Monday, 24 September 2012

Chapter 13 - Announcement

I suppose it's unlucky to reveal good news with a number thirteen, but so be it!

So you know that novel I started working on last November?  The one I've been blogging about since I started this thing?  Momentum?  

Um, I finished it.

Cue confetti cannons and streamers!  

Granted, this is a first draft which means no one in the world is going to be allowed to read it (I have to give you my best, not my first go at it!), but for all intensive purposes, the book is written.  Right now it clocks in at about 70,000 words which in page terms, means about 275 pages.  Short, I know.  I wanted to get everything written first before going back to do a serious revision.  I'm sure it will expand as I already have ideas that I want to add to it.  

I'm really excited though and nervous.  This is different than the first manuscript I finished.  There was less of a defining moment where I typed the last sentence, sat back, and cracked my knuckles with a sigh.  This one has been a fight.  It's been like an exorcism trying to find my main character's voice and to give it the authenticity it needs, but I know I have something.  Now I need to fine tune and polish it so it will be presentable to the masses.  

It feels nice.  As a writer and an unpublished one at that, I felt a sense that I would only be able to do this once and when my first manuscript didn't explode like I wanted it to, I was discouraged.  I had to learn to take an idea I'd nursed in my mind for years and set it aside to become enamored with something else.  And to be honest, this feels better.  I can tell my writing is stronger, I was less attached to certain scenes or phrases, and more able to see my work objectively.  As a result, I have a more coherent story with characters who I feel are deeply layered and work with minds of their own.  They are complex and I hope the reader takes away something from each of them.  I want Momentum to be a novel that you finish, but have to take time to process later.  

At the same time, I am definitely scared.  Finishing means I am one step closer to putting this thing I've created out into the world and letting my audience do with it what they will.  They will form opinions, they will not like what I've said, and they will criticize.  However, one thing I am learning is that unless you are writing a journal, you aren't writing for yourself.  You have an audience in mind and at some point, you have to give them what they've waited for.  My writing classes are helping me overcome the anxiety I get when having someone else read my work.  We're all learning.  We all have something to offer and we are going to give each other good ideas and criticism.  You have to take the bad with the good.  You need fresh eyes to look at what you've done because you can't see the mistakes you're making or where you're being so dense, your reader cannot understand what is happening.  

When I told my parents, the first thing they asked was when do they get a copy.  Well, despite my excitement over finishing, this project is not done.  A first draft is only the beginning.  A first draft is throwing all the words you need down on paper.  It doesn't mean I have a packaged product ready for publication.  No one has read the whole thing.  I would be an idiot to try and publish without getting even one other person to give me input.  What it does mean is that I have my foundation.  What I wrote may not necessarily be what I intended, but this is what revising is for.  

My plan now?  

I want to go through and change all of the things I have been neglecting and add in the ideas I had along the way.  I need to cut out the parts that aren't finished at the end or that don't matter.  And I need to get fresh eyes on this thing.  Literary eyes.  I hope to get some connections in the English Department where I am taking classes.  Really, I want a mentor.  Someone to help guide and mold my work and someone who understands the message I am trying to convey.  And that's like dating.  You have to find the right partner.  Until then, I'll be on my own, putting my all into the manuscript and trying to create the best draft I can.

Then and only then, once I have something that I feel is worthy of publication, will I begin the querying process again.  Before, my problem was that I queried too early.  I was too eager and ready to see my name on a shelf in Barnes and Noble and what I had to bring to the table was not up to par.  I won't make that mistake again.  Querying takes research.  It takes time and clever writing.  I need to take what I've done and summarize it into something that people will want to read.  I need to figure out how I want to present it.  

So, in other words, I am far from done.  Writing the book is actually the easy part.  Turning it into something that people want to read (and getting an agent to feel the same way) is where the real work is.  

All that said, I feel really proud that I've completed my second novel (even if the first one is still sitting at my desk collecting dust).  


And I appreciate everyone's support and enthusiasm.  It's those people who ask me, "How is the book going?" that keep me motivated every day.  

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Chapter 12 - Updates

I promise, I am trying to get on a better blogging schedule.  I know I've been pretty sporadic here, but now that I'm actively working on improving my craft, I'll hopefully have more to say.  Some little words of wisdom here and there.  I want to aim for a post a week here.

