I am kaitco

a writer's log

A Flight (a novel) to Remember Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Filed under: Dorienne,Reading,Writing — kaitco @ 10:01 pm
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Eight years ago, at the age of 22, I sat at the same desk at which I’m currently writing and decided that the only way I was going to learn how I write novels was to sit down and just write one. I’d written two novels earlier, but as they were both completed before the age of 17 and neither were any good, I abandoned the idea of re-writing a previous project and perused my dozens of handwritten notes. I had notes about female football players and towns I’d called Mansfeld and even lengthy notes about what would eventually become Luka, but I sensed that none of these fit what I was trying to do. I needed something about which I was incredibly passionate and into which I could wholeheartedly throw myself without fear of upcoming boredom and, after a suitable amount of brainstorming, Flight, a novel was born.

I’ve written about Flight here a gazillion times because it was my first real effort in writing as an adult, but over the years I’ve simply looked back at it, fondly recalling what it was like to get new comments from Fanfiction.net about it, etc., and I’d shelved it as a long and so-so written story. Last weekend, however, I found myself honestly bored for the first time in…years, and I sought out something swamped with nostalgia. After cruising Netflix for ten minutes, I perked at the idea of re-watching the earlier seasons of Law and Order: SVU and three episodes in, I had an intense urge to revisit Flight.

I hadn’t actually sat down to really read more than a chapter or two of it in likely five years and, as I was already in an SVU mood, I figured I would laugh at my inability to tell a decent story and take a trip down memory lane. And, I was able to take that desired memorable trip…but I haven’t been able to put down my own old book!

There’s something that feels very narcissistic about reading one’s own writing as if reading the works of others, but I can’t help it. There are missing words every few pages, the prose tells the reader everything because I hadn’t learned “show versus tell” yet, the novel is over 450 thousand words, but I can’t help it! This book I wrote when I really had no idea what the deuce I was doing is compelling even to me, the writer, and I love it.

As I’ve been reading my own work, I’ve asked myself, why am I so engaged? It’s not written very well, it goes on too long in certain areas, and one of the plotlines falls completely flat, but I’m captivated. Is it because I’ve been so disappointed in reading the modern fiction of others lately? I wasn’t terribly impressed with The Lovely Bones and, if I’m honest with myself, I’ve likely turned to Flight because I just didn’t want to face reading The Night Circus anymore. It’s hard to say.

I enjoy this old work of mine on so many levels. Years ago, I put it into Kindle form, so I can actually read it like I would any other book, which just makes the process that much more fun. Aside from reading something that’s just generally enjoyable, I get to envision myself eight years younger as I was writing the very words on the page and that’s worth a post all on its own. For example, I was hardly six months into my current Christian Walk when I started the first notes for Flight and it shows. The use of “goddamn” in every other piece of dialogue is so prevalent that I can hardly believe that I wasn’t still an agnostic when I wrote it.

I’ve still got another third of the book left to go, but I’ll admit that I’ve not been this into a book since I read Gaskell’s North and South for the first time. I’m smitten with my own work, as shameful as it at first seemed, and when I shared this revelation, my mother advised that I shouldn’t feel shamed by liking my own writing. She posed that perhaps I write simply so that I’ll have something I want to read. I don’t generally like most modern fiction. Outside of greats like Crichton and King and then Harry Potter, the only books I’ve really loved in the last decade were written in the 19th century by British women…and to be honest, how far off is Potter from there? Before turning to Flight, I was re-reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Making of a Marchioness and loving every minute of it.

As I look to my current projects Anne and Jill, I can’t help but see them through different eyes after re-reading Flight. While I don’t wish to fully emulate what I’d created sans-Bachelor’s degree and eight more years of life experience, I do still wish I could recreate the same energy, the same excitement and fervor, in my current work that I had in Flight. Maybe this was what I needed to make peace with my writing endeavours?

As I did with Flight, I write for myself. I write just so that I will have something that I want to read.

 

Mary Barton and Ms. Smith Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Filed under: Dorienne,Reading,Writing — kaitco @ 6:32 pm
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This isn’t so much a review of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton as it is a review of my life at the moment. I’ve not yet completed the novel, but at two-thirds of the way through it, I can honestly say I’ve never been so emotionally overwhelmed by a book previously.

