I’m Writing a Novel (?)

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I’m in the research stages for a young adult book idea that I have.  It just sounds so crazy to me to say things like, “I’m working on a novel.”  Like, that’s something that writers say.  I’m just an unemployed lady with a laptop.

How does one write a book?  I am trying to figure that out.  I’ve written long-form things in the past, but pretty much without a plan.  I’ve come to realize, however, that it’s good to have a plan.  So here is my plan for making a plan:  I would like to have the plot, well, plotted-out before I really dig in to writing.  In my mind this means creating an entire skeleton of the story.  Then to each chapter, I add the flesh and sinew until it is whole.

The biggest issue I have right now is how do you know how a story ends without writing it first?  I really think I need that planned out first (of course, the ending or story points could change along the way once I see how the characters behave) so the story can build to it.  I think about my characters and some of my story a lot.  My characters especially like to keep me up at night.  But those are my static, beginning-of-the-book characters.  How will they end up?

I am trying to be analytical about this.  There needs to be conflict because that is how literature works.  So what is my conflict?  And how does that conflict become a climax and how does that change the lives of my characters (not to mention please my readers)?  I like problem solving and a novel is a giant problem.

I know this blog is supposed to be about my journey into my creative life or whatever, but, guys, it would really be helpful if you could tell me what to do!  Have you ever done this before?  I’ve been reading books about writing.  That’s somewhat helpful.  I just want to get a nice cold hard structure for this book down.  A complete skeleton ready to be made into a fully-formed, life-filled entity.  And I want to attack this “problem” of mine from a rational place.  (Which would not be from the Hemingway place of, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  And also much fishing and drinking.)

It may take a while though.  Did you know that Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary in the UK has a live feed of its baby red pandas?!?!  This requires much of my attention (it has audio!).

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Writing Full Time

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I have been unemployed for a week now. I mean – I have been a professional writer for a week now. Right, I always get those two things confused.

I had a nice corporate job with good benefits and natural lighting (a very rare perk in cubicle-land). But I have given all that up to pursue my dream of writing. I realized a while back that that was what I wanted to do – have always wanted to do – and that it was actually feasible at this point in my life.

So… a writer of what? Well, that is the question.   Initially I wanted to spend a year seeing if I could manage to get paid for creative writing. Maybe sell some short stories. Maybe write a book. Then I realized how much I enjoy having disposable income, so it turned into maybe I could freelance and parlay that into a permanent gig generating content for a non-profit or a company I really believe in.

Last week it turned into a really bad cold so I slept a lot. And when I wasn’t sleeping, I was reading (which I believe is essential to writing). So far I’ve updated my LinkedIn profile and agreed to create a web site for a local dog rescue group (I don’t know how to make websites go – but I can learn).

Trusty blog readers, let us embark on this adventure together. The adventure of living the dream and reporting to no one and holy crap… I don’t have a job.

Writing Inspiration: Ask an Expert

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A while back I was fortunate enough to attend a local nerd convention. It featured a panel discussion of one of my favorite movies, The NeverEnding Story. Noah Hathaway (Atreyu) and Alan Oppenheimer (Falkor, G’mork, Rockbiter) were in attendance. Noah Hathaway mentioned that he had recently written a few scripts. So, during Q&A, I mustered up the courage to talk to my childhood crush, and asked him where he got his inspiration from.

He said that a friend recommended a book, Save the Cat!, which Noah read, then re-read, and re-read a few more times. Then he started writing.

Talking about the author’s method of using index cards to organize: “And he just took all the psychological mumbo-jumbo and he just made it like Cliff Notes, man, like it was awesome. And in two weeks I had my first screen play written. And for months I had been sitting staring at a f-ing computer.”

He keeps a pad by his bed to make notes for thoughts he has in the middle of the night. He will often write down things as they occur to him.

“Get out and do stuff; inspiration hits you wherever you’re at. If you sit and wait for it, it probably ain’t gonna come.”

So there you have it. Research and then do. Just write.

Bonus answer from the great Alan Oppenheimer, “I had a pad by my bed and I wrote down, ‘great idea.’ In the morning I couldn’t remember what the great idea was.”

Writing: Inspiration Part I

I’ve been contemplating and researching where inspiration comes from. This will be a sort of mini-series in my blog right now. This was not going to be my original post, but it kind of asked to be done.

So I’m watching The Fault in Our Stars and the cancer-ridden protagonist visits her favorite writer in Amsterdam.   He is, predictably, an alcoholic recluse with no social skills and a lot of unopened mail. Is this what we are fated to become as writers? Why are we depicted as this archetype of the unapproachable and uncaring hermit?

Is it Hemingway and Bukowski who have done this to our image? Or do we really have to be complete social miscreants in order to be bold and raw and creative? Do we get our inspiration from our lonely life or does our success drive us to this unyielding loneliness?

