Pensive Ponderings

Hello, my name is Marilyn and I am a Vampire Addict.

One of the first exercises Chris Baty has you do in the beginning of No Plot? No Problem! is to draft two “magna cartas.”  One should be composed of all the things that you personally like in the books you love to read.  He says to be honest, even if it means admitting that you like books with a lot of white space because you do not like reading large blocks of text.  The other “magna carta” should be the opposite list – all the things you find boring in books.  Again, he encourages you to be honest with yourself, even if it means admitting that you really hate books about old people or love stories.

I did this exercise, although I have not yet hung them up by my desk like he suggests.  I will not post them here either, but I do want to take this opportunity to be honest about the kind of book I want to write, based on the kind of book I like to read.

I am a genre reader.  I love me a good urban fantasy.  I also enjoy straight-up fantasy, science fiction (both soft and hard), apocalyptic dystopias, some steampunk, and the occasionally mystery.  Add to that Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and John Donne, and that about rounds out what I prefer reading.

I also LOVE vampires.  Love them…I get all feisty with people who try to disparage my beloved vampire and I feel the need to spout long diatribes, explaining their importance as archetypes of the human experience.  I will spare you that spiel here.

Bela Lugosi's DraculaFirst of all, I would like to concede the fact that the current state of literature is filled to the brim with vampire stories.  Well, I don’t care.  This first manuscript (and probably the  second and the third) is just for me.  I need to get in the practice of writing creatively again.  I need to experiment with story-construction, from beginning to end.  The first manuscript I write, edited or not, is probably not going to be publication-worthy.  I am okay with that, which is why I decided that one of the main characters in my first manuscript will be a vampire.  It will not have to compete with the market and that is what I want to write about, so that is what I am going to do.  So there!

Secondly, I just want to mention something that I find ironic.  I love reading and I love vampires, but, honestly, I cannot think of a single book about vampires that I would give five out of five stars too.  I am not entirely sure why.  It just seems that even if I enjoy the story and the characterizations, I always end up disappointed – as though the author could have treated the vampire mythology just a little bit better.  Of course, I have not read every single book out there with vampire characters, and I am sure there must be at least a couple that would become favorites.  Nevertheless, my experience to date cannot provide me with such a book, with the one notable exception of Dracula by Bram Stoker himself.  However, Dracula works for an historical setting (today anyway), but I like my vampires to feel a little closer and that involves a contemporary treatment.

If I may momentarily set the novel aside, Joss Whedon is my hero and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (along with Angel and the irrelevant-to-this-discussion Firefly) is, in my opinion, one of the best shows every produced for television.  I wish I could find that in a novel.

I believe part of my desire to focus on the vampire is that the part of my brain which has never been introduced to my internal critic thinks that maybe I can do it “right.”  When I say that out-loud (or the written equivalent), however, that little guy takes note, glares at me and shames me into believing that I could never do that.  My inner critic’s opinion is irrelevant, though, since he is barred from reading my first manuscript.

Well, there it is… *Whew!*  I have come clean.  I like vampires.  I feel so much better having gotten that off my chest.  Now you, dear reader, know what you are getting yourself into and I can no longer be held accountable for leading you down a dark path that leads to a genre you hate.

My name is Marilyn and I am a vampire addict.

Categories: Pensive Ponderings, Planning, Random Ruminations, Reading, The Process, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

On not making my reader want to vomit

I have this awesome idea for a story.  I have mulled it over in head for almost 10 years.  I know the extensive backgrounds of many of my characters.  I can visualize several settings.  I understand, more or less, where the plot will ultimately take these characters.  I care a great deal about this world that lives inside my head.  This is not the story I will be writing. 

“Why the hell not?” you might ask.  I already know so many of the story elements.  I have already done a ton of research for it.  I already know what will happen.

Well, for those very reasons I will not be starting with this story that I have nurtured for so long.  I simply have too much invested in it.  Chris Baty, in No Plot? No Problem!, said one of the wisest things I have read thus far regarding the writing process:  At the current stage of my writing career I “should lower the bar from ‘best-seller’ to ‘would not make someone vomit.’” (Baty 2004:33).

I need to not be afraid of messing my story up.  I need to take that step that pushes me over the edge from “aspiring author” to “writer.”  I need to risk being horrible.  I need to shed all those fears that have held me back.  I need to be okay with the enormous possibility that my first novel will not be “best-seller” quality.  However, I am fairly certain I can write a book that will not make someone physically ill to read it.

Whether or not anyone actually will read it is another matter entirely.  This first step needs to be about me.  It needs to be about me reconnecting with that passion that drove me to write when I was younger.  It is about finding an outlet for that voice that screams inside of me, but is muted by my fears and self-doubt.  It is about developing a habit of writing and learning to trust that I can still write.

That said, it is important to remember that there is really nothing romantic about writing.  There are no tinkling bells, no magic fairies, and no perfect sentences.  Sometimes writing sucks…but when it doesn’t, it is awesome.  Heck, even when it does suck, it is still awesome.  Forcing myself to write my dissertation was really, really hard, and at first it seemed like the rest of my life would be about sitting in this tiny room in front of my laptop forcing words onto paper.  But little by little my chapters got written, and there is nothing like leafing through your manuscript to feel as though you have accomplished something incredible.  Some of those chapters came easier than others, but all of them turned out better than they seemed while I was in the process of writing them.

Amanda Hocking, ebook-author sensation, has a post about her perspective on writing.  She used to write whenever the mood hit her, which is a wonderful experience, but when she decided she wanted her career to be writing fiction, she had to make a paradigm shift and treat writing like work.  She started writing even when she didn’t feel like it.  Today she is a best-selling author with something like ten published books.  I do not expect to become a best-selling author like her, but I can take some pointers from her perspective.

Often, I feel like I have something I want to write.  Sometimes I sit down to write and sometimes I do not.  Often I become afraid of actually writing because I know it will not come out the way I want it to.  See, what I have in my mind and my heart does not often match up with what I get down on paper.  But it never will if I do not create a habit of writing, even when I do not feel like it.

The only way to become a better writer is by writing.  Reading about writing can only take you so far.  Researching your world or outlining your story can only take you so far.  Writers write and this needs to be true for me even when I do not feel like writing.  So, in the next week or so (after I finish that last dissertation chapter *grrr*), I am going to take a month and every day whether I feel like it or not, I am going to write.  And at the end of that month, I will have a manuscript.  I cannot guarantee it will be worth revising, but it will be a story.  I have never written a whole novel before and it has been years since I have finished any kind of fiction story, so this is my beginning.

Categories: Pensive Ponderings, Planning | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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