetry phase that lasted for most of the late nineties.) But it was always there. 

During Back to School time, my mom would stock up on spiral bound notebooks when the major retail stores would sell them for 10¢ apiece, and I was allowed ONE new notebook per month. I was pretty good about sticking to this, too, even though I knew where she kept the stash.

I remember when other kids were all "I want to be a fireman/ballerina/doctor/astronaut" because career goals are much more open when you're young and not hindered by a thing called reality, all I wanted to be was a writer. Specifically, I wanted to write and publish novels. I wanted to walk into a bookstore and see my name on a spine. I wanted to be the library book that some kid checked out over and over because it resonated with them somehow. 

That's the funny thing about that sort of dream, though... while I may be unfit for several professions, the only thing stopping me from becoming a Writer is myself. 

I have folders upon folders of half-finished stories that have lived for up to twenty years* plastic totes/bins, most of which took up residence in my dad's basement. When he and my stepmom bought a new house, I was informed that I needed to reclaim my things. I can't bring myself to blindly toss everything out, though. There could be something worthwhile in there - either a spark of an idea that I can finish now, or something so absurdly horrible that we can laugh about it later. Either way, I've got some word-mining to do.


But I digress, and terribly. Here are the four questions I was supposed to answer:


I'd love to tell you that I've been super MIA because I've finally buckled down and started writing a novel, as is my lifelong dream, but that would sort of be a lie. 

But I'm getting closer. Of the two or three ideas that I've been tossing around, I've zeroed in on one of them. I've been sorting out plot points, character profiles, themes, scenes, the works... in my head, at least. They've been rolling around for weeks. I've made playlists to accompany the actual writing, songs that fit the mood of the story either lyrically or musically. I've got a secret pinboard with imagery that fits what I want to do. (And, of course, hypothetical actresses that would play my main female characters, because this is obviously an important element.) My plot and scope are creeping around, getting a bit far from where I originally started... I don't know if that's good or bad, but it's starting to not make sense. I need to tie pieces together and have some idea of where I'm going. Right now, Point A and Point B are on different planets. I've got other elements that I can't decide if they're stupid or interesting; hell, I can't tell if the entire thing is stupid or interesting. Maybe it's trying to hard right now (yes, it has become sentient). 

I handwrote two pages the other night. They were complete shit, but it's still two pages, and it's a step in the right direction. I can always rewrite them later. To quote Terry Prachett, "The first draft is just you telling yourself the story."

Also, my friend Steph talked me (and Calee) into signing up for Camp NaNoWriMo, so... perhaps that's a kick in the pants that I need. I'm going to give it a shot, I can't do any worse than the last time I tried NaNoWriMo, wherein I lasted all of two days. If that.


I don't think there's anything particularly unique about my style of writing, to be honest... it's one of many tongue-in-cheek twentysomethings scribbling out personal essays of the nonfiction variety. There was one time I was reading a book of essays (I believe it was Sloane Crosley's I Was Told There'd Be Cake) and I had to set it down because I was so jealous. Her style was similar to mine and I was totally connecting with her narrative and her words, but the fact of the matter was that she'd actually sat down and turned her stories into a damn book. It was one of those cases of I could totally do this... yeah, but you didn't. There's no shortage of them, books of personal essays, but I don't feel like my writing is necessarily worthy of publication. (YET). Maybe the market is saturated now, I don't know. But you go into a bookstore, a huge bookstore - like Powell's in Portland - and you see all these numerous volumes of books and it's mind-blowing, how many people have put words to paper, how many people have done this thing that you want to do. And I had two distinct thoughts, at once: 1: there are all of these accomplished authors already, there is no room for me... 2: look at all these books - there is always room for one more.

I've been told by other Writers (capital W) that I have a distinctive voice; while I consider this to be a tremendous compliment, I am at a loss as to how to identify mine as being different than anyone else's. I just don't see it. Perhaps that's the biggest indicator of my amateur status, but sometimes I think it might be okay to go in without having a clue what you're doing. It's possible to know too much and think yourself out of whatever you were going to do. Though I'm worried that since I don't know what constitutes my voice, it might be easy for me to lose it. 