I’ve struggled a lot with various mental… idiosyncrasies. And I’ve often felt that I have to live some sort of tortured existence in order to produce art. But what if that’s not true? I’ve been reading Stephen King’s On Writing and his thought is, well, no. Just write. Like all the time, whenever you can. And live your life.

(And ok, yeah, King wrote a lot while on a lot of drugs. But he’s been sober for a lot of years too.)

And why would you be an asshole to your fans? I like to think I’d be humble and grateful. Also, I follow JK Rowling on Twitter and she just seems lovely.

Side note on this movie: who the fuck makes out in Anne Frank’s attic? And why did people cheer? Because the chick looked sick? Just because someone carries oxygen doesn’t mean they aren’t DTF.

Side note about this side note: full disclosure, I did write the first draft of this entry after drinking two glasses of wine. So maybe I should evaluate my life…

Side side side note: this movie did NOT make me cry. You can’t prove shit.

Creative Writing 101

This was a project for my Gotham writing class. The assignment was a non-fiction piece about being personally affected by a newsworthy event. (Fun fact – I found the pictures only after I had written the story.)

I was awake, but still in bed. The house was quiet; my mom was at work already. The yard outside was unkempt and neglected. Ivy crawled up the sides of the house. A bush curled around the mailbox. The yard had probably been mowed within the last five months, but I couldn’t remember when.

The only thing that was taken care of was my car. We had to give Daddy’s back to the bank after he died, so I had my mom co-sign on a ’99 Hyundai for me. I washed it obsessively. Inside, on the visor, was a picture of dad with his car, an economical red Ford Escort. He was proud to finally be able to afford a car, so I was proud of my car too.

As I lay in bed, I could hear the phone ringing. I knew something was wrong. The phone never rang so much. And it was late, about 9:00 in the morning. I usually got up earlier. Today I just didn’t want to. Today I could tell something was wrong. I could hear my boyfriend on the answering machine, “They’re blowing up your city.”

My dad grew up in Brooklyn. When I was eight we went to the Statue of Liberty and looked through those binocular machines that cost a quarter. We looked at the twin towers together. We thought they were beautiful.

It seemed so weird that the world continues after someone so important dies. That this sort of thing could happen without him here. I wondered what he would think about this.   He would probably cry. Maybe he would write a poem about it. I wondered how much loss he would feel. I wondered what he would do or say.

He would get this look in his eyes when he talked about World War II. His older brother died while serving. My father was just a kid. I grew up in a house filled with books and films and art and an emptiness about the war. Dad wrote poetry about the war. I think today would have shocked him nearly as much as the day his family received the news about Uncle Paul. And he would have that look in his eyes, like he was focused on something far away and painful.

I feel like his feelings would have been hurt. It’s hard to explain, but I think he would have taken that morning’s events as somehow personal. He treasured being an American. I was raised to be politically minded and to vote in every election, even the local ones. And he enjoyed being from New York. He still had an accent that I couldn’t hear, but that everyone insisted was there. He just sounded like Daddy to me. But this day would have been an affront to him.

My classes were cancelled, but I got called into work at the TV station because someone’s kid was sick and I needed to fill in. Life kept going on. That’s what stunned me the most that day. That life was still just going on.

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Writing Wrong

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So my plan of regular blog posting has clearly gone awry. During the time since my last post I’ve began an on-line creative writing class, completed and on-line animal psychology certificate course (because, why not?), and had a procedure performed on my neck. Also, I may have gotten lazy, but we’ll go with all those other reasons instead.

My big living-my-dreams endeavor right now is the writing class. I’m taking it through the Gotham school in New York. The class is wonderful. It’s small, only sixteen students, and our instructor is very attentive. He called my first writing assignment (write about a window) “sly.” This made me happy.

I just now opened his critique of my last piece. It wasn’t my best effort and I was nervous about it, but he gave good feedback. We were supposed to write about something we loved or something we hated. I wrote about how I hate being called shy. I’m not shy. I’m introverted. But here is an example, from the middle of my rant, of how I’m learning to write more effectively.

Based on his suggestions, my paragraph went from this:

I am an INTJ Briggs Myers personality. Introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging. Only 1% of women are INTJs. That’s right, motherfucker, I’m a damn unicorn personality and I’m not speaking because I’m scared, I’m not talking because I’m thinking and judging you.

To this:

I am an INTJ Briggs Myers personality. Introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging. Only 1% of women are INTJs. That’s right, motherfucker, I’m a damn unicorn personality and I’m not silent because I’m scared, I’m silent because I’m thinking and judging.

Less verbose and a corrected confusing negative. Good stuff.

Thanks for sticking with my blog. See you in a week. And sorry about the punny title. I thought of it while drifting off to sleep and it struck me as the most brilliant thing in the universe.