Thursday, December 18, 2008

Within a Forest Dark

Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was / that savage forest dense and difficult / which even in recall renews my fear - Dante

Until I reread this quote, I didn't realize how much it spoke to both my current contemplations of a story idea and my state of mind.

My mind is that "savage forest dense and difficult."

I'm always all over the place when it comes to writing.

But I feel more so right now. And I know it's due to the burgeoning story idea that is half inspired by a mental fusion of several movies I've seen and the weird dreams I've been having that all seem tosomehowflow together to create an interesting Gothic little piece.

The only problem is: I have no idea where it's going.


Maybe that's not the problem.

If I don't know where it's going, then I have no expectations. Nothing that I'm awaiting.

I can let the story go without feeling like I have to keep running interference when it begins to veer off the course I've set. (Generally, I try to not set firm courses because, frankly, it's not worth the headache of fighting with my characters. But sometimes I have to put my foot down.)

I digress.

The problem...may be that this story seems to have little in the way of a a problem. (How meta.)

That is to say: this idea hasn't started off with a "big bad," to steal a Buffy vernacular.

There's no vampire to be staked. There's no demon to be slayed. No damsel to be rescued (physically, at least). No epic quest. No world to save.

Though some of that may come into play later on....

Right now, it's a quiet story. Very internal. Psychological? Man vs. Himself.  (I think there's some Man vs. Man to come.)

(I honestly think this is the first idea that I've had where I couldn't pinpoint the Problem and have some idea of the Resolution.)

In previous story ideas, I've had the death of a lover, the murder of a child by his sibling, the courtship of a Sea King, the arrival of strange bird beings, the slow destruction of a woman's individuality.

With this thing, I've just got a whole mess of images, short scenes, pieces of dialogue and a general idea of how the two characters met.

I know the Plot Point is in there somewhere, but I can't ferret it out.

Maybe I should just sit down and let the characters yammer until I find a thread I can grab onto. Let them map out their desires in words and then dangle those desires in front of them and see what the do....

I don't think I've ever had characters who live in their heads quite as much as these two do.

Most of my characterssome more introspective than othershave com along, ready to jump into the fray. They've got a story and they want to tell it.

These two. They're like a pot I've put on to boil. I wait and I watch and I think I spy a couple of bubbles out of the corner of my eye only to turn and find the water as flat and smooth as glass.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Coffee and Conversation

I've been entertaining a variety of voices in my head.

I blame the media I've surrounded myself with. Between The Dark Knight, Red Eye, Disco Pigs, and Emilie Autumn's music, my mind is drenched with inspiration. (Then there's the caffeine. I've imbibed more coffee in the last few weeks than I have in--probably--six months.)

And my Muses are running with it.

I keep getting little tidbits. Snippets of scenes from longer pieces--novellas or novels. I feel like a voyeur, peeking into their lives. But it's gratifying. I get to see familiar characters unguarded and new ones honestly exposed.

The only downside is that now I have even more unfinished projects. But, I should be used to that.

I'm still learning how to shackle myself.

Pants to the seat.

And its resulted in a quick edit of a short story which is prepped for rewriting/working. "Tide Drawn" is on its way.

And I'm trying to decide what to work on next. So many ideas... So many people and places I want to explore. Do I go with a story already scribbled out in my hand or with one of the many notepad files I have holding lines of dialogue or snippets of scenes.

I've got a few that I'd really like to explore.


I always needed a drink after a job. It was a little life affirmation. The same reason people long to fuck after a funeral.


"It's just a dream," he said, and licked the sides her mouth. Delicately. A cat lapping cream.

"No. It's something more than that..."

Back to the asylum, then.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I have a three page list...

Of stories, novels, as well as the random novella and play that are either in various states of progress, or consist of only a few idea notes.

I have the ideas... I just lack the gumption/motivation to write them.

At writers group, I read an exercise piece I wrote willy-nilly sometime back in June. It took about ten minutes to vomit it up on paper/processor.

And I got some unexpected (and good) feedback on it. People seeing nuances in it that I didn't contemplate myself. It was, after all, just an exercise. But there's potential there for something more. Or so it seemed to eyes other than my own.

So that's another I'll probably stow away in the ever burgeoning notebook of ideas, along with my newly printed index/catalogue of stories I need to be working on.

Perhaps it's the writing as "work" idea that's been putting me off lately.

I've spent much of this last month (really since I returned from Savannah in late June) writing scripts and lessons and various other odds and ends for different projects for my day job. By the time I come home in the evenings, all I want to do is vegetate in front of a piece of fanfiction (my guilty pleasure, both reading and writing...but lately, not so much writing) or stare blankly at the television.

Hardly promising positions for a would-be author. Though one is, admittedly, better than the other. At least fanfiction engages the brain--even the bad stuff, since it brings out my inner Editor/Proofreader and makes me take a closer look at my own work, both original and not.

But it doesn't put my pen to the page.

