Category Archives: Writing & Literature

The Reading List #3

Oh yes, it’s another one of these again! Why? Because I have been getting very behind on my reading as of late. I don’t need to explain why this is at all (I’ve gone from having too many hours in the day to too few), but the fact remains that I still have a lot of books from Christmas left to read, plus some very new ones.

An update on where I left off (which was all the way back in October of last year). I made headway with Less Than Zero and read Imperial Bedrooms twice as the result of nearly two months of read trips with my dad. I’ll be reviewing these nearer the end of the month. ChokeInvisible Monsters and The Informers were also some picks of mine, with reviews to come, but the fact remains that there is still an awful lot left on my shelf to read. Considering months seem a lot shorter than they used to, though, I doubt I’ll be finishing all of these any time soon. Some of the books I’m hoping to sink my teeth into, and soon, though, are as follows:

On the Road
On The Road – Jack Kerouac

Reading about this book gives the sense that it is an important literary work. I probably won’t be able to dispute this in the slightest; and Beat literature is something I’ve been wanting to delve into for a while. There is something about Kerouac’s On The Road that captures my imagination, but other than this, I’m not entirely sure of what to expect – good things, of course, and fascinating things, and if some reviews are anything to go by, the same sense of freedom and wanderlust perpetuated by Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum DiaryI bought my copy today, so more on this to come very soon.

Cathedral

Cathedral – Raymond Carver

There are an awful lot of Carver’s books that I want to read, Cathedral is placed here because of all the great things I have heard about it. Minimalism is something that fascinates me, so the idea of exploring Carver’s stories is an exciting prospect for me and, I feel, important in understanding the technique. The prose might be a refreshing or welcome change, and I’m quite looking forward to it, and to immersing myself in it.

Glamorama

Glamorama – Bret Easton Ellis

I guess I lied previously when I stated that I only had The Informers and Imperial Bedrooms left of Ellis’ work to read. I guess I was ‘young’ and didn’t know. Regardless, I’m pleased to say that I received a copy of Glamorama for Christmas, but haven’t yet gotten around to reading it. The fact that it is nearly 600 pages long wasn’t really off-putting to me, but at the same time, I do feel as though I will really need to throw myself into this book to gain anything from it. Not a bad thing at all, but there’s a kind of build-up to this book. Honestly, with the way things are going, I have a sneaking suspicion that it may just take all of September for me to finish. Get ready for one hell of a review when I do.

The Road

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

I’ll admit it. I found out about The Road by way of the Fallout Wikia. It may be a step away from the usual for me, but more than likely a pleasant one. I read the first couple of pages as soon as I bought it, but didn’t continue. This had nothing to do with how I felt about the book, just that it was at a time when I was attempting to read about three different ones and wasn’t giving any of them the attention required. There is something incredibly haunting about what little I have read of McCarthy’s prose, though, so I would quite like to see this in full force and intend to do so very soon.

Survivor

Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk

A while ago, when I first started to get into Palahniuk’s work, I was also watching a lot of 9/11 documentaries on television – the end result of watching these documentaries was a kind of paranoia that every time I left the house something horrible was going to happen. This may have had some bearing as to why I didn’t even consider reading Survivor, but the paranoia has since passed and I’m looking to get back on a bit of a Palahniuk bender, starting with the above. I’m already fairly sure that I’ll breeze through this – Chuck’s novels all seem to have the same effect on me – and I’m hopeful of the prospects.

So, this is my offering for the time being; and if anyone has any recommendations they’d like to shoot me way based on the above, feel free; I welcome new reading material at every opportunity. I suppose that this means a number of book reviews will start popping up from time to time, and of course, I have plans. Oh yes, I have plans. For the time being, though, I’ll hopefully be steadily working through these books for the duration of September until the madness of October hits, and afterwards – of course – NaNoWriMo. I’m getting ahead of myself. This list should keep me busy for quote some time yet.

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Changes …

I suppose I should have probably put this in the ‘Inane Thoughts’ category, but it really does have … something … to do with writing. Obviously, I’ve been making a lot of changes to this place recently, and I’ve been through a lot of changes in the past nine months or so as well.  I don’t really know how relevant any of that is. But the more I look back at old pieces, the more I’m starting to consider whether these changes in my life have actually been reflected in my writing.

I’ll start with style and tense, though, because to me, this is the most obvious change. Upon looking back at things written pre-2012 I’ve noticed mostly that it was almost impossible to tear me away from third person past tense. I wrote everything in third, I guess because it was comfortable, because it was what I had been used to reading and it was comfortable enough for me to write in.

Now, I just can’t stand it.

I don’t mean for this to be insulting to anyone who writes in third person past, because I don’t mean I hate this type of narration. I’m just not comfortable writing in it anymore. And for me, this is more than a little strange because it’s all I wrote in for nearly a decade. Like I said, it was comfortable. It was straightforward. I liked that as much as anything else.

Really, I couldn’t tell you what my issue with it is now. I feel slightly out of my comfort zone when I try to revert to it, not that I wouldn’t like to try, and as though there’s something missing. There’s a connection I’m not making because of the way I’m writing the story. And I start to consider how each story could have been so different if it was just written in a different way; I mean, there are some that probably wouldn’t have worked, but a number that would have, and these seem a little like missed opportunities to me. I also feel as though there’s something I’m not quite reaching or tapping into that I desperately want to, and that the narration is important in relation to this.

Anyway, self-indulgence over for the time being, I suppose what I’m really getting at is how much does narration and style really govern? As I’ve stated above, there are times when I feel as though the direction of an entire story hinges upon it. But then, are there novels that would remain almost the same regardless of how they’re told? I’ll use a very well-known example here; how different would the Harry Potter novels have been if they’d have been written in first person? Considering J.K. Rowling followed Harry for the most part (and yes, I did read these, even though they’re not my usual ‘bag’, but it was quite a while ago now, so the details are probably off anyway), how much would this have impacted the story? Then, on the other hand, we have a favourite of mine, American Psycho, which would not be the same novel if written from a different perspective, and there is no way around this. If Tim Price was telling the story, it would have been impossibly different. It probably wouldn’t have been titled American Psycho either, though, because in Price’s mind, Patrick Bateman doesn’t butcher women in his apartment. Price just doesn’t know anything about this. 

