Friday, December 27, 2013

Fight The Fear

I've recently come down with a case of ending-terror, or what is basically the fear of writing the finale to my work in progress. I don't know where it comes from, but I do know when it starts - always when I slow down long enough to actually think of what I am writing. This happened after NaNoWriMo when I had just a handful of chapters left to write for my rough draft, and then took a small break where my brain had a chance to tell me lies about how much pressure there is.

In reality, there is no pressure, other than the pressure that I'm placing upon myself. I've received both good and bad feedback on my first published novel, and now I need to do the same process again. There is a deadline. I'd like to be done by the end of January. But, this fear in my head needs to go. Do you struggle with this fear of completing your art?

For now, I'm just going to plow ahead and hype myself up until I reach the end. I know how it's going to end. I know how things play out. I just need to put them onto the page. Ready? Here we go!

Friday, December 13, 2013

World Building

As I start to explore a few different ideas I have, I come now to the part of the creative writing process where research is essential and world building becomes the foundation of everything else I will write moving forward. A lot of people I've read say that it is easy to get tired of the world you start creating when it comes to fantasy, but I look at it more as a challenge and a framework that the rest of my narrative will hang from so that it doesn't just come crashing down when I reach something that I don't know how to explain.

My process of world building so far has been to look at how things work in our own world and then tweak them to fit my own. I've started a map of the two continents I am creating with names of towns and bodies of water, and then filling in information about all the cultures and peoples that will live in these areas.

I am also making profiles for all of my main players, which I haven't done so far in my writing journey, but decided that this time I would give it a try. So, I'm creating a binder of sorts and filling in all the information I might need for these characters - including pictures of people who are inspiration, etc. It's pretty fun!

So, if I am not updating on here, you know where I am - either work, or working on something that will hopefully end up being an epic novel before the summer. There's another few things in the works, and I will have to start organizing my time more wisely now that I've had a break from the writing marathon. Lots of creative muscles are being stretched in the evenings!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Wand Chooses The Wizard, Mr. Potter...

As NaNoWriMo came to a close, I found myself with a novel-length chunk of writing, which is the partial first draft of my sequel to Macyntire & Hough (untitled as of yet) - unfinished because I still have to finish writing the finale and the falling action, which is going to have to be muscled through because my brain is in break-mode right now.

I have three or four different projects I'd like to pursue in the coming year (more if I can type fast enough and edit competently), and one of these has recently come to the front of my mind, derailing everything else I had planned to work on. This fascination is one that hasn't been in my system for years, and that obsession is fantasy. I love epic fantasy, though I haven't had enough time or patience to really read a complete epic in a long time (since Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter).

As this new obsession takes over my imagination and writing time, I can't help but think of the famous quote that Ollivander told a young Harry Potter about wands, and how they choose the wizard - not the other way around. This is a lot like the inspiration process. All these characters living in this undiscovered world in my mind are just throwing themselves at me as I drive, as I work, and as I daydream walking through the house. I didn't ask for them, they just presented themselves, and I don't think they're going to be quiet until I work on them. It's amusing, and probably too early to say this, but the story I have in my mind is very similar to one that I came up with back in high school in my first ever creative writing class. That story didn't get farther than a single chapter in a notebook, but this new fleshed out version is pretty interesting to me, and I like the idea of trying a new genre once I finish my sequel to the paranormal romance properly.

Who know? Maybe I can world-build fast enough to type fast like NaNo and then have something to go over that is long and intricate by the spring. It will definitely help out with these cold months of being indoors.

For now, reading and listening to other great and behemoth fantasy works as inspiration. Here we go!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Thoughts On Allegiant (Divergent Series)

Veronica Roth has gone from getting tons of praise to getting tons of criticism from her fans, and many have moved on already. If you haven't read all three of the books in her Divergent series, and if you are thinking of reading them, this post will contain a major spoiler for the finale of the series in order to write about the topic I'm mulling over in my mind. So, this is the first time I type this on my blog...


Now that I've got that out of the way, let's proceed.

I love long series. I like how they allow you to get to know a character or a group of characters and see how their journeys progress. I loved Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (though I wasn't pleased with Order of the Phoenix), The Hunger Games, The Wheel of Time, and many others. When I love an author, they generally get all of my money because I need to have all their books in my collection. Even when I don't read them for years, I still rest easy because they are sitting on my shelf waiting for my attention. This is happening currently with The Legend of Drizzt, which I am so excited to read, especially in hard cover.

Now, I was one of those people who heard about this ridiculous best-seller, phenomenal sales, the next Suzanne Collins of the publishing world. There are always a few coming around the corner. Good for them. I'm curious to see what they have to say, so I get the first book in their series and give it a shot. I had to go to three different stores to get a copy of Divergent, because I didn't want to wait a million years for a copy to become available at the local library (I am a member at three in my area. The wait list was at least 100 people long in each location). So, I got a hard-cover copy for cheap at Bullmoose and started reading.

I really liked it. I like dystopian, ever since I checked out Lois Lowry as a child. There's something about seeing what an alternate world is like and thinking about how a dystopian world being presented could become a reality if x things in our own world were to align themselves just so. Divergent gives us the necessary heroine Tris, who we are to follow for three books. We like her a lot, and I certainly did. It looked like this series would have a long life ahead of it, even if it were three books total. Roth already had four short stories available for pre-order on Amazon, so I knew that she was going to try and milk her success for everything it was worth (which, I don't blame her. I would do the same thing!).