The novel pulls at my emotions in such a way that I often have to put it down and come back to it when I’m a little calmer. And, I don’t mean fun romantic emotion like when Captain Wentworth seemingly leaves out of Anne’s life forever at the end of Persuasion. This novel is full of the kind of intense emotions that arise out of me when I read King, or even some really, really well-written X-Files fanfiction. What’s most perplexing is that Mary Barton isn’t horror or gothic or anything of the sort. It just describes, in incredible detail, the plight of the English poverty-stricken in a way that I could never appreciate while reading Dickens.

What intrigues me most about Gaskell’s works is how much religion plays a part for her characters. Margaret Hale, my favorite heroine next to Anne Elliot, is so overcome with her decision to tell a lie in North & South that, as emotionally strong as she is, she actually faints shortly after speaking her untruth. Throughout the two Gaskell books I’ve rad so far, the characters often say things that make me say “Amen!” aloud as I’m reading, and I hardly even do that when I’m in church. More than 150 years after it was written, I can still feel the faith of the author and the characters pouring out of these books.

In the past month, I’ve clung to these works like I should be clinging to my bible. From medical diagnoses that have caused more stress than the issues themselves to my godchildren’s lack of developmental progress to unanswered query after unanswered query that are sometimes interspersed with outright rejections, I am all over the place. Perhaps the emotions in Mary Bartonbare really my own that I’ve been sublimating these months without release. It’s hard to say.

I’ve taken up basic personal journal writing via an iPhone app which allows me to take a different look at my life, though even in these entries I seem to skirt around what’s really bothering me.

I’m well in the note writing phase for both Anne and Jill; I’m no closer to deciding the one for which I’ll devote all my attention. It seems as though I’m living out parts of my life without thoroughly seeing what’s happening to me and, somehow, when I read Mary Barton, everything that’s bottled up, no matter how unconsciously, finally finds its outlet.

 

A well-read day Thursday, August 23, 2012

Filed under: Reading,Writing — kaitco @ 11:49 pm
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I’ve not written anything today (though, I may end up writing a little after writing this), but I’m not at all troubled by this.

I’ve been reading a ton; like, flipping between three books within the same hour kind of reading. Hunger Games, The Silence of the Lambs and also my book, Flight. I made Flight into a Kindle book for my mother to force her to read something I’ve written, though a year later, she still hasn’t, and I like to see where I was nearly four years ago when I first finished it. I like to read Flight as a Kindle book on my own, however, because unlike reading it from a Word doc or even online, I can’t suddenly stop reading and begin to edit, even though I may be compelled to do so. My errors are trapped in the ebook and I get to face them without means, albeit temporarily, to fix them. I’m not sure how vain it is to enjoy reading your own work, but I like it.

After watching The Silence of the Lambs on Sunday, I’m further compelled to read the book because it’s just so much better, which is quite a feat considering it’s also my favorite film of all time. Every time I watch the movie, however, I just have to read the book and since I’ve now read Hannibal and enjoy it’s ending so much, I know I’ll be re-reading that too. I’m still at the beginning of Hunger Games, but I enjoy it a lot.

I bring up all that I’m reading at the moment without a real way to describe why. A quote from Sex and the City, I think, summarizes my point nicely: “(Samantha) was one of the only people I knew who felt that proximity to beauty made her feel more attractive.” (from Models and Mortals) So, before I continue writing, I think I’ll do just a bit more reading.

 

Reading makes me want to write Friday, August 17, 2012

Filed under: Reading — kaitco @ 11:47 pm
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I’m a very competitive person and since I was in my teens, I often viewed the literary works of others as a possible threat to my success unless the authors were already long dead. Why I thought this is, even now, a bit of a mystery to me. Maybe it was just because I didn’t want anyone to do what I did too or something along those lines… Either way, I didn’t do a lot of reading in my mid teens which is when I did the most of my writing until my early 20s. Recently, however, the tides have changed and reading the works of others gets me even more excited to continue with my own.