I digress (if only slightly). The easiest answer to the question would be that it depends entirely on the novel, and to some degree, it does, but I do think it also depends on the writer. There are certain hallmarks we come to associate with certain writers; so it’s not too far-fetched to guess that this is also the case from a more personal standpoint. Part of writing, in and of itself is, after all, establishing your own voice as a writer, as well as allowing your characters to establish theirs. I would guess that this has a little something to do with knowing yourself before getting to know anyone else; knowing yourself as a writer before getting to know the people you’re writing about. Because no matter which voice you use, it’s never entirely possible to shake the feeling that you’re still telling someone else’s story. You’re writing  about them, not  as them. (Oh, look, I switched into second for a while, there).

And I have to wonder, is this really anything more than drunken rambling?But it’s been bothering me for a while now. So I suppose I just had to get it out there.

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I Can’t Help You With That Embarrassing Problem, I’m Afraid

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Last month’s Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain was excellent, very fun, and I couldn’t wait  for this month’s. Yesterday’s post was by Miriam Joy at A Farewell To Sanity and before that, Kirsten at Kirsten Writes! Both of whom have written really entertaining posts with some hilarious, and sometimes baffling search terms involved.

So, I am afraid to say that I don’t have nearly as many entertaining search terms. Mostly anyone who finds my blog via a search engine seems to type in entries such as ‘eat sleep write repeat’ or ‘felicity-zara stewart wordpress’, which all in all are pretty likely to redirect here somewhere along the line. Yet because of this, when strange search terms do come along, I tend to notice it quite quickly.

The first strange term was quite an early one, and while it does make sense in context, it’s far more entertaining out of it. One visitor in particular wanted to find details on;

‘Patrick Bateman lifestyle’ 

Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that my blog is a handy all-in-one guide on how to live life as a psychopathic Yuppie who does unmentionable things to women by way of starving rats. But if it was, then I can certainly see why this search would yield results.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), my blog isn’t an all-in-one guide on how to live like a psychopathic Yuppie at all. It is but a humble writing blog, you won’t find that much torture and misogyny here (or at least not intentionally). My apologies to whoever managed to find my blog while obviously searching for something much more visceral, though; I have a feeling that reading about the writing pursuits of a certain 19-year-old aspiring author isn’t exactly what they were going for with that one. This review might prove useful, though.

The next is more than a little odd, and possibly inappropriate, too. Cover your eyes, kiddies;

‘Balls sleeping accidentally exposed’

I …  don’t have anything witty to say about this one off the top of my head, as every time I read it, it seems to make less sense. I just don’t understand this search term.

What I mean to say is; dear visitor, I am very sorry to hear about your embarrassing predicament, even though I can quite honestly say I have never found myself in such a position. This is primarily because I lack male genitalia, but also … well, no, actually, it is just because I’m a girl.

The strangest part about this search term, however, is that I really have no idea how it relates to my blog. I’ve never posted tips on how to avoid this issue, having never suffered from it myself, and in living memory, I’ve never written about anything dealing with it, either. Until today, I can’t even remember whether the word ‘balls’ appears on this blog (maybe in a quote, I’m not sure). Okay, so that book review might have had something to do with it … somewhere along the line? Very, very vaguely connecting point A (the search term) to point B (the review) is the underlining fact that the book in question is ‘about’ the porn industry. That said, I doubt exposure is a worry in said industry. More the whole point.

Next up, we have;

‘Nanowrimo cannibalism’

I swear, you couldn’t make these up.

I mean, what in the heck is NaNoWriMo cannibalism? Oh, yes, today I decided that I was going to live on a healthy, and somewhat sustainable diet of human body parts while writing like a maniac. Is that it? Or … the … you know what? I just can’t get my head around this one at all. It pains me to say this, but I’m not writing about cannibalism for this year’s NaNoWriMo (at least not yet), although I have encountered a few characters who have made cannibalism a part of their lifestyle.

And finally,

‘M love a’

Probably the most baffling one yet. As in, I don’t even have a book review (because, yes, my oddest search terms have all related to my book reviews) to link this one to, or understand what it is that this person was actually trying to ask, let alone what they were trying to find.

Honestly. I don’t think I could even guess at what m loving a actually pertains to, unless it’s some kind of special code, or initials. Could be that ‘Mia love Anthony’ … or ‘meerkat love ants’? Yes. This search term is really that strange to me.

So my take on this? The people who reach my blog via search engine are either psychopaths, people with extremely obtrusive genitals or cannibals.

I also have a feeling that several of my visitors were sorely disappointed when they searched for ‘Jannah Reid’ most likely in the hope of hitting on one of the websites included in the 90% that are porn sites. Don’t ask how I know that. It could be why I’ve been getting some rather strange notifications on my computer as of late, though …

These are probably the most notable results I’ve … well … noticed, but some worthy mentions go to;

‘Where do jackals sleep’ – I couldn’t honestly tell you. I might be able to tell you where they lie, though. My apologies, that was absolutely terrible … this blog isn’t ideal for nature enthusiasts.

‘Hunter S. Thompson sleep’ –   not really sure what they were getting at with this one, not surprised they ended up here, though.

‘Eat write or die’ – well, that’s quite an interesting form of self discipline. I don’t doubt that it gets results.

‘Writing and droning’ – how nice of you to point out that this is what I do most of the time.

‘4 storey freefall’ – something I can help you with, dear visitor! I’m not sure how the 4 storey part relates, though. But if you want to know about someone falling at least 1,000 feet, I’m your girl.

