Inappropriate Stories in My Head

I was supposed to be working on my novelization of Biomalware.  I was supposed to be editing and re-writing, but the Universe had other plans.  Let me tell you a little story.

Last week I ordered a few items as presents for an upcoming birthday.  Earlier this week, the packages arrived, plus one.  I didn’t think too much of it but as I opened the last package and pulled out an item I wasn’t expecting to see, my mind did a few backflips.

It was a red Ferrari logo t-shirt.  I had seen this somewhere before, and recently.  In my sleep deprived state, my mind struggled to piece it together.  I knew I hadn’t ordered it.  Where did I see it?  A television show that we had watched that weekend.  Someone had been on the phone asking if the Ferrari logo was on the front and the back.

My mind reeled.  I had seen it somewhere else too, an online store.  Was I dreaming?  I almost always know when I’m dreaming.  I looked in the bag, no invoice or note.

I hadn’t bought it, had I?  Was I ordering things in my sleep?  Had someone ordered it and sent it to me for the birthday party that weekend at my house?  Perhaps one of my siblings?

I checked my invoices.  No, I hadn’t been ordering anything in my sleep.

I talked or messaged family.  No, no one had ordered it and had it sent.

To add a little more context, I’ve just started watching Doctor Who, the new series.  I had just watched the episode where Rose looks into the heart of the Tardis and becomes an avatar, sending the words “Bad Wolf” back in time and space to warn herself.

This was just too f@%*ing weird.

So, last night at writer’s group, I put the story to the group and challenged them to come up with a reason for the package arriving.

One of the group went the way of a horror story.  Fine.  Not for me, though.

As I drove home my mind continued to work on it, suggesting where the package had come from and why.  (Gallifrey, Texas.)  I’ve become a bit too invested in Doctor Who and he figured prominently in the explanation I’m afraid.

This morning, while I was showering, the story began again, dialogue writing itself.  I’m supposed to see a psychic in a week and apparently she has a message for the main character, saying where the package came from.  Little bit of telepathy, he’s not really dead.  I had to go write it down before work in order to still the voices.

I think I have a nice little sci-fi story going and it could really turn into something publishable if I just write it and then take out the Doctor Who specific references.

It’s not what I was supposed to be working on, but at least I’m writing again, creating.  I’m just going to ride the wave and enjoy it.  The other will come in its own time.

Life is strange and wonderful, if you just look at it the right way.  Enjoy.

Advertisements

Back into the Book

Once again, post NaNoWriMo letdown has cut down my writing output.  It’s been nearly a month and I’ve written nary a word. 

This seems to happen every time I write a huge amount every day for a month.  My brain blanks out on writing and I delve into more visual and tactile creative pursuits, only coming back to the writing after a month or more. 

What have I been doing in the meantime?  Well, mostly crocheting a baby blanket, going to work and taking care of my daughter.  Oh, and watching some really enjoyable episodes of the newer Doctor Who.  (Pssst, Netflix is evil.)

We had a great writer’s group meeting Thursday night and I was all revved up to edit and get back to work on my manuscript but yesterday came and went without me so much as opening the document.  Instead we got groceries, I cooked, sorted baby clothes and did a bunch of other things. 

So, I am publically stating my goal.  I will, by October 25th, have a finished manuscript to hand out to my writer’s group.  It may not be perfect but it will be as good as I can get it in that time. 

Today is September 22nd but I’m working this weekend and probably won’t get a chance to work on it until Monday so that gives me almost exactly a month.  Monday will be about excising the bits I don’t feel fit and making a map of what I have yet to do.  Then I will get down to work. 

To mis-quote Edison, success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

Giving and Receiving Feedback or Critiques

I facilitate a writer’s group as part of my job as a librarian, a very enjoyable part that I’m grateful to have.  It has helped keep me thinking about my writing when other things in life were intent on distracting me.  The wonderful, and difficult thing, about writing groups is the ability to share your writing with others and receive feedback.

It is immensely helpful to a writer trying to improve their work to hear what other people think and heard about a piece of writing.  (It’s also wonderful for the author to get to hear someone else read it out loud.  Is that really what I wrote?)  It can also be terribly difficult to hear the suggestions for improvement for something you’ve already put so much time and effort into.  The most important thing that I think people giving or receiving feedback/critiques need to remember is that it is the writer’s story.

