1,233 words on this hot date with my science fiction novel

I’m past the part that I was hung up on, and now I’m in a good part.  The story is advancing quickly, and it’s really coming together quite naturally. Yay!  I didn’t write yesterday, but I more than made up for it today.

I love it how when you have vague ideas before you sit down and write, they come together in a way that makes sense and can even surprise you by showing an aspect of the story that you hadn’t considered.  It’s like that when you’re writing about the different charactes’ feelings, and then as you consider what the character should be feeling at that time, it leads you to think a little more about how this character relates to the other character, which helps you to flesh out the characterization and the story around them.  It’s great.  That’s why I don’t go into writing fiction with a clear, well laid out plan of what’s going to happen.  I like to let the story itself surprise me.

And so, now that you all know that things are going well, I’m going to sign out.  I REALLY need sleep.  I’m awake as long as I’m moving, but when I sit down, I start to get droopy eyed.  I realized this today as I was driving to a family get together in Salt Lake city.  Fortunately, I have some good ocremix techno to keep me awake.  But now, I’m getting loopy.

Goodnight all!

Yay! 790 words!

This is going to be really short, because it’s very late and I’ve got to sleep (preferably not in church tomorrow).  I picked up the novel tonight and got another 790 words in.  Yay!  So I’m not stuck as bad as I’d thought!  I’ll just have to rewrite that one part at some time.  And I’m at this really good scene, too, where some pivotal things happen!  The first contact / cultural shock continues, with all kinds of misunderstandings and complications that set the stage for what comes next!  Yay!  What fun!  If I weren’t so dang tired, I’d just keep on writing!

Now, I’d better get to bed before Aneeka comes online again and starts chastising me for neglecting my sleep…

One of the first stories I ever wrote

I was looking around in some of the old files that I have, and I came across this old piece. It’s one of the first stories that I ever wrote–probably the first piece of creative fiction that I wrote outside of school. I remember writing this! It was back in 5th grade, so that would make me about ten years old! I wrote it on the family computer–an old 386 that died during y2k (well, not really, but we had to use a fix to get around it, and then we forgot how to use the fix and my Dad gave it away. Gave it away!!! What I wouldn’t give to still have that computer!!!!!). I wrote it back when I was reading books on African wildlife and the Goodals, and my goal was to become a naturalist someday. A lot of that comes out if you read between the lines here. Of course, I had already decided that I would be a fiction writer, but that would be a part-time thing–I’d still need a day job.

I think the real significant thing about this story was that it was the first one that I did independent of school. I was really fortunate in that my elementary school had a strong creative writing program, so I’d already “written” a dozen or so books already–mostly stories that were about 500 to 1,000 words long, with pictures that I drew. This one was about 3,500 words long, and when I finally finished it, I felt really tired and really proud of myself! I don’t remember how long it took, but it took several weeks, and possibly even months. This story marked the starting point in my life of writing creative fiction on my own. After this, I went on to write about five more hyena stories, then I started a science fiction piece based off of one of my imaginary universes, and then, after maybe a couple of other projects, I started my first attempt at a novel in the 8th grade. Ever since then, I’ve always had this writing bug. Even when I was on my mission I had it, and at one point even scribbled a few chapters for an allegorical story based on Lehi’s dream.

So, you could say that this Hyena story was a milestone for me. It’s not something I’d try to publish now, but I do think it offers a wonderful view into what I was thinking and writing back then as a budding creative writer. Enjoy! Continue reading “One of the first stories I ever wrote”

A couple of awesome Quark meetings

So, this week we had not one but two Quark writing group meetings.  And they both were really good!  There was a surprisingly good turnout at each one, and I think that everyone went away with some good feedback for their stories.  Plus, some of the newer guys are getting motivated to write stuff of their own, so we’re really having some success!

The general feedback I got from several of the members was that we needed to either split the group or meet more often.  I added in my own idea into that, which was to lower the number of stories we look at.  Drek says that the ideal size for the writing group is about six.  I think that we can still do good with ten or twelve people, but we’ve got to add more time for the stories–which means that we only look at four stories instead of six.

And actually, during both of these meetings, four seemed just about right for what we were doing.  A half hour for each story seems like enough for everyone to say everything they wanted to but short enough to keep up focused and on task.  Or, rather, to keep me focused and on task, because I’m probably the biggest tangent starter in the group!

Tuesday’s meeting was interesting because, to my knowledge, everyone there was either a freshman or new to the group this semester.  And we had about ten people, and an excellent meeting!  Word has been getting out about us.

Also, I think that the group is doing really well because we all seem to be doing a good job taking criticism.  There was this one story this week that I really had a lot of criticism for, and I was a little bit worried about hurting the author’s feelings, but she really wanted to hear it and really ate it up, then thanked me later.  There were a couple of other stories today where people had a LOT of criticism, on a lot of different things in the story, but I think that the authors came away with a much better idea of what they were doing.  Hillary in particular said afterwards that the writing meeting today really helped to point her in the right direction with one problem she didn’t know how to fix, which was how to have an obnoxious narrator at certain parts and third person limited POV at others.

