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.

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World Keeps Spinning Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Filed under: Dorienne,Writing — kaitco @ 10:34 pm
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I stare at this empty page
The cursor blinks at me
I plead the muse of inspiration
To look down amicably
Upon this Christian soldier’s eyes
That search for daily meaning
In her writing that she creates
Whose verbosity is careening
Out of control. The cursor blinks
With it’s evil grinning
And while the author waits and waits
This world just keeps on spinning.

I’ve not written anything worthwhile here in ages, though a million things have occurred in the last few months. First-job is not un-enjoyable and is moving in a good direction and I’ve got a few eggs dropped into the paths of my literary goals that are finally beginning to hatch.

We lost a church member just last week and her homegoing is this weekend, but I can’t remember the last time I was so uplifted by another soldier’s work. She brought up her family in God’s ways and was a faithful Christian to the very end. Every time I think of her and children, I can’t help praying, “Lord, that’s the kind of Christian I want to be. Help me get there.”

I had an epiphany with Anne this month; simply put, she was just too good. There was no stain upon her character, so I had to muddy her a bit, as even I was beginning to struggle to relate to her.

So, there. Lots of happenings, but nothing particularly notable in a blogging sense, hence the attempt at poetry. On I trek towards my lofty goals…

 

Onto Stage…Whatever Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 3:51 am
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Finally, I’m onto file damen1-13k. Technically, it should be 13h, but I don’t really care for the letters F and J, so they were skipped. This is the 8th edit of Damen and in this version, I’ll be doing a spell check/grammar check that’s not truly possible in the full document. Because Microsoft sucks (though their products are sadly the best currently available), their spell check function stops working somewhere around the 100th page and my only way to catch typos, etc. is to find them on my own or add each of my 36 chapters to their own document and individually review the book again, chapter by chapter, document by document, just to catch if I’ve spelled “thought” as “tohguth.” Mac Office is even worse and stops counting words after 100 pages in addition to jacking up the spell check. Total crap, but my Microsoft rant is best left for another post.

I was a little dazed when I finished the seventh edit yesterday, so I’m not entirely sure if I’m on Chapter 2 or 3 at this point. I’ll pick Chapter 2 because you can’t read through the book enough times.

Current word count is 121,542 which I think is slightly higher than my previous update. Though I told myself that I was through with rewriting anything else in this edit, I ran into the same problems with the middle part of the book that I’ve re-re-re-written more than any other part of the book. What I find is that with each edit, I lose my emotional attachments to specific scenes.

In a previous edit, I’d gone back and retrieved a scene where Jessie Clarke and Brit have a major fight because I wanted so badly to show Jessie’s compassionate side. In the edit I just finished, I realized that Jessie really didn’t need to show that kind of compassion because Brit has enough compassion for the both of them. If I had 500k words to work with, I’d still probably include the scene, but given that it unnecessarily broke up the flow of the book, it had to get cut.

Of course, that scene was wrapped around a more pivotal scene where we see Damen really struggling with his mother’s addictions. What I ended up with was a completely re-written chapter where we see Angel balancing her problems with the love of her son, we finally see some imperfections in Anessa’s character, and we get to see Damen grow a little as he realizes that he’s not the only one in the world handling emotional problems. For the first time since I’d first finished the novel, I can actually say that I enjoy the events and flow of this chapter.

I’d figured I was done at this point since I’d not added to my word count, but then I came again to the chapter where we come to understand the root of Jessie Clarke’s character. I cried through the scene as I always do, but this time around the end was very flat to me. Jessie reveals a very long, painful story about her childhood and then when Damen refuses to divulge anything about himself, she just lets it go without showing the relative crazies Jessie displayed throughout the previous chapters.

Up until this point, I’d made very few changes to Jessie’s part of the story, but this time around, I added another 4-500 words to the book to make sure Jessie went ape-#$%@ when Damen did not do as she said, just as we’ve seen her do throughout the novel. I hated to add 500 words to the book to show all of this, but scene feels complete and really envelopes you in the pain that’s coursing through Jessie.

