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.

 

The Cyclical Process Monday, December 30, 2013

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 9:12 pm
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I love this stage of the writing process. After Flight and Damen, I’ve definitely got a method for completing a novel and so with Anne, I recognize my favorite stage of writing a novel: pure writing for the sake of telling a story.

I’m in this wonderful early stage in Anne where I write without regard to punctuation or even complete sentences. I drift in and out of notes, prose, and dialogue whenever I want because all I’m trying to do is get the story onto the page. This is how I know I’m a storyteller who chooses the written word for her method of telling her stories rather than “just” a writer. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure like any literary nerd should, but when I’m left to create simply because I can, I write however I want.

I cherish this stage of the novel process because the polishing, editing, and agent search stages suck…much of the fun out of storytelling, as necessary as they are.

I’m taking a much needed break from the agent search as many agents don’t even accept queries between January and March and I think I may throw a spoke in the wheels of this entire process as I approach 30. In 2014, instead of plowing through Anne until it is publishable, I think I’ll get the full story on the page and then go back to Jill and bring her story to the same state. I had some trouble deciding whether to work on Anne or Jill a few months ago and there’s a part of me that still wants to fully complete them both at the same time.

If I manage to get both Anne and Jill “done” in 2014, I’ll revisit my next step, but this coming year, all I really want to do is revel in the concept of writing because I can. I’m still going to continue trying to get Damen published and, if I get bored, I may even start my Harry fanfic or make a full edit of Flight like I’ve been intending to do since age 25, but if I do nothing else in 2014, I’ll write simply because I enjoy telling my stories.

 

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.

 

Trepidatious Switching Friday, September 13, 2013

Filed under: Dorienne,Writing — kaitco @ 8:33 am
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In less than two weeks, I’ll be a year from 30. What’s really interesting is that WordPress reminded me that it’s been 6 years since I first registered here and I can remember fretting in posts tagged “25” over the idea of turning 25 as if it were yesterday. I keep telling myself that my 20s have not gone by fast (in fact, they often feel incredibly long), but when I’m honest with myself…really, they have!

September is usually my month of reflection. While most people make resolutions, etc. around the first of January, I like to use the start of my new year to determine my successes and failures and generally determine whether I’ve had a good year or a bad year. Sad as it sounds, the last few years have not been wholly good, but I’m glad to say that Year 28 has been fantastic.

I am happy with first-job, a feat I’ve not accomplished since…well, since I was 15 and first ventured into the working world because I knew I wanted a car when I was 16 and I knew my mother, under the guise of not allowing me to be spoiled like my peers, would never have outright bought one for me. I have a good job that allows me to tithe even more than my 10% to really help my church, allows me the freedom to buy and explore tools and avenues into my writing, and allows me to live comfortably without running from paycheck to paycheck with the thought that one check is all that keeps me from homelessness. I think it’s what makes pushing through this agent-seeking process a little less arduous as it would have been if I’d come to this point last year. Rather providential, I’d like to say as I just received this job about 10 months ago.

I finished (really finished, as in trying to get published, finished) a novel in the past year, an accomplishment I’ve not seen in years. I’ve come to this point at ages 15, 17, 23, and 28 and I know that had I done nothing else with Year 28, completing another novel makes Year 28 stand out as one of the best thus far.

But, all good things must come to an end and as I close Year 28, I begin new projects in a manner that I’ve not attempted in the past. I’m writing two books simultaneously. Both Jill and Anne are pressing upon me and I’ve switched back and forth for the past few weeks, trying to decide who will take precedence, only to come to no real decision.

I love both stories and, just as I decide to focus on one set of characters, specifics of the other set jump out at me, so I figure the best thing to do is ride the wave and write as inspiration hits. When I’m inspired for Anne, like I was this evening, I’ll write Anne. When I’m inspired for Jill, I’ll write her instead. When I’m inspired for nothing in particular, I’ll write bits of both of them until I get the creative juices flowing in one direction or another, like I did the other day.

The project switching, however, is not what has me concerned. What does concern me is this nagging desire to take a break from writing.

