Category Archives: Degeneration
I’ve been a very bad blogger lately. Actually, I’ve been a bad writer in general. I was supposed to be working on the second draft of DEGENERATION and planning my camp project, which I’ve been calling 2,000 MILES, even though I’m not sure if that will be the title I go with. I was also invited to join a Facebook critique group, so I should have been reading those works and posting my critiques.
Instead, I’ve been doing nothing. Well, nothing writing-related. I had a big project for school that was worth 25-40 percent of my grade that I had to do. That was due on Tuesday, and I’m glad that that’s out of the way, but it still took up a lot of time. I’ve also been sick all month, so I haven’t really felt like doing anything. I get up between 4 and 5 most mornings and go to work. I generally get done between 2 and 3 and then have class from 5 to 8 Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Thursdays I go and observe a middle school class from 8 am to 4 pm. Fridays I go to my boyfriend’s house and hang out with his parents. And then on the weekends I’m just so tired.
I’m going to be better now, though. Starting next week, work decreases drastically, so I’ll have a lot more time and energy. There’s a week before Camp NaNo starts, and I’m going to do my best to come up with an outline before then. If it doesn’t happen, I’m not going to rush it. I know a lot about my main character and love interest, but I don’t really know what the actual plot is going to be. I definitely need to work on that. I think this weekend I’m going to watch a documentary on the Appalachian Trail. I also have a fellow NaNo friend who recently set off to walk the trail, so I should really catch up on his blog. I can read about what he’s doing on the trail and steal the most interesting parts for my novel.
This weekend I also need to write up some book reviews. I finished two novels this week, and I should really review them before I forget what I wanted to say about them. One I really enjoyed, and one had a lot of potential but just ended up annoying me. I’ll get to those later on, though.
I have so many things I should be doing. Yet here I am, watching Miss Congeniality instead. Maybe I’ll be productive afterwards.
I finally finished the second draft of my zombie novella, CHOICES. I added 6,756 words to this draft, and the total word count still dropped from 30,531 words to 23,586 words. I’d be more upset by this if this didn’t happen every time I tried to work on a second draft. Some people’s word counts increase with the second draft. Mine always seems to decrease.
As a reminder, this is the novel that I wrote for the first day of NaNo. I’ve never written about zombies before, and I never see myself writing about them again, but it was actually fun writing this one. This was the least amount of preparation I’ve done for a novel. I knew the characters’ names, and I knew the overall plot line. That was it. I had a lot of fun learning about the characters as I went.
I meant to finish this draft in February. Then I was separated from my computer for the last few days of the month, and that didn’t happen. I finished it today instead. I’m quite pleased with how this draft worked out. It flows better. The chapter lengths are a bit more consistent. These chapters mostly range from 2k to 3k. In the last draft, one of the chapters was 12k.
My next step with this one is to show it to my sister and see what she thinks. She normally doesn’t care about the stuff that I write, but she was really excited for me to finish this one.
Before this moment, I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to what I was going to work on for my March project. Last year, I had all of my months planned out before the year even started, and then I didn’t follow through with any of those plans. This time I’m just making it up as I go along. I had been hoping to start working on my new novel this month, but I’m nowhere near ready to work on that yet. Hopefully I’ll be ready to work on that for Camp NaNoWriMo next month, assuming I actually participate in that.
What I’m going to do instead is work on the second draft of DEGENERATION. This is the novel that I originally wrote as a screenplay during my very first Script Frenzy. I wrote the second draft of the screenplay for the final Script Frenzy, too. Then I wrote the first draft for Camp NaNo last June. I was half happy with what I wrote last year, but I feel like there was a bit of the story that I was missing. Most of the story took place over three days in this draft. I’m thinking that it will be a week in the second draft. I’ve been thinking of ways to improve it ever since I finished the first draft, and I’m looking forward to writing the second draft.
Camp NaNo starts in less than an hour. I’m tempted to stay up and start writing exactly at midnight, but since I have to wake up around 5:30 tomorrow for training, I probably shouldn’t. I am, however, tempted to wake up at 5 instead and write for a little bit. We’ll see how I feel in the morning. I might just go back to sleep for an extra half hour. At the very least, I’m bringing a notebook and my notes for chapter 1 with me so that I can write at work.