So, there you have it; the weird and sometimes wonderful world of my stats page. As a part of the blog chain this month, a quick NaNoWriMo update;

I hit 50k late on Thursday evening. I’m nowhere near done with my story, though. Actually, I don’t want to be done with it; I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been struggling to even get 14k done over the weekend, but this has much more to do with time than it does my novel. So right now, I’m sitting on 66k and barely halfway through, in love with even the characters who are despicable human beings, and not looking forward to the end because … damn it, I just don’t want to say goodbye. I guess that’s what editing is for, though …

So that’s me punching in and out for the month! I urge you all to check out the following blogs, as they’ll all be coming up with some excellent posts, with far more interesting and amusing search terms than mine, throughout the course of this month!

November 5th —http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com/– Kirsten Writes!

November 6th — http://delorfinde.wordpress.com – A Farewell To Sanity

[You Are Here] November 7th — https://thelitjunkie.wordpress.com – Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat

November 8th — http://alohathemuse.wordpress.com – Embracing Insanity

November 9th — http://noveljourneys.wordpress.com/ – Novel Journeys

November 10th —- http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com/ – Red Herring Online

November 11th — http://taystapeinc.wordpress.com – Tay’s Tape

November 12th — http://herebefaries.wordpress.com/ – The Land of Man-Eating Pixies

November 13th – http://randominmind.wordpress.com – Random On My Mind!

November 14th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/ – This Page Intentionally Left Blank

November 15th — http://herestous.wordpress.com – Here’s To Us

November 16th— http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com –  The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

November 17th — http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com – Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for the next month’s chain)

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Underworldly: The Start of Something Very Strange …

Once upon a time, there was a slightly disturbed twelve-year-old girl. This girl liked to write. She liked to write, and she liked to watch anime, and she somewhat liked to read, although most of the time she only read Harry Potter, and some assorted fan fiction written by people she knew on online forums. This post, as well as the Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain inspired me to go digging around for this story again. I remembered the URL vaguely, and was actually quite stunned to see that the Freewebs site I created is still up and running after 5 years of neglect … quite honestly, this isn’t the first time since its creation in 2006 that I’ve visited, just out of a strange, nostalgic curiosity that takes me back to what was an even stranger time, in my eyes.

Nanuko: an example of the villain protagonist.

So I’ll start with this: if you want to read it, you can read it here, but I really wouldn’t recommend doing it for your own sanity. Or if you value your eyes, because this is most likely to make them burn. Unlike most of my earliest writings, this is something I made very easy to access, because it was so damn good. I was assured that this was the best thing that I’d ever written – perhaps somewhere, some part of me took this to mean that this was the best thing written by any twelve-year-old ever. I was encouraged to write more, and write more I did … in a way, Underworldly grew into something that became more and more difficult to control, and this, combined with my computer dying spectacularly one day (I, too, have a venomous hatred for the Blue Screen of Death), and what my fourteen-year-old self considered quite a serious relationship (ha!) was probably what drove me to abandon it.

I was desperately proud of this story, though. It was my finest work, at the time, a story I was most definitely going to get published, that my parents encouraged me to get published, that was going to make it. I find it funny, actually, how this seems to be the case with every new piece I write; Dragon Badlands was going to be an incredible breakthrough piece. Underworldly, as I have just mentioned, was going to sell, and sell, and sell to people like me. Butterfly Black was this incredible, inventive idea that nobody else could write … nobody else, it seems, but Chuck Palahniuk. Contempt for The Blind is … a difficult one to place, but I had a great feeling about it, so positive, yet when I was describing the entirety of it to my ex it just seemed a little asinine. Where Jackals Lie was just something I was desperate to get out on paper, and I’m not sure I ever really felt as though it would go anywhere.

Anyway, I didn’t know, at this time, how much of a hack the idea was, or how cliché the characters were, and the historical accuracy? Well, my young self didn’t see much of a need for this at all. The names were made up ones that sounded Japanese, and bore a striking resemblance to the names of some of the characters from Naruto (I never really watched much of it as they pulled it from TV over here before I could) … never mind the fact that it was, essentially, a re-hash of Samurai Champloo. Never mind I stole heaps of plot devices from Bleach. Never mind countless other references, and probably a lot taken from Fullmetal Alchemist somewhere along the line … I really used to be quite obsessed with anime.

Unlike Dragon Badlands, though, I don’t really want to let Underworldly go, not just yet. If I’m being honest, it was the first piece I ever wrote that really enabled me to come to terms with who I am as a writer; it was the first piece to give me some genuine form of direction, that time when I knew what I could and could not write, and ever since then, I’ve been playing up to the idea that what I write always will be very dark. Of course, everything was still a little convoluted – in terms of writing, I wanted too much, too soon. I was trying for more complexity than was really needed for, or was of any benefit to the story, adding in themes and ideas that only a really messed up twelve-year-old could think about.

For the most part, Nanuko, the central character, turned out to be a Freudian nightmare with serious mommy issues. Of course, I thought I was being quite original, having the once-normal-if-slightly-messed-up boy’s soul being ‘tainted’ by a vengeful Hell-demon, thereby making him the villain protagonist, who then goes on to join forces with the assassin hunting him, as well as the attractive female action girl who shouldn’t have any real reason to follow him, seeing as he slaughtered the entirety of her home town. I’m not denying this one thing, however; I thoroughly enjoyed having my good guy be the bad guy. In terms of protagonists, since this point, I have never really been able to settle on a central character who always has truly altruistic motives, or does things that are considered ‘good’ all of the time. It is not so much that it’s just that much more fun to be the bad guy, or shall we say, to write the bad guy, as it was that by this point in my life, I think I had become disenchanted just enough to know that life is not black and white. Why should I have characters that are?

