First Week

The first week back with all the faculty and students was, in a word, chaotic.  It was exhausting just trying to keep up with all the people and I still had to go to classes. 

This semester I have two classes Manuscript Editing and Topics in Technical Writing – Grant Writing.  The Grant Writing class is interesting and I’m excited for.  The Manuscript Editing class is a lot of technique I think – grammar, punctuation, and technical information.  I think I will learn some from it but I’ll see how I feel about it as the class goes on.  After class on Tuesday, I’m going to have a conversation with the instructor to see how things go. 

Being a non-traditional student, I fall outside the norm in most things and I think this will be another class where that is the case.  I’ll see how it goes and hopefully it will help me be a better editor. 

The interesting thing is I’ve always said I don’t want to master anything but as I do more of the editing I find I do want to master this.  Is there a master’s degree down the line for me?  I don’t know.  I know that I enjoy – yup I said enjoy – learning about the grammatical part of writing. 

For me, though, I have to be careful about becoming too technically correct in my writing (for fiction)  because when you are extremely proper in your writing it sounds very formal.  This makes it less reader friendly. 

It is a matter of balancing things.  For the articles and non-fiction writing I want that correctness and formality but for fiction I want it more reader friendly.  Focusing on the end product is key and that will help me produce the best possible product. 

Whatever it takes

As a writer, I want to spend my time writing, producing great works of literature.  I want to sit with pen and paper (or laptop) and create.  If that was all it took to be a writer then anyone could do it.  It would be a matter of sitting down and putting your thoughts down on paper.
However, the other side of the writing coin is being published.  There is no other feeling than to open up a magazine or book and see your name in print.  It is exciting and fulfilling.  It blows my mind to know that people will read this and it will last until the print is no longer there.
These two things are not in conjunction with each other.  To get published you have to be persistent, determined, and confidence.  You can’t get a rejection and give up.  Well you can but it won’t do you much good.  To write you have to be creative and sensitive. 
The dilemma comes in finding some semblance of balance between these two opposing sides.  How many times can a creative person be told – No we don’t want your work – before they start to question whether their work is good enough to be printed. 
Some days it takes just one rejection and other days it could be a million of them.  It also depends on the project.  I know some projects are so dear to my heart I have to see them in print.  I have to put them out there for the world to have.  It doesn’t matter if it is poetry, fiction, essays, or anything else.  I just have to get the story out there.  Since I’ve got this urge to have an item published, rejection doesn’t affect me as much.  I’m more willing to say – okay you don’t like it fine I’ll move on to the next publisher and the next and the next… until I find someone with the vision to publish me. 
There are days when I want nothing to do with a rejection.  I’ll get a letter or email that says thanks but no and it crushes me.  I feel like I am the worst writer and will never be successful.  These are the bad days – the days where everything in the world plots against me to dump me in a deep dark hole.
Every writer is allowed to have these days (moments) but the thing is to say – fine I’m in this hole.  While I’m down here I’m going to find the strength to write something about it – a poem, short story, essay, whatever.  Then I’m going to use my pen to carve out stairs in this hole and climb out to tackle the next project and look for a home for one more article or manuscript. 
As a writer you will fail more than you succeed.  You will be told no more than you will be told yes.  Only a small portion of your work will be published (if at all).  However, if you love to write, you will keep trying.  You will put the rejections behind you in order to keep building and learning from them.  In reality can you even stop writing?  
I know if you take away my ability to write my thoughts and stories, my head will explode.  I’m not cleaning up that mess…

Organized a bit more…

I’ve been sort of stuck at a point in my story that I’m working on.  I needed to organize large groups of characters and sort of take each group off in different directions. 
I use a spreadsheet to keep track of details on this particular story.  It helps me keep track of my large cast of characters, locations, “magic” words, and a variety of other things.  At one point I split the characters into squads led by three different people.  I didn’t want to mess up and say someone was in two places when they were geographically split up.
Now I’m at a point where the leader of the whole thing is going in one direction and his right hand woman is being sent somewhere else.  So I had to take the time to look at my characters and determine who was going where. 
The other thing is the group as a whole had to grow significantly.  I had to find a way to have that happen without having to keep track of another hundred characters.  So I have a group of nameless characters that I can bring into the mix as I go.  I’m not putting names to them until I start writing about them.  It will be easier that way.  I won’t have the overwhelming task of coming up with all the names and details about them until I need to use them in the story. 
Now all I need is a good weekend or so to work on the next few chapters.  I know what I want each group to do but the details need to be worked on.  If I can pull it off the way I think I will, it will be really good. 

The friend I have reading it has caught up to me and wants more so I’m taking that as a good sign.  I need to get more down on paper to finish the story and to get the rest of it to her.

Death … and other scenes…

I’m working on a story – fiction – and I just killed off my first good character.  This is a character that is what I’ll call a second tier character.  She’s not a main character but is closely related to the main characters.  I’ve never written a scene like this before.  It was challenging.  I wanted to it to be a gradual realization who was killed so I found myself writing and re-writing sections to make it less forthright. 

Often I laugh at what I write.  I’ll giggle over dialog I write or even over things that happen to my characters.  I’m moved by the story as it unfolds.  So it was no surprise to me when I’m writing this scene where the woman’s parents and lover are standing over her dead body saying goodbye.  I hope it is as poignant as I think it is.  I’ll find out when I get to editing.

This story needed a catalyst to make the battle seem real, to drive home the point that what the characters are doing have lasting and devastating affect on the other characters.  I’m handling it in a bit of a different way too.  Without giving too much away, the story is about people who are trying to throw off a bad government.  It takes place in a time of magic and swordplay – both of which are outlawed by the government.  Well the heroes have been fighting the bad guys and have killed some.  There have been a number of battles which are not always easy to write and choreograph. 

With the death, I didn’t want the reader to find out about it during a battle.  My main character has to inform the parents of the death of their daughter and that is where the scene starts.  I am liking how it is turning out…

Another thing I’ve noticed is that the scenes seem to settle around me until I can almost reach into them and feel what the characters feel, experience what they are, taste what they eat, feel the hardships they are coping with… Sunday when I was doing crafts with everyone, I kept playing this one scene over in my head.  I filled in little details like puffs of dust coming off the ground as our heroes head from one battle to the village they were protecting.  I can almost feel the heat of the late summer, the dry dusty road, the wilting affect the heat has on everyone from horses to characters.  The deeper I get into the story the more I can experience the writing in this way.  It is fascinating…