I’ve experienced this same sensation at 15, 17, 23, and 28 and it was the prime reason for the time in between writing each book. Writing Damen took so much out of me that I don’t wish to dwell on it long for fear that I’ll grow exhausted from the mere memory. I know that I’m tired, but the issue here is that I’m dangerously close to letting a short rest between books turn into an extended hiatus where I may never complete anything again, which is where this constant project switching begins to to really concern me.

Indecision irritates me, so while I’m just going with the flow right now, I can’t help worrying that a comfortable first-job combined with the exhaustion of completing Damen and the relative stress of facing a new a decade will leave me with a desire to tell stories, but without the drive to write them.

Perhaps, I’m getting a little too existential about the whole matter. It is, after all, September and this is when I begin to ask all the questions about who I am, what I am, what I aim to do with this life, and whether or not anything I do or don’t do will make an impact in an ever-expanding, cold, indifferent universe…

The good news, however, is that I’m quite stubborn. If I’ve learned anything about myself in nearly a decade of writing various blogs, I’ve learned that I don’t give up quickly and, even after I’ve told myself I’ve given up something for good, it only takes the slightest burst of energy or the simplest prayer for guidance to keep me pushing forward.

Anyway…on I switch from Jill to Anne and Anne to Jill. Onward and upward!

 

Where Inspiration Leads Thursday, August 22, 2013

Filed under: The Sims,Writing — kaitco @ 5:28 pm
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I had long thought that after I began the agent search for Damen, I would immediately begin working on Jill. To my surprise, inspiration has led me to Anne, which perplexes me because I dislike doing things out of the order I’ve set out for myself.

The order is supposed to go Damen, Jill, Lydia, Lucy #1, and then a couple others before I would attempt Anne, but upon my yearly re-read of Persuasion, Anne just came pouring out of me. I suppose I can’t plan everything, and even if I could, there’s no telling how the execution of these plans will flow.

I’ve been asking God quite often lately about what I’m supposed to do with my life and, like usual, there’s no parting of the clouds, allowing the sun to illuminate a specific building or person or a billboard with the words specifically telling me what it is I’m meant to do. I’m still searching for that kind of sign, though, I’m pretty sure I’ll not see something that grandiose.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m expecting, but I what I do know is that the written word is everything that I am. Despite nearly losing my mind on Steam sales and Humble Bundles, every game I put any real time into allows me to tell a story, i.e., I play The Sims 2, and to a lesser extent nowadays, Sims 3, because I want to tell a story. I do very little in my spare time aside from reading and writing books and stories. Writing, or rather, storytelling, is not just a part of who I am, but really just who I am in total.

I suppose I’ve been a little more existential than usual because my patience with this publishing process is beginning to wear thin, and I thoroughly dislike it when things do not go according to my plans. In the end, however, I guess it’s better to go where inspiration leads and plan around that, rather than pout and grow depressed when I’m forced to Plan B my life events. So, I’ll write Anne before Jill if that’s where inspiration leads me and Lucy #2 before Lucy #1 if need be. I’ll admit, I won’t like it; I rarely like not getting my own way, but I’ll go where inspiration leads me.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 1 – James of Avradel Friday, November 2, 2012

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 12:19 am
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So, last night, shortly before midnight, I made up my mind to really craft a story from nothing so I could have something completely fresh for this writing excursion. Without being able to draw from characters or circumstance in Damen or Jill or even Evan, I stared at my laptop screen for several minutes before I decided to tell myself a story. And, so I started to just speak aloud to myself, “Once upon a time…there was a boy…who had a…magic…hat.” and so began this new story.

I spent close to 30 minutes writing whatever came out of my mouth until I had created the notes for a simple story and, while the overall message of this new tale is rather dark and a bit depressing, as a lot of my writing is want to be, I can’t help but be amused at what happens when I just let my imagination go.

