How I Write

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I feel bad for not writing much here, but not so bad, because I’ve been writing my book, which was the point of me starting this blog in the first place. (Woo!) Since we last spoke, I have officially finished the final outline of my novel. (I’ll probably be writing a post soon about why this is a big deal. Basically, 15 years in the making) Now my goal is to finish the entire draft (third overhaul, second start to finish manuscript) and actually get it ready to send off.

Today, I just want to share a little bit of what writing looks like for me on a day-to-day basis right now. (Note: very little actually involves trying words.)

Since I am lucky enough to have a job right now that is predominantly menial labor, and doesn’t require full mental concentration or creativity, I decided a couple months ago to use this time to really think and plot and create (pretty much everything except actually writing) my book. This has done wonders to my productivity and satisfaction at work and motivates me to actually write when I’ve the time.

Each new thing I did was hurriedly typed into my phone in the rare breaks I get at work, in digital shorthand until I can compile and expand later.

So, what I decided I needed to do today in the six hours of quiet work ahead of me:

  • Name my main villain (because I can’t very well call him Uncle the whole time. I know; I’ve tried. XD)
  • Plot out the next scene.

What actually happened:

  • Deepened understanding of magical system, as it relates to names, usage, place in life, and personality.
  • In light of this, refigured interpersonal relations, scenes, and entire characters
  • Gained deeper insight to the mythologies, religions, and cultures
  • Found two new fighting scenes I have to write
  • Made two characters far more interesting
  • Built more ground work for other books
  • Made one villain and one hero more relatable
  • Found out how parents relate to their children in reference to pet names (I.e how they talk to their children before and after naming, and how that in turns informs their relationship with said child
  • Found a story seed that uses punctuation in an interesting way
  • Found a new way to describe a character that is less clunky
  • Might have found a way to impart necessary world building information without info dumps, that will change the tone of the book in major way. (Closer to what I prefer to read, and find more fun, but wildly differing from how I always thought the story would be told, and that terrifies me.)
  • Delved more into how I wanted to mesh my beliefs into my work, without it devolving into a sermon and undermining the story itself
  • Solidified some ideas of how I want to be branded as an author, and how I could handle writing the multiple genres, and the crossovers and hybrids thereof.
  • Worked on a pivotal relationship in the book, how the two interacted and viewed each other.

What did not happen:

  • Naming of the Uncle
  • Plotting of the scene

Sincerely, A Frustrated Reader

Guys. I am a huge believer in the idea that all writers are, at least in part, a frustrated reader who got tired of waiting for someone else to write the book they want to read.

This is pretty much where I am now; I have one flavour of story I want to read, but I can’t find it anywhere; who knew a cross between Sailor Moon, The Mummy, and Stargate, with a smattering of Fringe/X-Files thrown in, would be so hard to find. Just a book with upbeat, irrepressibly optimistic protagonists, a heavy influence of archaeology, reincarnated kingdoms, ancient futuristic technology, and dimension/time travel. It’s not like that’s a terribly specific and weird combination. Surely there are loads of books like that, no? No?

Anyway, besides now having a new story I have to write, I am left wondering; is there an app or website that lets you plug in elements from books you like, or just straight up book you like, and it spit out other books that match up? I’m not talking Goodreads; while in theory it might be good, I’ve found it rather useless. (When I say I want to read something like Mansfield Park, I don’t want something Regency-era. I want a book with a quietly strong female character, told by a witty narrator. That sort of thing.) if there is, or by some miracle you actually know if books that match what I’ve described here, please help. I can’t focus on other work until I’ve got this craving sorted.

If such an app or site does not exist, I’m very tempted to create one myself. (Never mind the fact that coding is the very bane of my existence.) I mean, it would take a phenomenal amount of research and effort, but good gravy, think of the payoff.

On the topic of wanting new books. I don’t care what format its in; series, book, novella, snippy paragraph- I just need J.K. Rowling to write more about ancient Egyptian Wizards. I needs it.

That Time Leftover Thai Food Almost Made Me Cry

Life, the last couple of weeks, has been stressful. I am at the tail-end of moving residences, which has been one expense after another, I’ve got two medical bills and reoccurring prescriptions hitting soon, and I know my car isn’t going to pass it’s safety inspection next month, it’s just a question of how much the repairs are going to cost. Some time soon, I need to replace at lease two pairs of shoes if I want to be able to walk without hobbling (thank you, heel spur. You are definitely a welcome addition to my medical issues) and as much as I love my new home, I’m lacking in a lot of things I need (here’s looking at you, cooking utensils.)

