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.

 

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.

 

300 words Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 9:16 pm
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I suppose I could say I made up for lost time from the last few days by spending the majority of today editing. I cut a little more than five thousand words today bringing me down to 158K; it’s almost like deleting an entire chapter.
What’s further gratifying is that I still managed to cut 5K words while adding a scene that helped explain a few things without spending another 10K words to “tell” it.

I jumped into Chapter 16 as well, but hit a road block with exactly 300 words that I winced to delete and eventually just hit Ctrl+Z until I had them back.

It’s just 300 words and exemplifies Damen and Brit’s characters so well…It’s just 300 words…

I find myself in a familiar predicament because these 300 words are really the bulk of the 38K I’ve left to cut. I keep telling myself, “It’s just X words. I’ll wait until I finish this edit and, if I’m X words over my limit, I’ll cut them then.”

Three hundred here. Two hundred there. Four hundred in this chapters, but I’ve already cut so much there as it is! It’s the same story every few thousand words.

I think what’s got me doing a complete 180 on where I was a few days ago is that I, against my better judgement, researched the industry’s standard on newbie author’s again, and it hit me: I may never even come close to publishing this thing if it’s not below 120K. And, that’s a discouraging thought when I’ve got 20-some chapters left and almost 40K to delete.

Today, as I was getting my braids done, I wondered about which of three storylines would have to get the axe. On the gallows stand Dana Barrington’s story that has, on multiple occasions, received the governour’s call the moment it had the rope around its neck; Amber’s story that was once supposed to be a focal point of the book; and Corey’s backstory who, while not new to the rope, believes that the pardon is inevitable.

I’ve considered dropping Dana Barrington’s story so often that searching for her name in this blog actually yields its own page of results. Amber and Corey, however, are relatively new considerations.

Corey is supposed to just take off randomly some day and return with a tale of his father’s hypocrisy. His story keeps the strain between Damen’s dual friendship with both Corey and Brit going. Amber is supposed to attempt suicide because of Jessie Clarke, which makes her story really more of an extension of Jessie’s character. At one point, this was the climax of the novel, but now I find myself completely lacking a climax at all, except for the very, very end.

If I cut any of these three stories, I may be able to save almost 20K words, but I’m still at a loss here. I feel like a spoiled brat whose favorite horse has had foals, but I have to give up one of them. Yes, I’ve a dozen other beloved horses in the stables, but I want all the ones that belong to me!

 

30-Day 5K – Day Seven Thursday, June 7, 2012

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 11:10 pm
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Goodness, I hate Thursdays. I think it’s because I’m so tired after Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that I really need Thursday to be Friday, but when I wake up and realize that it’s not actually Friday, I get depressed and the whole day sours before I even get out of the bed.

I wrote 5760 words this evening (but neither Brit nor Damen laughed with her) and I know if I pushed a little, I could have probably wrote a bit more, but today being Thursday and all, I’m tired and ready to just play Rock Band and then veg on the sofa.

Some of this fatigue is coming from just looking at the amount of editing this chapter needs. Once again, my problem comes from the desire to “show” but the need to “tell.” Somehow, I’ve got to make peace between to the two to save the word count, especially since I’ve “shown” so much about something that is really just a peripheral story.

I’ll figure it all out tomorrow, I suppose, when I’m less tired and more willing to take my literary axe to this chapter and make meaningful, but concise. For now, however, I’ll concede to the Rock Banding (yes, that’s a word) session I’ve earned this week.

Edit: I knew I wouldn’t remember this until the WordPress Dashboard mentioned it. I can’t believe I’ve done 400 posts in this thing! Woot!

 

The fine line Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 12:46 pm
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It occurred to me yesterday that I’m finally beginning to understand that fine line that exists between showing my audience what I mean and telling them what I mean.

I previously thought I learned my show vs. tell lesson after writing Flight, where too much tell resulted in an incomplete character, or rather a disconnect between what was supposed to be a favored character and my audience. As I push through this edit of Damen, however, I see that I have many, many lessons yet to learn in my writing endeavours.

Where Flight told too much, Damen has overcompensated by showing far too much and telling far too little. As I re-read, I find that I can map out the character Damen’s every movement between August 2007 and May 2008. It’s unbelievable!

I’m sure that when I was writing most of this last year, all this detail seemed relevant, but in hindsight, the details just make me want to pull out my hair. That’s not to say that it isn’t interesting to see every facet of a character’s life; it’s the fact that I spent nearly 300K words doing it and now have to rewrite entire chapters as I concede to a word count that’s aggravating.

…thus ends my rant of having to re-write the entirety of Chapter 14 due to my own hubris…

I’m down to 240K words and am finally into the meat of the novel. With that, however, comes to realization that I’ve a lot of re-writing coming to me. The first part of the novel was finely polished and led to my overall goal, but into Chapter 15-16 and beyond, I’m starting to see where I floundered a lot last year, hence the 15K chapters.

I think I may just sit down and just read for the rest of this week, focusing on whether what’s on the page is relevant and have a rough idea of how I’d like to reorder the remainder of the book. Unfortunately, with more than 20 chapters left to edit in this manner, this means that I’ll have to back my final draft goal to May 31 and the agent search to July, but I’d rather have all the proverbial ducks in a row and know I did this right, than rush it and face rejection when I didn’t do my best.

 

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

Filed under: Reading,Writing — kaitco @ 2:13 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

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 morning routine Thursday, August 11, 2011

I’m having a difficult time (in general) determining lately whether I’m “telling” my story or showing so much that it feels like tell.

Usually, when I find myself writing “He did X” several times on a page, I’ve fallen into a series of tells instead of showing the reader what’s happening at this point in the story. That said, I’m not quite sure how else I’d say what I’m saying and so it’s coming off as either overly detailed or just plain bland. That’s the infuriating part, though; I can’t tell which!

It seems like a rather simple concept and I’m sure that if I read a bit about it, I’d discover my answer, but I fear “the tell” like a block and I worry that after reading anything about what defines a “tell” versus a “show,” I’ll get “tell” in the back of my mind and end up telling the reader all about Damen and Co. instead of allowing the story to happen on the page.

I suppose in the grand scheme of things, if this is one of my greatest worries in the world, I’ve got loads about which to be thankful, but still…it’s worries me.

Overnight, I’ve decided to go back to writing as a part of my morning routine.

In the past few weeks, I’ve stopped playing Rock Band for three to four hours every night and, aside from gaining a bit of weight from not wearing myself out with all the songs, I’ve found simply things stressing me far more often than they had when I was coming home and forgetting the day by playing through my songs.

Nothing technically stops me from playing every night now, but I have an obligation to myself to finish this draft in the next few months, which means that when I come home at night, I know I’ll either sit down to write for the night or play Rock Band, I’m rarely able to do both before it’s time to go to bed. The happy medium, then, is to write in the mornings, presumably after I do my morning workout. This will, hopefully, allow me time to do both of the things I love and reduce stress at the same time.

I just hate falling asleep in front of the television having done neither by the end of the day. Many days I’ll find that I’m not in the mood to write, but because I’ve sat and stared at the words on my laptop for so long, I’ve wasted too much time to de-stress from the day with my game and end up just having something to eat and then falling sleep in front of the TV to either Netflix or my “Dorienne TV” concoction. If I expect something to change, I can’t keep doing the same thing while hoping for new results.

I wrote 413 words this morning (and I want them now. Right now) and, though, I’m suffering a bit from allergies and I’m still a little down from how the past two days have gone, I think I’m at least on the right path.

 

 
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