Year of the Panda: Hemingway’s Words of Wisdom

Koala, my muse, my editor, my critic, said this to me earlier today. I’ve been giving her the story chapter by chapter, letting her read, letting her give me pointers and insight, letting her not necessarily help shape the story (though in the case of Chapter Three, she helped reshape the story dramatically), but to help shape the narrative and make it, well, readable.

So I was feeling a little down on myself with regards to this particular piece. I’ve been hand-writing the story and then typing it up, and as I got through this chapter I noticed something… a little icky:

  1. My characters clear their throats. A lot.
  2. They also chuckle far too much.
  3. And “card [whomever’s] fingers through their hair”? Does that actually happen in real life

So Koala suggested, when the time comes, to do a search and replace on certain phrases and see what I can replace them with. Which, when the times comes, I will absolutely do. But it’s only May in the Year of the Panda, and I’m not even finished with the story yet, let alone ready to do any editing. Koala’s right, though. I need to stop being so hard on myself, especially this early in the crafting process.

“The first draft is usually shit.” Ernest Hemingway said that, and I think he’s a pretty famous writer so maybe he knows a thing or two about the craft and the whatnot involved in writing.

Maybe I need to lock myself away and just barrel through and finish this damn thing. The zero draft, I mean. The first draft will be the typed-up copy that Koala gets to read, the zero draft is what is written in the notebook. I need to tell myself that it’s okay if this is crap. It can all be fixed.

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Chapter By Chapter

So I’ve been having two good friends read over this project of mine. And so far the comments have all been beautiful and necessary, and now I’m kind of stuck. For, you see, my muse and I sat down and had a conference and it turns out that she came up with a really f*%&ing good idea for this story’s Third Chapter.

The only problem is…. I’m already on something like Chapter Eight or something ridiculous like that. And while not everything needs to be reworked or moved around, a good chunk of stuff does.

So now I’m faced with a number of options:

  1. Go back and rewrite.
  2. This is breaking the only cardinal rule I have ever set for myself when it comes to my writing. I NEVER go back and edit until I’m finished. Not even to run a spell checker. But this, this is something entirely different. This isn’t going back and editing, this is going back and rewriting. This is reworking part of the story in order to have it flow, to have it go somewhere.

  3. Ignore it; you’ll deal with it later.
  4. Truth be told this seems like the best option, simply because if I finish the story I know where the connector is going to have to go, right? Well… wrong. See, I already know where the connector has to go. I just have to repair the connector. The story kind of moves too fast, and this will add a little facet of drama with a dash of substance.

  5. You’re in the middle of a chapter, you can’t just-
  6. Look. I know. I KNOW WHERE I AM, OKAY? I know exactly where I am, and that I’ve already been jumping around from chapter to chapter, going wherever the ideas happen to land whenever I have them. And right now I have the idea for the new Chapter Three, so I think I’m just going to with that and that’s the end of that tune.

I even bought a new book. I’m almost finished filling the book I’ve been writing this whole epic in and bought a second one to continue in. Now the question is, do I just keep writing in place or do I start the new book with the new chapter….

Year of the Panda: Giving the madness a name (FINALLY)

I’ve FINALLY! named this story of mine. I’m going to call it The Letters. I mean, okay. Sure. This could just be a working title and not really worthy of the story itself, but right now this is what its telling me it wants to be called. So this is what I’ve started referring to it as.

But why, Panda? Why are you calling it this?

Because throughout the course of the story, a series of letters will be written. The main characters, the series of protagonists that show up throughout the story, are going to use letters as a way to communicate with one another. Sure, the first generation will be writing those letters by hand and sending them via snail mail, and the second generation will be doing both snail mail and email, and the third generation will more than likely be emailing and texting (and Facebook messaging, and Snapchatting, and however the hell ELSE kids today communicate with one another… actually, that’s probably a really good thing to research, isn’t it), but this is going to be more important than a simple phone call.

