Monday, March 28, 2016

The Blob

     Last October I finished the first draft of my YA paranormal fantasy, Caribou Canyon. I'm sad to say that it took about two years to write. There are three reasons for this. The first is that there were several breaks in there for major things like surgery and moves and other life events. The other reason was that it was a pretty polished first draft so I took a lot of time going over each chapter. The final reason is that I did no outline (I don't outline first drafts and I stand firmly by this decision to fly by the seat of my flower-print skirts) so it turned out to be 250k words long. Yeah, you read that right. And that's with the ending summarized, so in actuality it should've been more like 260k.

     I put it down for awhile, since this is apparently a thing one is supposed to do. I've recently considered serializing it, which I'm sure everyone already knows because you are all loyal and faithful readers.  I've started reading it and making notes. My hope was that I'd be able to shorten it. I remember having several ideas of ways to shorten it. One of my friends from writer's group said that the longer it got the more likely it would be that I would be able to chop stuff off of the beginning.

     Well, after reading the first three chapters here are what some of my notes look like:

     • There needs to be something in between these two chapters
     • It sounds like I'm skipping ahead
     • I need a scene through this character's POV
     • I need to write this out instead of summarize it

     I've decided this is not my fault. Sure, it's my story, but it's not my fault it keeps getting bigger and bigger. You see, it's a paranormal story so there's an element of the paranormal at work here. This morning I suddenly found myself reminded of my childhood, when my parents were going through a divorce. My dad wanted to be the cool dad, so he let my sister and I watch every god awful horror movie ever made.

     There's one called "The Blob". I'm thinking of the one from 1988. Yeah. It's actually a remake of a movie from the '50s. Imagine my shock. "The Blob" is a really awful (though scary when you're around 9) movie about this giant blob of red stuff that just keeps getting bigger and bigger and consuming everything and anything in its path, including people. The more people it devours, the bigger it gets.

     My story is like the blob. I feed it words and the words multiply. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger all by itself. There's no stopping it. I've created a monster. A wonderful, awesome monster, but a monster all the same.

     That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Crazy word counts are not my fault. Nope.

     So, while I've only read 3 of the 115 chapters I'm not sure if the serial format will work. I'm going to finish reading and taking notes and then make an outline (I'm not opposed to outlines for later drafts) and then decide. Since I'm thinking of new ideas I might find a way to break it up into 2 or 3 novels which would be a novel concept, in which case "The Blob" phenomenon is quite welcome.

     Or maybe it's "The Gremlins"? You feed it after midnight and then it multiplies? Hmmm . . .

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Semicolons on Saturdays and em dashes on Fridays

     When I first started writing fiction I was pretty frightened of punctuation, other than the standards: periods, apostrophes, question marks, and quotation marks. So those were pretty much the only things I used, other than commas (which I did not use correctly). After a few months of writing I realized I could not go on the way I was. My prose was dull and empty. My nights were cold and lonely. So I took the plunge and started to look up the rules. I started with the semicolon.

     I admit, I was always curious about the semicolon, but I was also afraid of her. She felt like an upperclass citizen. She was a country club girl and I was from the wrong side of the tracks. I didn't understand her and I was certain she would never understand me. But I just couldn't stop thinking about that beautiful little comma with the period above it. So I got to know her a bit. I tried her out a few times. I realized that she understood my writing in ways the comma never had, so I started to use her more and more.

     I'm ashamed to admit, but I started to overuse her, abuse her even. I didn't realize it at the time, but I made her do things she shouldn't have done. She was connecting clauses that weren't related closely enough to warrant being connected. I used her when I should've used a period instead. Sometimes she was in a paragraph multiple times and in three or four consecutive sentences. The poor little thing was probably exhausted. I didn't realize what I was doing until I put my manuscript down for a while and looked at it later. I was like, "Wow, this looks horrible!" Unfortunately, my solution was to pull away from the relationship. I used her and threw her away. My later drafts have very few semicolons. This is not okay either.

