Writing Update: Art through the Chaos

Last week has been a chaotic one. Putting aside world events (like that whole mess at the Capitol) there’s been a lot of things that hit a lot closer to home. Things like Covid, paranoia, and living in the world.

Due to that, I freely admit that this hasn’t been the most productive week. How could I? How could any of us honestly?

Regardless, I did manage to make some progress. I made it a bit farther in my revision. My characters are coming along nicely and they’re also getting snarkier. The most surprising is my character Tanner Williams. When I reintroduced him in the revision, he had a lot more to say and couldn’t care less about anyone, especially his boss.

As things settle, I plan on setting up routines and quarterly goals. I hope to share those this time next week.

Happy Monday Everyone!

So Currently…(3)

Reading…

I’ve been reading more nowadays than I did in the whole of last month. I definitely needed lighter reads and on a whim, I decided to read Akilah Hughes Obviously. I really admire and respect her as a content creator and her biography was entertaining. I do have to admit that I wish there was more cohesion to how the book was structure. The beginning was great but the further in, I lost a little interest because the ideas seemed so random. I’m still happy I read it though!

Along with that, I recently started the novella The Black God’s Drum by P. Djeli Clark. I loved his book, The Haunting of Tram Car 015, and picked this one up because of the promise of sky pirates and African Orishas set in some steampunk post-bellum New Orleans. I’m only a few pages in but I’m hooked. I mean, how could I not, right?

Writing…

Oh yes, it’s actually happening this week. I always find editing and revision the most daunting part of writing (I know, doesn’t everyone). Right now, I’m reading through the first Grim History arc, Hunger & The Hanging Tree. Expanding and tweaking and retooling some of the plot points. I’m also starting to rearrange events to fit into the revised outline. After the first initial edit, I’ll go back and check for instances of passive voice and maybe get around to actually getting further into the second arc. A good way to procrastinate on editing is working on a point further along in the timeline.

Later in the week, I want to write a post actually discussing the specifics of this story rather than tease the title. It’s been two years so…

Watching…

I’m watching shows again. I tend to get into weird periods where I can’t bring myself to engage in TV shows or the like. Not due to lack of interest but due to my fear of commitment. When I watch things, I tend to get consumed by it if I really like it. Or can’t get into it completely because…I’m honestly not sure.

I’m currently watching Derry Girls which is putting out some absurdist comedy vibes that I can completely get behind.

I haven’t watched anime for a good while and now I’ve picked up three shows (two courtesy of Mother’s Basement Summer review list). Namely, Rent a Girlfriend (more character depth than the title will have you believe), The Misfit at Demon King Academy (comedy gold), and Fruits Basket (season 2 is giving me all the feels with its amazing character drama).

I hope you all have a lovely week ahead!

So Currently…

Reading…

I’ve been picking up and setting down several books these last few weeks. I recently finished a cute little comic by Lucy Knisley called Stepping Stones which is semi-autobiographical about the author’s time adjusting to a new family and the New York countryside when she was young. It was a cute little book and I’m always a huge fan of Knisley art and comic style.

I’ve also been jumping back and forth between The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and Lakewood by Megan Giddings. The former is a tome of a nonfiction book about the period of the Great Migration, where black people from the South moved up North to escape the Jim Crow caste system. Lakewood is a bit of a mystery at this point. I want to classify it as some psychological horror involving science experiments and the like but I’m not sure of its direction yet. It’s intriguing though.

Writing…

I’ve very tentatively started trying to edit my Hollow Grove series. I just can’t seem to get myself in the right head space for them (or writing in general to be honest). But I rewrote the intro of the Grim History (which I count as a win :)) and have dedicated more of my daydreaming towards the Festival of Shadows rewrite.

And blog wise! I’m here! I’m writing!

In my life…

Since this whole pandemic thing started, I’ve gotten really into cooking. The bug has always been there if my Youtube history is any indication. Recently, I’ve been studying Korean and Asian cooking and have experimented with a couple of recipes and foods.

I usually fail when I first try things. I tend to absorb a lot of info and then go off the cuff when I make a recipe. The Bibimbap I tried on Friday was a little off. It was mostly the way I prepared the vegetables and the Gochujang sauce I got from Target was actually barbacue sauce which is embarrassing. The sauce tasted good but was way sweeter than I was expecting.

But a couple of wins for the week included some fried potatoes I made for breakfast, a tex mex bowl with all the fixings (this time I added fire roasted corn and green salsa which made a HUGE difference) and a strawberry mug cake.

I’ll be talking about cooking way more in the future because it’s become such a big part of my life and it brings me so much joy thinking about recipes and experimenting with things in the fridge.

Add, Delete, Rearrange & Re-imagine

Let’s begin with a sentence.

The first sentence gives you a direction. It may not always be the first sentence. Revision could take it from its pedestal, maybe even erase its existence entirely with a few careless keystrokes. Add, delete, rearrange and re-imagine.

Right now, the first sentence tells me that I needed to start somewhere and made itself the star. It made me choose between first and second person with the tumble of thoughts afterward making the decision for me. But where does this go now? How do I structure my meandering? How do I give logic to something that was one in the stream of my consciousness?

So let’s begin the process anew: add, delete, rearrange, and re-imagine.

 

This week, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the structure of narratives. The process of digging through trash to unearth gold and working in enough spit and polish to make it shine. The more I write, the more I think. The more I think, the more I see myself as a butcher in a dark room readying my knife for the first hacking.

Structure, in my head, is the method by which you connect the plot by a cohesive string. That line might run through every way in loops and dips and over the edge in zigzag patterns but when you step back to connect the dots, you should see the whole picture. As I near the end of my first drafting, I keep asking myself where’s the string. I’ve written a lot of words, made a lot of snap decisions, and used the line of my pen as my guide as I navigate through a world that I’m building up and tearing apart. I’m trying to make sense of the surreal horror of thought before me so that I can carve it into something others will understand. Maybe even enjoy.

