Much Needed Hiatus

27 Jul

Whew.. So it’s about time we’re posting something here, right? I mean I’m sure many of you have been expecting new blog posts, new podcasts… goodness knows whatelse! And here we are, not delivering any of that to you. It’s terrible, isn’t it?

Things have gotten quite in our way with working on this project. Both Conrad and I are busy stressing over the up coming semester, as well as dealing with some personal things. It makes it harder and harder to find the time and focus to sit down and record a podcast, much less write about things that will actually help our readers. You know, the ten or so we have!

I thought it only right of us to finally make some kind of post explaining our absence. Maybe we’ll pick it up again next summer – maybe we won’t. But I can say I’ve learned a lot along the way and I’m glad I started the project, even if it didn’t go very far. I hope you enjoyed what little we did as well.

I do have another blog that is fully operational: The Ink Ribbon Writer, though I don’t know if Conrad has anywhere he would like linked to. So that’s that.

Perhaps we’ll see you again soon! Or… not. But it was well worth it, either way.

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Take it Slow: Writing My Novel with a Typewriter

4 Jul

This lovely Fourth Of July (Go USA!) I got a little bored and decided to dust of the old, electric typewriter I’d bought at a garage sale a few years ago. Actually, I’m pretty sure they just gave it to me. Because who needs a typewriter when you’ve got computers? But I pulled it down anyway, hacked a lot on all the old dustiness, and started trying to figure out what all the weirdo buttons were for. At first I thought I could find a manual online, but that was useless because I’m not even entirely sure what model type it is. Other than it comes from Sears and have the number 400 on it. It doesn’t really look anything like the one in the picture, but oh well, good enough!

I pulled it out because I’d been thinking again about the concept of slow, focused writing. What better way to focus than to make every word count and have no outside distractions? Also, talk about cool gimmick for a blog: The Typewriter Novelist! (Actually, if I go through with this, I have no idea for a good blog name. Help?) It could be a little fun, if not a little quirky.

Writing my second draft on the typewriter. That’s going to be a lot of words, a lot of pages. I’m not entirely sold on it yet, but I really like the idea. So I thought I’d jump in here and ask you guys.

Should I write my novel on a typewriter?

If I do, a definitely plan to make a blog out of my progress. I would, either way, but heck! It’s on a typewriter… this must be a little cooler… (Yeah, completely playing up that aspect.) I really do like it though. I’d hand-write novels if I could read my own writing/didn’t get massive hand cramps. Do any of you choose to write by hand or otherwise?

Take it Slow: Writing is a Chocolate Brownie, not a Fast Food Joint

3 Jul

Let me start this blog post by saying I have never been the kind of person to “slow write”. If I’m writing, I’m writing and I do it every chance I have. I want to get it done. That’s my only goal – finish it. Short stories? Finish it so I can edit it. Edit it so I can share it. Share it so people can review it, so I can edit some more, so I can be done with it. So at what point in time am I really enjoying writing?

I’ve been a participant in National Novel Writing Month since 2006, not counting this past year. For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo, as it’s called, is an event/contest where writers all around the world try to write a novel in a month. Or, in other words, try writing 50,000 words in one month. For three years, I’ve written over 50,000 words every November. The last time I did this, I wrote 112,000 words. That’s a lot of words. But did it really get me anything?

The whole idea behind NaNoWriMo is quantity before quality. Get the words down so you have a rough, first draft, so there’s something to edit. But I’ve always found that, once I finish those drafts, they’re not salvageable. It’s not just the fact that I’ve ignored quality. I rushed through the process. The plot is faulty. There’s nothing in it to save, but the bare ideas of a basic plot and character outlines. And I had that before I started writing the novel. So was it really worth it for me to rush the process of writing, when I got nothing out of it?

I’m not saying that those who participate in NaNoWriMo can’t get something out of it. I think it’s a fun event, every writer should do it – if only for the excitement. Some even end up using those drafts to write their second drafts. But maybe it doesn’t work for me?

I’m starting to consider the idea of slow writing; truly taking my time with the words. I’ve always wanted to finish. I’ve always had a goal. Goals are good, certainly, but should my goals be word count and a date to finish by? Or should those goals consist of writing a mood for a scene, properly developing a character in a scene, explaining the setting better? More writing-specific. Now that I’m entering into the second draft of my novel (still in the planning stage though) and I’ll quickly coming to the halfway point of my summer, I know that if I really want to work on my novel I’m going to have to spread it out over time. I cannot finish it in a month or months even. It might take me a year.

I’ve always treated writing like fast food. Quickly make it, quickly devour it. Be done with it. I’m not hungry anymore, but I didn’t really enjoy it either. What I should really be doing is treating writing like a great dessert, an apple pie with vanilla ice cream. A chocolate brownie, better yet. I should savor each bite, every word, sentence, scene, and character. Rather then merely trying to fill my hunger for writing, I should satisfy myself with the whole process. I’m very much looking forward to trying this new process of writing.