And of course I am going to write out those letters and include them in the story. Well, maybe not all of the letters but a number of them will certainly be included where they need to be. I’m hoping that I can use the letters to help flesh out parts of the story that don’t need a whole explanation. The scenes that have been created are essential, in my opinion, to the story. But the letters… I feel as though the letters will help to flesh out the characters.

Which brings me to something else. I really, really, REALLY need to work on renaming the characters. See…. this is…. well, it’s….

OKAY IT’S A FECKIN’ FANFIC, OKAY? This whole story started out as some kind of AU fiction that spiraled away from another fiction story that I’ve been working on with Koala for several years. Fuck, for almost a decade!

…and just like that, my muses stopped talking to me. I don’t think they’re mad at me, but I think my mind is spinning in a different direction than it needs to be spinning right now. I mean, right now I’m sitting here in the library at UM-Dearborn, knowing full-well I should be writing but instead I’m just watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Perhaps I should stop focusing on the story and focus more on a little… character creation? I mean, one of the characters in this story is based 100% on a real-life human being, but perhaps I can start to hash them out as well. Perhaps I can find more character-building questions and make this character into something really real that is more my own than a real-life human being.

Year of the Panda: The LINspiration

A little #Linspiration
A little #Linspiration
So this is the lock screen on my phone right now. Those big, tired-looking brown eyes belong to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who if you don’t know, is a certified genius. It’s true, he is. He even has the awards to prove it. But why, pray tell, is Señor Miranda my phone’s lock screen? Well… for inspiration. Every time I look at this picture I think, “Okay, this guy is only two years older than I am, but has accomplished more than I have in this lifetime and possibly the rest of my lifetimes. So why does this bother me the way that it does? Because… well… it doesn’t. It doesn’t bother me. It shows me that with a little hard work and a little get-off-your-ass-and-finish-what-you’ve-started that I can do exactly what I want to do, and I don’t have to listen to anyone tell me that I’m crazy, or I’m out of my mind, and that I should just put aside the notebooks and everything else and just focus on survival. Well I’ve got news for you all — I write to survive. I write like I’m running out of time.

Ugh. Thanks, Lin.

But, in all seriousness, every time I look at my phone I see those eyes staring back at me.

Why aren’t you writing, Panda? Why are you looking at your ph- what is so important on this little digital device that it’s taking your mind away from your goal? What’s up, Panda? Pollo!?

Well, he’s right. Why aren’t you writing right now, Panda? Keep reading to find out why!

~*~*~

The Pomodoro Technique is something that I sometimes employ when it comes to trying to budget some time. If I have a timer going off every twenty to twenty-five minutes or so, it forces me to at least try to be productive. Lately, regardless of the inspiration, I’ve been having a rough time just getting motivated enough to sit down with my bag and my notebooks and my computer and my music and just write. Lately, between contracting some horrible flu virus and having to work 30+ hours a week just to compensate for taking time off for being sick, dining the time or the motivation to write has become, well, fucking difficult. Even a change of scenery hasn’t really helped.

So right now I have my tomato timer set and this is my blogging block. I have exactly twenty-five minutes to put this entry together and post it before I have to move onto the next block. I only have roughly three hours to spend in this, the Carl Sandburg Library here in Livonia (Michigan, for those of you who are paying attention but not at the same time), and I’d really like to at least get caught up to where my story is so far.

See, I decided not to be linear with this one. I decided that, whenever a thought or an idea struck me I was going to stop in mid-sentence and start up with the new idea. Granted it’s all the same story, just different chapters, but still. It’s become difficult to keep tabs on where I am in each of the chapters, and has proven to be harder than I anticipated to make sure that some continuity remained. This is what I get for bucking the norm, but maybe that’s a good idea for me. Maybe that’s the reason I find myself dying in the middle of every story I’ve ever tried to write. So maybe this is a good thing.

Year of the Panda: The Soundtrack & Plot Points

There are two people whom I trust when speaking about the art of putting together the perfect mix tape. One, is Rob Gordon (shown above), and while I know he is a fictional character, he speaks the absolute truth about mix tapes. The other person whom I trust is Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has proven to me that I was doing it right all along, yet never did it enough for those whom I truly loved.