Apart from those two re-writes, the book felt really done for the first time since I thought I was done 15 months ago.

Now, my next steps will be to review general spelling and grammar through each chapter file and then make this into a Kindle book that I can read either on iPad or Kindle, like I would a normal book. The goal there will be to ensure that I don’t lose my own interest as I’m reading. Anywhere that I feel like it’s time to put down the book is a weak point of the novel and may need to be revised. Further painful revisions notwithstanding, once I do a Kindle-read through the book and print out and mail the whole thing for my Poor Man’s Copyright, I will finally begin my hunt for an agent.

Phew! It’s been a long ride. Onward and upward!

 

Dana and Damen Thursday, March 14, 2013

Filed under: Writing — kaitco @ 6:04 pm
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For the past three years I’ve have struggled with the character of Dana Barrington. From the moment her addition seemed providential inspired, I’ve wanted to keep her in the book. I’ve twisted and turned the story and 9 different directions in order to keep her, only to return to my initial conclusion made several years ago: I’ve got to cut Dana Barrington.

I’m in the midst of my 3rd full edit of Damen and found myself almost screaming in frustration over a slow point in the book. This slow point involves surrounds not only Dana, but also my other beloved character of Amber MacDonaugh. While extricating Amber from the plot is near impossible as she defines the characters of several others so well, removing Dana will not only free up a good 10K or more words from my word count, her removal will also leave me with a little more wiggle room to focus on other characters.

If I wasn’t so very fatigued at the moment, I’d probably cry, but I’m trying to stay positive. Dana is a fully shapened character now who, while not immediately useful in Damen, may possibly find a place in another project; she’s not lost forever, just to this story. While I’m losing my only link from Flight, perhaps in the long-run, this will keep me from getting sued down the line. Who knows, right?

The more I re-re-read and edit this book, the more necessary it is to cut her. In exchange, I will be able to keep nearly all of the drama regarding the college visit, including Xavier’s colourful speech regarding politics and I will be able to streamline the story. By downplaying Amber and removing Dana, the book rests on the shoulders of Damen, Brit, Corey, Jessie, Angel, Anthony, and Anthony’s family. It sounds like a lot because it is and winding Dana’s story within a host of characters who are already related was, while a noble and artistically challenging task, still unnecessary.

Phew…I feel better about this already. I stand at around 131K at the moment and I think I’ll stop with damen10g here in the 20-something’th chapter, begin with damen11h (or 11k, I don’t really like the letters h, i, or j) and get started editing this thing with the focus on removing Dana and reducing Amber.

Onward and upward!

Edit: So, in trying to completely cut Dana today, I came upon her introduction which not only provided an nice interlude that introduces us to one of Brit’s brothers, gives insight on Damen’s history with social workers, helps display more of Jessie Clarke’s character, and shows how Damen interacts with girls who aren’t Brit and Jessie. So, despite all my above clairvoyance, I’ll not be able to remove her as entirely as I’d hoped. I’ve done too good a job at entangling her with the rest of the story, but I’m determined with damen11h to ring in her character. Her scattering throughout the rest of the book just feels overwhelmingly desperate, so while she’ll still appear in her own chapter, her interaction with Damen will be more like that of Tabitha Laird or Tatum Price; mentioned once, serves her purpose and never mentioned again.
…I can’t help a little joy over the best compromise I’ve made with regard to writing in the longest while. 🙂

 

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!”

 

From there to here Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Filed under: Dorienne,Writing — kaitco @ 8:50 pm
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I think I may finally understand why I want to badly to keep the character of Dana Barrington in Damen.

It occurred to me just after I reviewing yesterday’s post, but I wanted to sleep on it and take a break from writing to be really sure of what I want to do, which is remove Amber’s suicide attempt, but I’ll get to that part later.
Here is an except from Flight and all that I ever wrote of Dana Barrington’s character in that book:

Olivia stepped off the elevator on her floor and trekked toward her apartment door, weighed down by the stacks of files in her bag and those being carried under her arm. All of the documents and images that pertained to Dana Barrington’s rape case were in her possession and she was scheduled to testify at the trial the next day. She knew she was ready for the trial as she had testified at many previous to this one, but she hauled everything home to review just as a comfort to herself.

