Just some more light revision

That’s all I did today.  But I’m keeping my goal of writing at least SOMETHING every day!

I got some good feedback at the last writing meeting on this one section, and it’s going to take a little time to make all the changes.  It’s important, too, because it affects the character and backstory of this devoted religious character named Saeed, who has an important part to play in the next scene I need to write.

Soon, Ian will be off into the lands of the ancients, to try to find the captain and the rest of the crew!  That’s when things start getting REALLY interesting!  And then, when he comes back, they get even better!  Jealousies, rivalries, prophecies, an ancient, lost civilization in the jungle, and all kinds of crazy goodness!  My character Ian is going to be so lost and confused when he gets back, it’s going to be AWESOME!

Thoughts on Dave Wolverton and the AML Convention

I apologize for the long post.  I had a great time at the AML conference (what little time I was able to spend there!) and here are my thoughts on Dave Wolverton’s speech. 

AML (Association for Mormon Letters) is this association for Mormon literary people (they have a blog here), and I don’t know a whole lot about it, except that a few of my English teachers were members of it.  They have a short story contest each year, and I submitted The Clearest Vision this year (and lost, unfortunately).  I somehow signed up for their email list, so I got this email from them a few weeks ago announcing the AML Writers’ Convention at SLCC today–with Dave Wolverton as the keynote speaker!  I was pretty stoked!  Dave Wolverton is a big name in Sci Fi / Fantasy (and he’s Mormon, too, just like Orson Scott Card and Tracy Hickman).

I went up with my friend Steve this morning and we had a really good time!  Dave Wolverton’s speech was really good and thought provoking!  He told a lot of personal stories, and some of them were really spiritual.  Also, when you see him speak, you realize that he’s just a regular guy, which is actually pretty cool.

He started out by speaking about how writers tend to be some of the most timid and self-conscious people around.  He told several stories to show how he was like this when he first started writing.  He was petrified that people would actually read the stuff he wrote, but then he had such a strong desire to write that he bought an $80 typewriter as a kid and hid it from his parents for a year while he churned out stories!

And it’s really true–writers are some of the most self-conscious, timid people around.  Sometimes I think that there’s something wrong with me, because I actually like to share my stories with people, rather than keep them private!  I really get a sense of this self-consciousness when I give criticism in the writing group–when the writer of the story gives me this look like a scared, cornered animal as I get ready to lay on the criticism, I get really worried that I’m going to do more harm that good.  But timidity really is the rule among aspiring writers.

Dave compared this fear with the fear of public speaking.  He said that the two are very similar, and that getting over the fear has almost nothing to do with writing itself.  Like how you get over your fear of public speaking by practicing it, you can alleviate self consciousness as you share your writing with others.  He said that creative writing classes are really good for this, and I also got the impression that writing groups (like ours!) can really help out a lot as well!  Yay for the Quark writing group!  He also said that success is really helpful for getting over this self-consciousness.  Over time, as your writing is well received by many people, you “grow a thick skin” to criticism.

He spoke a lot about his mission, and how that really helped him to get over both his fear of public speaking and his fear of sharing his writing with others.  I can definitely understand what he was talking about.  Before my mission, back when I first attempted to write a novel, I was so self conscious of my writing that I’d read what I’d written and just cry–I really didn’t want anyone to see it at all.  Now…well, it’s different.  MUCH different.  I WANT to share my writing with others.  I really don’t get upset with criticism, and sometimes I have a hard time being sensitive towards other people who do.

He then said some really interesting things about writing about what you believe in.  He told a story about how he was almost killed while working in a prison because he let a few black prisoners work with him in the kitchen.  He said it was a real turning point to him when he realized that he believed in equal rights so much that he was willing to stand up to these Aryan Brotherhood thugs and risk his life to let them know that he wasn’t going to back down on the issue.  He encouraged everyone to write with that kind of a belief in something.  It’s not that you approach a story dogmatically, or say “this is the lesson I want my readers to learn,” it’s that you write about a subject that you really believe in strongly.  If you’re doing this, then it will be impossible not to write something meaningful.

He then spent some time talking about how it can be really difficult finding a way to share the strong beliefs that come from your spirituality as a Latter-day Saint with a non-Mormon audience.  You can’t be explicit about it, because a lot of people really don’t want to hear it.  But you can’t just cut it out, either, because it’s what you really believe.  So how do you reconcile that?  He suggested writing on ethical issues or putting forward ethical characters, or finding small ways to express those strong beliefs, but he really wasn’t conclusive on it at all.  I think that ultimately that’s something that all of us are going to have to find out on our own–what works for us individually.

