It is that time of year again. Time to write the family Christmas letter. For the last several years I have assigned myself the task as my mother quit writing them as she saw little to no point of letting people know what has been happening all year if the people weren’t willing to talk to us the rest of the year. Not to mention she was busy with other things. The first year I wrote what we did during the year, but really it was a boring exercise. Not only that there has been plenty of stuff I didn’t want to relive just to tell people in a Christmas letter.
So, I decided that the best solution was to make things up. I figured that if they really wanted to know how the year went they would call or write or contact us by some method to ask. It is also much more fun and I like to make things fun. The first year some people got upset because it wasn’t the truth. After that I have only been sending it to people who are interested in receiving it. And I always hope they have as much fun reading it as I do writing it.
I feel I should explain why I haven’t been posting when I had planned to be posting all year. Since having to move I have found myself battling my mental battles and it has been causing me to have trouble functioning, let alone writing. It is very much a myth that depression creates art. Instead it blocks creation of anything except negative thoughts. Negative thoughts tell you that making anything is pointless because it will never be good enough. But those thoughts are not useful for anything.
The best time for creating anything is when positive thoughts are buzzing around in the brain. That is when the muse is most likely to visit. I am trying to bring my brain around to that place. Hopefully this means I am posting far more regularly along with more writing done in general.
When finishing the first draft some people have found that the rewrite means they have to pare down their story. Most first time writers are assumed to have this problem and I have heard suggestions of taking out up to 20% of the excess. This has to do with overwriting. There was a time when a writer could fill pages with description without the reader complaining. Now the story needs to move along at a good pace and not be slowed down by too much description.
The opposite end of things some writers need to rewrite things in such a way as they add to the story. The story is too concise and the writer needs to add more to it to help the reader be in the story. Sometimes this means adding things like description because the writer leaves much of it out.
Both these require the writer to know enough about their style to know which they have to do when they get that far in their piece. Sometimes this is evident and other times it helps to have a beta reader.
I’m not big on change. I don’t like having to adapt to a different environment, even if it is a better situation to the one I was in. Unless I’ve had plenty of time to think about it and have decided that I really don’t like it. So, moving is something I really don’t want to do but there isn’t anything I can do about it. Especially since I collect books and those get heavy really quickly.
One of the things I am going to miss the most is the space. I am going to be rooming for the rest of the summer, which is a big step down from my two-bedroom apartment. One of things I appreciated most about moving into my apartment was not having to use my bedroom for my writing space. Now I will go back to sleeping in my writing space. I believe writers should have writing space that is different and away from other living space. But one has to have the money included in the quote to have “a room of her own”.
Writers get this advice from everywhere. Books, writing teachers, facebook posts, twitter tips, and “helpful” friends. I don’t know who started or where or what thought was behind it. I was very surprised when a writing instructor I had announced writing what you know was necessary. The lesson of the day was that you needed to know the smell, taste, sounds, textures, and sights before you can start writing about something. The whole class went to an area with more sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures than our regular classroom and we were supposed to write using those to show that we needed to write what we know.
But if I only wrote what I knew I would never write a word. Sure, I collect weird facts but those aren’t really enough to write whole stories on. I don’t even know my characters before I start the story. I get to know them as I write. Unlike a piece of advice I read, I don’t know the name of their third grade teacher. If I knew that the characters wouldn’t be a fun for me to write.
I came across the concept of literariness in the English course I took. The textbook (An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory by Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, 2016) brought it up when the authors were talking about creative fiction and how it connects to literature. They suggest that literature does not exist. Instead every work can be analysed for its literariness. This suggests that there is no specific genre for those people who are talked about in English courses. It also suggests that no work is beyond these types of discussion.
This makes sense to me as many readers do analysis all genres in similar ways to how is taught in English courses. However, attending those same classes the teachers push only one time of “genre”, or the belief that commercial fiction doesn’t deserve to be studied. Which is better than creative writing college teachers who pretend commercial fiction doesn’t exist. I think this is the wrong approach because anything that narrows focus is the wrong way to look at things. All genres bring some literariness and can provide insights to people.
The writing advice is to write with a reader in mind. The assumption is that the writer thinks up an audience before starting to write, so they are telling to story to someone specific. As the writer puts words on page, they are telling the story to this imaginary audience sitting across the desk from them. One author was using voice to text software and using it as part of his writing process to the point of not wanting to upgrade for fear the voice would change causing his audience to change.
When I write I don’t write to a specific audience, because I am just a channel for the character to tell me the story. I become the reader who I am writing for. The story is one I want to read, though at times the character goes off to places I am not sure about it. Usually by the time I reach the end of the story, I understand why they went where they did and it works for the story.
There are some of my stories where my only reason for writing it down was for my own entertainment. My western, Chenarcor, was me following the characters around and writing down what they did for my own enjoyment. Turns out that other people have enjoyed it as well, so it seems to be a good way for me to write. Other people do need that audience they are talking to when they write, which is okay as no one way works for everyone.
In an attempt to recover from the school year, I watched a large amount of action movies. One of these movies is True Memoirs of an International Assassin. Many movies can teach things to writers about writing if the writer is willing to pay attention, but that movie teaches couple lessons to writers about being a writer and not just about writing.
The first lesson is about the amount of research a writer puts into their story. Research is a great thing and can make the story feel realistic. However, too much is a bad thing. The story should not be easily confused with reality. There was one author who had to take a step back because his readers were using the methods his characters were using to do things they shouldn’t. It is good to do the research and it is good to have some realism in a story, but beware of the level put into a story.
The second lesson from the movie is to not let anyone bully you about your writing. We all dream of getting that phone call from a publisher demanding to let them publish our book. Many of us don’t know enough about the legal end of things to really understand many contracts. However, if the publisher is not willing to give you time to read over the contract and find someone who does know something about legal things to read it for you as well, you should back out of the deal. Otherwise it will not end well. And if the publisher puts out your fiction book and non-fiction, you should consider legal action.
One of the projects for this semester was to put together a chapbook with contributions from other people. Everyone in class was to start with request for submissions and write letter of acceptance and then create the actual book. This is the most fun I have had on a school project in years.
Back in January I was looking for something to read that involved dragons, so when this project came up I decided my theme would have something to do with dragons. My title became Dragons in Winter and that is what the stories needed to be about. Fortunately, I have people in my life who were willing to submit stories and a theme people were willing to submit to.
I really enjoyed getting and reading other people’s stories. Because I only had four submissions I didn’t have to send out any rejection letters, even if I had to write one for turning into the teacher. Then at the end I had another book put out through Lit-N-Laughter. It makes me want to make more.