And really, I think the key thing for the meetings themselves it the quality of the discussion.  It’s better to give criticism that will be helpful and useful than it is to hold back for fear of possibly hurting someone’s feelings.  Of course, you need to be careful in the delivery of that criticism, but if you’re talking about the story itself and not the writer personally, I don’t think there really should ever be an issue.  And really, the serious writers are going to WANT criticism, so the key is to make it worth their time.  That’s what’s going to really keep this club alive and powerful–useful criticism.

Still, I wonder if we could raise our ability to critically read fiction.  Maybe if we did like the book club, and had the bookstore discount certain books like Strunk and White’s Elements of Style or Orson Scott Card’s Character and Plot, then encouraged everyone to read them (and yes, I know that OSC is the “nemesis” of the writing group, but he does have some very good and useful things to say about writing).  Maybe we should team up with the English department and get some faculty to share with us a short discussion on fiction and how to read it critically.  Maybe we should get Brandon Sanderson to come and speak at one of our meetings.  I don’t know.  I’ll see what I can do!

But I also think it’s important that we do some things informally as well–such as having social activities outside of writing meetings.  I hear that that’s what really got the writing group solidified in the beginning, and you can still see that in the strong friendships between the oldtimers (as well as the HUGE number of them who got married thru Quark!) .  I’m encouraging people to hold different writing parties for the month of November, where we can just hang out, write, have word count races, talk about our frustrations and the good times, etc.  I’m going to try to host one or two up here at the FLSR, but it’s a pretty noisy place so I don’t know if I can find the space.  But hopefully, it will work.

So, things are going VERY well–and I think that most of it has more to do with what everyone else has done and is still doing than anything I’ve done of myself.  I’m just providing the framework–the dates, deadlines, the space, and the reminders–but YOU guys are making it come to life!  Thanks to all of you!

OLL

I thought this was supposed to be fun…

Well, it is.  At least, the net effect is fun.  But the day to day writing can be kind of…difficult.

I’ve made some progress in the last few days, even though I neglected to write about it here.  Mostly, it’s just been between classes or insanely late at night, so I haven’t had time to write any blog entries.  But I’ll write a quick one tonight.

In the last section that I wrote, I introduced this new character who believes that Ian is some kind of a holy figure and decides to become his disciple.  The feedback I got from the writing group was that the way I introduced Master Elijah from his own POV was very good, so I decided to do basically the same thing.  That is, from a limited 3rd person point of view, give a very brief summary of the character and any aspects of his life story that tie directly into what is actually going on in the action.  The result is a short synopsis of the character’s life that transitions nicely into the action in the particular section, without feeling too info-dumpish.

I tried to do the same thing here, and threw in a couple of ideas about cleavages and tribal friction that we’ve been learning in my Political Systems of the Middle East class.  I want to take a lot of the ideas of stuff that we’re learning in that class and apply it to this fictional society.  I don’t want the culture to exactly parallel Arab culture, but to take enough aspects from it that it gets the same flavor.  Besides, it’s kind of a fun testing ground for experimenting with the ideas that we’re learning in class.  And it’s an excellent class, btw.  I’d highly recommend it, if you’re interested at all in the modern Middle East.  PLSC 357 with Dr. Bowen.

However, I was very disappointed with how this section turned out.  I wrote it in about three chunks over three days, but each time that I sat down to write, I was doing it more to reach the 500 words a day goal than because I felt inspired to do it.  Basically, I sat down and forced myself to write.  And…it wasn’t as fun as it usually is.  The words didn’t flow.  I was falling asleep at the computer in the LRC.  Things didn’t seem to be meshing together properly.  It was WAY too info-dumpish, and I had to make up a lot of the information there on the spot, which made it even more difficult because I had to force myself to start coming up with new ideas.  It hurt a bit, but I came up with a few good ones.  Hopefully I can develop them more and better a little bit later.

Now, I suppose that you can’t just expect writing to be fun all of the time.  It does take work, which can in some ways be unpleasant.  And it’s not practical to just wait to feel inspired all of the time.  At the same time, you really do have to enjoy what you do, and you can’t force inspiration.  Ideas will come and hit you at times when you aren’t expecting them, and you have to be ready to take them and fit them into a framework, otherwise they just slip through your fingers.

So, I suppose that good writing is some kind of a balance between hard work and pure inspiration.  And the direction my story is taking me at this time is hard work.

And I’m willing to go that way–so long as it makes sense to do that.  Tonight, for example, it’s freaking late and I need to get some sleep, so I probably won’t write in my novel tonight.  It just doesn’t make much sense to me to trudge through the required wordcount and come up with some barely cohesive prose and crappy story elements.  It makes much more sense to me to work myself up to being excited about the next part, and then writing 1,000 words of good prose and good story tomorrow.

Of course, the balance to this is that if I keep putting off writing, the ideas that I have will die.  So, I really can’t just do this all the time.  Sometimes, you’ve just got to trudge through it.  But…I don’t know.  I just hope I can keep this story going strong until it finishes.

(btw, this dilemma is why I chose as a teenager that I would not become a professional writer.  I knew enough to know that if writing became my main source of income, I wouldn’t enjoy it anymore.  At the same time…I can’t just expect to reap the fruits when I didn’t nourish the seeds.  So…I don’t know.)