As I’ve often heard, the first draft is you telling yourself the story; giving the initial structure to the jumble of words and images in your head. Revision bakes in the themes and allows you to experiment with storytelling, or at least allows you to imagine such things: First or third? This setting or that setting? Beginning here or beginning there? This action or that action? And as the writer, what is my role? As a narrator, am I the same person?

So much to think about and so much more still. And I’m still at stage one.

Revision, History, and Other Things I’m Trying Not to Think About Right Now

It’s been a pretty productive week for me. Consequently, it’s also been a terrible one for my characters. I managed to push through the spot I was stuck on last week. I’m in the middle of putting the pieces together for the main crux of Grim History’s first arc. They’ve gathered in one place, now I have to keep pushing them along.

The story is rough at the moment. Despite being on my mind since 2017, Grim History is still a first draft. Everything is new, uncharted territory. Often imagined, never dedicated to words. It has a ton of issues. I’m painfully aware of it but I’m resisting the temptation to look back and start editing. The last time I started to do edits before finishing the story, I decided the whole thing needed to be reworked. I started at square one again. I’ve got a nasty habit of throwing the whole thing away when I get hung up on one issue.

I’m getting into the habit of writing down perceived issues in a separate document and then moving on. Maybe a note or two on improvements but not too much else. And trust me, there’s no shortage of them. In the document, they’re broken down into the following categories: Setting, Characters, Plot, and Structure. Pretty self-explanatory, right? I plan on going into more detail about each in other blog posts but “Setting” has been especially on my mind this week.

Though Grim History isn’t strictly a historical fiction, I still want to ground it in a specific time and place in American history. Admittedly, I’m not a puritan for historical accuracy. Historical accuracy is hard to judge in fiction (or media in general) especially as our understanding of the past keeps evolving. And also, that concept violently lunged itself out the window since this particular story is teeming with spirits, vampires, and other supernatural creatures that influence the events on this make-believe historical setting. But I do want enough information that a reader can believe its in a specific time and place. The time is more or less set—the early 1840s–but I’m starting to flip flop on where it takes place.

First draft wise, this isn’t important. The details will come in through revision and tons of research. Two things that I won’t commit to until after the first draft.

So that’s where I am at the moment. I’m currently 15 parts into the story and still going strong. I predict the climax is a good three parts down the line though. My goal is to get Arc 1 finished by mid-July.

We’ll see how that goes.

Floundering in a Sea of What-Ifs

These last few days I’ve been stuck on an issue. The next chapter of my current project, “Hollow Grove: The Grim History,” is when I have to bring a lot of pieces together but I’m getting stuck on how to tell it and who should tell it.

“The Grim History” is a dark fantasy mystery set in Hollow Grove, a town within the Texas Republic in the early 1840s.  Sebastian Calderòn is brought in by the town’s founder, Goodwine Hollow, to become the official record keeper and discovers more about its history and the darkness that hovers about it.

The story will be told from multiple perspectives. Up till this point in the drafting process, there’s been two: Sebastian Calderòn’s (personal journals and eyewitness accounts) and Isadora Lynton’s (private diaries). More will be incorporated as the story progresses and I’ve been toying with the idea of mixed written mediums. The latter is more of a vague concept at this stage but I’m jotting down ideas. Other than the various perspectives, there’ll be official records like census records, death accounts, doctor’s notes,  and first & third person accounts from “unknown” persons. At this moment, I only have a story outline that I’ve deviated a lot from already. The original arc’s 12 chapters are now 17 (and counting).

And now I’m stuck. I’m contemplating how to tell a certain event. I’m at the point of saying screw it all and just writing whatever comes. That’s my normal process. Write whatever and loathe it entirely. The benefit of this approach is that I get a better idea of what I don’t want to do. It’s better than floundering in an endless sea of what-ifs.

The Chaos of Thoughts & A Mountain

I’ve been struck by a bolt of lightning this month. With the rains and flooding happening in my state, it was bound to happen eventually. Now the ghosts of stories’ past visit me in my sleep. And I can’t introduce a topic without metaphor and prose. Tis the tragedy of an addled brain.

But in all seriousness, creatively I’ve hit a bit of a stride. For over a year, the voices in my head refused to speak to me. Mutters and stutters of thought sometimes broke through but what they offered was always disappointing. I wrote but then I looked back on what I wrote and hated it. I carved away chunks–a scene here, some dialogue there, maybe a few chapters and an outline–but I always looked up at the mountain. It was tall, imposing, it’s peak somewhere hidden in the clouds. And knowing what I had to do compared to what was done was disheartening and writing hurt physically.

But these past few weeks have been productive. I’ve been focusing on my Grim History project surrounding the town of Hollow Grove. It’s been through a bunch of name changes. First, “Notes of An Outsider”, to “Dark & Grim Lore of Early Hollow Grove”. I settled on Hollow Grove: A Grim History but that too might change. I’m about 78% okay with it which compared to the others is better.

A part of my malaise was because I had a tendency to chuck chapters wholesale. My revisions became rewriting without referencing the first draft at all outside of major plot beats. So I completely discounted the months of work past me did because present me was pretentious.

Instead of that, when I gave Grim History a second look, I decided to incorporate elements from the multiple drafts of it. Not copying and pasting them wholesale. I had it opened in a second window while I typed what I liked on the other. It allowed me to fill in the holes from the first draft and incorporate ideas that I have now after the story marinated itself in my head for a year and a half. Right now, I’m 12 parts in and still going strong.

I also had to remind myself that what I’m working on doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to exist first.

So that’s the update this week.