Tuesday, May 29, 2012

With Every Ending, there is a New Beginning

Firstly: I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day.(:

Secondly: from the title of this post, you might assume that I have just finished something very important. Something huge. Something like a manuscript, maybe.
Well, I'm sad to inform you that


On May 27th, 2012, I finished my first draft of a long-worked on novel. And I mean long. The story isn't that big, only slightly more than 78K words, but it took me over three years to complete. I confess that I didn't spend every moment of free time on the novel. There were probably months at a time where I didn't write at all. (This is the only story that I've worked on in the past couple of years, mind you.) However, it's a story that's, in a way, grown up with me and that I've come to love. So I'm both happy and heartbroken to be finished writing it.

I'm happy because, well, I finished a novel!

I'm heartbroken because it's over. Kind of feels like my best friend just died. Well, okay, not died. I still have to revise/rewrite/go crazy in a month or so. So it's more like my best friend has been diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer.

ANYway, good news! I get to start planning my novel for Camp NaNoWriMo!

Unfortunately, with every good news, there is bad news.

Camp starts in, what, two days? All I have so far is an idea, a setting, and my main characters. Oh, and three scenes. Three. What am I going to do with that? Every time I try to ask my characters for help, they grow silent and cross their arms. They have secrets. They're hiding something, and I'm going to find out what it is. I just don't know if I'll figure it out in two days.

So...I'm going to go rent a couple of movies, buy a new book, go to the beach, go on a couple of walks, and maybe coax them into spilling.

I am really excited about this new story, though. It's...refreshing to finally work on something new.

Okay, so I know you don't really care about all I've just said, so I'll get down to the point of this post:

When you finish something, be it writing a novel, graduating from school, running a marathon, or killing your best friend, don't pause and dwell on it. Walk outside, take a breath of sweet, sweet air, and start again. Move on. Life keeps going, so you must keep writing. Or killing. (Serial killers: please don't use me as a reference. I'm not being serious. It's just an over-used metaphor. Please get some help with your blood lust.)

TTFN. (;

Friday, May 25, 2012

Writer's Block, and How I Overcome it

Writer's block.
It sucks. It's common. It's scary.
It shouldn't happen.
But it does.

I'll give you an example.

So last night, I was happily typing away the end of my story, watching my word count grow and trying to keep a somber mood to match the story's current tone. I was very absorbed in my world; I didn't care that my AC was broken, it was 95 degrees, and I was sitting on a leather couch. I had a fan. My mom told me to open a window, and I mumbled, "Why don't you?" Which, of course, made her turn off my fan and leave. Did I jump up and turn it back on? Nope. I just kept typing while I slowly suffocated/dehydrated.
...Until something bad happened. Not in my story, but with my story. I came to the realization that while I had been making my very detailed plot, I had kind of skimmed the ending and didn't take in to account a few very important matters. Which led my characters to neighborhood I didn't know existed and to a building I haven't designed.(I make floor plans for all of my buildings.)
 As soon as they stepped inside the mystery building, my imagination flat-lined. I couldn't figure out how it was supposed to look to be productive in the story. They were supposed to meet a character in there, but I didn't know where she was. I didn't know where anything was. I couldn't even finish a sentence.
So, I calmly stepped away from the story with my hands on my head. No harm, no foul.
I stopped thinking about it, took out a book, and went to bed.

Today, I opened my manuscript up and didn't try to finish that sentence. I didn't even waste a second looking at it. I scrolled back up to where I had been before I'd gotten lost and pulled out my map (AKA plot). I drew a floor plan. I re-read my plot and added the details I'd forgotten and changed the stuff that needed innovation. (Sometimes the problem that has you stuck could be in what you've already done.) Once that was finished, though, I didn't continue writing immediately. I took a walk. I started a new book and payed extra attention to how the author described things. I put in an awesome movie with great dialogue and an epic story. (Pirates of the Caribbean, of course.) I soaked in new wisdom and doodled a bit. I let other people do the thinking for me for a little while.
Then I looked at my story and deleted the evil sentence, ready to finish the scene with a refreshed mind.
Well, okay, then I made a cup of coffee because my eyelids are feeling heavy for some reason and wrote this blog post. (Sorry for any typos--the caffeine hasn't kicked in yet.)
My life motto is stuff happens. I don't dwell on the small things that have no solutions. I don't let myself freak out. Stress makes everything worse. I stay calm, take a break. If I can't think of something at that moment, I shouldn't keep trying think about it. I distract myself with different activity. It always comes to me in due time. The world won't end. Not when I have an unfinished manuscript. The sun will come out tomorrow.