He then ended with some of the most interesting thoughts in the whole speech.  He went back to the fear and timidity that so many writers have, and suggested that the best way to overcome that is to displace your fear with hope.  He said that nothing destroys your writing like fear–that as long as you’re afraid, it will be difficult to write.  Successful writers are boundlessly hopeful–look for a hidden reservoir of hope.  Think to yourself–what if you got published?  What if you found success and things worked out?  We need to get to the point where we really don’t care about the fear, we’re so hopeful.

That really struck me!  It got me thinking about the writing group–how can I help my fellow budding and aspiring writers really have hope that they can succeed?  How can I give criticism in such a way that they really feel they can make their writing better–and find success because of it?  Honestly, I feel something of a sense of duty as the writing vp to help out the other guys in the club as much as I can.  I really want us all to have the hope that we can get published and succeed someday!  We really need to have this sense of hope in the writing group.

And this brings me to my last few thoughts–do I have this kind of hope myself?  When I sit down and write, what do I hope will ultimately become of it?  Do I actually believe that I CAN get published?  That what I’m writing can get published?

The first nine months after my mission, I attempted to write a novel and got 69,000 words into it before putting it on the shelf.  69,000 words.  Why did I do that?  I think I believed it could be published.  That was always a distant hope.  Do I believe it now?  I don’t know.  Do I believe that The Lost Colony could get accepted? I honestly don’t know.   But if I don’t have it now, I need to foster it now, as much as I can!

A couple of months ago, I doubted whether or not I could actually finish an original novel at this point in my life.  Now, I am determined and incredibly hopeful to have the rough draft finished by the end of Winter 2006!  I look back now, and I’m surprised that things have changed so much!  Right now, I feel doubtful as to whether or not any publishers will accept this beast.  Hopefully, in the future, this doubt will change to hope just as much as the last one did!

Some light revision

Didn’t write much today.  Just revised what I wrote yesterday a little bit.  I listened to some dark punk rock music to put me in the mood to write out this one really dark scene, and it worked pretty well–except that I was writing more out of my feelings than out of my rational thoughts.  As I was exercising today, the thought came to mind that one part would make better sense if I changed what was happening in that section.  Specifically, I’d left out some of the details of the physics of spaceflight, and how that would logically affect the characters in that scene.  Instead of having all the refugees huddled down in a storage room with big boxes everywhere, I had them all crammed into rooms with tight seats and harnesses to keep them from falling everywhere in the acceleration from Earth or the zero gravity of orbit.  Yeah.

Man, I am TIRED.  And tmorow is the AML convention…..must…sleep.

I…splurged today

Yeah, I did.  3,841 words over the past two days–but since I only wrote about 300 words yesterday, that means I did about 3,500 words today.  That brings the total word count of this novel up to 41,251 so far.  Holy. Cow.

It seems like whenever I write for only ten minutes, I find it really hard to write very much, since my mind isn’t really into the story, or I’m a little bit confused as to what’s happened in the last few pages, or maybe I’m just not all that motivated when I first sit down.  But once I reach a critical mass on the page, things just spill out like a flood.  After a while, I don’t even have much of a desire to do anything else.  I’ve just GOT to finish that one scene–and after it, another one–and then another–yeah, and it just keeps going.

It started yesterday, when I worked a little bit on that one scene that had got me excited a while before.  But I didn’t have much time to work on it, since I was on campus and had a couple of appointments to go to.  Man, I am CRAZY busy!  So then, all evening, I wanted to write, but instead I was responsible and worked on my homework.  Then, midnight came, and I gave a friend of mine a ride back from his girlfriend’s house (she lives a couple of miles away, south of campus, and hey, I feel bad that they always walk, so I give them rides.  Don’t worry, they’re not taking advantage of me at all, he helps out with gas all the time, and we’re actually good friends by now).  Then, I was hanging out with my Arab friends, and of course that takes time, but I was enjoying myself and it was good to see them, we ate at Betos and relaxed for a while), and then, when I got back, it was 1:30 am, and I was pretty tired.  Considering the fact that I needed to get up at about 7:15 am, I decided to go to bed without writing.

But really, in my heart of hearts, I just wanted to write in this novel of mine.