What is your writing process like? Fast or slow? Why do you write that way, and would you ever consider trying it the other way?

Writing with Purpose: Theme before Story?

1 Jul

In a way, I’m going to be writing this post as a response to Conrad’s Heavy-Handed Themes post, so if you haven’t read that yet, you may want to.

I’m trying to rebuild my novel’s plot as we speak and one thing I’m taking into great consideration is the purpose behind everything I create. This all stems from a long conversation I had with Mark Lopez about his own novel, and how everything in it serves a purpose. He believes (and I’d say, I do as well) that if you write something without purpose, without more than what it is, then it isn’t worth writing. I know that sounds a bit complicated, so I’ll give you the description he gave me. A sentence in writing. It’s meant to get you from Point A to Point B. But not only should it do that – there should be another line beneath it, with an extra hint of meaning that the reader can either notice or ignore. That line has a purpose greater than Point A to Point B. If the reader chooses to notice it, let’s hope they enjoy it; if they ignore it, let’s hope our story still entertains them without it. This applies to sentences as much as it does characters, plot devices, technology – anything – in a novel.

This idea highly contradicts Conrad’s opinion of theme. Conrad believes that story should come before theme. You shouldn’t think of theme until after you’ve written the story, almost like a final touch that you lace in after all the pieces have been laid down. But, in Mark’s and my way of thinking, it’s the exact opposite. You should use your purpose (theme) to create the pieces and to know where to lay them down – then, you have a story.

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Reading Confessions & Novel Structure

28 Jun

I have a weird confession to make. I’m a quirky reader/writer. I don’t think I’m the only one – but it’s still a fuss to get through. You see, I can’t read while I write, and I certainly cannot write while I read. If I’m in the middle of my own project – that’s where my brain’s focus is. If I’m nose deep in paperback (Actually – Ebook. Just got a Barnes and Nobles Nook yesterday!) there’s not a chance I’ll be weaving a story of my own. It’s been like that for a long time. I have another confession to make. Just like my writing died for a year, so did my reading. I’m fairly certain the only novel I read in that year of non-writing was Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. And that was a reread!

So, what, have I just given up on reading altogether? Not quite, but I think I’m starting a new, different relationship with it. Since I did just get a Nook yesterday, my reading is going to skyrocket. But where am I starting? By beta reading Mark Lopez‘s The Dead Don’t Cry. Weird place to start, right? I thought so too. But I’m not going to lie at all – his novel is a page turner. So much so, I have to slow myself down in order to get all of my notes, edits, thoughts on the page so he can actually make use of the beta read. But I’ve noticed something special in this reading: not only am I reading for enjoyment, but I’m really focused on what I’m reading.

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Heavy-Handed Themes (Or, What Conrad Dislikes the Most in Fiction)

24 Jun

I’m going to start off this topic with one simple sentence.

I hate Atlas Shrugged.

Why am I starting off a discussion of theme with a statement like that? Because Atlas Shrugged is an example of how to do theme wrong. In it, there is a three hour speech given by the character John Galt. This goes on for sixty pages, not one word left out.

This, boys and girls, is what has made me dislike books with strong theme ever since. Yes, theme can be a very wonderful tool in a book, a very aesthetically pleasing part of a work of literature that can enlighten you and give you a new view of the world at large. But when you lecture us on that theme, and use strawman characters to help get it across, you have officially sacrificed your story for that theme. And, in my personal opinion, that is the absolute worst cardinal sin you can commit in writing.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I immediately hate all books with strong theme. The Chronicles of Narnia have strong theme, and yet I enjoy them immensely. I think the difference here is that C.S. Lewis managed to give his villains some strong traits, and his heroes some weak ones. Why is that all the difference? Well, it allows you to say, “I don’t agree with the themes he’s presenting, but I can at least get behind this story. It’s decent.”

After all, we’re in the business of writing fiction to tell stories, are we not? So when someone writes a story that is really just a disguise for the message they wish to present, I find myself disappointed in them. They sacrificed a story just to try to lecture people on their message, but they tried to say that they were going to tell me a story. So not only have they bored/annoyed me, but they have lied to me.

Bear in mind that this is all just my opinion. I’m incredibly interested in what you all have to say about it as well. I’m just going to say that, to consolidate my opinion, if the actual story, plot and characters and whatnot, is weaker than the theme it is trying to present, then I think that there is a problem and that it needs some heavy editing. In my opinion, theme can never be stronger than any of the other components of the story, or else it ceases to be a good story and becomes merely a parable.

But again, what are your thoughts? Chime in! I’d really like to hear what your thoughts on this particular phenomenon are.

Episode 02: Discovering Characters

22 Jun

Episode 02: Discovering Characters

In which we discuss our individual methods for creating characters, and building characterization.

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Links discussed in the show:

Young Writers Society: Character Development

20,000 Names

Wordplay: Change is Key to Powerful Character Arcs (Suze wanted to say that she completely misremembered where this came from)