Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not All Story Drafts Are Novel Material

I've always loved watching old TV shows. One of my favorites is I Love Lucy. The other day I watched an episode entitled Lucy Writes a Novel. Naturally, Lucy tries to write a novel. She eagerly writes a draft about the her life and that of her friends and sends it off to a publisher. She awaits the publishing of her first book...and ends up getting rejected. She declares that that the publishers were thick-headed men who were keeping back her masterpiece from the world. I started thinking about the episode later that day, and ended up thinking about the many new authors I've seen eagerly wanting to publish their books, and their denial, like Lucy's, when told their book shouldn't be published.

We've all been there. If you're a writer, you've surely experienced the point where you know what good fiction is and you love good fiction, but what's coming out of your pen isn't good fiction. It's worse when you think what you're writing is good fiction...but it's not. Sometimes the idea is great, but the draft is horrible. For instance, I have one old draft of a story that I really wanted to publish when I began it. When I started it, I thought the writing was brilliant. By the time I finished it, however, the first pages made me blush at how bad they were. It took me a while to get through the phase where my writing was sub-par at best, but by then, I was aware of the fact that my writing needed major work. But in so many cases, writers give up or wind up crashing and burning because someone tells them that their book needs work to be published and they, like Lucy, declaim the critic as a thick-minded fool keeping a masterpiece from the world.

News flash: some drafts just aren't meant to be published. If someone tells you that your book isn't ready to be published, that it needs to be rewritten, etc...they're not trying to be mean. They're not saying you can't ever be a writer. Many times, they're seeing something you can't because of your closeness to the work. They see mistakes you made that can be fixed with a lot of hard work. It's hard to reconcile yourself to the fact that the long draft you just finished needs to be rewritten...again. I say this right in the middle of yet another rewrite of book one of the Condemned Patriot series...which still needs a ton of work before anyone outside my family can read it. Some stories take a while to be written. And if you're a newer writer, the stories are going to take even longer to get right. But that's really okay. It's okay not to be ready for publishing right now. I'm not ready for publishing. That doesn't mean I'm not an author. That doesn't mean you're not an author. Being an author means more than just getting your first book out there. Being an author is the wisdom of knowing when to rewrite and when to just edit. It's listening to everyone's advice even if it's hard to hear. Being an author means sacrificing and killing your darlings and rewriting as many times as your book needs it because that's the career you've dedicated yourself to. If you want to be published, people assume you are trying to be an author, not just a writer. Don't shoot down the critics that are treating you like an author. They are working towards the goal of getting good fiction out into the world. And being an author, published or otherwise, means that needs to be your goal, too. 

So dear Lucy Ricardo and all you other new writers out there trying to be authors... Your first draft is not ready to be published. Your first book probably isn't either. I know, it's exciting to be a writer, and it's hard to resist the urge to jump into publishing as soon as possible. But being published means making a commitment to be an author, not just a writer. And the only thing that turns you into an author is hard work and perseverance and lots and lots of writing...and rewriting. It's okay for right now to just write and learn and grow in writing. The people telling you to wait to be published want to see you as an author just as much as you do. But they understand that being an author, a real author, means sometimes doing the hardest thing of all...listening.

So just keep writing better drafts. Write a bunch of different stories. Rewrite your drafts. Get a bunch of feedback from the people around you. One day you'll be ready to publish, and when you get there, it'll be all the sweeter for waiting. Don't give up and don't get angry at the people who tell you your book shouldn't be published. With a lot of sweat, hard work, and perseverance, you'll have a finished, publishable novel...one day.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Introducing Peter Oglethorpe

Name: Peter James Oglethorpe, Jr. (He was named after his paternal grandfather.)
Physical appearance: Golden brown hair which he wears longish-short (think Luke Skywalker), brown eyes, medium build, 6’ tall.
Personality type: INFP.
This picture isn't exact (his hair needs to be more golden and his eyes need to be brown), but it's close enough.
Via Pinterest