Just the returning photographers are going to training tomorrow, and there’s not really anything that they can tell me that I don’t already know. I mean, I worked a job already yesterday, so it’s a bit late to try to train us. The only new thing I noticed was that there’s an extra alignment line thing that shows us where to crop the bottom of the picture to. They could explain that in an email. They don’t really need to call us all in and make us sit there for eight hours. But whatever. That’s why I’m bringing a notebook. The notebook will also be useful when they make us sit through that incredibly boring sexual harassment video that they make us watch every season, even though corporate only demands that we watch it once a year.
I’m a bit worried that I haven’t prepared enough for Camp. There are still a few details I’m not exactly clear on, and I haven’t decided exactly how to deal with the fact that the last like eight chapters of the book switch back and forth between Samantha and Chloe and completely ignore Natalie. Oh, and I’m still not entirely sure what I want Samantha’s relationship with another side character to be.
On the other hand, I also have descriptions for all of the main characters and several of the main side characters. I understand their motivations and know what they want and what they’re afraid of. I have an outline that summarizes all the major events by month. I have another outline that breaks up what will be in each chapter. I have another outline that just lays out all the important dates and what days of the week those events occur on. I asked two different Facebook friends for help on what two of my characters would be doing for their senior projects. I have plenty of information to draw on. I’m way more prepared than I’ve been for novels in the past. I’m just nervous, I guess.
My goal for the month is 60k or a finished first draft. I’d like the finished draft more, but I would also like to bring my total word count for 2012 up to 300k, and 60k this month would do that. That’s a little more than 1900 a day, which isn’t horrible if I actually stay focused and write at least one chapter a day.
I originally wanted to be finished with the first round of edits for Tilt before Camp started, but it looks like that’s not happening. I am pleased with what I’ve done so far, though. I’ve made markups of the entire manuscript, and I have a new outline of each chapter with notes for things to add and things to delete. I started trying to type up the changes as I went, but once I hit chapter 12, I ran into bigger problems, which led to a lot of shuffling around and major rewrites, and it was just easier to read the whole thing and tag problem areas as “delete” or “expand” and just deal with it later.
Tilt now sits at 96,575 words, down from the 101,478 words that it started at. In case anyone cares, that’s a net decrease of 4,903 words so far, and I’ve just finished fixing chapter 18. There were originally 39 chapters, but I’ve made notes to delete four of those. I’m on page 94 out of `189 (1.5 spaced, Garamond size 11 font, 0.7 inch margins, in case anyone’s curious). I’ve also just wrapped up December 2010. This means I’m pretty much in the middle of the novel no matter how you want to look at it, which is pretty exciting. I’m rather pleased with the draft so far. It doesn’t feel quite as…stifling…as it was before. April talks to people. She’s not just shut up in her room for half the book. Quite an improvement.
I’ll probably still end up making changes during August, but I’m going to try to focus more on writing Keep Going. I’ll finish editing Tilt in September. Then I’ll probably work on editing Degeneration. I’ve also been coming up with more ideas for the short story I wrote for my thesis class that I’ve always wanted to rewrite as a novel. I’m starting to see that world more clearly, and I look forward to getting more notes down on paper for that one. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be writing that one for NaNo this year.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, I should simply try to get some sleep so I can wake up early and write tomorrow morning…I mean so that I don’t fall asleep during training.
I’ve always liked those awards/memes that circulate the blogosphere. This one I particularly like because it’s always fun to see what other people are working on. But I guess I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Julie over at Word Flows has tagged me in the Lucky 7 meme.
For those who haven’t heard of it before, here are the rules:
1.) Go to page 77 of your current manuscript/work in progress.
2.) Go to line 7.
3.) Copy down and post the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs.
4.) Tag 7 other writers.