Lastly, there is another quote (you need a quote for something? COME AT ME. I collect quotes like Ariel collects sea trash) - "Don't forget - no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell." Charles de Lint. 

I like that a lot. Not to get all "WE'RE ALL SPECIAL SNOWFLAKES" or anything, but it's just a reminder that two people can experience the exact same thing, and come away from it feeling completely differently. I am unique; I have a unique perspective. I can take a story that's maybe been told a million times before (haven't they all?), but I can put my own unique twist on it. 


Because... I have to? The words just come and I have to get them out or they bottle up inside me until I don't feel like myself. Writing - not fiction writing, per se, just writing in general - has been my lifeline, my constant. It's been therapy when I needed it most; it's been a tool of communication; it has been a marker for watching how I've changed and grown. At its most base level, that's what it is: trying to communicate and connect with the world, with people like me, my tribe, my soulmates. 

I think that's where I struggle with fiction. It used to come naturally; it doesn't now. There's this notion that a story comes out because it's something you have to tell; it will eat away at you until you free it. But for the fiction pieces I'm working on (playing fast and loose with the term "working")... there's no immediacy. It's something I want to write because I want to write an interesting, compelling, hopefully emotion-inducing story. But not because there is this repressed story that needs to get out. So I have a hard time getting enthused over it because, big whoop, it's just another story among millions. 

If these ideas, these stories, never go out into the world, the world will not suffer a void. They are unnecessary, probably. I have yet to hit any great human truth that needs to be shared. Perhaps that is the challenge that lies ahead of me.


HAPHAZARDLY. I like the idea of drafts and outlines, but oftentimes, it comes down to just sitting down at a keyboard and pounding away until coherent sentences come out. 

I'm currently working out of order. A scene here, a scene there. This is the opposite of how I used to write fiction, when I'd just start at a point and plow through until I lost momentum or interest (usually about four days later when something would pull me away.) Better? Worse? We'll see. I'll just have to make sure to fix tone shifts on my first round of edits. (Edits?! Ha. I rarely if ever edit. Most of what comes out on this blog is just flat-out stream of consciousness rambling. Editing is going to be an interesting process for me, but I'm actually looking forward to it, once I can just get the first draft hammered out.)

Other than that? I'll have to let you know. I don't have a process yet.

For nonfiction/blogging, my process is still pretty haphazard, but like I mentioned, it's pretty stream-of-consciousness. I used to be opposed to editing altogether: what came out is what came out, as raw and as unpolished as it was. Not so much now, though I don't have a lot of time to spend revising, so it's still pretty rough. If it gets published at all.

There's a site called 750 Words that encourages you to just sit down and start writing whatever comes to mind (also known as "stream of consciousness" writing) and by the time you get to about - you guessed it - 750 words, your scattered thoughts will start to form something cohesive. It's a great exercise for when you don't think you have anything to say... you'll find you do, but it's often buried. 

I should do this more, and I don't. I have started journaling rather sporadically, and I've found the aforementioned theory to be true. What starts off as half-thoughts eventually drives its way into a tangent and usually by the time I'm done, I feel like I actually wrote about something.


So, that's my bit. Frankly, just writing all of this has gotten me all jazzed to write more now. I HAVE AWOKEN THE BEAST. Or something. It's in my veins, it's always been there... time to go fulfill a twenty-year promise to myself.


Without much further ado (I excel at ado, guys), I pass the torch to... CASEY

Calling the Great White North his home, Casey's spent the last few decades in pursuit of creating killer content. From novels as a kid, comics as a teen, to blogs and photos once he could grow a beard, he'll use whatever's around him to create amazing stuff.

When he's not creating, he's parenting, exploring and trying to make life as awesome as possible for everyone around him.

Because a boring life's not a life worth living!

PS - I know a lot of you reading this are also writers... you should answer these prompts, also. I would love to read your responses! Feel free to link up in the comments and we'll all nerd out over words together!