I am kaitco

a writer's log

Three weeks into this new year Friday, January 22, 2016

Filed under: Dorienne,Writing — kaitco @ 4:41 pm
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I sat staring a blank screen for a long time this afternoon before I decided to write. I say “decided” rather than “found the inspiration” because as I’ve aged, it’s become apparent that inspiration has its own timetable and it is not likely to arrive when I want, no matter how much I pout.

I read through old posts on this blog for a while, trying hard to remember why I set myself these tasks in the first place. I’ve found nothing that jumps out at me; no a-ha moments or great epiphanies. So, instead of pondering on why I write, I’ll just ramble about what I’ve written.

I’m nearly done with the first Part of Flight. I use the word “done” very liberally because when it comes to phases of novel construction, I’m far from actually done. I’m still in the noting phase, which means I’ve still got to pull together all the notes from all my scattered resources and pull them into a long file that is set to some kind of chronology. Once I’ve got that completed, I’ll still have to flesh out those notes so that they’re consistent, then build onto them, and then edit and build onto that before I reach the phase before I have what could be considered a first draft. When it comes to Flight, this process can and has taken months and will likely take many more as I go into the second and third Parts. But…I’ve nearly reached the next rung on the ladder. It may be only the third step on a ladder that reaches 40 feet into the air, but I’m nearly done.

What makes this round of Flight seem like it’s taking forever is that I’ve already gone through this drama and I know what lies ahead for me. For example, when I was 15, I had major surgery on my left ankle to correct an abnormality and also some gross damage to my ankle bones. I clearly recall my doctor telling me in the summer that I would be up and active by the time basketball season came and that afterward we would do the right foot. One can only imagine my sour disappointment when I watched the first of the open gyms leading up to try-outs that year from the sidelines while still on crutches that fall. My healing made significant progress and that December, we prepared to go through the whole process again. Only now, I knew what lay ahead of me.

Another season of missed athletics lay ahead, not to forget the schoolwork that would have to be made up, the nausea from the anesthesia and the painkillers, the inability to walk, the rehab, the frustration, the sense of overwhelming depression and despair stemming from every minor task becoming a major chore, and then the pain! The incredible pain after awaking, the pain in the hours after going home, the pain in accidental movement of the foot, the pain of moving from a soft cast to a hard one, the pain of removing primary stitches and then the secondary ones. All this recalled pain pressed upon me as I walked with my mother to the prep rooms for the second surgery and I had nothing but dread when moved onto the gurney to be wheeled into surgery. Even when I first awoke in recovery, the foreboding had not dissipated and I started to sobbing as I stared at my now bandaged right foot, eventually yelling “No! I don’t want to do this!” until the staff brought around my mother (though admittedly, I was coming out of major surgery, so some craziness was to be expected).

Though there had been time to prepare, the second surgery had gone worse, emotionally, than the first, and several years later, when my doctor had to go back in and make further corrections, all of the foreboding returned in full swing, making the third and fourth surgeries even more pleasant than the second time.

I can’t help but liken my current round with Flight to that second surgery. I’ve already written this book and now I’m attempting to re-write it. I was sick for a month after I finished it the first time and, with this round, I’m well aware of what’s coming: the sleepless nights, the days of writing and then realizing that it’s all garbage, the weeks and months keeping the entire story straight in my mind, the countless edits/re-writes/further edits/more re-writes until I’m ready to throw out the whole project, the writing until I’m physically ill and still trying to write through the sickness, the experiencing of all my characters’ emotions to the point that I struggle to recall what’s real and what isn’t…

Then, once I’ve acknowledged what occurred on the first round, I get to imagine how all of the above will affect a body that has experienced almost ten more years of life with the jobs, and the bills, and the deaths, and friends, and the family, and the godchildren, and the volunteering, and the previous books, and the current projects placed on hold, and the general stress of trying to make each year a little better than the previous one. I experience a little pain in my ankles from time to time, but I fully recognize that 31 is neither 15 nor 22 and I’m not going through all that pain again unless my only other option is amputation, and even then, I’ll ask for another opinion. Despite having the foresight to know that I’m unable to go through the mess and pain of surgery again, I press forward with trying to re-write a 450K-word novel that nearly killed me during its initial creation.

