That First Step

 

 

I’ve already referenced myself twice concerning my thoughts on world building, but I am drawn to say it a third time for the benefit of a dear friend of mine–another author, who is at the edge of a tremendous undertaking.

I wrote in an earlier blog;
“We musn’t tell them everything. Some things, certainly, but not everything. I mean this as no excuse for poor detail or fractured narrative. What I mean is this; know it, inside and out, every detail: The peoples, long since faded from memory that once thrived where your hero now treads; animals that will never wander in your protagonist’s path and ruins that are too covered with centuries of stories to be seen. Every rock, village, tide and turn. This is the foundation upon which worlds are built. These are the underpinnings of much greater things. Like steel beams in a modern building, it holds…it structures the fabric of your imagination.
Because after all, it is the utterance of a thing that makes it what it is. As an author, you will always (without fail) know more about your worlds than can be shared with your readers. Your acknowledgement of it is enough. If it is strong, it will carry through your prose and filter into the minds of those who dare dive deep enough. Those are the worlds that leave us dreaming long after the last page has been turned. Like the never ending story, some worlds will never die.”

As authors, we have at our disposal legions of excuses and perfectly rational reasons to not sit, alone in our chair, submerged in our own head for hours on end. I mean–what sane person would? But here’s the thing–and the reason I brought up the world building thing again…you’ve gotta take that first step. Writing is exercise and if you don’t do it religiously, you’ll feel out of shape. Which means, don’t expect to run a marathon on your first try. Take it slow and set a word count each day, or if you are more comfortable–each week. I find that per day is better, simply because I am the queen of procrastination. Case in point, I have two Adairondak chairs sitting in my office because I have been putting off water-proofing them. You’d think two giant, awkward wooden objects obstructing the path to my desk, would encourage me to get it done. Nope. I just step right over them–well, okay, I stumble right over them. Whatever–you get my point here. Take a deep breath and dive in, because nothing feels more amazing than holding in your hand a finished, ideally polished, novel.

I’ve encountered fear and discouragement in different ways and at different times in the last few years, in regards to writing. The hardest block I’ve ever run into was at the completion of the third book in the Fable trilogy. I hadn’t bothered editing the first two books ( I wrote straight through to 370,000 words), I realized suddenly how massive the undertaking was before me and froze. I didn’t write more than damn it for nearly three months. It took the iron clad deadline of a prepaid freelance editor for me to go back to the unbelievably shitty first draft.

So Matt, November 15th. Mark your calendar. No excuses, no apologies and no whining! I expect at least 10,000 words. Totally doable if you break it down by a five day writing week. =) You’ll thank me for this later–it might be when we’re 80, but still…you’ll appreciate my obnoxious meddling eventually.

For everyone else, If you are on facebook and feel like commenting (which I love and greatly appreciate), please remember to do so at the actual blog post : http://www.jschancellor.wordpress.com.

 

Writer’s Conferences, Ravens and Writing Desks

Our trip was restful and rejuvenating. I am sleeping well and while I am not fully where I’d like to be on my current projects, there is at least a little more hope on the horizon. I found myself looking up writer’s conferences today, along with low residency MFA’a in popular fiction…only to find myself at a loss as far as where I fit into all of this ‘professional’ writing business. See, I don’t write short stories and with great frustration I found that MOST endeavors require them to be in your portfolio–if you are to attain any level of serious respect, as an author, anyway. Hmmm. I simply don’t manage ‘brevity’ well. I write epic level, worlds at war, kind of stuff. It doesn’t occur to me to write in short order.