And that's where I need to overhaul my life.

Correction: That's where I need results when I overhaul my life.

The overhauling needs to start in a slightly different place.

I'm thinking first: a new mattress.

Sleep is key, and while I do sleep well, I've been suffering from aches and pangs in the last few months (brought on by my first ever round of frizbee golf, how unfortunate) that have not gone away. They've improved, but I have good days and bad and part of me is thinking the mattress (left over from the days of Matt's childhood) is to blame. So, we'll probably be taking a trip over to The Avenue and start mattress hunting this weekend. Time to break out the credit card for another big purchase. (The last being the compressor on my Sable.)

The second is keeping the energy up and that means getting back into an exercise regime (which might, also, improve the previously mentioned aches and pains). I was doing quite well for a while, walking well over a mile four to five times (possibly more) a week. That schedule got skewed when I took my week off to visit Georgia.

The third is to get out more. Gas prices, of course, must be considered, but I rarely take weekend day trips like I used to do with my parents. Those were usually good for getting the mind engaged and the energy flowing. I'm beginning to contemplate heading out to a different bed and breakfast once a month or so (finances depending), just to get a little taste of being away from home.

This includes writerly things. So, I may be taking myself up to Killer Nashville next month to check out some of the panels. I'm not a "mystery" writer per se, but all stories are mysteries until you finish them and my writing would very likely benefit from some of the panels that are being given this year. (Just wish I could do all of them, unfortunately I've yet to master the art of being in two places at once.)

I guess that's something else to work on.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I feel professional, oh so professional and witty and bright.

Well, maybe not so witty, since I'm stealing lines from West Side Story.

Bright remains to be seen, as well.

The 68th Annual conference of the American Medical Writers Association is looking more firm in my future.

Since my company works closely on training within the medical and pharmaceutical industries, they're thinking it's a good idea for at least one person to have some firm knowledge on the nuances going on in the field of medical writing.

And I got tapped to be that person.

If not my heart, it, at least, sets my stomach all aflutter.

The conference isn't until October and already I'm picturing myself getting lost in the throng. Or being unable to find the hotel and having to live out of my car and a public washroom for three days. Or suddenly losing my ability to understand written and spoken English.

You know. Just your average normal neurotic worries.

I'll get over it.

Or, at the least, I'll get through the conference and then take a vacation day the following Monday to have the nervous breakdown that I had to put off for the length of the conference.

One of the reasons that I am a because it's easier than talking to people.

I was an incredibly shy child. That child turned into a moderately introverted teenager (who had her moments of explosive extroversion.) And into a rather (publicly, at least) taciturn adult.

I talk. I'll speak in front of groups. I have absolutely no issue discussing my ideas and opinions in a meeting or sharing critiques, ideas, and bullshit in my writers' group. I can get up at an Open Mic night and read my writing. I've even been on stage before. (And I didn't faint.) Shock and awe that.

But that's not to say that I necessarily enjoy doing all of those things, but with most of them there is a certain intimacy among peers and there's usually a friend or a colleague to make eye contact with.

When I'm on my own and in a world full of strangers, things get a little bit more taxing.

Add into this the driving time (about 2 to 3 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions). The registration. The fees. The packing. The traffic. The socializing. The learning. And you've got a recipe for one frazzled girl.

But, really. I should have some dignity and not have my first semi-anxiety-meltdown until, at least, around the first of September. (I'll try to make it to Mid-August.)


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Where have all our yesterdays gone?

I blinked sometime between the 1st and 2nd of January and here we are in April. Time really does fly when you get older. Pre-18 the years seemed to drag. Some days I'd do a lot to get that time back.

Recently I celebrated the quarter of a century mark and I've spent my first week at 25 with some odd stiff neck injuries which have not yet gone away. I've got a few more days before the 7 day mark and things seem to have improved from this last Wednesday, but I'm hesitant to make any affirmative statements on that topic for fear of jinxing myself. (Superstitious? Just a bit.) I have white-coat fever like no one's business; if I can avoid a trip to the doctor, I do.

In other news, I have recently returned to an avenue of my childhood that I never got to experience fully.

I've started watching Transformers.

I blame this one on the Boy. True, I nurture the actual fascination/"obsession" well enough on my own, but the re-introduction was his fault.

Now that I've seen the live action movie, I'm going back and combing the Internet (Youtube is my antidrug) for the G1 series. I will follow the others as time permits. Except, perhaps, for the new Animated series. I'm not big on most of the art. What the hell is with those giant chins?

I like my Mechs old-school, boxy and metallic looking. (Exceptions granted for the metallic litheness of the Mechs in the live action movie, even down to the spikes-of-doom appearance of the Decepticons. They were really quite beautiful. And I think I have a crush on the Saleen Mustang. I'm neither gear-head nor autophile...but that is a sexy car.)