Honestly, guys, I was making a mental list of all the expenses I’m facing in the next two months as I was driving home from work, and I broke down crying. This has been a fairly common occurrence this last year; for as much as I have been totally blessed by so many people, it has been a long string of financial strain and career disappoints for the last year and a half. And that’s okay. My life was never promised to be easy, but though the waves crashed around me, my God kept me afloat. Every time I faced an obstacle I did not know how to surmount, He pulled me through. I know He will do the same this time, too.

I know He has a plan, and I trust that He will see me through this season. I don’t need reassurances- my past experiences and the Bible should be sufficient- yet God still saw fit to remind me that He has everything under control. In just this weekend alone, I have been showered with His providence in so many different little ways; from having friends randomly (and generously) treating me to dinner, to a sister who bought me my favourite coffee, to those friends and family who gave up sleeping in to help me move all my things early Saturday morning, to my grocery bill coming in a good $10 less than I thought it would, to a well-timed hug and conversation from a friend I hadn’t seen for a while, to friends who encouraged/helped me to learn how to do winged eyeliner. I was gifted a full spice rack (spices included) just minutes after unpacking what spiced I already had, and wondering when I was going to be able to afford a spice rack. (This was given to me by the mother of the family I am now subleasing from- they alone have been so incredibly kind and generous and welcoming to me since I met them over two years ago, and for their extended family to be just as kind has utterly blown me away.) Later, that same family invited me to dinner, and then sent home at least two meals worth of food with me. So as I sat there, looking at the boxes of food, and listening to them chatter around me, I very nearly started crying; not from heartache or worry, but (for the first time in a very, very long time) from happiness.

Despite this very long winded post, I do not have the words to express the depth of my gratitude for these people, or how utterly unworthy I am of them, but most of all, how blown away I am by a God who care so much about the little troubles I my life. I can rest in the knowledge that if He cares so much about the small things, I can trust that the large problems will also be taken care of. I may not be able to find a more financially secure job, and I probably won’t be getting a new car any time soon (the two solutions I can think of for my current issues), but I am not alone, I am not forgotten, and I will be okay.

And that, dear friends, if how leftover Thai food very nearly made me cry.

Never Re-read Favourite Childhood Books

Well, that’s a bit harsh. Maybe I should’ve said “Never re-read favourite childhood books, unless you’ve prepared your heart for disappointment.”

But, in my life, considering all the dreams lost and plans foiled, the most disappointing moments have been when I decided to re-read a past favourite book/series.

This doesn’t happen often, my choosing to re-read something, and when it does, it is almost always at least two years between reads. Most books, to me, aren’t “alive”, so to speak; creations that manage to change, be different and new, with each read. Those books are, very, very rare in my life. I usually need about a 2-3 year buffer between reads to forget the details that made it interesting. (I’ve yet to fully forget the main plot of any book I’ve read, so the details are what I need to keep my interest.) Some books, I need closer to a decade.

In my youth, there were some books I read every year, I loved them that much; I loved the story, the prose, everything. Some, like Edding’s Belgariad and Mallorean, I can still read with just as much enjoyment as I did in my youth. Other favourites, unfortunately, did not fair so well. Surprisingly, it was not the stories that pushed me away, but the prose that I once loved so much.

The first series I experienced this with was Terry Brook’s Shannara Chronicles; I loved these as child. I loved the plot, the characters, the works. But I especially loved how it was written. To my ten year old mind, it was the epitome of descriptive works, and after which I strove to model my own writings. So, in the last year of university, I decided to reread them, and bought the first book as incentive to go to the gym. (Telling myself I could only read it while on an exercise bike.) This worked precisely once, and that was when I learned that one’s taste for prose can change drastically over the course of a dozen years. I faced this again with Pier’s Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series. Descriptive passages I once marveled at now set my teeth on edge. It’s rather depressing, actually. I still love the idea of the books, the story and characters, but I can’t get two pages in without my fingers itching to rewrite it all. (Not, mind you, that I think I could do better, or that I would if I could; these stories deserve to be told in the voice of the one doing to the telling, not in mine.)

There are a great many books I read and loved as I child that could/would not read now, and the idea I am probably denying myself a great story based solely on matters of style preferences is concerning.

All this jabber to say, I’m careful now to choose what I reread carefully, lest I taint fond memories with new sensibilities.