The following excerpt is from Degeneration, the novel I just finished. I’m changing the rules a little, though. I thought about starting on page 77. Really, I did. I even had a lovely chunk that started at line 7 and showed the main character in a moment of strength. And then I realized that I would be posting the start of the climax, the part that gave away the secret that everyone’s trying to ignore, and that’s not something I want to do. So, instead, I’m starting on page 7.
“No one’s saying our families are perfect,” said Lily. “We’re just saying that we love them despite their imperfections.”
“Well, my family’s not like that,” I said.
“That’s cold,” said Justin, shaking his head and looking as though I had just told him that I murder puppies in my spare time.
“What the hell do you know about cold?” I mumbled to myself, turning and storming over to the supply closet. I slammed the door shut behind me and then leaned against the wall, leaning my head back and closing my eyes.
“Can you believe that?” I heard Justin ask quietly.
“I know,” said Lily. “It makes me want to go call my grandma right now.”
I pushed myself off the wall and walked over to the supply cupboards. How dare they judge me? It wasn’t like I had asked to have a family who didn’t care about me. It’s not like they were nice and supportive and loving and kind and I had pushed them away and said, “No, please, I don’t need love and support, thank you. I think I’m good on my own.” No, all I had ever asked of my family was that they listen to what I have to say and try to protect me from harm. I hadn’t thought that was too much to ask. It wasn’t as though I expected them to be perfect. I just wanted them to try. I wanted to feel like I mattered to them. But I didn’t matter, and it was no use pretending that I did. I knew that I had done nothing wrong. I knew it was their fault that we didn’t speak, that we hadn’t seen each other in years.
So why did I suddenly feel like I was the bad guy?
Okay, so that’s 8 paragraphs, not 7, but that last sentence ended the chapter, so I figured it was worth adding.
And now onto the people who I am tagging in this post. I know I’m supposed to do 7, but I’ve decided just to list 5 people who either a) I know won Camp NaNo and thus probably have at least 77 pages written or b) I believe might have a current WIP that long.
Today (yesterday, if you want to get technical, since it’s after midnight) was my birthday. I’m 23 now. Been out of college for a little over two years. Been out of high school for a little over five. It’s a weird feeling, especially considering I haven’t really done anything with my life so far and am still living with my parents, but I suppose this isn’t the place to complain about my life. It is, however, the place to complain about my writing, so I guess I’ll settle for that right now.
I still don’t have a completed outline for Keep Going yet, but I’m making progress. I understand the characters more, and I know what the overall plot is going to be – I’m just working on the details. It helps that I have two started drafts of this one already. I first attempted to write this novel for NaNo 2008. I hit 10k and stopped writing. Then I tried it again in 2010 as a sort of pre-NaNo exercise. This time I got to 4k and stopped.
So here I am now, trying to figure out which parts of each draft I want to keep and work into the new one, and I can’t help but notice that my writing was a lot better back then. I knew what the characters were doing with their lives. They interacted with other people. Sure, Samantha spent most of her chapter scowling at her boss and thinking of ways to kill him, but she was still out of her apartment. Chloe was at an acting class and then picking up her sister from school. Natalie was complaining about her English teacher (which was so not a passive-aggressive way for me to get back at my incompetent TA, no, not at all). Is it perfect? Of course not. I’ll have to take out Natalie’s whining scene completely and tighten up Chloe’s chapter a bit, but as a whole I still really, really like what I have.
The same goes for the version I started in 2010 (or 2009 – I honestly have no idea anymore). I like the opening chapter so much more for that one and will probably end up keeping that whole thing (except for the line about the Vikings game, as I have no idea what sport they play but I don’t think it’s played in March, when that scene is now taking place). That version opens on election night 2008, and that would really just require a bit of tweaking to fit with my new plot line – or at least the bits of one that I have planned thus far. The characters are amusing and interesting (at least in my opinion), and I think my writing there could actually stand up to some of the books I’ve been reading lately.
And yet the stuff I’ve been writing lately isn’t anything like that. The stuff I’ve been writing lately is pretty horrible. Yes, there are parts of Degeneration and Tilt Your Head and Smile that I like, but for the most part, they need serious work. As in I probably need to rewrite most of them, or at least add another 20k to each so that I can show who the characters are more.