Peter's had to fight pain all his life, from his condition as well as from constant fights, so he has a super-high pain tolerance, however, he often has trouble walking and speaking, with occasional muscle convulsions and asthma attacks. Sometimes his neurons are overwhelmed and he passes out for no reason.
He is shy but snarky, and disdainful of all government officials, especially federal ones. He has somewhat mastered his terror of strangers when at or near his hometown, but can have trouble taming it in new or stressful situations. However, he is a people watcher.
He's a strong Christian, but he suffers from depression and chronic nightmares and sometimes can find it hard to keep his mind together. He deals with his emotional attacks and depression by playing the violin and reading the Scriptures they saved from when they lost their last Bible.
His best friends are Jen, his twin sister, and Katie, one of his neighbors. He really loves Katie and has always planned on marrying her. He was also really close to two of his brothers who he lost in tragic accidents. He blames himself for the death of one of his brothers.  He feels an almost painful need to protect his family, and can overextend himself trying to meet their emotional needs. Losing the rest of his family terrifies him and he does his best not to think about it.
He doesn't like needles or doctors or scientists or science experiments. He abhors them, but is not afraid of them beyond getting trapped.  He doesn't like NYC, but can handle it. He can't, however, handle parades usually. He often passes out and doesn't like to sleep, as nightmares and restlessness usually plague him. He usually writes or reads instead, when not in severe pain.
His sense of humor keeps him from breaking and growing crazy under the pressure and emotional and physical instability. His sense of humor can be super morbid, but Jonathan, his brother, and Jen and sometimes Katie play along, because the only alternative is to scream.
He really loves America and is very independence-minded. Saving his country is one of his biggest goals.

So, what do you think of Peter?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Camp NaNo Overview

In the last week of March, I decided to participate in Camp NaNo to give myself motivation to sit down and write, despite the fact that we were leaving for a vacation that very first week. Brilliant, that was. Somehow, I managed to stay mostly on top of my goal of 60 pages in a month until we got home. Then I fell behind and lowered my goal to 45 pages. I fell behind several times, but then managed to meet my goal a few days early. And I'm building up to the First Major Plot Point in my story. Success!

Week One: We left for a spring break vacation on one of the very first days, but I managed to stay on top of my goals and turn out scenes I was fairly pleased with. However, after we came back on Thursday, I took a break from writing on that day and Friday.

Week Two: I wrote six pages on Saturday, and then took a break that lasted almost the entire week. I read several books and gathered up my motivation to write two pages on Friday.

Week Three: I wrote five more pages on Saturday, wrote a couple more pages in the next few days, then lowered my goal from 60 pages to 45. All in all, I didn't write much this week.

Week Four: True to my pattern, I gained a lot of motivation with the end in sight and wrote 15 pages in the last few days. I hit 45 pages and validated my win on Thursday night while watching the NFL Draft.

And here's a snippet just for fun:

   Peter stilled. He stared up at the officer, barely breathing. The officer's face was hard, his eyes unreadable.
   The officer placed the barrel against Peter's forehead. Peter's muscles froze. Slowly, he forced his shaking hands into plain sight to lie flat on his desk. He stared at the top of his test paper.
   "Let me repeat my command." The officer's voice filled with steel. "Give me all the papers in your desk and reveal to us where your illegal terrorist textbooks are, or I shoot the boy with the service dog."
   Mutt! Possibly there was one way Peter could keep this from ending really badly. If he could get some command to him...
   "I'm sorry, I-" Mr. Larak started.
   "No, please!" Katie exclaimed at the same time.
   "Don't..." Mr. Larak continued.
   Peter's heart sank. This was it, then. Either he figured out what to command Mutt, or he got shot and killed. But what- "Sic him, Mutt!"
   Mutt dashed forward and latched onto the officer's leg with his teeth. The officer fell backward and fired.