Oak Mountain 2009

Oak Mountain 2009

So, after flipping through one non-encouraging blog after another, reading all of the necessities to become a successful full time writer, I decided that I should do something wholly non-official and unproductive (professionally speaking, of course)…I signed up for NANOWRIMO (or National Novel Writing Month). Now, before you laugh or condemn me to hell, let me explain why I don’t give a damn about your opinion on this either. See, I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it for me. And I’m fairly prolific anyway, so 50,000 words in a month doesn’t sound like any big whoop–considering that I can easily crank out 30,000 in a week if I don’t have anything else (much) going on. Yes, dear, I realize that quality is more important than quantity…but talk to Asimov (actually, I think he’s deceased) and King (whose status among the living has been debated since the publication of ‘The Stand’) if you want reasons for why being prolific doesn’t mean you’re a naffin at your craft. But, there are MULTITUDES of bloggers, experienced writers and generally recognized nit-wits out there who loathe this whole idea and spend an absurd amount of time whining about its existence in the universe. That might also be the other reason I have decided to devote November to this endeavor. You say it is ridiculous and a waste of time and will likely produce nothing but drivel…well, ‘swell’ I say. I wasn’t producing much more than that these last few weeks anyway.

So, in November, I will ideally begin work on a novel loosely titled “Ravenwood” and leave all of my other projects on a shelf till I have at least 50,000 words down (which if success is to be mine, will be the end of said month). I’ve drafted the characters and have a general idea of where the novel will go–it deals with warlocks and whatnot, since I’m all vamped out for the time being (what with playing vampire wars on facebook and all…*sigh*). So, wish me luck–or laugh at me, whatever fits your fancy. Why did I title this blog this way? Well, just why is a raven like a writing desk?

Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

I can’t tell you the last time I was actually depressed. Its been awhile for sure. While I was  cleaning the house today, I finally realized why I’ve been so sluggish lately. I have been a little under the weather since I left work. But, there is a difference between the blah feelings of fighting off a cold and the tell tale signs of, my good old friend, depression. So, as much as I hate to admit it–I need to.

Depression affects everything. My writing, my social life and most certainly my ability to function on a professional level–not that my writing career is really soaring or anything. Still, getting up and out of bed has a pretty high correlation to productivity. It’s likely the reason I haven’t been sleeping too well lately (though last night wasn’t too bad–which, come to think of it, could have been the cough syrup–Codeine’s good stuff.

I’ve lost weight–not a ton, but enough. My appetite sucks. I look awful; pale, lackluster complexion and dark circles under my eyes. What’s worse, is that I am already on an antidepressant, though it isn’t for depression. It’s for Trigeminal Neuralgia (long story). I think part of it, is that I didn’t see myself here at 28. I thought things would be different by now. I’m not normally this translucent or vulnerable in blog posts, but everyone’s got to confess sometime, right? I suppose this is mine. My heart is broken. And its broken deeper than I thought. I haven’t really written much more than a few paragraphs or a few drafted ideas in nearly two months. I know that my sadness has to do with my lack of really spending time with my passion (articles don’t count for me as writing), but its a vicious cycle. You would think it would be easy enough to sink into another world when I have so staggeringly little interest in this one, but it’s not that simple. When I was in Jr. High, it was…but not now. And there isn’t enough codeine in the world to make that pain go away. There isn’t enough alcohol or Saturday morning cartoons, or pictures of better days or songs on the radio.

I’m not usually a fan of weepy, emotional writing. I grew out of that when I left freshman year in college. But, my guts feel like they’ve been ripped out. And there is just this big hollow place left. I don’t want to hear about God, or how much Jesus loves me. I know all of that. I’m tired of cliche answers. There simply isn’t anything to say. Sometimes life hurts. Period. This is one of those times. Even Christ allowed people to suffer–wasn’t Peter stoned and crucified upside down? Just in case anyone was contemplating telling me how God doesn’t want me to feel this way. I think he’s got  bigger things to deal with than my petty issues. I don’t need to pray for God’s wisdom on what eye shadow I need to wear tomorrow–I’m not one of those people. I was long, long ago. But after getting burnt enough, you realize that religion and holiness have nearly nothing to do with each other.

Is it really darkest before the dawn? I heard that somewhere. I feel a little like Alice, and I keep waiting for a rabbit to follow–for something to change, but it never really will, will it? Childhood is over. My friend and I often lament how things have so changed since we were younger. How did we become so bitter?

Caterpillar: Who are YOU?
Alice: This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.

The Duchess:
I quite agree with you. And the moral of that is: Be what you would seem to be, or if you’d like it put more simply: Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.