I really just need to figure out what changed between then and now. I was a good writer a few years ago. Now I’m just mediocre, and I don’t really know what changed. I lost it somewhere along the way. Maybe I’m just trying to be too serious. The further I get into this blog post, the more I’m realizing that that’s it. Keep Going is about a group of roommates who get to know each other and confront their problems. There’s serious stuff happening in there, but I still manage to have fun with the characters.
I don’t do that with April and Adelyn. I think I put too much of myself in them to be able to distance myself from the novels and just enjoy myself. I was trying to show how much unemployment sucks with April, and I was trying to show why you shouldn’t automatically respect people just because they’re family with Adelyn, and somewhere along the way I got too caught up in the bad and stopped making the characters interesting. There’s divorce and abuse in Keep Going, too, but that’s not all that the characters are about. They learn about themselves and each other along the way.
April and Adelyn don’t really learn anything. Well, April learns that she could have tried harder and that she’s mostly to blame for her unemployment, but that’s about it, and even that I just sort of ghost over near the end. I rarely show her interacting with people. I just show failed interview after failed interview. I got so bored writing them, and then I wonder why it’s not fun to read.
I keep thinking about those writing classes I took in college. They all focused so much time and energy talking about what you were and weren’t allowed to write about. You couldn’t say that someone was a jerk – you had to show them being a jerk. So for the last two stories, I haven’t summarized anything. I showed everything that happened. My characters don’t just get up from the table and fix themselves a cup of coffee. They get up. They get a cup from above the sink. Then they pour themselves a mug. Then they add the cream and sugar. It’s ridiculous. I know I’ve talked about this before, but apparently I haven’t fixed it yet. It’s like I’m so afraid that someone’s going to read over my shoulder and tell me that there’s not enough detail, so I put in too much, as if that’s better.
It’s like I’ve forgotten that you can also get to know a character by listening to their thoughts. While it’s important to show that one character likes another character better and not just say it, it’s all right to say it sometimes, too. There needs to be a balance. I knew what that balance was in 2008. I just seem to have forgotten it. My boyfriend got me two writing books for my birthday – perhaps one of them can help me get back to where I used to be.
In other news, I got a huge ice cream maker for my birthday, so that’s pretty exciting. What’s not so exciting is the fact that Script Frenzy has been canceled. Most people probably already know that (I think I got at least three emails telling me that, not including the one they sent out to the MLs), but I figured I’d mention it. I decided to get a Script Frenzy shirt and keychain now, while they still have them. They came in today, which was a nice little birthday surprise. I’m sad to see it go, but it’s not really much of a surprise.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve finished the first draft of Degeneration. I actually finished it yesterday. I meant to write about this yesterday, but I spent the rest of the day watching Twin Peaks with my parents, so I was a bit distracted. Back to Degeneration, though. It currently sits at 47,879 words. According to most of the sites I’ve found online, this is within the normal range for a young novel, so I’m going to try not to be too disappointed in how short it is, especially since I know it’ll get longer when I edit it.
Despite what I said in the last post, I’ve decided not to go back and edit anything right now. I think I need to distance myself from this novel for a little while. It probably won’t last for too long, but I at least want a few days when I think of something else first. Maybe I’ll work on one of the short stories I’ve been meaning to write. Or maybe I’ll work on outlining another novel. Keep Going has been on my mind a lot lately, and I will probably be ready to work on the outline soon.
I’m not entirely happy with the way Degeneration turned out. There are some parts of it that I really like, but I think I’m still afraid of making my characters suffer too much. I’ve let Adelyn convince me that she really doesn’t care that her family hates her, but that’s not true. She says that she doesn’t care, but when she’s around them, she still wants them to like her, and that’s not really all that evident in the novel. Without that honesty, the book is just…boring. I don’t want to make Adelyn suffer, but without that suffering, the book lacks any real feeling.
This is the first draft of this novel, though it’s the third draft of the story. After two screenplays, you’d think I’d have a better understanding of what I’m writing about, but I’m still having problems. The first draft lacked drama. The second draft lacked flow. The third draft lacked emotion. The good news is that at least now I have a better understanding of what it’s supposed to be.