I finished Octavia Butler’s Kindred this evening since I got to one of those points where I’ve only got about 50 pages left and I just can’t put it down until I finished. It was a good book, but her ending, like with Fledgling, left me staring at the last few words like “That’s it??!?” I’m always wanting more.

Since I’ve got a cycle going where I’m reading a Star Wars book, a more contemporary book and then a classic book, I’ve replaced Kindred with the first of The Hunger Games books, which has already garnered me a few likes on Facebook.

I love starting new books like I love creating new book ideas. No longer do I consider the works of others to be in competition with me. No longer do I fear losing my voice or finding myself writing in the style of a favorite author. Now, I view other literature as a chance to see how someone else “does it” and not only do I then get to enjoy someone else’s story, I get to become a stronger writer in the process.

 

Goodreads makes goodwrites Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Filed under: Dorienne,Reading,Writing — kaitco @ 11:05 pm
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I love Goodreads like I love Earl Grey tea. There’s something so special about it that even if I walk away from it for a while, I’ll always return wanting more. I am kaitco there as well, in case you were wondering.

Today, I spent a long while perusing some of my Goodreads recommendations since I love discovering new books and, after adding 5 or 6 of them, I reviewed my To-Read list because I have this very obsessive complex with lists that Goodreads feeds better than my Netflix queue. Right now I’m reading Octavia Butler’s Kindred which is turning into one of my favorite books, Darth Bane: Rule of Two which keeps me reading because I’m just anxious to see how it ends and The Phantom Tollbooth which is simply amusing.

Up next I’ve got Northanger Abbey, The Hunger Games series, The Color Purple, a couple more Star Wars books and a couple others I’ve recently “discovered,” but after those comes the Twilight series.

Now, I’ve obviously not read Twilight yet (technically speaking, I’ve read up to the part where she first sees Edward in the cafeteria, but that was more than a year ago), but I’ve also not seen any of the movies either. This does not, however, prevent me from being well-acquainted with the plot and almost dreading to finish the first book.

On the one hand, there’s a chance I’ll enjoy them if I just erase all the commentary (positive or negative) from friends, relatives and peers and take the books at face value, but there’s also a huge chance that I’ll just plain hate the books because I’ve so many reasons to hate them.

I’ve seen that the folks who tend to adore the Harry Potter series tend to loathe Twilight and I really love Harry Potter. I’ve looked at the books read by those who love Twilight and I can’t help but cringe because I often judge others (often incorrectly) by what they read. Then I’ve read descriptions about vampire romances which makes me begin to lose faith in humanity because if this is all we have to offer, let’s just bring on the four horsemen.

All this notwithstanding, I’ve decided not to procrastinate on Twilight any longer and after I’ve read the other 8 books ahead of it on my list and written my own novel and cleaned the bathroom and beaten “Through the Fire and the Flames” on Expert in Rock Band and completed Skyrim to 100%, I’m going to start reading Twilight.

What has me writing, though, is that in reviewing and dreading what may come for me with Twilight, I couldn’t help reading the reviews for the book. The negative reviews (at least the most-liked ones) actually fascinated me and I’ve been rolling them in my head all day as I consider what I want and don’t want for my own characters.

Is my dialogue “stilted and absolutely wretched?” Am I doing anything that would make mine a “profoundly antifeminist novel?” Is Brit or even Damen a dreaded “Mary Sue” character? Are there potential problems with my book that would make others create an entire blog to demonstrate what a shoddy job I’ve done (no, seriously)?

Goodreads have got me thinking today about what I’m really trying to do with this novel and, if I accomplish nothing else with Damen, I just want it to be a decent book.

 

The most heartbreaking process of all Monday, March 26, 2012

Filed under: Reading,Writing — kaitco @ 2:13 am
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I can’t help comparing Damen and Flight, especially when the drafting process is so very different.

With Flight, the goal was to provide as much detail as possible and allow my readers to stay in the Dorienne-version of SVU as long as I could. There were no word count limits; I just needed to tell my story.

Damen has been so tryingly different. Here, I must take word count into consideration with every paragraph, to the point that I must almost re-write chapters to remove some of the detail that, while very pretty and beneficial to painting the scene, does nothing but push my total word count above 120K before I want to be.