Similarly, Nanuko was always the outcast, when he was human, that is. He was ‘that weird boy from the village’ at fourteen, although later on I would note that he was most likely deemed the weird boy because his father was the King of Hell. I know. I know. Not content with having him be an evil demon himself, I had to make sure that he was an evil demon before he got ‘sewn’, too.

Even after all this time, though,  the strangest thing is that I have this warped desire to rewrite Underworldly. It’s not something I’d ever consider publishing, or even self publishing, but may prove to be either a challenge, or just a little nostalgia and a little fun. I want to rewrite it because I see at least some potential there, masked by dust, bad characterization, a lack of research and a lot of influence. I feel that there are still places I could go with it, even if I’m not going to take it far, and that I could, almost, show my twelve-year-old self what-for. Strange and a little pathetic as that may sound, there is something at the back of my mind (not the salvages soul of a Hell-demon) telling me that I could take this somewhere – that it’s a disservice to abandon it. 

There have been several attempts to revive this, though, since I originally abandoned it in, I believe, early to mid-2007. The first, notable attempt was during an art course at college that I later quit … I do believe this attempted rewrite had something to do with it, but that could just as easily have been my growing dissatisfaction with the course coupled with the feeling that I had made the wrong choice. The second attempted rewrite came after I had changed colleges and courses; after I had become a little too obsessed with Assassin’s Creed II and took Nanuko out of his home base of what was probably feudal Japan and placed him firmly as an artist in Renaissance Italy who is killed and then revived for sleeping with the woman he was supposed to be painting (daughter of some wealthy land owner or something like that). This rewrite was probably just an excuse to do some research on the subject of Renaissance Italy, and never worked out, although the concept is something I’ve brushed over time and time again since. Unfortunately, setting anything in a time other than the here and now has never really been my strong suit.

Speaking of which, I have a feeling I tried to resurrect Nanuko in the world of Where Jackals Lie once, too. Characters and everything. A hack in and of itself, and one that I hand wrote maybe ten chapters of before realizing nothing exciting had happened. At all. I dropped it.

It’s a strange feeling, though, having a work I keep coming back to. It doesn’t happen often, though this is mostly because I’ve shelved the works I have finished and mostly forgotten about the ones I haven’t. I’m not denying that Underworldly was pretty terrible, but I’m not denying that I wrote it when I was twelve, either – I had a lot of growing to do as a writer. This is no excuse, of course, but it makes sense of it. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that causes me to keep such a soft spot here for Underworldly By all accounts, I shouldn’t. I should want to bury it deep and pretend it never existed. I can’t. Perhaps it is because I received such good feedback for it, or perhaps just because I felt a significant sense of having evolved. Suddenly finding my way, even for a brief second – and it was around the age that I wrote this that I started to develop some kind of identity for myself. Ultimately, I was desperately proud of Underworldly, for all its faults, for everything that shouldn’t have belonged in that manuscript.

I’ve loved the projects I’ve worked on since, but they’re all done and dusted. Underworldly isn’t. It has somewhere to go, and I doubt I’ll forget about it until it has gone there.

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Free Fall Fridays #2

First of all, yes, I did forget to do this last Friday, but honestly, there wasn’t much of an advance in plot anyway.

Last time, I mentioned how this story has hijacked my thoughts. This has only gotten worse over the course of the past couple of weeks, to the point that, not only am I dreaming about people falling from great heights, but my subconscious appears to be leading me to watch television shows where a similar thing happens. This most likely isn’t great for what little sanity I still have … I am looking forward to NaNoWriMo quite a lot, but it’s almost as though my mind sees fit to remind me that, ‘hey, you’re writing about people jumping off buildings this year’ every chance it gets. This would be fine … if I wasn’t almost done plotting. By almost done plotting, I do mean that the basics are all done; I have my short stories, and I have the story that ties them all together written down.

What comes next? Characters! I feel that it is more integral that I know my characters well this year than it has been any other year, or with any other project at all. This is not to say that I’m normally lazy when it comes to character construction – it’s a process I genuinely enjoy, half the time I create characters without needing to, so it’s not as though I find this an arduous task. There’s a whole other level of engagement I’m going to need with them, this time around, though.

My usual style of narration is third-person, past tense; this doesn’t discount the need to get to know characters so well, but it does mean that the narration is, distinctly, in my own style. I use language as I usually would, without too much deviation from what would be considered the ‘standard rules’ of grammar and spelling. While not being necessary for spoken exchanges between characters, it fits in well enough with the style of writing.

For a series of short stories, each centered around a rather different character each time, however, I feel that this has to change. I plan on playing around with the narration in each story; most being first person, some being second person, and the storyline that runs throughout being third person limited. This means that I am tasked with making each character ‘seem’ different, or taking into account the fact that not every character will narrate their own story in the same way. What does the way in which their story is written say about their personal background? Their level of education? Their career choice? Does it suggest an accent other than where the story is set? Why or why not? For the most part, these are things that I’m taking into account as I embark on the next step of my novel journey; characterization. It’s normally something I do right away, but in this case, is that much better left until last.

For me, creating a character starts, primarily, with a character sheet. How detailed the sheet is is mostly dependent on the character and their role; a primary character will usually have a more detailed sheet than a character who only has, maybe, two lines of dialogue and a paragraph description in the entire novel. That said, I usually try to avoid characters that are this minor, unless I’m placing my main cast in a densely populated area; a packed out bar or club, a roadside, a protest march … other than that, I don’t see the point in needlessly inserting ‘that twenty-something with the blonde hair who Bryson glimpsed once and never saw again.’ The things I like to get down first are their personalities, and how I think they might react to a certain social situation. The Myers-Briggs personality test is a handy resource for this, as are the multitude of personality tests floating around on the Internet. Of course, the results don’t always have to be followed to the letter, and the tests always work best if you have some idea of the character beforehand, but they can give some useful insight; for example, my primary character this year, Courtney, is an ESTJ, the polar opposite to my own result of INFP. This does not mean that all I need to do is make him react in a directly opposite way than I would to certain things. It just means that he might be considerably more impulsive, and self-confident than I am, and these are things I will need to bear in mind while writing.