Dana Barrington was a high school student who had been brought into a hospital after being found bleeding profusely in an alley. She had attempted to perform an abortion on herself with a wire hanger and nearly killed herself in the process. After she was admitted, the detectives learned that she had been raped several months earlier and that she could not tell anyone about what had happened to her. Dana had said that she was too embarrassed to say anything because she had walked home alone and she knew she should not have.

The rapist, Gregory Lars, had been apprehended by the DNA provided by Dana’s baby who was born premature, but healthy, two months later. Lars had been preying on adolescent girls in the city for years, but it was only with this case that they had the DNA needed to convict him.

On Friday, Olivia was supposed to testify about Lars’ behavior when he was finally caught. She had no qualms about testifying in front of Lars, who had actually hit her in the stomach while she had him against a wall, but her nerves were slightly on edge when it came to facing the victim again. Dana’s large brown eyes displayed nothing but innocence and she knew only too well that a child born to a raped victim, especially one as young as Dana, would not be as loved as he could be. She knew that upon seeing Dana in court, she would want to tell her what was coming in her life and what she should tell her son as he grew up, but she knew she could not. It was not her place to do so.

Friday January 19, 2007
New York County Courthouse

Olivia stood in a corridor outside of the courtroom where she had just testified against Gregory Lars looking for Dana Barrington and her family. When it seemed like she had missed them in the bustle of people flowing out of the courtroom at recess just before noon, Olivia spotted a sixteen-year-old with brown hair and large brown eyes holding a baby carrier.

“Olivia!” Dana said, the moment her eyes reached Olivia’s.

She handed the baby to her mother standing next to her, crossed the corridor in three steps and hugged Olivia.

“Thank you,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “Thank you so much.”

“It’s no problem. It’s what I do.”

…and that’s it. That’s all I wrote about Dana Barrington’s character in Flight, so I’ve been so puzzled why this character in particular has caused me so much stress in the past couple years, but finally! Finally, I think I know why.

Dana’s story is brief, but very sad. Here she was, a young college bound girl, with almost no problems at all and, through no fault of her own, she was attacked and impregnated. Dana did what I considered I would have done had I been in her situation and pretended it didn’t happen until the problem, literally, grew too big for her to ignore.

When I think of this character, I feel like I need to see her through this. I need to see that she’s happy and healthy and that life goes on. Not because I’ve personally experienced this, but because I just need to know that at least somewhere, life goes on.

Yes, I know that these are fictional characters of my own making, but I feel them and know them as if these were people I could touch. For the same reason, I couldn’t really understand the ending of my novel until I realized where Corey could get his comeuppance (much, much later and in a completely different book) because I just couldn’t leave things the way they were. I needed to see life go on and these characters move forward, even though I wouldn’t be writing about them after I’d moved them on.

So…

I’ve decided to leave Dana firmly in the background along with others who just briefly see light like Tatum and Paige and Tabitha. Amber, however, won’t be pushed to the background, but she won’t have nearly as large a part to play anymore. Instead, I’ve decided to pull Damen’s mother Angel into the foreground where she belongs and use her drama to provide the conflict. In short, I’m completely changing the plot of my novel well into my second edit.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, though. Yes, there will be far more scene rewrites than I wanted at this stage in the novel, but in the process of just reviewing my “points” and chapter summaries, I’ve nixed 3 chapters and removed several smaller storylines that irked because they were originally necessary to avoid plot holes.

I prayed about this last night and asked God if this was really what He wanted of me. Not just the novel changes, but the idea of writing at all. Today, my emotions have run the gamut, from hot/cold, east/west, whatever, but I ended up with a clear path.

I’m not sure I’m willing claim any of this as providential inspiration because God works in mysterious ways and I think it a bit too bold say something like that, but I can’t help noticing how when I really, really asked for help, a calm path came to me.

 

 
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