So I find myself going through my music, searching for the proper soundtrack, when a thought occurs to me. Lightning strikes my brain in the least painful way. “Panda,” I said to myself. “This character that you’ve been writing, that you’ve been creating, that you’ve been focusing on… he’s EXACTLY your age!” And then I laughed for a good twenty minutes because I realized that I knew exactly what he was listening to growing up, and exactly what he was listening to at that very moment.

A huge part of the plot came to me the last time I was home. I wasn’t there for long, but as per the usual there are always a number of boxes filled with my crap in the basement of my parents’ house — where, I might add, I spent my formative years — for me to rummage through. And so I did just that. And in one of these boxes I found a number of notes, folded in all sorts of strange ways, all written either to me or by me and my boyfriend collectively, back and forth, stuffed in my locker… well. Regardless of what may have been in those sap-covered creations, I thought perhaps that maybe, just maybe, both generations of characters in my story share their love story through, well, love letters.

Now all I need to do is remember how to write a love letter.

Writing is easy, titles? Not so much.

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-4-31-48-am

This is what I told myself a week ago. I told myself that I would have something published by the end of the year. And, sure, it’s only January, but I’m feeling extremely confident about this one. Actually, when you get right down to it, I’ve been having a blast with this project. And, for once in a very long time, I’ve actually been thinking about it before writing it all out. Oh, sure. I have some scenes already written down, and I have a notebook where I’ve been keeping the writing thus far (save for a scene which I’d typed up while sitting waiting for my flight to leave from the Delta terminal at Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport), and in the back of said notebook I have notes for a timeline, bits of story here or there, ready to be added into the notebook when the time comes.

All in all, I’ve been treating this one almost with kid gloves. Yes, I want to simply jump off the diving board head-first into the warm, choppy waters, but I feel like… I can’t. Not just yet.

Because while this project has a timeline and a structure and a plot and characters, it doesn’t have a title. I mean, it doesn’t even have a working title. I’ve just been calling it “My Own Joy Luck Club” because right now that’s how it feels like it’s going to end up. It’s a story that spans at least two generations of falling in love and finding yourself. A multi-cultural love story, if you will. But it doesn’t have a name just yet.

And I feel like I won’t be able to properly move forward with the narrative until it does. I feel like it’s something that is severely lacking here. And yet, every time I sit down and try to figure out a title, nothing seems to work. I’m not caught up on it just yet, but I fear that it might become a problem in the later rounds. But for now, I continue to plot, and continue to construct, and continue to put the story together scene by scene.

The Writing Year: Learning to Structure

I have always had a problem with structuring a story.

I consider myself to be a pantser on most days, someone who has the mere hint of a story hiding in their brain, and when I sit down to start writing I just go at it. I have the idea of characters, of who they are and what they look like, of where they live and what they’re doing on their daily routine to lead them to the point in their timeline where we meet up with them, but after that I just let the character dictate where the story is going.

This, I’ve come to gather, is the reason why I haven’t really finished anything in my lifetime. I have no idea how any story is supposed to end.

During this year’s NaNoWriMo I won a number of books during the NaNoWriMotown’s Midway Madness raffle, including one on plot and structure. Two words that, until recently, have never really been involved in my storytelling. I’ve just been one to sit at the keys or with a pad and pencil/pen in front of me and just write. And, most of the time, I’ve had a lot of fun with what I’ve written… but I’ve never been able to fully finish a story, to fully complete the arc and make it, well, a complete story.

So I’ve been reading through the book on plot and structure. So far I’ve learned a few things about structure, a few things that I’ve been leaving out and therefore have felt as though my stories have been lacking. So, on this next journey into fiction, I am going to give it my all and attempt to structure the story properly. I’m really just hoping that this turns into something fun and useful and not another profile in failure. I’m getting to the point where my profiles in failure are no longer fun, but rather disappointing and just plain ol’ sad.