On Resurrecting Characters

If you got excited at the thought of me writing zombie fiction, then I’m sorry to disappoint (I’m still too completely terrified of all zombie-related things).

When I was 17 I wrote a young adult novel. I was young and stupid and I’m not afraid to admit it now. I naively thought that this was the book, the one that was going to jettison me to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Then I woke up at 21 and realized that it was 53,000 words of utter disaster. My main character was telling the story in first person, yet she had an omniscient look into the other character’s lives. There were plot holes and loose threads all over the place. I overused adjectives, told instead of showing, and (gasp) used an awful mirror cliche to describe a character. This draft will never, ever, see the light of day. My husband has been given explicit instructions to burn this original manuscript should I get hit by a bus tomorrow.

Still, I held onto this embarrassment of a manuscript. I’d bonded with my characters, and despite how terrible the writing was, they seemed like cool people. I couldn’t bring myself to just throw the story in the recycling bin, so I tossed it in my rejection drawer (yes, this is a real thing) with my other failed pieces.

While I never looked at it again, I never stopped thinking about that manuscript. It was the first novel I ever finished. I’ve attempted other novels since, but they never quite held my interest the same way that first one did.

More recently, my characters have been ceaselessly haunting me day and night. They keep begging me to give them a second chance. My main character, Liz, won’t let me sleep at night until I’ve added more dimension to her twisted personality.

I’ve decided I need to give them one more chance. I’m not going to attempt to rework what’s already been written. I’m going to take my time to really get to know the shadows of characters I had created as a teenager and try to get to know them as an adult. I’m going to create a brand new plot, one that these characters deserve to be a part of.

I’ve grown so much as a writer since I first realized that this was the path for me. I’ve read books on writing, taken classes, practiced, and found myself some amazing mentors. I hope I never stop learning despite how many accomplishments I achieve. Hopefully this time around, I can find a story that I won’t be ashamed to show the world.

 

 

Poetry and Unidentifiable Fruit

It’s amazing how seemingly mundane things tend to give me the greatest amount of fodder for my writing.

Most recently, it was my trip to the grocery store that flicked the light bulb. Perhaps the fact that it was a 2am trip wasn’t very ordinary, but the act of shopping is one of the most basic human necessities. The store was empty, save for an old couple going slowly down each aisle and a middle-aged couple in front of me at the checkout counter. There was one cashier working, and he was involved in a complicated price check for the middle-aged couple.

The price check quest for the unidentifiable fruit-like object gave me time for reflection. As I stared at my three items on the conveyor belt, I was hit with the sudden need to write a poem. I pulled up the memo app on my phone and started tapping away. By the time the cashier was handing the people in front of me their receipt, I had a finished rough draft.

How did baking soda, chocolate Twizzlers, and a votive candle (don’t ask how these things go together, because I’m not telling) lead me to a poem when I had been tearing my hair out over writing something for a week? In a nutshell, it’s because I slowed down and really noticed them. Each item had a purpose, a reason for pulling me out of the comfort of a warm house into the freezing cold night.

When I thought about the purpose they served, they were more than just objects I was purchasing. They became a story with a deep meaning. They were items that stood for something somber (in my case). At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, they were items that helped shape me in a very weird and obscure way.

Take some time today to really notice something, even if it’s just taking a moment to study a building on your way home from work. Great stories can come from anywhere and anything.

Book Review: Publishing, A Writer’s Memoir by Gail Godwin

226 pages Bloomsbury USA Release Date: January 15, 2015

226 pages
Bloomsbury USA
Release Date: January 15, 2015

As the title of this post indicates, I’m reviewing a memoir this time around. And, as always:

I received an uncorrected proof of this book through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

Gail Godwin would fit the definition of a successful writer. After all, she is the author of 14 bestselling novels, two short story collections, and two nonfiction works. Her newest nonfiction work, Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir, is the story of how Godwin became the writer she is today. Regretfully, it is the only work of hers that I’ve read to-date.

