Monday, March 26, 2012

This is When I Take a Step Back

I had the great opportunity to attend a lecture and an all-day workshop by Hugo and Nebula award winning author and Distinguished Professor of English at Southern Virginia University, Orson Scott Card on the 23rd and 24th. It was an incredible, rather intensive experience as the workshop covered everything from why you should or should not attempt self-publishing to the correct methods for using point of view. On top of that I had the opportunity to submit a current project for a personal consultation with Professor Card. I brought him the first five pages of Clocker.

It was a real learning experience for me. I won't go into great detail, but Professor Card asked me to write three paragraphs from the point of view of the main character, Hink, and send them to him to critique. Some parts of the critique made me feel a little discouraged, but in talking with a friend afterward I realized that I had received the equivalent of a personalized rejection letter from a publisher. When you receive a personalized rejection (as we were reminded repeatedly over the course of the seminar) it means that you made an impression, but that your work either wasn't ready for publication yet or was not a good fit for that particular publisher. And, honestly, I could have received worse feedback (and probably even expected myself to). It did make me rethink a lot of things about my current method of writing and my current projects and, as a result, I'm taking down the Clocker chapters. Anyone who didn't get a chance to read them while they were up who really wants to should feel free to email me and I can send them to people directly, but I feel like they ought to come down. I'm not sure how much will change about the story--it could continue in exactly the same way or I could totally give it up and take on the next project, but right now I'm just evaluating.

I can't promise anything will take its place, either, but as soon as I have some new writing to offer that I feel confident about I will post it. I am hoping to complete my "assignment" and post the results but, at this point, I'm not making any promises.

And now some music, because that's really one of the few things I've been paying attention to since Saturday.

Workshop by Reilly Powell on Grooveshark

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This is When I Have Nothing Too Nice to Say so I Say Very Little

So very little has happened of note recently, but I do have three things (well, two and a half) to report.
  1. The blog for the Underground (the creative writing club I've been co-founding with two good friends of mine on my University's campus) is finally up (sans bios, but those will appear soon) and functional. I've written a couple posts there already and it should be updated fairly often (if not regularly). It can be seen here: I will also be adding the URL to my link list for reference at a later date. For the curious: it will reveal this in my bio (when I finally post the darn thing), but I go by "Atropos" on the blog.
  2. I am about to post the first three chapters of Clocker--finally!--as soon as I finish editing the dialogue a little more (I made a decision: I'm going to leave out any/all profanity until publishing). It will appear as three tabs at the top of the page. Unfortunately that's basically all I have written right now (and I'm two chapters behind for my class), but I'm trying to remedy that situation as quickly as possible.
          And 2½ . . . I'm twenty as of yesterday. Yay. I feel old, but I know that's a little ridiculous so I'm keeping my mouth shut.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

This is When I Put My Foot in My Characters' Mouths

So I have recently come to the rather uncomfortable realization that several of my Clocker characters are potty mouths, or ought to be. The conundrum is that I don't swear--I'm more likely to say "H-E-double-hockey-sticks" than "hell" even when describing the geographical location where one would expect to find fire, brimstone, and Satan. Several of my characters are, however, solid working people with tendencies toward colorful expletives.

I'm a bit of a Britain-o-phile so thus far I've used British slang to spare my American readers (and myself) from vulgar colloquialisms. I've encountered some problems with that, though, as I've realized that some of the slang I'm using is more offensive than I initially thought. I have enough readers who are fairly familiar with British language that I'm getting some stares. That's what I get for trying to speak another language.

And, unfortunately, you can only use "blast" so many times before your readers stop buying it. Like twice. Total.

This has led to my rather bizarre investigation into creative swearing. Let me tell you there is LOTS of strange and interesting material on this subject, but I do not recommend the search to anyone with any sort of sensitivity to profanity. In fact, I wish there had been another way to compile a list of less-offensive, old world expletives than googling "old English expletives." Apparently I'm not the only person to write about swearing on their blogs. You'd be shocked at the amount of research some bloggers have put into riddling out the origins of modern day curses. You'd also be shocked at the crass immaturity of other adult bloggers who log in so that they can use whatever word, or combination of words, pops into their head, without censure.

Fortunately, I'm starting to get into the rhythm of my characters' speech and, hopefully, have accumulated a large enough dictionary in my creative writing journals of acceptable naughty words that I can avoid the extremely jarring discomfort of casual modern profanity. If I had to resort to that I have a feeling that my characters would swear so profusely that the story's dialogue would soon be really boring (or interesting for all the wrong reasons). Luckily, this world is really mishmash (in the best way possible) and, as such, is open to the use of words from other languages. I don't, for example, speak ANY Italian, but I'm using a lot of messed up, out of context Italian words. It was my original intention to use random words from as many languages as possible, focusing on those found in Asia, but those are harder to translate so I've just used LOTS of British slang.