In artistic news, I've joined up with my writers group again--after a year long hiatus, which probably did me good seeing as I was neither writing nor sharing much of anything during my last jaunt--and I'm set up to receive feedback on the first short story I've completed in about 5 or so years.

One of our discussions was on Web presence. Do we have Web sites, blogs? Do we think they're necessary?

Not necessary, per se. But as I told one of our members, it's not a bad idea to build a Web presence. Particularly if you get into little writing projects on the Web (like the Six Sentences project). You get your name out there, people come across your stuff and maybe, on down the road a piece, they'll remember you when they spot your name in a magazine, or between the pages of an anthology, or better yet on the cover of a book.

I've said enough for one dreary Sunday afternoon. I'm off to indulge in my latest fascination, continue nursing my poor neck muscles--decrepit already at 25; maybe next time I'll listen to Rhonda when she says "See? Not a damn thing to look forward to"--and do some more reading.

On the currently reading list, I have:

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

The Darkest Part of the Woods by Ramsey Campbell

And I have at least three Borroweds sitting on my shelf that I should attempt to read before their owner files a Missing Book report (though I think one of them she's actually gifted to me).


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

English Majors Anonymous

For the past year or more, when people ask me how my writing is going, or what I'm working on, I preface my response with variations of "I'm a recovering English major..."

I still suffer from the strains of EMS - English Major Syndrome.

I stumbled on an interview with Janet Riehl, who says of her creative writing: "I had to overcome my English Major Syndrome. There are a lot of us former English majors out there, you know, suffering, and we should probably form a group, because our writing will never be good enough until we recover."

Truer words were never spoken.

I spent five years of my life reading assigned texts and analyzing the language, the structure, the symbolism, the rhythm and more of everything from Anglo-Saxon poems to the Romantics to modern Southern Literature. And in between those analytical classes I tried to further my creativity, participating in fiction and playwriting courses that would earn me credits in my writing minor. But, even in those courses, analysis of a number of writings was required.

And what happened after I graduated with my English degree and tried to turn my mind back toward the world and characters I'd neglected for five years?

They scattered to the winds under my scrutinizing eye.

Every time I sat down to work on a new or unfinished short story, my mind would regurgitate the questions inspired by my courses:

What does the author's use of color denote in this passage?

What is the significance of the starling in this story?

What does (or will) the reader take away from this story?

Are there parallels between the events in this story and our current events?

Etc, etc, etc.

Needless to say my writing-libido shriveled up (and my Inner Critic--sadist that he is--cackled at my impotence).

Analysis is good, in measured doses and where appropriate.

It's certainly not appropriate before pen has even been put to paper or before a story has reached its draft conclusion--shitty thought it may be.

I'm having to retrain myself to look at the worlds in my head, not through the eyes of an English major, pen poised like a scalpel ready to slice through vellum and expose the bone and blood of a tale, but through the eyes of a dreamer, a writer. Through the eyes of my characters.

I graduated in May of 2006 and I've been limping my way along since then.

It's a slow healing.

My mind has spawned numerous ideas since graduation and I've worked most of them onto paper and they're now in various stages of completion, but still I find myself tangled up in the technicalities, the analysis and I have to step away for a time so I can come back to the story with a fresh mind. (This is not great for productivity...)

I hit a milestone in November, however, when I put the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair (or bed, or living room floor) and pounded out a 53,000 word NaNoWriMo novel.

It was my first time winning NaNo and my first completed project (outside of Academia) in several years.

Since NaNo was not about quality but quantity, it gave me the "excuse" to sit down and tell a story, straight through. I could tell myself: it's OK that your grammar sucks, and your sentence structure isn't right on, and you have enough comma splices to send your 1010 professor into a comma coma. And it's OK that your characters aren't as developed as you think they should be--some of them as tangible as smoke--and that your plot has holes the size of a Buick, and your dialogue sounds like it's from a Debutante ball in one minute and like a return to Deliverance the next.

It's OK. Because it's not about perfection. It's about writing. It's about telling the story.

And only when the story is told can you go back and improve those details that will enrich it and make it palatable.

To do otherwise kills the creative drive.

And this is what I've kept telling myself. Writing is about writing. It's not about publishing, or authorship, fame or fortune. It's about telling a story. Enjoying yourself. Having fun with your imagination. Seeing where your mind can take your for a moment, an hour, a day. All things I used to excel at before I entered college.

I'm still gimpy, but I think my pen is starting to lose some of its scalpel-edge and my Inner Critic is fighting the rope bonds placed on him by one of my more aggressive Muses.

I've begun the process of a general reading and note taking on my NaNo novel and after the first read through will start the chunking and editing.

My short stories--crammed in file cabinets and on flash drives--wait patiently and not so patiently in the wings, each vying for attention.

And, I think, that if I can sit down for a week or two, with the same mindset I had in November. That the story is the thing, I just might be able to get a piece or two drafted and edited by the time I celebrate my two year anniversary of receiving my English degree.

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