So then, today, all day I had this strong desire that hadn’t been satisfied the night before.  I took about an hour of free time in the morning and used it to write.  It was awesome!  So much fun!  I finished the one scene that was really exciting to me, then had a good idea for another scene to happen just before this one.  But…other duties called me elsewhere.  So then, I went and fulfilled that duty, came back, tried to do some homework…but just wasn’t all that motivated.  I accomplished a little, but not too much.  Went to lunch, then classes, then took a nap in the aptly named wajibaat cave (the little room with the green couches in the HLRC–it’s kind of the Arabic student’s hangout place), then went to a computer and sat down…and wrote for two hours.

But then, just as I was REALLY getting into it…had to go again.  And again.  And after dinner, I TRIED to do my homework–I really did!–but man, it was hard to find the motivation.  I did some, accomplished a bit, procrastinated a bit, the usual, but then around midnight I gave into the temptation to write…and I finished this scene just a few minutes ago.  And MAN.  I am happy!

I feel bad that I’m falling behind a bit in doing my Arabic homework.  However, I don’t feel all that bad because I know that my language skills really are improving.  I can feel it.  So, really, even though I didn’t finish everything that I was supposed to do, I’m doing the stuff that counts.  And other than my Arabic class, I’m not all that worried.

Life is good, man!  And I freaking just wrote 3,500 words in a single night!  At this rate, the novel will be finished by winter break!  Man, I’ve got to slow down, otherwise I’ll have to start a new project for English 318!

Man! I love it when stories do this!

Man, I was reading Mistborn tonight, and it was freaking amazing! I’m about 500 pages in, right up close to the end, at the part where the house war finally begins. And MAN!!!! That chapter was so awesome! The fight that Vin gets into…(dangit, can’t give away spoilers!), it just felt so GOOD! Just how Vin finally says to herself that she loves him, that was just AWESOME! (I assure you, my creative writing is of a much better quality than the language I use to express myself on this blog) And right as soon as that happened, I couldn’t put it down! I mean, I was going to go to bed before 1am, but here I am, 2am, and it took me a lot of effort just to pull myself away from that book!

This, I think, is one thing that really makes for good sci fi and fantasy–how you are really drawn into the story and it becomes something really close to you, to the point where you can’t stop reading it, you’re so into it! I guess not every story has to be that way to be good–I read The Left Hand of Darkness recently, and it was good, but I never got sucked into it like I’m getting sucked into Mistborn now. But man, all of the REALLY good books seem to do this to me–The Neverending Story, Ender’s Game, Second Foundation, The Chronicles of Prydain, A Wrinkle in Time, and now Mistborn.

But you know, as an aspiring writer, it can actually be pretty intimidating too. I mean, there is something really powerful about these books which sets them apart from the others. How can you expect to create that yourself when you’re just a beginner? Wouldn’t it be a little pretentious to think that you’re that good? How do you get to be that good?

When I came back from my mission, I got the writing bug again almost a week after I was released. I guess something had really been pent up for those two years, because over the course of the next 8 months, I wrote 69,000 words in that novel alone (not to mention that I started–and, about 4 months later, finished–two short stories). But after I got 69,000 words into this novel, I realized that some of the premises were flawed, things weren’t working out, and that most of those 69,000 words were as boring as heck. If I cut all the fat out, I would probably be reduced to about 30,000 words or less. There were no hard feelings, no shattered hopes and dreams, no crushed self esteem–I figured that it could still work, it would just need a major overhaul, and that it was better to leave it for a little while and come back. It’s been about 15 months now, and I’m not sure when or if I’m coming back, but there are no hard feelings about it.

It’s just…that story didn’t have the same magic to it that these really great sci fi / fantasy books have. Maybe I just needed the practice to do better on the next one. I don’t know. But man, I would really like the novel I’m writing now to have this kind of power to it! This kind of overwhelming significance!

I figure that if I really want to do that, I need to spend more time with my characters–figure out who they are, what is driving them, what their struggles are, what their desires are, and how they grow over the course of this novel. I think I’m more idea driven and story driven than character driven–which isn’t bad, Asimov was much more idea driven than character driven–but I want the characters in this story to be personal and compelling, like they are in Mistborn and the others.

So, I’ll probably spend some time blogging on these characters, throwing out what ideas I have for them so far, and where those ideas came from. Hopefully, by doing that, I’ll be able to think more about them and know what I want to show of them as I continue writing. And I’m open to suggestions, if you guys want to share them.

PS: man, I think my blogging word count exceeded my creative writing word count today! I need to repent of THAT!