     After my wild fling with the semicolon I pretty much went back to the standard periods, commas, and question marks. Bor-ing. Again, I realized I needed to mix it up some more. I needed to put semicolons back into my writing, but moderately. I also needed to use ellipses and em dashes, both of which scared me even more than the semicolon once did. I've noticed that a lot of new writers make up their own rules for ellipses, so I was afraid I'd do that too. As far as the em dash goes, I only recently realized that it's a real piece of punctuation. I would see people use it and think, "Is that even allowable?"

     I looked up the rules of the ellipsis, and I think for the most part I'm using it correctly. Shocker, right? I'm sure my usage isn't perfect yet, but I plan to do a full edit solely for grammar when I'm satisfied with the content of my manuscript.

     I looked up the rules of the em dash, and unfortunately I did much the same thing that I did with the semicolon. I got really excited about the em dash and I began to overuse her. Not only was I overusing the em dash, but I was only using her correctly about 60% of the time. Poor em dash. I didn't mean to make her do things she wasn't meant to do. I discovered this when I gave my draft to my writer's group. I'm pretty sure my friend Elly was on the verge of ripping her hair out (or possibly mine). Another member of the group pointed out that I wasn't using nearly enough commas. That is a result of a years old fling with commas, where I of course used them and abused them and later threw them away.

     The lesson here is that when it comes to punctuation, I am a player. But I've seen the error of my ways. It's time to learn the rules and give the correct amount of attention to all the pieces of punctuation for the betterment of my writing and for the sanity of my friends.

     So while I am working on what will be the real and absolute for certain (I swear) final draft of my vampire novel I am reading many, many grammar books. I don't expect to memorize every rule there is, but I think I will absorb some things along the way so that when it comes time to do my grammar edit I can just use the books as references. And who knows? Maybe one day I will have the rules down pat so I can break them for the sake of metaphor. I love breaking rules.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I just remembered that I have a blog!

     Okay, so I didn't actually forget about it. That would be really bad, but I did put it on the back burner due to many stressful things. Actually, I think I might be experiencing blog block, which to tell you the truth is kind of a fun type of writer's block, only because the name is catchy. Blog block. But other than the catchy name, it's just as annoying as any other kind of writer's block and I'd rather not have blog block because I like my blog and don't want to neglect it. I'm going to try to cure my blog block (I just can't get enough of writing that) by talking about some of the things (though it really might be just one big thing) causing my blog block (blog block blog block blog block).

     At least I can say that my poor neglected blog has not been neglected for lack of ideas. I have a list on my iPad of blog ideas that has about twenty topics on it. Every time an idea comes to me I run and write it down. Some of those ideas have been on that list for months. Ironically, when it's time to write a post, I don't usually sit down and look at that list. Usually what happens is inspiration about something totally random strikes and I sit down and write about it. 

     So, ideas are not a problem.

     Pain is a problem. Stress is a problem. Stress and pain. Stress over pain, and stress over dealing with things involving pain. If you've been following my blog (thank you, loyal readers) then you're somewhat aware of these issues, but I don't really mention them that much. This is not an oversight. It sucks to talk about it. I'm in pain 24 hours a day and that sucks. Talking about it makes it real and it makes me vulnerable and nobody wants bad things to be real and nobody wants to be vulnerable. 

     My minor ankle sprain in July, 2014 wound up needing two surgeries. I developed chronic pain and chronic nerve pain (who knew nerves could hurt?) that probably resulted from compression after the second surgery (happens to about 5% of people) which may or may not be a specific type of chronic pain called Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome which is apparently worse than regular chronic pain. Whether it is or isn't CRPS, it sucks. It spread from my tiny little ankle down to my entire foot and up my leg to knee. It all has to do with the brain and spinal cord and nerves and connections (that's about as scientific as I can get). The pain's moving around so much that I'm running out of comfortable positions to lie in. 

     That's just a summary.

     Luckily my blog block hasn't stretched to my fiction writing. I'm still able to do that, though all my doctor appointments and being in pain are putting a damper on the amount of time/spoons (energy) I have. I think maybe it's harder to blog than write fiction because to me it feels more like actual work. Not that fiction writing isn't extremely difficult and energy draining, but it's fun world building. Whereas with blogging I feel like I need to be a lot more coherent and fully in the moment. Or something. I don't know. Well, hopefully this little post will get me going again. 

     Bye bye, blog block.