Something else I’m dealing more heavily with this year than in the past is the idea of family. In every NaNo novel I can remember writing (which is all of them), I have neglected to have characters really interact with their parents and families, the exception being in Contempt for The Blind, however, it wasn’t so much an interaction as Justin fighting his ‘mindless drones of the government’ parents and sister. In some cases, this is because of the lives my characters lead, but more often than not, it’s just because I forget that they need parents and all, my characters being well into middle age themselves. The idea of family is something I started to deal with more extensively in Strictly Business, my as yet unfinished novel chronicling Jannah Reid’s dark past, and even more so in Free Fall. Of course, my biggest fear is that, should my family eventually read it, the less positive elements (most of them) could be seen as a well-aimed kick at them. They’re no such things, of course … but it occurred to me a little late in the day that someone in Courtney’s situation would still strive to have regular contact with his father. Being that he moved across an entire country to escape his past, this will most likely be consigned purely to phone conversations … all the same, however, it counts as contact.

Finally, here I feel that I have a set of characters who are significantly more authentic than I’ve had in previous years.  Butterfly Black’s cast was intentionally zany (mocking Hell, or the idea of Hell, kind of calls for it), Contempt for The Blind’s a stab at reality mixed with a kind of hyper-reality, and Where Jackals Lie mostly consisted of a contrived cast of Noir stereotypes. I’m not denying that this year, I have a set of characters who have been … extremely unfortunate, or made terrible decisions and done terrible things. But don’t we all make mistakes? Here, the challenge lies in trying not to make them, or indeed, anyone in the stories who inflicts suffering, an exaggerated form of villain. Even the worst cast members have some kind of redeeming quality, insignificant or significant, and this is where I think I may start hitting roadblocks. The idea that not everything is black and white.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough. On a slightly unrelated note, I’m looking forward to this year’s effort rather a lot, in part because I feel I am trying something newer, more different, than I have ever tried before.

On another slightly unrelated note, I’ve been NaNoing for exactly three years today! Hooray!

Roll on November!

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Badlands, Bad Writing, and the Best Damn Thing.

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This post is a part of the Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain for October, the question being; ‘What is the first thing you remember writing of your own accord?’ Delorfinde kicked off yesterday with an excellent post, Escape! A Play and set the bar for the posts to come this month. I’m sweating right now.

 So, first of all, how many of you remember this show?

Okay, second, you’re most likely wondering what in the heck Dragonball Z has to do with answering the question, or writing in general, right? Essentially, everything. The short version of the story is as follows; when I was eight, I couldn’t sleep, so I got up, and decided to watch TV for a while. My dad was still awake and watching DBZ … it may seem a little odd for a man in his late thirties to be watching this, but my dad was always a fan of Martial Arts films, so I can see what the draw would have been. Anyway, I started watching it with him. It was great for me and dad to have something we shared an interest in. This interest, as they often do, gradually grew into an obsession that sometimes bordered on the insane – I missed a week of school to re-watch video-taped marathons of the show. At eight, this was as far as it went. By ten, I was scripting my own episodes, with a (Mary-Sueish) character I’d created. By thirteen, my first ‘masterpiece’ was complete – a fan fiction following my character, Kerroi, and her exploits.

For a while, my dad insisted I send the scripted episodes, and later, the fan fiction, to Akira Toriyama and get him to create a new series from them. This inspired something rather different; obsessed as I was with Dragonball Z, I thought … what if I could write something new, something original on the basis of what I’d already done?

Dragon Badlands didn’t follow the plot of Dragonball Z but looking back, the most obvious things I lifted from the series were the characters – sure, I gave them all spiffy names like Ekaia, Zehio, Jalkie and Nelisha, but at the very bottom of their character sheets, I likened them all to characters from DBZ. The plot didn’t really bear any similarities. The intention was for it to be a ‘journey’, sure … I mapped out the entirety of the Dragon Badlands and it had everything I could have possibly wanted to traverse; a city bordered by a jungle, on the other side of which there was a seaside town, surrounded by a desert which led to a canyon, a lake to cross, and finally, the mountain range. Oh, and there was a castle somewhere, too. The plot was loose, something along the lines of ‘The Embodiment of Evil has broken free of the Dragon Star and you have to stop it before it reaches Dragon City by crossing the deadly Dragon Badlands’ … yeah, I liked dragons. Anyway, nothing too complex for my eleven-year-old mind to handle, a nice little journey with some possible death and destruction, romance, secrets, the usual. Looking back, now, I’m surprised by just how warped my brain at eleven years old was, but I’ll spare you all the details of that.

This story was truly amazing. It was the most innovative, original idea I’d ever had. Sure, I’d written a few violent crime thrillers in school, and something I vaguely remember that concerned a nun bludgeoning someone to death with a candle holder (see, warped), but this … this was amazing. It was going to be my debut work, and I was going to be rich and famous like J.K. Rowling.

I stopped working on Dragon Badlands around the same time as we got hooked up to the Internet here at home (dial-up … that thing where you have to turn off the Internet to use the phone, or vice versa) and I found all these really wonderful Dragonball Z related websites, and later, MFG Forums, which prompted me to start work on Dragonball KK. As I said, obsessed. I’d also just started high school around this time, and found myself distracted, enough that I didn’t have the time to sit down and write anymore.

It’s a bit presumptuous of me to call Dragon Badlands a story anyway. There were a few chapters floating around the house, written in red ball-point pen, but I never got much past the ‘gang’ establishing that the Embodiment of Evil had broken out of the Dragon Star. No traversing jungles, deserts, canyons … no, nothing. Essentially, most of it happened in my head which, truth be told, is about as far as most of my stories get anyway. It wasn’t my first complete story, let’s say that.