Alice: But I don’t want to go among mad people.
The Cat: Oh, you can’t help that. We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.
Alice: How do you know I’m mad?
The Cat: You must be. Or you wouldn’t have come here.
Alice: And how do you know that you’re mad?
The Cat: To begin with, a dog’s not mad. You grant that?
Alice: I suppose so,
The Cat: Well, then, you see, a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.

Alice: I’ve had nothing yet, so I can’t take more.
The Hatter: You mean you can’t take less; it’s very easy to take more than nothing.

The White Queen: Can you do addition? What’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?
Alice: I don’t know. I lost count.

Alice: And how many hours a day did you do lessons?
The Mock Turtle: Ten hours the first day, nine the next, and so on.
Alice: What a curious plan!
The Gryphon: That’s the reason they’re called lessons, because they lessen from day to day.

So, there it is…my thoughts for the day. If you are here from facebook and feel generous enough to comment, please, please do so at the blog itself. http://www.jschancellor.wordpress.com  (besides, the blog looks cooler)

quotes taken from about.com

Nature’s First Green is Gold

Oak Mountain 2008

Oak Mountain 2008

I am a Fall and Winter child. Nothing touches my soul quite like those two seasons. The yellow, red and orange leaves paired with the chill in the air, somehow inspire me. Maybe it’s the northern girl in me. I’ve spent most of my life in the south, but it’s no different from being born in Ireland and then moving to LA. You’re still Irish.

All of this seasonal chit chat got me thinking about my writing rituals. (You’ve already blogged about this! You scream…yeah, yeah. And I’m blogging about it again.) I have a hard time writing in the summer months. Serious trouble. I don’t know what it is about the heat that bothers me, but it stifles my creative chi. Spring can be just as bad down here, though not as miserable. I like to be cold, near frigid. I love a hot cup of coffee or hot tea (usually the former) and something to munch on. And there are three scents of candles that I burn on a regular basis, regardless of the time of year; mistletoe, harvest wreath and pumpkin spice. Awesome. I also tend to write better late at night.

We have a camping trip planned for next weekend, as long as it doesn’t pour on us. We try to go every year about this time. I need some peace and quiet. I REALLY need some time away from the internet. I love freelance writing, but this has been hard on my fantasy projects. But, I persist. I have been polishing the second book of Fable and I’m really close to being able to wrap it up and start the final edits on book three. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to putting the first trilogy away and starting work on the second. I’ve still got Icarus and Nightshade to finish too, though those both are only a handful of chapters away from being done (first draft anyway–we won’t discuss edits for those yet. It’s always best to shelve a project for at least a month or two before going back and editing.)

Ben, my husband, has had tremendous luck doing his part-time cop stuff this past weekend and he scored a long term part-time  job yesterday. That’s exciting. He loves his job and really enjoys doing stuff on the side. Today and last night he got paid to eat free food and hang out at a football game. I mean, I realize that if the stuff hits the fan, he’s there with taser and gun in hand, but more often than not, nothing happens. We’re getting adjusted to me being at home and I am finding my comfort zone with Demand Studios, as far as how many articles a week I can handle. I put a bid in for a few significant projects, which I realize I am woefully under qualified for, but what is there to lose? I have to start somewhere and I’ve finished over 45 or so articles for Demand Studios, so I have enough of a portfolio now to get some exposure. I also recently put in for Trails.com, which I am more qualified for since I love the outdoors so much. The titles in that arena are much more in my area of expertise. We’ll see how that goes.

So, I am going to spend the rest of the day and this evening, working on my own projects. Maybe that will encourage me to crank out a few more articles for pay tomorrow.

It’s 2:34 am, do you know where your sanity is?

So, insomnia can’t be all that bad. I’ve started pontificating, if you will, on all of the reasons why I have suddenly become such an ineffective insomniac. See, I didn’t mind it so much when I was even mildly productive with it. But, these nights–er, mornings, find me frustrated and on the verge of contemplating the Godiva liquor. How long does that stuff last once you’ve opened it anyway?

I used to stay up late, and pen into the night all things dark and fantastic. It hasn’t been so much like that these last few nights. That could do with my husband speaking and flailing his arms about in his sleep…last night he was shooting the breeze with another investigator at the local precinct…hehehe. Have you ever heard someone LAUGH in their sleep? It’s entertaining.