This evening, I’ve written the first installment of my 30-day 50K non-project related novel writing and I have to say, I’m just tickled at what I’ve produced. With just some bare bones notes, I’ve created this magical world that’s complete with it’s own geography and gods and dragons and I only started on this at around 10:45 at night, finishing just a few minutes after midnight. In any other setting, I would have thrown out all of this before I’d even figured out a name for the boy or certainly at the moment I’d decided that “once upon a time” some boy had a magic hat of all things, but since this isn’t supposed to be some grand masterpiece to be studied long after I’m gone, I’m having such fun just letting my imagination do what it wants.

If I want there to be forests that grow in every colour – Bam! It’s done. If I want the ground to be gold and speckled with the blood of the “fallen” – Kazzam! I’ve got it. I can honestly say, I’ve not had quite this much fun writing a story since I was eight years old.

 

618 words! Saturday, August 25, 2012

Filed under: Dorienne,Favorite,Writing — kaitco @ 11:02 pm
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I decided on a brand new drastic change for the novel today.

In what is currently Chapter 17, I’ve got this nice dialogue between Damen and Brit about God. Damen is an agnostic and Brit is a Christian and they argue about God’s will. The rest of the chapter details Damen’s attendance in Brit’s church as well as a brief visit in Sunday School. I edited the conversation between Brit and Damen and continued with the rest of the chapter.

It was not until I was nearly done with the chapter that it occurred to me that this conversation was way over the head of my character Brit Leighson. It is very clear that I am speaking through my character in this scene and while I still want to get across my message, it sounds false coming from Brit. It sounds as if I’m pigeonholing her into a personification of myself, which is what I really don’t want to do.

I thought about this for a while. “Who should have this argument with Damen without it sounding trite or false?” Finally, it occurred to me that it should be Damen vs. the Sunday School teacher Ms. LaRoe, who I’ve not yet given a first name, even though I know she’ll also feature in Jill. I started to rewrite both scenes, but in minutes, I hit Undo and let what I had stand because it looked like too much work to edit. It ate at me though until I finally took a new document and started writing and deleting and writing and deleting until I had the precise scene I wanted with Damen and Ms. LaRoe.

I looked at my new creation and was immediately disheartened. Here I am trying to reduce word count, but my new scene looked almost twice as long as the original text. I started to throw away what I’d written, but I shook my head and looked at the word count for the original scene. 618 words. I frowned and figured as long as the new scene was only 200 or so words more, I’d figure out what else I could cut to make it fit. To my absolute shock, the new scene was exactly 618 words. I was so shocked by this that I had to screenshot it to believe it was real!

I know there’s some editing to do for this part of the chapter, but still! Whoo boy! This is the kind of coincidence that makes you want to go to church and have “Hallelujah good time!”

 

30-Day 5K – Day Twenty-Four Sunday, June 24, 2012

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 11:56 pm
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I reviewed almost 10K words today. Of those, 2766 are likely to be included in a final draft of this novel and the rest, I’m just not sure.

These 10K make up 3 chapters; 2 are entirely a part of the overall plot and one was like filler that made me shake my head as I was reading and highlighting through it.

The problem with this filler (and any other filler I’ve encountered in this process) is that it’s not usually just fluff. It hits very specific parts of the story, like noting why Anthony was raised by his grandparents, that don’t get told elsewhere, but are entirely necessary. None of this is central to the plot, though. I’ve the last few months, I’ve learned to tie these fillers into something substantial, but now I’ve got to break it all apart and since I’m not entirely sure how to do that at the moment, I’m left shaking my head at the laptop screen.

Despite finding another deterrent to finishing this edit before the end of the month, I finally managed to just let go of a character. I’d added a brand new character in this edit who helps bring together a couple plot points and enhances the characterization of others and this evening, instead of just pushing to make her more relevant, I just let her go.

It’s fine…She’s still relevant and necessary, but she is no longer cluttering anything and I no longer need extrapolate further on her because she’s fine with what I’ve written…It’s fine.

It’s very hard for me to just let characters go, especially when I like them, but I suppose it’s necessary at this point. I’ve just got to remember that it’s not like they’re gone forever. I’m free to take a minor character from Damen and use her in Jill (which I worked on a lot today) as much as I want…once this project is done.