But, here's where I put the book down and stopped reading. It was inevitable that the third book in the series would be a disappointment. I looked at The Hunger Games and guessed that roughly half of the readers would be disappointed. But, in the Collins series, Katniss lives out beyond the end of the book, allowing readers to imagine what her life was like after the story ends.

Not so for Divergent. Again, spoiler alert for all of you stubborn folk. Tris dies at the end of the book. Not even at the end of the book - about 3/4 of the way through. You think, no, that can't be it. She'll be resurrected somehow to continue onward, but, alas, she is dead as a doornail.

I am not pleased with this ending both as a reader and as a writer. It was gutsy, as many have pointed out, but what is the point? It was obviously not worth the reading of three books to get to, according to all the reviews I've read. Let me dissect this idea a little of killing off your main character at the end of the series.

Imagine in Return of the King, if after following Frodo and Sam for the entire thousand pages and getting to the point where Sam must save Frodo from death on Mount Doom, that Sam slips and Frodo goes falling into the lava. He's gone, completely. Dead as dead can be. Wouldn't we be angry that we now have to follow Sam back through the rest of Middle Earth to the normal life that Frodo deserved to live out after destroying the Great Ring? Having your hero return using the hero's journey model is essential when creating an epic hero or heroine story. The hero did all the work, gaining our trust, fighting off all the odds to get to the finale. It is cheap to have your character just kick the bucket after all that work and not come back for the reader, especially when you have not introduced any other characters and their viewpoints up to this point in the narrative. It's like killing off Harry Potter and then having us follow Hermione as she grieves with Ron for another fifty pages. This is not the story we signed up for. We don't necessarily want it to be happily ever after, but at least the thought of the character(s) continuing beyond the book makes up for whatever horrors they face in the finale.

Killing off Tris takes away all the wonder of what would happen next if there were another book. There's a reason that people keep asking JK Rowling if there would ever be another book, and that's because they still care about what happens to the characters at the end of the story. Surely there are more stories to tell, and that is true. It's the mark of a great storyteller at the height of their craft. We want to know that the characters are all right. We want to know if they have a family later on, or if they are single and doing some sort of work. With Divergent, there will not be any of this speculation because the character has finished her mortal life. Unless she comes back as a ghost, this is the end of the line. We are forced to follow the wimpy love interest who has become backbone-less in this final installment of the series.

With the writing aside, there is a lot more resting upon this series than just the sale of books. There's the movies to think of, and I have to admit in my movie-theater-employee way that I believe this series will end cinematically after the first film. It isn't at the same level as The Hunger Games. I may be wrong, but judging by the reaction to the trailer (lukewarm to those who haven't read the books) and the reactions by the fans who have read the final book (expressing their feelings of betrayal at how it all ends), this is going to be a tough road to travel for this film series moving forward.

I don't want Frodo or Harry to die. I want them to live. I want the bad guys to die. That's the natural order of things when it comes to storytelling. Unless Darth Vader changes his ways at the end, evil needs to be defeated to some extent, and I need to see my characters I've loved for years come to the end of their trials with the rest of their lives ahead of them.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Holiday Shopping Battle

This post isn't really about writing so much as it's about the time of the year that I find myself in. It's inevitably the Christmas season now, and everyone is hurrying around trying to buy things. I told myself that this year I was going to get excited about buying presents for everyone, but now I find that when I try to go out and find the perfect gift for those on my list, I get very uninterested.


I think it is probably because I am burned out from all the shopping. I have been very good lately of not buying too many frivolous things for myself, and have kept track of all my bills from school, paying for things that are essential like a car, gas, and rent. But, now that I have to go out and find things that are supposed to be fun for others, I am stuck. My family is trying to alleviate the burden of shopping by doing a secret santa swap, thus giving me a limited number of gifts to find. But, I am more concerned with creating things this year, hence why most of my presents will be hand-made and probably of the book variety.

I took a few artist book classes at the university and made tiny books for each of my family members that year. They were beautiful, the best that I could have created, and they were one-of-a-kind. That's what made me excited to give them to the recipients, and that's what made my family love them so much. These gifts couldn't be purchased in a store. They came from my imagination and were filled with stories I remembered about each of the people getting a book. I hope to make some gifts like that again this year, and I am figuring out which style of book I want to create.

After the huge push to finish NaNoWriMo (I finished successfully!) I am burned out, not just when it comes to writing (that enthusiasm is slowly coming back as I near the finish of my first draft on The Sequel), but towards anything that requires me to put hard thought into something like shopping. I like my shopping to be stress-free. I like to browse, look at everything, and walk around the store with at least five different things until I decide on the single item I believe is best. I have no doubt that I will get done my Christmas shopping this year, but I just want to voice my concern that it's not really about the biggest item on sale for the cheapest price. Technology will fade. I know this personally this year because both of my Playstation 3 controllers are needing to be replaced! This time of year is about sharing the memories we have with our loved ones from the past year. If you can make a present for someone, I highly recommend it. You will feel great making it, and hopefully whoever gets the present will love it above all the others from Target. I certainly love hand-made gifts.

With all that said, if you need to brave the lines at the mall, good luck in finding a parking spot and also be safe out there! If it's between you and the man throwing fists for the plasma tv, just let him have it and pick up a good book instead. (I suggest a great classic!)