Sadly, I always have a clear understanding of what I want the story to be when I’m planning. Then I go to write it, and it just doesn’t work out how I want it to. I think this is where my lack of planning comes in. I’ve always had outlines, but they’ve more been a list of events that should occur in each chapter. I don’t include transitions or notes on my characters’ emotional states or anything. I think that’s part of my problem. My outlines aren’t detailed enough. I used to get really detailed in my outlines, and then I’d never write the story, and somehow I took that as a sign that outlines don’t work for me, when really I think I was just a stupid kid who hadn’t found a proper story to work on yet.
First, the writing. My goal for today was to get caught back up to where I’m supposed to be for Camp, as well as finish the most dramatic chapter in the novel. I’m pleased to say that I accomplished both. I wrote 4,390 words today, bringing my Camp WC to 38,399 and Degeneration up to chapter 16 and 45,614 words. I have another chapter and a half left to write, as well as a chapter that I skipped the first time around and had been planning to go back to add. I thought about writing it, then realized that it didn’t really fit and thus skipped it the first time around. Then, as I was working on the new outline for the novel, I thought of more things to add to that chapter to make it fit, so I made a note to go back later.
Of course, now that I’m reaching the end of the novel, I’m realizing that what I had planned for that novel doesn’t really work anymore. The MC’s father was a main part of that chapter, and now that I’ve decided that her parents are divorced, that doesn’t really work for that chapter anymore. I’m not really sure where I want to go with that chapter anymore. I might end up just skipping it all together, or I might end up going back and changing it to fit with my new knowledge of the characters. I’m not really sure which at this point.
I know I’m going to have to change quite a few things with this story. I was originally going to try to fix all those problems later, when I had left the story alone for a while, but now I’m thinking about going back and adding some things in now, especially considering I won’t be able to hit 50k without either working on another story or going back and adding more to this one. I realized the other day that there’s not really any reason for people to be emotionally vested in these characters, and I’ve thought of several scenes to add that would help with that. Of course, that would involve making Adelyn and her family stay there for most of a week instead of two days, but I think that will work better. You can’t really get a good sense of her family and how they interact with each other in 36 hours.
In other news, Julie over at Word Flows was kind enough to give me the One Lovely Blog Award. I’m flattered. If you haven’t read her blog yet, you definitely should. She’s such an inspiration. She’s written at least four complete drafts since November – and edited most of those at least once-and she’s still planning her next novel. She never stops. It’s incredible to read about, and whenever I feel down on my writing, I read her blog, and I want to write again.
And now for the rules of the award:
Thank the person/people who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
Share seven possibly unknown things about yourself.
Nominate fifteen or so bloggers you admire.
Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know and link back to them.
I’ve thanked Julie and linked back to her site. Now for the seven things about myself:
1. My favorite TV shows are Arrested Development and The West Wing, though I love anything by Aaron Sorkin – even the shows that aren’t really that great. I’m really looking forward to seeing The Newsroom. I’m hoping it’s more like TWW and less like Studio 60.
2. I haven’t kept in touch with any of my friends from high school – aside from the occasional Facebook comment, and even those mostly come from people I sort of knew, not the people I actually hung out with. And I actually like it better that way.
3. I hate confrontations. Whenever my boyfriend’s parents start ranting about politics, I keep my mouth shut and close my eyes and try to think about something else. I get furious and offended whenever they speak, but it’s better than starting a fight.
4. I’m terrified of the garbage disposal. I can use it without freaking out, but for some reason I’m terrified that if anyone else uses it, they’re going to end up chopping their hand off. It doesn’t make any sense, I know, but whenever someone else in my family turns on the garbage disposal, I either have to leave the room or plug my ears, close my eyes, and hum to myself until it’s over.
5. I’m also terrified of guns, which probably makes a bit more sense than garbage disposals. I’m afraid that someone will accidentally shoot the wrong person. This was never a big problem until I learned that my boyfriend’s brother has several guns. I’m now afraid to walk upstairs unannounced whenever we’re over there. I also almost cut my hand my pressing my nails into my palms the day that his father started playing with the gun when he was sitting right in front of me. Yes, I know that “playing with” isn’t really accurate, and that since he was in the army and has worked for the government for years he probably knows how to examine a gun without firing it, but it still scared the hell out of me.