I just have to keep telling myself the same thing to avoid throwing in the proverbial towel too soon: I’m nearly done!

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Project Duality Sunday, May 31, 2015

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 11:57 pm
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I’ve always suffered with my short attention span. It’s common for me to forget what I’m saying in mid-sentence, but in my writing and in person, and it hasn’t got much better as I’ve aged.

Something I think that’s kept me from pushing forward with some projects in the past is my lack of attention. Even when I’m fully engaged with a project, I eventually reach a point where I no longer have the drive to look at it. I want to write, but everything else in the world will pull at my focus and keep me from continuing.

I think, perhaps, this month I’ve come up with the best band-aid solution to my problem that also requires a little effort as possible, given that I lack the attention necessary to fully tackle the problem: Multiple projects.

I’ve always been in the middle of writing one thing or another since I was about ten years old, but in general, I typically “focus” on writing one book at a time. In the past month, however, I’ve been writing both Anne and Re-Flight. They are in completely different phases, but so far I’ve enjoyed simultaneously writing them. I write Anne until my attention begins to wane and then I focus on Re-Flight. By the time my enthusiasm begins to falter there, I switch back to Anne and manage to make headway in both projects this way.

It’s hard to say whether this will result in something worthwhile overall, but I’m just excited to say that I’ve consistently written in one project or another every single day for the past few weeks. A few hundred words here or there, in one project or the other, may not get me to my end goals as quickly as my impatience desires, but at least I’ve not let my waxing attention prevent me from writing at all.

On I press…

 

The Telltale Failure Monday, November 17, 2014

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 4:14 pm
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Once again, I’ve attempted and failed at NaNoWriMo. True, there is still half the month to go, and if I really wanted to do it, I could 5-hour energy my way through to the 50K word goal, but I’m well aware that’s just not me.

What intrigues me about this most recent failure is how indicative it is of the way I write. Despite the pleasure that comes from pure imagination, I realize that I cannot write forever in chaos.

Without the boundaries of an outline and progressive drafts of a project, imagination turns into a chaotic fervor of flips and bends to the point that all I have left are almost journalistic horrors of my subconscious.

A year or so ago, a fairy tale I’d attempted for NaNo turned into a dark story about abuse and this year’s story was supposed to allow a dark protagonist to turn from his ways, but 3K words into it, I’d Hannibal Lecter-ized him and removed any possibilities for redemption. I’m not sure why pure imagination keeps leading me down these dark paths, but I’m ready to acknowledge that pure freedom in my writing leads to utter chaos.

The chaos exists outside of the storyline as well. Jumping into a project with no rhyme or reason gives rise to horrible writing and since NaNo seems to be a race against word count, I’m pushed to ignore everything I know I’m doing wrong.

If I learned anything in writing Damen it’s that writing chapters of trash that I’m well aware will have to be scrapped even as I write them does me little good. NaNo’s freedom urges me to forget all the hard lessons I’ve learned over the years and, in the end, the resulting chaos leaves me without the will to even look at meaningful writing, which is where I’ve been for the last week.

All this notwithstanding, I’m glad to have tried and failed once again. In general, I despise failure as it seems so similar to weakness, which I hate even more, but in every failure I rise stronger and ready to accomplish even more than I’d originally set out to do.

And, so…though I acknowledge my NaNoWriMo failure, I’m readied in my zeal to continue and finish this phase of Anne. Onward and upward, indeed!

 

Year 30 Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Filed under: Dorienne — kaitco @ 6:36 pm
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Do you ever have so much to say that you no longer have anything to say?