Here's my most recent Barnes and Noble haul:

From top to bottom:
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - I started reading this last week.  My schedule's been pretty full, but I've been sucked into this thing.  Everyone on the blogosphere has raved about it and I see why.  So glad I started it.
Different Seasons by Stephen King - Confession time: I haven't read everything King's written.  Shocker, I know!  Until now I've had a strange aversion to short stories and novellas, but my writing classes have opened my eyes.  I'm also writing some short stuff now so I need to do my homework.  This one includes the inspiration for the Shawshank Redemption.  Can't be half bad.
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa - It's my first fey book!  I've heard about this series over and over so I thought I'd give it a try.  From what I read last night, I like.  The faeries so far aren't your typical winged creatures flinging glitter everywhere.  They have teeth, literally.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - Finally!  It came out in paper back and I bought it yesterday.  As much as I love a good hardback, they're expensive.  And I'm back in school paying for supplies.  Gotta be thrifty.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - I'll admit, I bought it because of the hype.  Everyone has been raving about it and it's at the top of the best sellers lists, so how bad could it be?  Plus Barnes and Noble had it for 40% off.

So what have I been doing all this time, you ask?

Well I went back to school!  That's what I did.  After much pushing and shoving and calling the registrar's office (because NC State has the most asinine advising system on the planet), I forced myself into two writing classes.

First I have Fiction Writing, which I love.  My professor (I don't know if it's appropriate to call him that because he's a MFA student at State and he's also probably only a couple years my senior and I feel weird calling someone who could be considered a peer Mr. So and So) is great.  He reminds me of one of my long time friends, if she were a dude.  He's a science fiction writer (yeah, I googled him and found his blog, whatevs) so I'll probably try to hunt down the stories he's had published.  The class is great.  Granted, I'm the oldest person there, but everyone is excited and ready to go.  They start talking about our readings and discuss them before class even starts.

Last week we finished our first drafts of our stories to workshop.  We have two due during the semester consisting of 2,000 to 10,000 words.  I've never written short stories before (aside from that pretentious allegory I tried to write in high school), so this is new territory for me to squeeze my ideas into that word range.  I think I did well on my first go around.  I wrote about two kids spying on their strange new neighbor.  My own neighbor was the inspiration.  Life imitates art, right?  My workshop group receives its critiques next Wednesday so I'm excited to see what the class's response is.

Second I have Creative Writing.  This class focuses on more forms: drama, poetry, and short stories.  Right now, we're smack in the middle of our poetry third.  My professor is another MFA student who specializes in poetry.  She's exactly what I would picture: soft spoken, well dressed but without make up, often wears only one earring, and she must have art class before she teaches us because she never wears her shoes and her toes are covered in either plaster or white paint.  This class has a different feel to it.  The students are quieter, less prone to blurting out their opinions, but now that we've begun critiquing each other's work, they are starting to become more animated.

It's a funny thing being back in school but not working toward a degree. For one, I feel old.  Most of my classmates are five years younger than me.  They can't buy alcohol and have really only just graduated high school.  They're concerned about Rush and football games and intro Biology exams.  They don't know what their majors are, but they have ideas.  I feel like a fish out of water sometimes.  I say things like, when I was in college, or my old college roommate, or when I was a senior.  I don't have an answer when they ask me what year I am or what my major is.  I don't have either.

But I see that bright-eyed ambition that I've been missing.  Out in the real world, it's an easy thing to lose.  Young minds like these are always clicking and turning, looking for new ways to make better grades, how they can update their resumes, what they can do over the summer to show they didn't waste their time.  They're busy and tired.  Each semester, their lives change with their classes.  They are surrounded by their friends, free from the watchful eyes of their parents for the first time.  They have the world at their fingertips.  It is refreshing to see that again.  It makes me want to move, to do more.  These are people who will stay up the night before, toiling until the task is done.  I've become lazy.  If I don't finish something by bedtime, I push it off until morning.  Not these people.

So in a way, I am different, but I am the same.  They are different, but they are the same.  We're all a little bit mad but we are all determined.