Initially I was worried that this memoir, like a few others I’ve read, would be nothing but a platform for bragging and snobbery. Thankfully, it was nothing of the sort. Godwin is a very down-to-earth individual. She opens the piece with her first rejection as a writer and continues to mention her mistakes and failures as much as she discusses her achievements. I appreciated the balance, both as a reader and as a writer. Publishing reminds us that though writing is a challenging profession, it is still an attainable goal so long as one is willing to work through the frequent disappointments. Even the best writers don’t always get it right.

I personally found this inspiring, and there were many instances when I felt compelled to drop the book just so I could go and work on my own writing. Regardless of what her reason was for writing this, Godwin serves as an inspiration for all of us struggling to make it in this competitive and ever-changing field. This is a great book for all, both writers and book lovers who would like more insight into how books come to be.

 

 

A New Novel and A Whole Lot Of Accountability

Any time someone finds out that I’m a writer, the conversation is usually followed up with, “Oh, I’ve always told myself I’m going to write a novel someday, when I have some more free time.” No, seriously, that’s the response. If I got paid every time someone told me they were planning on writing a novel, then I’d already be living on that 5-acre farm my husband and I dream about with some sheep, a cow, and an underground greenhouse. But I’m not.

In fact, the reality is that I’m not much better than those people, despite my intense hatred of that line. Yeah, I have two children’s books. Sometime this week, the article I wrote for an RA website is going live too. And yes, I’ve been submitting shorter pieces I’ve written to different publications. But it’s be a really long time since I’ve written a book. Maybe I haven’t been doing such a great job at this writer thing?

I’ve been itching to turn an idea I have into a middle school/young adult novel. A few weeks ago, I started writing the first chapter. It’s a terrible first chapter, quite frankly, but I wrote it. I started. The hardest part is finishing. Unlike past projects that I abandoned halfway through (cough, NaNoWriMo) I really want to stick with this one. I need to prove to myself that I’ve still “got it,” and that I haven’t turned into that whiny-pants person that’s always complaining about lack of time to do things. I’ve done a lot of excuse-making recently too, but I’m over it.

But just to be on the safe side, Internet, I want you to hold me accountable. I’m one of those people who can’t stick to a diet for more than two hours unless I tell a bunch of people (I hate being a disappointment). If I know that random strangers all over the globe can read this, then I’ll be less inclined to indulge in a cheat day and skip writing for TV.

Now, excuse me while I go cover my closet door in sticky notes that detail my entire plot.

 

The Attempt to Find Time

So, my college days are over. I graduated in May and landed a job at a local school by August. And as if that weren’t enough, I got hitched in September. Life’s pretty great right now.

I’m lacking balance though. Yeah, I worked 4 jobs through college and balanced a full course load and social life. I thought my schedule would leave me more than prepared for the real world. After all, I wouldn’t have to work a variety of jobs to keep myself afloat once I had a “real” job. In some ways, I was right. In other ways, I’m not done transitioning to adulthood.

I miss having my Friday afternoons off. There’s no such thing as random days off in education, nor are there days that are just 8 hours long. Gone are the time gaps in my schedule that allowed me to pen a blog post or jot down a paragraph to a new fiction piece. Gone are the days where there are no responsibilities or chores to come home to.

Yet, the past few months have been my most productive. I’ve revised a significant portion of my current works in progress. I’ve started mapping out new projects. I have articles written for an outside website on Rheumatoid Arthritis that will be published soon. The amount of time I have to spend on blogging has been greatly reduced, but I’m working overtime to push my writing out into the world. I would consider that a small win.

I’ve been working in spurts. Some weeks are lazy and unproductive. I spend others writing like I only have a few days left to live. Hence the balancing problem. I’m writing, just not the way I should be. I want to come to a point in my balancing act where every day is spent with words. I want to read and absorb great writing and write plenty of great pieces myself. I guess that comes with time and life experience though.