For the writer receiving feedback, it can be disheartening to have people tear apart your writing.  I think it’s a good idea not to share a piece of writing until you have a clear vision of what you want it to be.  Then you can listen to the feedback, decide what applies and discard the rest.

This past week at our writer’s group I was both the person giving feedback to another and on the receiving end of feedback.

I admit I was slightly annoyed by the feedback I received.  It was based on a short free write that I had done a couple weeks before and shared, something we do at the beginning of every group to put us in the right frame of mind.  The person giving me feedback knew that it was part of a novel I was working on and proceeded to tell me how I should develop the story, in detail.  He forgot that it was my story.  He was developing a different story in his mind based on my initial free write but it wasn’t my story.  He was trying to help but it wasn’t help I had asked for, wanted or that was useful.  I politely said that the work had developed far beyond what I had done in the free write, by about 40,000 words, and that I would be sharing it with the group soon.   I could tell he wasn’t happy with that but I remembered that it was my story and held firm.

Another author shared a short story that we gave feedback on.  We tried to be specific and helpful but it seemed to me that she was feeling a little overwhelmed by what we gave her.  Afterward I reminded her of the caveat to take what is useful and discard the rest because it is her story, but it also reminded me of a technique for writer’s workshop that I learned when I was taking my English degree.

The idea is simply to tell the author two things you liked about the work and give them two things that you think could be improved upon.  Because we often only give feedback once in our group, due to time constraints and deadlines, the second half of the advice, which is predicated on the writer working on their story and bringing it back to the group, often doesn’t quite work.  We need to give all our notes in one sitting.  But the first part of the advice is still applicable.

No matter how problematic a piece of writing is, you can almost always find two things to complement the author on.  This helps cushion the blows they are about to receive with the critique.  It gives them something to cling to before you throw the other comments at them.  It’s a good practice, a kind one, that helps make it easier for the author to really hear the critical comments instead of curling up into a defensive ball.

I intend to remind the group, and myself, of it before the next meeting.

The Writing Future is Becoming Clearer

I spent a large part of my free time in August (which is minimal at best ) drafting my novel, Biomalware, for Camp NaNoWriMo.  It was a challenge, painful at times, depressing and exhilarating.  I suffered from a bit of writer’s block in the “great swampy middle” as Jim Butcher calls it, and had to rush toward the end.  I didn’t really think I’d complete the story arc but somehow it came together.  It’s exciting to be this far along with it after only a month. 

I started with a short story about a man, a widowed single dad, who takes his two year old daughter to the doctor’s because she seems to get sick most of the time after eating.  The doctor diagnoses a new form of IBS but the nurse slips him a note suggesting that something else is happening.  It turns out that a new line of genetically modified food is making her sick.  As I worked on the book, unexpected events suggested themselves.  We had a natural gas explosion that destroyed a house in town and it fit into my story perfectly.  It also turned out that making people sick was not all the food was doing.

There’s a lot to do yet though.  I’ve completed the story arc but it’s pretty skimpy in a lot of places.  Before I started, I was planning to add another 50,000 words to the novel in September to finish it but now I think I’ll focus on editing and rewriting to add material.  (I still have a little research to do in order to make sure it all makes sense.)  I hope to end up closer to 80,000 words. 

In October, I’ll hand the novel off to my writer’s group for feedback, hoping they’ll have time.  That should help me focus it a little better, and maybe expand more.  I’ll also recruit some other beta readers from family and friends to give me feedback.

November gets a little tricky.  I’ll still have a editing to do but I’d like to finish Devolution for National Novel Writing Month in November.  I started that some time ago and have released two parts of it on Yahoo! Voices.  Planning for that will also fill some of my writing time in October.

I have the first agent picked out to submit Biomalware to and I plan to submit in December.  It was kind of funny, I knew what agency I wanted to submit to and the latest Writer’s Digest had a list of twenty-five agents accepting new work.  Two of them were from this agency and one listed science fiction. 

Today I’m hoping to take out all the portions of the manuscript that I knew I didn’t want to keep but left in to reach my word count for Camp NaNoWriMo.  I’ll take them out and put them in a separate document so that I still have them to refer to, and in case I decide I do want some portion of them.

It’s turning into an exciting year for writing.  The future I envision, of writing for a living, just seems to become more clear as I work.