Favorite profanity discoveries:
  1. Cobbler--British slang; similar usage to the American "baloney"
  2. Grotty--British slang; seedy, wretched, dirty
  3. Naff--British slang; as an adjective: inferior, as a verb: to goof off
Also please note that I have not forgotten my promise to post the first two chapters . . . they just haven't been edited as I'm currently working at a frenzied pace to finish the third chapter in time to turn it in to be workshopped on Thursday (so far I have an outline and . . . 65 words). But, never fear! I am getting back into this tale and I'm really excited because our heroine is about to encounter a character who looks a little something like this (though I am undecided on dreads at this point) . . .

And, though I won't tell you his name, how she meets him, or the capacity of their relationship, I am chomping at the bit. I found these pictures by accident, but it's honestly almost as though someone read my mind and decided to make this upcoming character a reality . . . SO excited to write these character interactions. It's not going to be pretty, but if it translates from my head to the paper at all it will be awesome.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This is When I Change My Tune

And also when I wonder why I ever started purposefully using cliches in my post titles . . . Maybe so I'm not tempted to use them anywhere else? I don't know.

Anyway, as some of you may know, the tune I have been singing thus far on this blog has been a mix of Mindy Gledhill's "Circus Girl" and paranoid caution.

Circus Girl by Mindy Gledhill on Grooveshark

The caution comes from a recent spat with an archiving policy on a writing website and, as a result, I have become very paranoid about putting whole pieces online, or even large chunks of pieces. I've been afraid of my work being claimed by the site it appears on or, worse, stolen by a troll who just happened upon it.

And while those are probably legitimate concerns the thought recently crossed my mind that the vast majority of the people who subscribe to my blog do so to sample my writing and/or give me feedback. And, also, that I'm probably not interesting or witty enough to carry a blog in which I talk about my writing but never share any of it. And I haven't gathered any trolls so far (at least not any as ugly as the one pictured above) so I guess I don't have any excuses not to share.

I'm changing my tune--"Miss Otis Regrets" and the first two chapters of Clocker (as soon as I have edited them).

Miss Otis Regrets by Bette Midler on Grooveshark

I'm also working on a list of other blogs my readers should check out so expect that soon.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

This is When Rhyme and Reason Don't Rhyme and Aren't Reasonable

Sometimes I forget that this blog doesn't update itself--I half expect it to collect all the data from my life and turn out witty blurbs to keep every body else up to speed, but it never does and then I've gone months without blogging. Sigh.

I'm in two Creative Writing courses this semester (a trial I'm actually enjoying). In the Advanced class we'll be spending the semester working on a novel/novella. I had a really difficult time choosing which tale to focus on and if you've glanced at my upcoming projects list you know why. In the end I decided I shouldn't begin anything new when I'm so obviously falling short on the projects I've already begun so I chose to spend my academic semester with Clocker (my unfinished 2011 NaNo)and to spend my free time (if I end up having any free time)on my unfinished 2010 NaNo Iron Shoes.

Despite my resolution in my last post to return to all my most frustrating projects, I had totally dropped Iron Shoes until recently. My university has a weekly forum/devotional where a speaker is invited to address the students. Last week New York Times Bestselling author Jason F. Wright came to speak and I had the spectacular opportunity to eat lunch with him and a group of other students who are studying in the Humanities. In the course of the conversation I mentioned that I had an incomplete 65,000 word project and he told me that once I had invested that many words in a single project I had essentially lost the choice to discard it completely. So long story shortened, I'm going to finish it.

My main focus, however, has been on making Clocker coherent enough to be work-shopped. The issue has been that the world is a conglomerate of so many genres and cultures that I worried it would distract my peers from the actual story. It's also set in a gritty, nasty city which I would equate with Tortuga in Pirates of the Caribbean--essentially not a nice place--and I've been concerned that the callous portrayal of casual violence and squalor might prove offensive to my classmates. And then I took a step back and realized that, as long as it adds to the story's atmosphere, as crass as it sounds, I don't care if it offends someone.

So I'm researching weapons and old time London and vicious mythical creatures. To be honest I'm getting really pumped up to write a little of the darker stuff. I love weapons, especially the strange ones that hardly work but look really cool anyway. My favorite recent find is the cestus, the Roman gladiator's version of brass knuckles, which I am seriously considering making into my main character's weapon of choice. I'm taken with the idea of a female character who would rather wear a leather, studded boxing glove than carry a firearm.

But, to balance out that darkness so I don't spaz out and become a violence nut (any more than I already have) my music choices have become very very light. This week's speaker at my university was Mindy Gledhill and her visit has set me on a whole other kick. Her songs make me feel hopeful, silly and a little giddy so, as you can imagine with the combination of dark geeking and happy singing, I've become a very odd person to be around.

Light by Reilly Powell on Grooveshark