6. Math was my favorite subject in high school. I loved my English classes and teachers best, and I loved reading all those different classics, but math was the easiest, and the homework I looked forward to the most because it required the least amount of energy. I almost took a math class in college just so that I would have homework that didn’t require hours of reading. Sometimes I wish I had followed through with that.
7. When I was thirteen, my sister bought me a fish. It cost twelve cents, and I named it Remus Lupin. I was very sad when it died three days later.
And now for the blogs. I’m not sure if I have 15 of them, but I’ll see how many I can name. Some of these I’ve been following for months. Some of them I’ve only read one or two entries from and have liked.
There are probably some blogs that I’m forgetting, but it’s almost two o’clock in the morning now, and I’m rather tired, so I’m going to leave it at that.
Today’s Goal: 30,006
Today’s WC: 27,049
I’ve been having some trouble writing recently. I was all excited about what I was doing, and I turned what was meant to be the shortest chapter in my novel into the longest chapter, and the one that I like the best so far. And then I started the next chapter, and I’ve been dragging my feet ever since. I just feel like this scene isn’t all that important overall, but I don’t want to just jump over it because the story only takes up two days and skipping 5 hours of time is rather a lot. I finally finished the chapter, and I’ll probably take it out later, but I’m glad to say that it’s finally done and now I can get on to the good part of the novel. If I can write at least one chapter a day, I should finish this week, which would be exciting.
And now onto my weekly ponderings…
I was talking to my boyfriend’s mother the other day about his brother. She was telling me about how he used to write when he was younger. She showed me a story he wrote in middle school and then went on to explain that he always had so many ideas that he could never find a way to tire them all together, which meant that all his stories just sort of fizzled out and never actually came to a conclusive end.
I’m the same way. I try to fit too much into my stories. I want to be able to relate to the characters, want to write primarily for myself, but I’m trying to fit too much of my real life in there. Not every main character has to be exactly like me. That would be boring. I don’t need to fit everything into one story. I can spread it out, focus on a certain part of myself in each story.
Degeneration deals with family and fear.
Tilt Your Head and Smile deals with unemployment and expectations.
For Real This Time deals with weight and acceptance.
Keep Going deals with college and friendship.
The Story of Em deals with desire and doubt.
Each of those stories focuses on a different part of my life to some extent. Some are entirely fictional with a main character who shares a personality trait with me. Others are at least half autobiographical. I’ve found that having them listed out like that help me focus on what’s important. There’s a lot more to the stories than just those two words that I picked for each, but I like having that reminder to keep me from getting too off track.
For the first time in a while, I feel really, really good about my novel. I’m not saying it’s great or anything, because I know it needs a lot of work, but I think I’ve finally fixed all the plot holes in this story, or at least all the ones that have been giving me a lot of trouble writing this story.
Problem 1: The Fight
The first main problem I had with the plot of my story was that I kept trying to include a fight that happened in real life that I thought would be perfect for my story, as it would create even more tension and reiterate the fact that the main character is an outsider. There was supposed to be a fight, and then they were supposed to fight about it again later. It worked in my head the first time, but once I actually went to outline my story, I had issues with it. I tried to ignore it, hoping that I could focus on it later, but I couldn’t. I kept thinking about it, and it made me not want to keep writing because I was afraid of getting to that scene.
The solution was so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself. It took a long talk with my boyfriend before I finally realized that I could solve that problem just by taking it out of the story. I can make Rebecca feel like an outsider and like her family doesn’t love her in other ways. I’m still keeping the initial fight, though, because I realized it can serve an even better purpose. I won’t explain what that purpose is, because it gives away part of the story, but I will say that the fight actually works better this way, and it doesn’t force me to spend hours trying to rearrange other parts of the outline that actually made sense.