It was my first, real, original story, though, all … two or three chapters of it. I don’t count anything I wrote before this time, on the basis that there was always some assignment it was tied to. Write this way, or that way. Some specification.

Dragon Badlands was more than an idea, though. More than a story, even. It became a place for me to retreat to; this escape from school (I had a medical issue at the time that, essentially, warranted people staring at me like a circus freak), and a time when I could actually feel … like somebody. To have fans of my work that were as obsessive as I was about Dragonball Z. To create something that meant that much to others, as much as it did to me … in short, all the insanities of a pubescent girl (yes, I said that) who felt like nothing and wanted to be something.

So. I now urge you all to check out this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain. It includes a plethora of great teen writers, all of which, I am sure, will have their own unique take on answering this question;

October 15th — http://delorfinde.wordpress.com – A Farewell To Sanity

October 16th — https://thelitjunkie.wordpress.com – Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat

October 17th — http://taystapeinc.wordpress.com – Tay’s Tape

October 18th — http://noveljourneys.wordpress.com/ – Novel Journeys

October 19th —- http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com/ – Red Herring Online

October 20th —http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com/ – Kirsten Writes!

October 21st — http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com–  The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

October 22nd — http://herestous.wordpress.com – Here’s To Us

October 23rd — http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com – Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for the next month’s chain)

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Challenge: Writing Is Like …

So, darkjade68 over at The Written Word has passed this challenge onto me. Me being me, I couldn’t help but accept! I love a challenge. I’m told that Renee A.S Jacobson was the original creator of this challenge at Lessons From Teachers and Twits. So, without further ado, I shall set about completing this challenge, the objective of which is to complete the sentence, ‘writing is like …’

So, what is writing like?

I could answer this ever so literally, but I won’t.  I could tell you that writing is like playing God, but I’ve never been God, so I can’t liken writing to it.

Writing is like existing. At least, to me it is … a combination of existing and feeling, really. Those short stories I’ll never show a soul, those are cathartic in nature, everything within me spilling out onto the page. Those that I do show are usually bleak enough to reflect what’s going on inside my head, the things that I’d never openly show myself to be, because I’m not the same person when I write. What a hack of a sentence. I’ve mentioned before that I do my best to be positive; that my writing is the polar opposite.

Recently,  in a fit of frustration that decided to visit at around the same time as they tend to, I broke down. I told my mother that people, they can take anything from me. Anything at all. I don’t care (speaking within reason, of course, and referring mostly to material possessions, not people), and I wouldn’t care until the point that someone tried to take away my ability to write. To imagine. Destroy my computer, burn my notebooks, take away my pens, I’ll speak it. Cut out my tongue, I’ll still imagine it. Hell, I’d even try writing with my elbows or something. It would be pretentious of me to say that writing is my thing, it is not, it is something that many many people can experience and I am happy for them to. I often try to encourage my younger sister to write more, and often fail in doing so. Anyway, it is not mine and mine alone, but what it is is my livelihood. And at this point in my life, it is one of the only things keeping me relatively sane.

Writing is a fairly recent thing for me, though, something I will visit in greater detail in a post written for tomorrow’s Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain and so, I would be lying if I said that I’ve always felt this way. I’ve come to feel this way, though.

I’ll openly admit that I don’t write as much as I should. I spend more time thinking of ideas than I do actually executing them, which is why NaNoWriMo is something of a savior to me here, and why the main brunt of what I write during the other eleven months are usually short stories, rants, scenes that I transfer from my head onto paper only because I’m running out of head space and feel it is more practical to take up disk space instead (my external hard-drive takes care of all that) – I’m not so much nervous about showing my work to others as I am conscious of the fact that it is never good enough. But sometimes, it being good enough isn’t the point. It helping me to feel something, or even get rid of a certain feeling, was the intention, and if I achieve what I set out to do, I’m happy.

But writing is also like existing, at least for me, in that it always has its ups and downs. There are days when things are so plain sailing that I can’t get the words down on paper (or an Open Office document) quick enough. There are days when I’m straining to write every single word down, because it doesn’t seem to want to come. Life is mostly like this. There are days when you wake up, and just know that today is going to be a good day. You wake up with a good feeling, and can’t wait to go out, and do what you need to do. Then there are those days where you struggle to even get out of bed. From the moment your feet touch the floor, nothing seems to go right. You put your slippers on the wrong feet (though for me, this us usually accounted for by lack of sleep), the kettle won’t boil fast enough, you’re out of coffee, the milk’s gone sour … those kinds of things.

The thing is, much like living, I’d never want to give it up. It gets tough sometimes, and I wonder why I ever bother, but then something will happen; I’ll write something and feel so good while doing it, or after I’m done, that I’m suddenly reminded of exactly what it is that made me start doing it.

I feel as though I’m rambling and being impossibly positive here, and my glasses haven’t come through from the opticians, yet, so I’ll cut to the chase. I’m going to challenge the following bloggers (whether or not you accept, guys, is totally up to you!) –

Megan at verynormal, because as I’ve already said, I really enjoy reading her blog, and would love to see how she completes the sentence, and John Hansen at The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer, because, similarly, he always has something interesting to say, and I’d love to see his response to the question.

As I said, you don’t have to accept. Enjoy, all!

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The Reading List #2

I really didn’t think I would be posting another one of these for at least a month. Lo and behold, though, here it is, in spite of the overwhelming fact that I didn’t manage to read everything on my last list … mostly due to costs.