Who I Am: Writer Edition

Okay, so after writing the Artist-me post, I realized that I could still introduce Writer-me, since I am still working on the ‘writing blog posts without third party prompts’ thing. (Whether I should write this must be determined by a jury of my peers at a later date.)

So again, I present the duality of my self-as-writer: Non-fiction vs Fiction.

The non-fiction writing I do is very much me, in that when I am writing, when it is my voice and information being imparted, I write like I think. Literally. This is my train of thought, here on this page. I don’t sit down and bullet point each segment, I don’t craft a thesis, I don’t worry about the conclusion. I fix on a topic, and type. (This is great, usually, for word count, but grammar often gets left behind, and I have a tendency to ramble in parentheses and commas. [I even find the need to do parentheses within parentheses, because I have issues.] It means I always did well in English, but I didn’t get straight-As.) What you see on this blog and any other social media is me, talking to you, via ink and pixel.

Fiction me is another beast entirely. When writing a story, I’m not really the one telling the story; I’m more like a conduit than a crafter. (Don’t get me wrong, it is my story, and I am the one writing it, but for me writing is more like uncovering a story that is already out there, fully formed, and less like building a story brick by brick) Therefore, how I tell a story- the tone, the rhythm, the flavour, if you will- differs wildly depending on who and what it’s about. For example, one of my stories is a third person narration, wherein the narrator is invisible, while another might still be third person, but the narrator has much more personality (without being a straight up character, or first person.)

And that’s me.

Who I Am: Artist Edition

Well, guys, it’s been a week since I finished the blogging challenge, and while it was fun, I think I will be cutting back to once a week posts. Probably.

Anyway, we are now solidly in the first week of April, and let me tell you, this is going to be a busy month. My dad and brother are in-state, so I’ve been able to see them on the weekends, and this weekend is their last one on the mainland. Next week, I’m moving to a new place (all to myself, no less!) and then a week and a half after that, t’will be my birthday, and hopefully I’ll be doing a lot of art pieces to sell before then.

Right. So, I thought today, I could introduce ‘Myself-as-Artist’ (to be read in snooty accents) since you’ve got a taste of ‘Me-as-Writer’ (rambling, random, bit weird) over the last month.

Generally speaking, I gravitate to bold colors and interesting textures, complex minimalism (yay oxymorons), and clean line work. How stringently I stick to that in my own work depends on the medium I’m using at the time.

For digital art, I mostly stick to vector art, and it’s almost always a heavily stylized look. I use pencil, paper, and Adobe Illustrator almost exclusively for this. I mostly do portraits/character design, but I have been known to dabble in logos and landscapes.

For studio art, I like painting and sketching, but mostly painting. While I have painted with oils (in class) and I enjoyed it, I actually prefer painting with coffee. Until recently, I only painted world maps with coffee, but I have started to branch out some. Though I think my will always be stylistic as opposed to realistic, my ‘traditional art’ is usually much less cartoony than the vector art.

Finally, I deeply enjoy folding paper cranes. You put disable object near me, I will attempt to make it into a crane. I don’t put this under the traditional art yet, because while it is an art form in and of itself, but I’ve always looked at it as a part of something else I want to make. I know I want to do sculptures/wall art with them, things you can decorate a home or a gallery with, but I don’t really know what that is, yet.

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Day Thirty: My Favourite Movie Character

I have a very large collection of favourite characters from movies and books, and picking only just one is trying to pick a favourite friend, I shan’t do it.

But, I do have certain archetypes that I love more than others, and those characters that introduced me to the archetype will always be beloved.

Therefore, I can resolutely state that Mouse, from Ladyhawke- a 1985 fantasy movie I’ve grown up watching- is one of my favourite characters. Mouse, played by Matthew Broderick, is a thief, loyal, and witty, and solidly sold me on the ‘lovable rouge,’ so much so that if I see a movie or book has this particular flavor of the archetype, I am 98%* more likely to watch it.

Other characters that further solidified this preference includes Jim from The Stainless Steal Rat, Silk from the Belgariad/Mallorean (often compared to a weasel; I’m starting to see a pattern here I don’t much like), Mercedes Lackey’s Skif, and much more recently but squarely fits in this category so I am including him, Nick from Zootopia. (If you noticed that Han Solo is missing from this list, it’s because though he fits the general archetype, he’s a subtype I’m not very fond of. Sorry ’bout it.)

*statistics shown here are entirely fictitious, but probably pretty accurate anyway.