I’ve had a hard time writing on my own projects these last couple weeks. I suppose it all has to do with getting used to a new routine and saying goodbye to the old one. I used to write every day from either 2-3 or 3-4, in the conference room where I worked (in addition to 4 or  5 hours at night). This was perfect because there wasn’t anything else in the room, and for God’s sake it was a nearly sound proof room. Here at the house, there are dishes to be done, laundry to fool with, a house to be cleaned and a whole host of other things that suddenly seem to be so very important. A nice tall glass of ice tea seems more than a little necessary to begin this next paragraph, or a biscuit and hot tea/coffee are absolutely necessary for the last few pages of this draft.

And all of this has made me think about how I write. Not so much the physical, knees curled in an unhealthy position, kind of way, but more how I write in a technical sense.  Mark Twain said it best, in a letter to D.W. Boser, ” I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English–it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them–then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

This makes sense. Does it matter that my style is simplistic? No. I write epic worlds at war. I need the reader to be focused more on what I am telling them and not the words I choose to tell them with. Those are merely tools. You should finish a great work of literature, really any book worth its salt, and only remember the whole of it. Indeed some passages stay with us, some sentences strike out on their own and linger for days after you’ve read them, but novel prose shouldn’t, and cannot, remain in such a flowery state eternally. ‘Elemental’ is not a mark of childish or immature writing, merely the description of how much it takes to understand what the writer is trying to say. Which, if that is the case, then a great many bodies of literature are elementary, to include much of the constitution. Don’t we study it in grammar school?

So, enough potchking around (thanks to T.J. Sullivan in LA for bringing that little gem into my vocabulary!)…I am off to write.

Because Underwater Basket Weaving Should be a Profession…

Ella Belle

Ella Belle

I am grateful for the blessings in my life. I just thought I would throw that out there. I spend an awful lot of time complaining, so I wanted to take a moment to just, breathe, and be glad that I am alive, healthy and doing what I want for a living. (Sort of, if you can call writing for pittance a living)

I have been writing articles now as a staff writer for Demand Studios, for a little over three weeks. I haven’t totally committed full time effort yet (if you are reading this on facebook, you know why–Sulfa is NOT my friend). But, in the time I have spent penning mindless drivel, it has turned mildly fruitful. Could I do this the rest of my life? Haha, no. Its fun, but I would go mad. I can only handle so much from copy editors. Which brings me to my point today.

Writing is different when you are doing it for pay. Period. I could stop right there (you know I won’t), and leave it at that. No need to explain. But, there are many, many, MANY authors and writers who thrive on feedback and support from others. Most of them do quite well. Me–not so much. I would rather write alone and enjoy the solitude of the worlds I create. Sounds lonely, but it isn’t really. It would be like a violinist who played only for the love of playing. I don’t like an audience (not when it comes to novel writing).

What I have discovered, in this drivel writing career, is that I am terribly skilled at doing ‘nothing.’ I can do it anywhere. I have always considered myself a connoisseur of comfort and all things relaxed, but this brings it to a new and staggering level of laziness. or rather, intentional psycho-physiological sedation. See, I don’t care to be type A. I am purposeful in my serenity and lack of busyness. I think there is a deep state of meditation that comes after decisions to let life go (or deep BS, I haven’t decided which). I have been writing mostly health/nutrition and medical articles, but the ones I enjoy the most are the ones about comfort, health spas, and relaxation. I guess that’s when I started to realize, where I am gifted. I don’t necessarily want to be a professional counselor–like the Master’s degree I am procrastinating on, will likely make me. I would rather be a relaxation coach, per say. I need to create a whole profession out of teaching people how to be self-indulgent and at one with their inner couch potato. See, you are already thinking about taking a hot bath or taking an afternoon nap…

I need to stop putting off the drivel that needs to be penned today…and a rewrite that makes me want to scream. so, thanks as always for listening. If you have stumbled upon this on my facebook page, check out the actual blog. http://www.jschancellor.wordpress.com

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