Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Train Derailed

2014, thus far, has been a very bad year for my writing. On top of finishing my last semester of classes, trying to get an internship, looking ahead to graduation, last week I was bed-ridden by a terrible stomach virus. I was completely incapacitated for three days. I wrote a total of seven pages.

I've often harped on my self-imposed deadlines before. Not to beat a dead horse any further, but I really like being able to stick to them. Why? It helps me get the project done. Second, if I am ever fortunate enough to be able to do this in any professional capacity, it'll be a good skill for when I have real deadlines.

I guess the hardest part about this is that I've never had to recover from two gut punches in a row. My grandfather's death in January caused me to, once again, put EC Part 2 on hold in favor of my current WIP. Now, I'm finding it difficult to re-ignite my passion about that work.

What I'm describing is similar to something Neil Gaiman has talked about. When he nears the end of every project (not kidding, every project), he calls his agent and starts to mourn how terrible it is and what a failure it will be upon publication. At this point, the agent laughs and reminds him that he's done that for every book he's written.

Yesterday, it took me nearly an hour a page. There were spelling errors galore. The ink ribbon is fading fast. I'm approaching the end of the story but the manuscript hasn't reached 200 full pages.

And then the floodgate opened...

Is this book exciting enough? Are the characters relatable to the readers? Uh oh, these are historical characters! Are they accurate? Is any of this plausible? I've never written YA books before, how do I know this won't be a total flop? Grr, why won't this book just write itself? I've never had this much trouble with a book before (total lie). How do I ensure that I'm not alienating my female readers with inaccurate portrayals of my female characters? Augh, women!

To cut to the chase, this is the first true writing disaster I've had to bounce back from. I think I know what I need to do, but putting that theory into practice is hard. In the past, all I had were slight hiccups. I'd write a few pages less so I'd have more time for schoolwork, and then write double the quota to make up for it. I worked nearly every day, even if I wasn't able to meet my 1000-words-a-day quota.

This is different. Instead of pulling back on the train's throttle, the train jumped the tracks and blew me sky high. Now, I have to rebuild the train and regain that momentum.

Hopefully, next week's post will be much more optimistic.

Until then, wait, where'd I put that pen...

*Several hours later*

Page 181!

I'm back from the dead!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Break

*pokes head around the corner and finishes munching on treats*

Um...hello. Yes, I know I'm late. Been on vacation.

In fact, this being Sunday, still part of the weekend, I'm still on vacation.

The clock hasn't run out yet.

Let's just say that I spent two days at an awesome gun class, then four whole days with my beautiful and insightful girlfriend.

That should keep you occupied until next week.

Cheers :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Screwtape Letters

Last night I was treated to a night at the theatre with my family. It's been ages since I went to a non-musical performance. I'd forgotten how much fun it is!

The show was a dramatized version of C.S. Lewis' short novel The Screwtape Letters. I say dramatized, but the producers were very faithful to the original source material. You know, faithful adaptations, that thing people can't get out of a movie (zing!).

The book tells the story about a senior demon in Hell named Screwtape. Through a series of letters, he is instructing his nephew, a junior Tempter, Wormwood, how to tempt a nameless man into sinning. The play's lead role was the spit and polish image of Vincent Price (he even had the laugh!) The secondary character was a young female demon who acted as his secretary. They presented a wonderful dynamic that is clearly illustrated in the Bible.

2 Corinthians 11:14 says that the Devil can appear as an angel of light, but 1 Peter 5:8 says he is a roaring lion seeking all whom he may devour.

The Screwtape Letters is my favorite novel by Lewis. Although it was published in 1942 and the world war is mentioned in several entries, none of the passages are lost on today's modern audience. I knew it was going to be good, but I knew it was going to be great within the first ten minutes.

Screwtape is giving a speech at the annual Tempter's College banquet. He raises his glass and proposes a toast to the continued prosperity of Hell. As the other demons roar with delight, the backlights come on, and with thunder raging in the background, the audience sees the backdrop: a wall of human bones made from the demons' previous feasts.

As a writer, I was very jealous. There are things you can do visually with a play, a movie, or animation that you simply can't do in a book. I'm also jealous of Lewis. The work is brief and truthful, yet ingenious. It hits hard with its exploration into human character, but still has enough wit to make you laugh.

Treating myself to experiences like this is one of the biggest tips Anne Rice had for young writers, refilling the proverbial tank in your mind. My current WIP isn't progressing like I'd hoped, but that's ok. I needed to relax more than I thought.

Power to the pen.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Old Groundhog was Right

Winter is dying with a vengeance, like Samson tearing down the Philistine temple, or Boromir hacking bad guys one after another with multiple arrows in his chest, or Kahn bleeding on the deck of the USS Reliant chanting the words of Captain Ahab: "For hate's sake, I cast my last breath at thee."

You get the idea.

What's dumb is the fact that today's PC crap has gone so far that we have to name winter storms now. I  grew up without experiencing a lot of winter weather. It was so rare that we prayed for just half an inch around Christmas time to make it more jolly. When I was in high school it wasn't uncommon at all to have temperatures in the mid 50s in December.

Hurricanes are named because they are always fearsome, destructive storms that epitomize the wrath of God Almighty. The travel thousands of miles across the ocean like a Viking hordes to pillage, plunder, and then ride off laughing.

The idea that snow could ever be part of a storm was laughable.

But now it's as if weather is people and its feelings are hurt. Why else would such a proud tradition be readily disgraced? Personally, I always thought saying "the storm" was much more ominous than giving it a name. That's like saying "the gang" down the street has been stabbing and shooting people. Replace that with, Bob, Leroy, Phillus, Jack, or Sir Winfield Scott, and it sounds like somebody's kids running wild in the backyard.

"Oh, that silly Leroy tore the roof of the Jennings' house and threw their cows into a field two counties over. What's the world coming to?"

Before you know it we'll have to name every tornado, gale force wind, driving rain, and patch of fog. Won't stop there. Then they'll name all of the good weather: the bright sunny days, the cloudless nights, the romantic sunsets. Local stations will invent little mascots and there will be books published to educate kids on why it's not a good idea to play tag with Tommy Twister.

If you can't tell by now, I'm iced in again.

Last week was very bad for my writing. I was mentally and physically exhausted for reasons I can't explain. Bad sleep? Stress over school/future job prospects? The invasion of Ukraine?

Whatever it was, it was bad. I didn't write anything for the entire week and read little. I did manage to expand my epic fantasy notes, which was satisfying. I knew that I couldn't force it, and needed a break, but the matter was clawing at the back of my mind the whole time. I tried to distract myself with other things, and yet I heard the manuscript calling "Finish me! Give me life!"

Even now, as I write this fully intending to get something done, I might not be able to for a few hours. Why? I don't know. I don't think it's anything to do with the story, as I've been able to get past those obstacles.

At least I've got a partial manuscript, and that's more than where I was two months ago.

Power to the pen!