So what about you? How do you deal with writer's block?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Everyday Mysteries

Six score and two years ago, a young boy sat in a sweltering, crowded, and musty classroom, doodling in his grammar book and paying no mind to his struggling teacher. For why should he care about grammar and the rules of English? He had no plans of writing anything other than his name on his future paycheck after he graduated from school--if he graduated from school. The farm was his dream, not the fading words in a book. 
A few weeks ago, a young girl with high dreams of writing something publishable one day was wandering through a dim flea market. As she passed by an overbearing bookcase, she paused, running her fingers over the spines. She wasn't exactly sure why she paused-- she had no interest in these yellowing pieces of nonfiction-- until her fingers stopped on a brown cover. She pulled out the fading tome and flipped through it curiously, stopping on the second page where the copyright information was printed. It read: "Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by WILSON, HINKLE & CO." Suddenly intrigued, the girl payed for her find and took it home. 
That girl was me. 
And this is the book:

It's beautiful, isn't it? Just look at the swirling design, the faded edges, the ancient font. 
That's not why I'm making a post about it, though. I want to share what I found on a page inside the book.

It says: "Don't steal this book for fear of shame, for in this book is the owner's name."
Well, I have no shame. I payed for this book fare and square -- a whole ten dollars. The original asking price was $20, but I convinced the man to give it to me for less. It wasn't difficult. He was slightly wary of me. I can't imagine the impression I gave him, a teenage girl bartering for some old book. 
Anyway, that doesn't mean that someone hasn't stolen this book in the past. Maybe the man I bought it from even stole it. Maybe I'm under a curse at this very moment because I bought stolen property. 
That could explain all of the people dying in strange ways around me. 
Kidding, just kidding. This isn't going to be that kind of blog, remember?

Well, I've searched the entire book a couple times, and I've found no legible name. I did find a couple of pages where the kid filled in every "o" with blue pen (or pencil-- can't tell). Which I find amusing to no end. There's also this page, which is probably my best bet for the name:

There seems to be a name scrawled near the top, along with the poem again. And what looks like the words, "Holmcock Co." Don't Google it. The results weren't pleasing. There's also something that might make it say, "greenfield, I'm of Holmcock Co." I'm afraid I don't understand what that means. This person has very swirly cursive. I have no clue what the first letter in the name is supposed to be. It looks like it could be a backwards J. Or maybe an I? Or a B? I don't know. 
My first guess was Isaiah Griffin, but it's definitely not that. There are two s's and no i's. To me, it looks like Jsso H Joffin. Or whatever that first letter is. Seriously; I'm doubting it's even a real letter. He made it up, just to spite me, a girl 122 years into the future. 
Oh, I forgot to mention the second date, didn't I? This page also says he had it on November 14,1890 (over twenty years after it was published). 

Remarkable how it survived this long. The pages are in relatively good shape and his handwriting is still (mostly) visible. Whoever wrote it is either dead now or immortal. This would make for a lovely novel or short story, huh? I may write something about it one day. Feel free to use it for inspiration if you wish (don't copy my words at the top, please). 

This doesn't have much to do with writing. I just am really interested in it, and thought someone else might be as well. I really want to know what his name is. (Or her? Who knows?)


Monday, May 21, 2012

The Scene Ends in Death

Hi. This is my first post ever. I've decided to start a blog, if not for you, then for me. I'm a young writer (16) and I'm currently on the verge of finishing my first manuscript. Well, not finishing exactly--there will still be much work it'll require after I type out the end of the story.
The purpose of this blog will be so 1) I can rant and rant and rant and no one can tell me to shut up 2) I'll have another excuse to procrastinate on homework and 3) so I can see my thoughts and what I've learned in an organized format.
I've never taken a creative writing course (though I hope to one day--it sounds fun) so, like many other writers, my sole teachers are the numerous tomes on my bookshelf.

