Thursday, October 30, 2008

Breaking Points

Today's Mood: Industrious. Today's Music: U2--Zoo Station at the moment. Today's Writing: Finished up rewrite of Part I Black Dragon. Today's Quote:
"So many of us use writing as a way to keep ourselves down, limited, stuck."
-Heather Sellers in Page after Page.

Breaking points could refer to many things when it comes to writing, but I'm struggling with how to divide my writing into chapters. Poets must deal with the same issue except on the micro-scale of line breaks. So how does a writer decide on the organization of a piece? Are structure and organization the same thing?

I know that I want Black Dragon to be a novel--although I have tossed around the idea of a graphic novel which would entail different organization of the material. So maybe that answers my question. Maybe structure and organization are linked, but not synonymous.

Black Dragon divides the content into chapters based on scenes. Each new scene is a new chapter. The chapters, however, are arranged/titled according to date. I suppose it is diary-like in a way. Some days have so many different scenes that it takes a number of chapters to cover that day. This could be confusing to a read. But if I lump all the events under one chapter (ie. Chapter Twelve--January 26--Friday), then it is an 18 page chapter, whereas some other chapters are only 3 pages. Does this matter?

If the organization of the material is all about clarity, then I should stick with one chapter per day, even if it makes the chapters uneven in length. However, as a librarian/teacher, I realise that chapter length is important to readability as well. Kids tend to like shorter chapters because they seem to be easier to read.

Of course, at some point it might not even be worth me worrying about this issue. Maybe an editor makes that decision and the author has nothing to do with it. It's not like poetry where the line break can change the meaning. The story remains the same--it is the impact that changes. Which is still a big deal, but shouldn't be a deal breaker.

Anyway, that's what I'm stressing over at the moment--well, along with a myriad of other things. One of those being the teachers memoir workshop tomorrow. I'm to talk about the importance of mentor texts. I've had fun looking through various writing books--especially Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter by Heather Sellers. Good stuff.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Attack of the gremlins

Today's Mood: Frustrated. Today's Music: Lucia Micarelli--Music from a Farther Room. Today's Writing: Revising the revision of Black Dragon Part I. Today's Quote:
Don't give up. Never give up. -don't know if anyone else said it, but I'm saying it now.
I was in a funk over the weekend--you know, the usual, I suck at everything kind of mental punk that hangs like dank, dark smoke around my spirit. Why was I in a such a state? Who knows. Maybe the weather. Maybe the MEAP testing. Maybe I didn't get enough sleep. Maybe it's George W. Bush's fault. Or maybe, just maybe, it has to do with my art not being picked at the show, and my copy of Black Dragon coming back with lots of ink on it.

Don't get me wrong, the ink was dead on, made the story clearer, more succinct. In fact, I look at what my lovely writing mentor did with it, and I think, why didn't I see that? Who am I kidding, thinking I'm a good writer? These people are my friends, none of them would tell me that I'm just not good enough to be published. But I'm not. Look, she should be writing this. I should just tell her my idea and have her write it--it would be better than I could ever write it.

And so it goes, on and on with the whining, the self-doubt, the gray punk that bogs me down, giving me a headache, making me tired, and causing me to be crabby with the kids. My husband tried--he assured me I had talent, he listened, he even scolded me for over-reacting, but it didn't help. I went to bed.

The next day it occurred to me that there is NO WAY this wonderful, busy woman would spend so much time, painstakingly reading my manuscript (yet again) if she didn't believe it had some worth. After all, I wasn't even paying her! And hey, look at how much I was learning! Maybe I'd avoid some of those pitfalls (starting too many sentences with the word "but." I really like but(t)s!), and the last section would be better.

In the meantime, I'll get back to work on the first section, making those changes, making the story clearer, better, truer.

What do you do when you get in a funk? Or how do you keep the gremlins away from you? What's the worst attack of the "I'm no good at this" that you've ever had? Or are you like, not human, and have no idea what I'm talking about?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Plugging Away

Today's Mood: Tired. Today's Music: Sarah McLachlan at the moment. Today's Writing: revising Black Dragon. Today's Quote:
"I always write a good first line, but I have trouble in writing the others."
-Moliere, in Les Precieuses Ridicules

Plugging away, every day getting closer to the end. Some days I can almost taste it, and it drives me to get up, reject hitting the snooze, resist the pull of sleep, all to got sit in front of a monitor and rearrange words, add, delete words. Other days, like today when I'm tired, I have to drag myself out of bed. And yet, when I sit in front of my laptop, a certain kind of magic happens, and the story takes over, the words are there to be tinkered with, crafted, chiseled away, sculpted, woven together to create a web, a yarn, a magic of their own. And on it goes, day after day.

I counted up, only six more days until I finished Part II. Then it is on to Part III. I am growing confident of meeting my self-imposed goal of sending the book out again during Christmas break. I think I'll research agents this time.

How's everyone else doing? Weaving words into stunning yarns the excite, entertain, educate, and provide a depth and richness to life? Or at least chiseling out a few words that might someday be sculpted into a masterpiece?

Hope to see you Friday at the art show. Or hear from you here on the blog. Writing is a lonely affair, despite all the people involved.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Today's Mood: Content. Today's Music: Robert Pollard Is Off To Business--Boston Spaceships. Today's Writing: Revision, Black Dragon Part II. Today's Quote:
"It's been an adventurous day. The ship floats but it won't float away." -Robert Pollard (I always thought it was "shit" not ship, but when I googled it, lots of people had it as ship. I'll have to look at the liner notes. Gotta say, I like "shit" better!)

This past weekend my husband and I went to Ann Arbor to see the Boston Spaceships perform at the Blind Pig and to attend the Michigan Game. Despite Michigan's poor showing, I had an absolutely wonderful time. And I didn't even feel guilty about not writing for 3 days because I was sponging. Soaking in atmosphere, dialog, character, setting. The concert was great, the band tight and loud. I could not sit (or stand) still, my feet just kept wanting to dance. Of course, I second-handedly smoked at least 50 cigarettes, drank enough hard cider to feel very flushed (although, that's really hard to say since it had to be at least 90 degrees in there as well), and whooped and hollered enough that my husband is sure he can hear me on this YouTube Video from the concert.

Throughout the concert, dinner, walking around town, and at the game, I found myself watching people, observing their faces and gestures, listening to what they were saying and their tone of voice. I felt like I was absorbing it, so that at some later date, who knows when, I'll be able to wring it out on the page, and readers will be able to see, taste, smell, and hear it. From the tangy ginger sauce on the Mongolian Stir Fry, to the acrid stench of the cigarette smoke in my hair.

Then there was the driving around a fairly empty Ann Arbor at 2 a.m., lost, but so wound up from music and the excitement of not having to be a responsible parent, that it didn't matter that we were lost. The color of the city takes on different shades and tones at that time of the morning, the sounds are different, even the smells.

Being a fairly goal-oriented person, I have to remind myself that living is a part of writing as well. Yes, I have to put my butt in the chair and write, but yes, I have to get my butt out of the chair now and then and experience things in order to write with a passion.

Where are some of the best places you have absorbed? This summer I did some major sponging when I went to Michigan Adventure with my kids (always a wide variety of people there, plus going anywhere with my kids is a chance to soak up new experiences).

So.... go sponge. Write, live---live, write. Go. And then come back and tell us about it.