A lot has happened recently. I’ve turned 30. I’ve traveled alone to London and returned, safe with no drama. I’ve finished another stage of Anne and I’ve even given this stage its own name: the grave phase. The grave phase of a novel is where I’ve got it to the point where when I ask myself, “If I die tonight, will I rest peacefully in my grave knowing this novel will be posthumously published from its current state.” If the answer is yes, I’ve reached the grave phase and can rest happy.

In turning 30, I’ve also decided to make some major changes in the way I live my life. I read this amazing post on procrastination the other day, ironically, while procrastinating, and it really got me thinking about my capabilities. Just today, I’ve etched out time to do what would normally take days to accomplish by simply putting post-its all over the place to remind me to keep away from my favorite procrastination hobbies, such as Reddit, Dorienne TV, and the Banished game. Another major change will include changing careers, but I’ve decided to keep the specifics there to myself, as I tell far too many people far too many details about far too many of my life’s plans.

My visit to London was short but lovely. My mother was originally supposed to travel with me, but my stepdad got injured on the job and she had to remain behind to care for him. There was a moment when I considered cancelling the trip altogether, but as nearly all of Year 29 surrounded the actions needed to get me to London for my 30th birthday, the thought of not going depressed more than I’m willing to put into writing today. In the end, I’m glad I went on my own because I had a trip that only I could have. Everyone I mentioned the trip to had all this commentary about where I should go and where I should stay and what I should do on different days, but no one seemed to fully grasp my intentions with the trip.

I’d never left the US and thus, had never experienced an international flight. Now that I have, I’m not enthused about doing it again, especially in coach, but I know how best to prepare myself. I had never viewed the sites of a city via tour bus and I wanted to simply sit atop a double-decker bus and just snap pictures. I had a half dozen people telling me there were better days to spend my first day in London, but I after a nine-hour flight (in coach!), I didn’t want to do much else aside from Ooh! and Ah! and take pictures.

I wanted to visit Bath, England and I did. Everyone I mentioned this to looked at me like I had six heads. Where is that? What’s there? That’s it? Why would you want to go there when you only have four days? Even the car service driver on the way back to the airport had commentary about seeing Bath which was “so far away” when I could have visited Windsor Castle, etc. I, however, wanted to see Bath. I wanted to visit Bath Abbey and walk the 212 steps in its tower. I wanted to pass by Queene Square and marvel at the Royal Crescent and visit the Jane Austen Centre. Specifically, as the Austen fan I am, I wanted to walk the streets that she would have walked two hundred years ago. I wanted to take in the modernized sites that she would have seen. Visiting the Austen centre was an almost religious experience for me, even though, I know she never lived at that site and she didn’t really care for Bath as she got older. I learned that she first started writing a novel at age 11, just like me. I got a deeper understanding of her family and how she lived, the likes of which I’d never received throughout my whole degree in English literature! I had an English tea in the Regency Room and loved everything about it, from the extra sweetener they used to the soft cucumber sandwiches they presented. After this, I went to the Royal Crescent and spent almost an hour, just walking and staring at it as a marvel of architecture and of history. I then visited No. 1 Royal Crescent to see what a house would have looked like during Austen’s day and had such lovely conversations with the staff that I didn’t mind that my feet ached after traipsing across central Bath all day. I loved every moment of my time in Bath and I only got a day to experience it, but no one else understood, even after viewing my Facebook pictures and seeing my little souvenirs, why I wanted to visit Bath.

I saw the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London and saw the African and the Egyptian and just a bit of the Assyrian exhibits at the British Museum. The Tower was interesting, to say the least, but I could have easily spent two whole days in the British Museum. I can’t wait to go back and peruse again when I have more energy. There was something magical about the Egyptian exhibit and fighting my way to see the Rosetta Stone was well worth it. I consider museums to be very personal experiences, not requiring a lot of talk, and I’m glad I got to see what I wanted to see and stare at the sculptures and art for as long as I wanted.