In my manuscript, I had to kill someone. It's a character that I adore and who has made me chuckle on one occasion or another. Wow, that sounds crazy. You get the idea, though, right?
Anyhow, from the moment of this character's creation, I knew IT (for the sake of spoilers for anyone who might ever read this novel, if that ever happens, I will not post any clues as to who this character is and will refer to it as IT) would die at the end.
I think that because IT's death was so predetermined, I've already come to terms with my grief. Because I've already come to terms with my grief, this death scene is totally unremarkable and will not move a potential reader to tears.
I really want a proper tear-jerking, heart-wrenching death to honor this wonderful character.

I think it's time to crack open the saddest books on my shelves and attempt to discover their secrets.

(Is it fitting that Dumbledore just died on my TV in HBP?)

The few books I've grabbed are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (J K Rowling), Forever (M. Stiefvater), Beautiful Creatures (K. Garcia M. Stohl) and My Sister's Keeper (Jodi Picoult)

(**SPOILER WARNING**) If you haven't read these books and don't understand what I'm talking about, either a) keep scrolling down or b) go buy them. (but still scroll down anyway.)

First Book: My Sister's Keeper.
Why I cried: shock (it was a huge twist--there was no way to see it coming), loss (I felt like I knew the character personally), sympathy for the grieving, broken family, and whiplash (There is no pause for the death, but instead the story actually picks up speed and you feel like you've been beaten mercilessly on the ground then told to get up and run a marathon.)

Second Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows
Lot's of people die in this book -even Harry himself- but I'm going to try to focus on one death. Or two. The beloved Fred Weasley and the despised Severus Snape.
Why I cried: (Fred) he was funny, he died laughing, it was unexpected, he had a large family to mourn for him, it broke the Fred and George duo in half, Percy's mangled cry. (Snape) I didn't think he'd turn out good after all, he was in love, he suffered in his final moments, he had a sad childhood, shock.

Third Book: Beautiful Creatures
Why I cried: I thought two people had died at first, those two people make up that girl's entire world, her denial, refusal to let go, sorrow, shock.

Fourth Book: Forever
Okay, so the death scene I teared up at turned out to not actually be a death scene, but it was so convincing.
Why I cried: he sacrificed himself--and he was kind of a selfish character, he was only one of many,

Now, after rereading all of these death scenes, I've compiled a short list of ways to make a person cry over a figment of someone's imagination.

God, I'm depressed now.

The rules of death:

1. Shock
You can't let on to your reader that the end is near. Make it a slap in the face. A bucket of cold water dumped on their heads in the middle of a deep dream. Also, let the reader feel all of the unfinished business that character had.
2. Setting
You have to subtly play with the mood and setting. It has to happen in the midst of an already very dark, very grim situation that has your reader on edge.
3. Reaction The character's loved ones when they learn the news. The person who finds the body. The people who see the family mourning. Your own reaction. This is an emotionally scarring time for everyone involved--dwell on that. Take advantage of your reader's shock. Be evil for the sake of writing a good scene.
4. Slight Detachment
That, "I wish I could have known him/her/them better" feeling. This is kind of more from personal experience rather than reading. Once upon a time, I had a close friend. She missed school for a couple days in a row and wouldn't return my calls. I found out through a mutual friend that her brother had died. I didn't know her brother very well--I don't think I'd ever even spoken more than a few words to him (he wasn't at her house much when I was there) but as I walked past my classroom and toward the counselor's office, I was sobbing. (This is also a part of shock.)
5. Insignificance
The character's death isn't important to the plot. That is to say, the character has to die for no good reason and the characters cannot have time to stop and mourn--they have to continue to fight evil. Life goes on, and death is merely a flicker of a pause in the Grand Plan.

And there you have it. There are other ways to go about writing a good death scene, too. Please feel free to share any secrets you have for one.
Here are some other guidelines I found:
My chest aches. Wasn't this just a jolly way to start off my blog? Talking about death. How dark. This will not be that kind of blog all the time. I promise. Now excuse me while I go prepare myself a bowl of ice cream. For IT!

TTFN. (Tah-tah-for-now)

P.S. If you're still emotionally stumped in your novel, rereading old death scenes (or watching them on TV) is a good way to dig up buried feelings.