Before I press on, though, a quick update on this; I finished The Rules of Attraction,  Snuff and Haunted in quick succession, and most likely burned myself out. I’ll probably be going through Less Than Zero on Monday – yes, my ‘Currently Reading’ widget lies! Honestly, I updated it, but sort of burned myself out … that, or I’m scared to finish my final book too soon, because that means I have to wait quite some time for more. A couple of weeks, at least.  So, Monday shall be spent reading, though seeing as the NaNoWriMo forums reset on Monday, I might get all enthusiastic about that instead, we’ll see. So, the menu for the next few weeks is:

Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey
Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey – Chuck Palahniuk

I’m on a major Palahniuk bender at present – I really wish I’d delved more completely into his writing earlier. It would be easy enough for me to simply make this entire list a list of Palahniuk’s books, but I don’t think that would be entirely fair, nonetheless, the sooner I can get my hands on the rest of his novels, the better. Why Rant? Let’s just say I’ve heard some very, very good things about it from some of Palahniuk’s more disparaging critics, so that’s got to mean something, right? That aside, the concept itself seems strangely similar to something I cooked up quite a few years back (though undoubtedly, Rant is far more polished, and much more well-executed) , and as a result, I find myself with something of a soft spot for it. It strikes a chord with me.

Imperial Bedrooms

Imperial Bedrooms – Bret Easton Ellis

Have you guessed who two of my favourite authors are yet? Naturally, I’m going to wait until I’ve finished Less Than Zero before reading this, namely because both books follow the same character, at different times. In the case of Imperial Bedrooms, the central character, Clay, is middle-aged as opposed to being a teenager, hence the reading order. Every time I find myself in my local WHSmith branch, I pick up Imperial Bedrooms without having enough cash on me to afford it; it’s the only Easton Ellis book they seem to stock, which is a complete shock in itself. This may be part of the reason why I’m so ostensibly drawn to it. Imperial Bedrooms isn’t rated too highly, but this seems to be a common trend, and yet still, I’m compelled to read on. This and The Informers are my only Easton Ellis books left, and I’m determined to read them before the year is out.

Bright Lights, Big City
Bright Lights, Big City – Jay McInerney

It has c0me to my attention that I am in dire need of some Jay McInerney on my bookshelf. Where better to start than where McInerney himself started? I’m not going to pull what I pulled with American Psycho here, I don’t think – instead, I fully intend to start at the beginning and go from there. Apart from Bret Easton Ellis’ comments about McInerney in Lunar Park (and considering he was writing a pseudo-Ellis, I’m not so sure these comments were entirely reliable), I don’t know an awful lot about Bright Lights, Big City – from what I’m aware of, though, this book seems to be right up my alley. It’s been slated as ‘beloved, imitated, and iconic,’ so I have high hopes, but perhaps not so high that I’ll spoil the reading experience for myself. And, oh yeah, second person narrative. Should be fun.

Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 – Hunter S. Thompson

Oh no, she’s here to gush about Hunter S. Thompson again! Damn right I am. Fear and Loathing in Last Vegas is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of all time, and yet, I haven’t gotten around to reading this because, until recently, I was unaware of the concept. That said, from the collective works and essays of The Great Shark Hunt, I do have some idea of what to expect here, and of course, I expect quite a lot indeed. I honestly should have snapped this up much sooner. Silly me. That said, had I done that, I wouldn’t have had the chance to read The Rum Diary when I did … it’s all a little bitter sweet, really. Oh, unfortunately, I couldn’t actually afford The Curse of Lono … should make for an excellent Christmas present, though!

Slaves of New York

Slaves of New York – Tama Janowitz

I remarked to my mom recently that I’d probably fit right in in New York. I have no idea what the basis for this comment was, but anyway; Janowitz, like McInerney is an author I heard about through reading Lunar Park, and as such, the link makes me think that I’ll very much enjoy Slaves of New York. Judging simply on the Goodreads synopsis, this is another book that is very much my kind of reading material, and I’m also absolutely thrilled that it is by a female author for once! I was starting to feel very much alone in my endeavours; Slaves is now a must-read for me.

Lullaby – Chuck Palahniuk and Diary – Chuck Palahniuk

Lullaby sounds positively chilling, or the concept does. This is only one of a number of Palahniuk’s books I intend to read, as I’ve already stated many times (you can almost see the hipster stereotype starting to emerge now, can’t you?), but what draws me to Lullaby is not only its narrative, but also the fact that it is part of the ‘horror’ trilogy Palahniuk intended to write – the other two books in the trilogy being Haunted and the above, Diary. After enjoying Haunted as I did (the review was posted a couple of days ago) I’m actually rather to finish this trilogy as soon as I possibly can. There seems to be significantly more bad press for Diary than there does for Lullaby, but as I’m sure you all know by now, since when has that stopped me? I admit, I’m not so sure about the concept on this one … which I’m hoping just means that I’m likely to be pleasantly surprised by Diary.

So, that’s another list done and dusted, upon which I’ve had to severely limit myself considering there are still maybe a dozen more books I’m lusting to read right about now. It’s so painfully easy to tell that I don’t have much else to do, isn’t it?

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Poetry … Well, Kind Of

Poetry is … something of a difficult topic for me. I have no faith in my poetry. I don’t write it any more, or at least I don’t of my own free will, which is not to say I don’t read poetry. I’m just inherently terrible at writing it.

And yet, something urged me to take a quick look through some of the older files on this computer … I say that, but of course, I mean files that have been transferred from computer to computer, account to account. Either way, The file labelled ‘My Poetry’ became rather difficult to avoid looking at. There are only about six or seven files in there, and every file contains a poem I wrote when I was, roughly, twelve years old.

They’re ultimately silly little things, albeit very morbid, which I find startling. I’m not denying that my work is dark; but the fact remains that I’m nineteen, and morbid, disturbing things are far more accessible to me now than they were when I was twelve. Was it bereavement, I briefly wonder, and I know that this was the case with one poem in particular. One, the one I consider the best of all the poems in that folder (though they’re all terrible), was brought about by nothing in particular, just the fact that I tended to speak with people much older than myself at that age. It’s something of a juvenile attempt at writing about more adult issues.