A few years ago, I remember writing Chapter 3 of Damen and even then, I thought it was a little too long, but in re-reading it, the detail is so splendid. I see these characters and the setting as vividly as I did when first writing it…but, I have to lose all of it. It all has to go if I’m going to push this thing under 120K. And, 120K is the highest end for first-time authors! I may even have to cut it even further. 😦

I took out some detail this evening that was just plain heartbreaking. When I think of all the time I put into choosing the right words, it all comes down to summarizing the text with “English class, taught by Mrs. Kayler, bored him within ten minutes of the roll call.”

The only good thing I can think about this process is that it’s teaching me to be concise and the true lessons of show versus tell. What good are all these details about what the cafeteria looks like and the nuances of some of Damen’s teachers if we won’t visit any of these teachers later in the novel and it won’t make a difference whether my audience sees my version of the lunchroom versus their own idea of it?

These are some hard lessons to learn.

I’d taken a week off writing notes for Reruns, playing Rock Band and the Sims and even reading other folks’ work for a change as a mini-vacation to make me as fresh as possible for this process, but I’m not sure that was even enough. The only reason I push as hard as I do is that now that I’ve got the novel actually complete, the only thing holding me back from sending this to agents and achieving my dream is how hard I work to pull the book into it’s proper shape.

As dreadful as this process is – tearing apart my baby of carefully chosen words – I know this is necessary and, overall, it’s making me a better writer. All this notwithstanding, I can’t WAIT until I’ve got time to write fanfiction again, where I can be as verbose and detailed as I want to be.

Perhaps fanfiction will be my detailing outlet. Where my creativity is stifled by word counts and the shorter attention spans of the majority of the reading populace, I will find solace in writing what and how I want in fanfiction.

‘Til then…I’m cutting so much my hands are bleeding…

 

A crying shame Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Filed under: Reading,Writing — kaitco @ 11:59 pm
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I remember the first book I ever read that brought me to tears; Charlotte’s Web when I was 11, and that was even after I’d developed my spider phobia.

I don’t know why I cry at books as much as I do. I cried reading the 4th, 5th and 6th Harry Potter books, I sobbed in happy hysterics over the end of Fried Green Tomatoes at Whistle Stop Cafe and I even burst into tears at reading the end of Kagura in the InuYasha manga. Why am I so emotional?

My first exposure to Jane Austen was Persuasion as a reading assignment in college. I hadn’t expected much, but it’s now one of my favorite books and it’s hard to imagine the end with Anne Elliot who had been poorly persuaded and her Captain Wentworth without tearing up a little. As with Fried Green Tomatoes, tears streamed down my face with an almost ridiculous vigor from the outright joy about what I was reading. I finished Sense and Sensibility tonight and, I’m not sure why it surprised me, but once I again, I found myself in tears at the end of an Austen.

The silly thing about Sense and Sensibility is that it’s one of my favorite movies, i.e., the one done by Ang Lee and Emma Thompson. I’ve watched more times than I can count and I cry harder at the end with each subsequent viewing. I think I’m just so touched by Elinor’s breakdown at the end that I can’t help but cry with her, so I knew full well what was coming at the end of this book and thus had ample opportunity to ready myself for the end.

Even with knowledge of the ins and outs of the plot, I still burst into tears and continued crying for another several hundred words and into the next chapter when I got to the same point of Elinor’s breakdown. As with most books, the image is far more poignant in my mind than on a screen and just reading the words “His errand at Barton, in fact, was a simple one. It was only to ask Elinor to marry him” caused me to take a extra five minutes to compose myself before I could read any further. I’m not sure why it is that, especially with Austen’s books, I’m such a punk when it comes to even remotely emotional literature.

I wrote 284 words tonight (Was your Thanksgiving okay?”) though none of them threw me into a fit of tears as did Austen’s. Still…aside from reading a book I knew I’d love from the moment I decided to buy it, I accomplished something extraordinary tonight. I watched no television and played no Rock Band, not because I was on a zealous quest to change my ways, but because I decided that I’d rather read instead. It’s a pleasant thought to be able to see definite changes in yourself, no matter how small.

 

 
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