I visit Westminster Abbey and took a “selfie” with Big Ben and then went on to Buckingham Palace to finish my trip. I only visited two sites and had the most wonderful day in doing so, even though I was beginning to get a cold. I walked past Elizabeth I’s tomb in awe of her death mask and I stomped on Dickens’ memorial, though I later chided myself for doing so and prayed for forgiveness for my immaturity (I still hate Dickens, though). Buckingham Palace was everything I expected it to be and the fact that they allow you to view at your own pace was downright beautiful. I spent an entire day marvelling and staring and taking pictures to the point that I hated knowing I had to leave. By the time I got back to the hotel, I found myself even saying my “thank yous” like the Brits I heard all around me.

I’d planned for a year for this trip to London and, though it was technically short, it was everything I needed it to be. I got to view London through the eyes of a writer and a lover of architecture and British literature and history, which I think is what most people fail to understand when they ask me, “Oh, why didn’t you go on the Harry Potter studio tour?” or “You mean, you didn’t see the Downton Abbey place?” when they consider my trip.

Anne is now its grave phase, which leaves me perfectly happy. I had no grandiose plans for finishing a novel this year, considering what I’d accomplished with Damen last year, but I’m glad I’ve even reached this point. There’s lots to do, though at 185k words, it’s in far better shape than I was with Damen starting at 285k words. Anne still has room to take on a life of its own. While I try to quote Austen wherever feasible, this is my novel and at this stage, I’m comfortable in deviating from the parent story enough to tell the entire story properly.

I still think Anne will be my first foray into the self-publishing world, though I think I may wait until 2015 to start pushing Damen on agents again. I have no delusions of becoming one of those self-publishing successes; I just want my story to given to the world. Speaking of giving my story…I lost my beloved Kindle Paperwhite during my travels to London. I think I put it in the seat flap on the return flight and forgot to take it with me in the bustle and confusion of leaving. I’ve already removed my Amazon credentials from it, but I’ve got a version of Damen on there that’s now floating around lost on the device. I doubt I’ll ever get it back and, oh darn, this means I’ll have to get the brand new even more awesome Kindle Voyage, but the fact that Damen is where I can’t reach it, leaves me a little irritated.

These first 30 years have presented me with quite a lot. Oddly, I don’t feel as old as I did last year. On the trip home from London, I was surrounded by a group of people in the security line who were amazed that I was 30, as they all said I didn’t look like I could be older than 22, which just cheered my heart. 🙂 I went into this year expecting an early mid-life crisis, but instead I am rejuvenated for all of life’s possibilities.

So, Year 30. Onward and upward!

 

Words on a Page Thursday, July 31, 2014

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 12:53 am
Tags: , , , , ,

There’s a part of me that wants to let this blog fall to the wayside as so many of my other online endeavours have in the past. There’s an old Livejournal and even older Xanga out there on the Interwebs, lying unloved until those servers close, not to mention my main DorienneSmith.com blog. I’m sure there are dozens of others, but I’m much too “meh” to struggle remembering.

That “meh” emotion, or lack thereof, is part of what has kept me from having anything meaningful to say here for ages. The other part is that I’ve been keeping a daily journal on my phone that allows me to record on a far more personal level than I would for something I publish for others to see. What pleasures I once gained only from here are now being fulfilled in a different manner which leaves me at this crossroads.

Do I continue to post things for the sake of doing it, or do I allow these years of ramblings to gather proverbial dust?

I haven’t got an answer for myself at the moment, so I’ll default to the former for now…

I think my lack of drive for a writing blog is the fact that I don’t feel like I’ve made a lot of progress as a writer lately. I’ve been writing daily; I’ve actually met my 500 word daily goals for about two weeks. Anne is coming along slowly, but it will be towards the end of 2015 before I’m anywhere exciting in that project. For now, Anne is in that boring stage where I try to make sense of all my notes and just attempt to get dialogue, prose, and ideas into a single document that has some sort of chronology. In writing Damen, I’ve come to fully understand each stage in the process and how long I’ll be before I have anything resembling a finished product. Anne is so far from the goal line that it doesn’t seem relevant to discuss.