Problem 2: The Father
Since this story was inspired by my real family, I always just assumed that Rebecca lived with both of her parents. There wasn’t really a problem with that except that I was constantly trying to find excuses for him to be somewhere else so that I wouldn’t have to write about him. The focus of this story has always been on Rebecca, her mother, and her mother’s family, and her father never really fit in. I even included a line about how her Grandma doesn’t really like her dad, but I never explained that, and he was just sort of there.
It wasn’t until this morning, when I was furiously typing away at part of a scene that will come at the end of the story (a first for me) that I realized the story worked so much better if he just wasn’t there. I always knew that her parents fought a lot and that they considered breaking up, and that that helped influence how Rebecca acts and accentuates the differences between her and her sister, but I never thought to make them divorced. Part of that was because I wanted them to have moved away from her home state before her youngest sister was born, and her youngest sister is only six, and I didn’t see how that could work if they were divorced, but now I realize I was just being stupid. They could fight, break up, have her mother move to another state, and then get back together for a week (hell, even just a night), get pregnant, and still be divorced. It’s funny that I wanted to change the characters up a bit so that they wouldn’t be exactly like my family, and yet I never thought to make the parents divorced.
Problem 3: The Unexplained Absences
This one also deals with the previously mentioned fight. I need the main antagonist to show up the morning before the wedding, but I needed to make sure that Rebecca’s mother wasn’t there when she was, because if she knew he was there she would just take her kids and leave, and the novel would end there, and I didn’t want that. I had the hardest time trying to think of where she would be. In the screenplay version she was fighting with her husband. In my outline, she took Ellie (the youngest sister) with them to get the dad new pants or something (I was never really clear on what, exactly, they were getting), and that’s why they weren’t there.
Obviously, they couldn’t be shopping for the dad if he’s no longer in the picture, and I was stuck again. Another talk with my boyfriend (he’s surprisingly helpful at planning YA books considering he doesn’t read them at all) helped me fix that problem. I now know where they’re going, and it actually coincides perfectly with Rebecca’s decision not to tell her mother about the antagonist showing up, even though her first instinct was to do so.
Problem 4: The tone
I’ve been having issues with this one for a while. I’ve always had issues with rambling, which is one of the reasons NaNo has been so easy for me the past two years. I get lost in my characters’ thoughts, and the next thing I know 3k has passed. That’s also part of why I love writing litfic so much – that’s much more acceptable in litfic than in fantasy or any other genre. That said, I realized that I was being a bit rambly even for lit fic, and I had to fix it.
Reading Sarah Dessen has actually helped me a lot with that. I finished Keeping the Moon the other day and am about a third of the way through Just Listen, and I’m realizing that I’m trying to include too much information too fast, or I’m keeping too much information to myself. I’ve gotten so used to the “show, don’t tell” rule that I forgot that sometimes it’s okay to tell. I’m allowed to show Rebecca’s feelings for her family. I can have her say that they’re country club snobs that she’s never gotten along with. Sure, it’s better to show that, and I do, but it’s nice to know that I have that option.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the first writing classes I took in college. The teacher really wanted us to focus on character-driven stories that were full of details. She went on and on about how details can reveal a lot about a character and can really help paint a scene. I was interested in the character part, but the rest I sort of rolled my eyes at. I hate scenery and description. I don’t mind a little description – it’s nice to know what people look like and what sort of area they live in – but I hate long paragraphs of description. That’s why I couldn’t stand The Lord of the Rings: I can’t read five pages of details describing a tree.
But she was adamant that we include details in our second story, so I did it. The character was a pretentious drunk with no friends, so I tried to make the words I used reflect that. She didn’t just hold a basket in the grocery store; she cradled it gently in the crook of her arm. Everyone in my class who had gotten used to my constant complaints about description were shocked to read my story. When my teacher saw it, she said there was too much description.
And that’s basically described my writing style: either I write a summary of a story, or I write in so much detail it’s boring. I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding the middle ground, but after reading some young adult books and actually paying attention to the way they’re written, I think I have a better understanding of how I’m supposed to write. I just need to stop over-thinking everything, stop trying to write how I think I’m supposed to write, and just write.
I’m actually looking forward to writing again.