 

I HAVE been writing Friday, March 9, 2012

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 11:07 pm
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I know it does not look like it from the lack of posts, but really a lack of posting at this stage in the book simply means that I’ve spent more of my time focused on writing.

I’ve got maybe ten chapters left of this thing. I had only nine, but then I split one chapter into two and I’m certain I’m bound to do the same before the end, but I’m just so close.

The notes for the doc damen29-end (as in Damen chapter 29 through the end) was less than 14K words when I first started it. That 14K worth of notes is littered with mostly complete dialogue and prose so I know I’m close…so very close.

I’ve got Jill and Reruns popping up in my dreams now and my thoughts come back to them and even Luka or Evan or even Annie more often than focusing on Damen. Just yesterday, I “saw” Jill and how she interacted with her friends and realized that I would be making her far more like myself than I had done with Brit…but this is just the flow of my mind; a mind so anxious to move onto other projects that it makes me want to cry that I’m just so close to finishing Damen.

When I was young, I used to get mad when a TV show I liked ended or changed drastically because one of the actors got bored and left the show. I never used to understand it. How could they do that? Didn’t they care about the overall story? What about the people who’ve watched this since Day 1? Lately, however, I get it. There comes a point in a project, any project, where you’re just so…over it.

I love Damen. I’ve loved creating these characters and imagining this world where they interact together, but I’m soooo ready to move on because I’m just so close to the end. So close…

 

Autosave! Why hast thou forsaken me?!? Friday, September 2, 2011

Last night around midnight, I decided to keep writing and finish Chapter 21. I was in the midst of a zone and in mid-word when the screen suddenly turned blue and said something about an error. Long story short, my laptop crashed in the middle of everything I was writing and I sat worried about the blue screen of death facing me. I hadn’t written a lot after I’d last saved, but I had some notes written in a Notepad doc that I really wanted to keep and I liked the little bit that I had been writing.

While I completed two hard restarts and allowed some random Windows repair screen to do its thing, two thoughts rushed through my mind: Did my novel autosave? and Was my Sims 2 game at risk? Now, the former was more of a wishful thought than anything else because autosave has failed me in the past and I did not expect much from it, but the latter was really a surprise.

I guess knowing that I had saved at least the bit that I’d included at my last word count and also knowing that the novel is not only saved on a separate shared drive between all three PCs in my house, but also backed up to my DorienneSmith.com server eased any real concern about the safety of my work, but my Sims 2 game was not so well-guarded and all I could think of as I waited for the autofails autosave’s inevitable failure was whether I’d lost some eight years worth of gaming with just one crash.

I instantly Googled how to make a laptop hard drive into an external hard drive in case the laptop couldn’t be started again and eventually I considered all the pain of not having this particular laptop when I traveled later in the month and then again about that autosave, but a real fear and this amazing sense of loss started to overcome me when I thought about my little game.

I don’t get to play the game as much as I used to play, but Jill is a story born directly out of my Sims’ game and I consider each sim and each family a potential character or set of characters. If it wasn’t for Beau and Alexander Goth and their adopted sim children, I would have never looked at Jill and said, “Hm…there’s a story in this.”

I’ve spent a long time playing this game and, as odd as it sounds, I’ve been playing some of these characters longer than I’ve known some of my friends…my good friends. So, it’s not so much the loss of the game that troubled me, but the loss of so many characters, all at once, with no hope of recovery that caused an ache in my chest and probably reduced some of my life expectancy.

Even though my amygdala started sending out all sorts of irrational thoughts, I did not completely freak out and I found that my fears were, more or less, groundless. The autosave did, indeed, fail to live up to its name, but my game and all its characters were safe. That said, I immediately created a back of my game just in case another random crash comes in the future.

I wrote 614 words today (before she sat across from him) and after each and every pause in writing, I took a minute to Ctrl+S my work to avoid another incident. I’m also going to attempt to upload the 12+ GB file that is my Sims 2 game folder…I’m sure my webhost will shut me down long before I succeed, but it’s worth try.

 

 
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