Now that I’ve said Anne isn’t worth discussing: I’m not ready to consider Damen a failure because I haven’t queried anyone about it since October 2013 as I’ve tried to re-group and spend time away from it. The best way to spend time away from one project is to jump onto another, but Anne feels like such a quagmire.

My intention with Anne is to foray into the world of self-publishing, but through a pseudonym just in case that effort goes poorly. Since I know Anne will be self-published, I can’t quite get as excited about it as I was with Damen, and yet, a project is a project. Anne fits somewhere between fanfiction and real fiction to me, partly because I am re-working an Austen novel, but mostly because I know it’s not going to go through all the “fun” of the query/rejection process. Once it’s done, Anne will be more of an effort in marketing than in art. I took a marketing class once many eons ago…I spent most of the time creating story ideas in the margins of my lecture notes. I can’t get excited about marketing, thus it’s hard to get excited about Anne and, since Anne is my sole project at this time, I’m finding it difficult to get excited about my writing.

On I trek, however. I’ll be 30 in September and I have difficulty remembering a time when I wasn’t in the middle of one writing project or six. This is who I am.

 

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.

 

Reading about writing is like dancing about architecture Saturday, November 9, 2013

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 12:03 am
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I found myself reading about the craft of writing this week, and I surprised myself by really enjoying it.

Outside of a couple creative writing classes in school, I’ve not had much of an opportunity to study writing as an art form. I’ve read a lot of articles about the Dos and Dont’s (show vs tell, don’t use adverbs, etc.) and I’ve put some effort into studying grammar and punctuation (homophones, Oxford commas, etc.), but as far as the craft itself goes, I’ve imagined myself as self-taught.

I used my novel Flight as a method of teaching myself how I write a novel, so I flushed out many of the first-time writer mistakes. Having characters stare in a mirror to provide physical appearances, telling the reader all about a character and character, but showing him in a completely different, and so forth. I learned a lot about the writing process and a lot about how I write from Flight, but over the years, I’ve forgotten that reading about the craft is almost as important as doing it.

Yesterday, I read several articles about writing, but one in particular stood out to me: “Tell, Don’t Show” Here the author refers to the old recommendation of show versus tell, that is, show your characters doing things rather than just tell the reader that they are doing things. This can be the difference between telling the reader “Gloria was so angry with Philip” and showing “‘How could you do this to me!’ Gloria shouted as she slapped Philip across the face.” as an example.

The article, however, focuses on the opposite, i.e., the appropriate places to tell rather than show. Part of what took an additional 18 months to complete Damen was my problem with word count. I initially showed every step Damen took every day and had to teach myself by forcing myself to tell when I wanted to show. Oh, how I wish this article had been available to me when while I was in the middle of Damen! How much time could I have saved?! While the article did not describe anything that I hadn’t already learned through trial and many, many errors, I was so pleased to see someone else eloquently describe the process and confirm what I’d learned.

Having gone so long without encountering anything new while writing, I had gone along these last few years under the arrogant guise of “There’s nothing you can teach me that I haven’t already taught myself.” While it may even be technically true, in reality, there is always something to new to learn or even confirm about one’s writing.

Four months into this agent search, it would have been easy to toss aside everything I’d learned through Flight and Damen, assuming that I had just “it” wrong and blundered along another path, but reading just a few articles on writing not only confirmed what I’d learned, but helped strengthen what I already did.

I still find it odd that I have to remind myself to take a step backward and remember that I have plenty left to learn. Arrogance has little place anywhere in life and especially when one still wishes to learn.

 

 
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