Several things are immediately apparent. I loved ellipses wildly when I was twelve, more so than I do now. Most of the poems are overly wordy in a way that does detract from their overall quality, but I am an overly wordy person; I am someone who complicates simple matters. One or two have a genuine emotion behind them that is very, very difficult to remember now, but I actually do remember writing the poems themselves.

Therefore, in a way, looking through my old work, I’ve perhaps picked up on something new about poetry, that in those days, it felt like a much purer way in which to vent my emotions on the page. My writing doesn’t show any of this, which is a topic I will eventually come to, instead displaying some convoluted politics that only someone just entering high school would really understand … considering I had no grasp on politics back then, anyway, but nurtured the philosophy I had heard plenty of times over; ‘the government is bad.’ A pointless conclusion, really.

And yes, every line smacks of not so much an overly emotional young girl (perhaps a few years before I should have been feeling this), but is highly pretentious, melodramatic and theatrical in a way that would make it unbearable to read to most. It has the imprint of a pre-teen who desperately wanted to be edgy, most likely had self-diagnosed depression or some other disorder that she – that I – never really had. Not so much attention seeking (I wanted to disappear, but maybe that’s just as bad) as dying to stand out from the crowd. Why else did I dye my hair red (2005; you hear that, Cheryl Cole? I did it first), or black, and cut it short, and wore swathes of liquid eye liner to school, and painted my nails black, and wore black sweatbands with red dragons on them? I was the kid in the oversized ‘System of a Down’ t-shirt on non-uniform days, too cheap to afford real Converse. I suppose, really, this is just the type of high-schooler to write morbid poetry; I look back and I seem like an obscene stereotype, seeping so ostensibly into popular culture that I find it difficult to believe that once I was mocked for dressing like this. I wanted to stand out, not to be noticed, but to distance myself from other people my age, and writing ‘depressing’ poetry (it was called that, once, when I used to show it to people) seemed to be more of a side effect, something I was conscious of doing without knowing how contrived it was at the time.

I can’t bring myself to hate it; it’s not often I do or say this, there is plenty of my work that I hate, but in this case, I feel that to hate it so vehemently would be to hate what I was feeling at the time, and even though whatever I was feeling wasn’t pleasant, it isn’t something I want to deny. I don’t consider myself to have suffered, not really, in spite of that fact that I did, and still do, write about suffering. The only time I feel justified in writing something so emotional was a poem I won’t title and I won’t show; a sensitive time in my life that I don’t need to bore anyone with.

In short, you won’t see any poetry here (hell, I’ve only shared, what? One second-rate short story?), which is maybe something I should have cleared up a lot sooner.  Most of the work is stuff that, I feel, is too personal to publish now. I’m not satisfied with the quality, no, but I don’t see the point in publicly bringing up feelings that are best laid to rest.

I won’t write any new poetry, either. I don’t feel as though I care enough to be able to do it, now.

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October is Almost Upon Us


National Novel Writing Month

Of course, I only realized this fact today. The significance of October besides Halloween and getting to try out the costume I’ve spent the better part of the past few months piecing together? (yes, I like dressing up) NaNoWriMo. Or more specifically, planning for NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo? I hear you ask. Well, if you’d rather not stick around to hear my explanation, the link is right there. Just underneath the image. I’ll indulge anyway.

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an event held every November; the goal is for participants to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, through hell or high water. Simple, huh? The method works for some – the idea of letting go, writing a novel, and not stopping to edit until the the month is over and done with. No, it is not to everyone’s tastes, but I find it to be a necessary approach if I ever want to get any work done.

I feel justified in stating that yes, NaNoWriMo does work for me. No, nothing I’ve written during it has ever been entirely publishable (not without a lot of work), but don’t most, if not all, first drafts tend to go this way? The fact of the matter is, in no other month have I found myself able to get 180,000 words down on the page in the space of 30 days. And no, I didn’t even think I was capable of it before I did it; naturally, this only served to encourage me, and why not? I’d rather have something that can be worked on than have nothing written down on the page at all.

But what does this have to do with October? Well, this post may seem rather ironic now that I have published Not Plotting. Because I may very well start plotting … not for the same novel I’m not plotting for of course, but I feel it only sensible to do it prior to NaNoWriMo, given that I’m going to be writing at a reasonably fast pace (if the past couple of years are anything to go by), and I don’t think that I have the ability to formulate, or react to, plot elements quite so quickly than if I set them all out beforehand. This, and I feel as though my novel will be quite a different experience than it has been the past couple of years – not least because I plan to write it in the first person, and am somewhat hesitant to call it a novel. The intention, since the outset, was to write it as a series of short stories. I’d rather lace them all together while I can than rushing to do it and butchering the entire thing.

So, October is almost upon us and I have relatively little idea of what I’m going to do, which is to say, I have a basic concept. How I’m going to orchestrate this, the characters, and what happens to them are all things that I need to start focusing upon, I feel; I’d very much like for this to be an opportunity for me to be a little more … creative with some of the events, some of the things that happen to the characters, and to really get the ball rolling on what it is I would prefer to write. I get the feeling that anything I have written up until this point is simply not enough, that I can push much, much further and at least give my supposed ‘dream’ a shot.

What is that ‘dream’? Well, I have some far-fetched designs on being a female Easton Ellis or Palahniuk. Of course I feel pretentious for even saying that, and of course I know it is never going to happen. I don’t think that fully discounts me from having a little fun with that idea while I still can. I don’t think that it should prevent me from experimenting with my writing – if nobody is ever subjected to reading it, then who am I harming, really?

In other words, at the infancy of the novel I started, perhaps, a little too late in the day, I’m most likely already going to abandon it in favour of another. Aren’t I the promiscuous writer? Perhaps I’ll try doing something I seldom do and write both a story and an outline almost simultaneously, making fleeting attempts at not confusing elements of one with the other and getting myself into … well, a complete mess. One thing’s for sure, I will have this outlined before November gets here!

I’m sounding rather indecisive right now, aren’t I?

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