Humblebrag

So hey, I graduated and whatnot. Well, I went to graduation ceremonies. I have yet to actually receive a diploma so I don’t feel like it’s official until I get that. But technically I’m a master’s degree holder. Supposedly.

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Psh, as if we’re lucky enough to find jobs at Starbucks.

This means I probably won’t be posting here anymore, as I will be working on my PhD and I’m not sure I’ll have advice to give. I mean, I won’t have a right to give advice since I won’t be pretending to be a writer anymore.

In case anyone was wondering, that does mean I finished my thesis. Obviously. Here are the stats:

Officially finished – April 10, 2012

Word Count – 66,582

Page Count – 238

# of Stories – 4, not including prologue and epilogue

# of Stories I’m going to write in the future –  ZERO!

It was a long strange trip, but in the end it was worth all the boozy coffees and miniature meltdowns. I do want to thank everyone for their help in various ways, especially my guardian gentleman, Dear Sweet Gentle Jonathan. Speaking of, he is currently working on publishing his book so look out for that shit. It will rock your face off. But don’t let it get that far, as you will need your face for reading.

Before I go, one last humblebrag: my bitch ass has been published. It’s not a huge deal, it’s like 2 pages (two unedited pages, actually. Ugh) from a pretty random and boring part of my thesis, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I try to stay away from horses, to be honest. It was cool to be published and TSR didn’t have to do it, so I thank them as well. Pick up a copy of the Review, it’s pretty sweet. And I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. Although, I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of it.

So that’s that, for now. I’m gonna go back to doing nothing except checking the mail for my diploma.

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It has been decided

The city’s name is Dareford.

If you don’t like it, kiss the fattest part of my ass.

No, I’m just kidding (a little bit). Do you like it? I mean, if you don’t like it, you need to have a good reason why not and a better name lined up. Otherwise, pfft on you.

This is gonna be a thesis update, so those of you looking for advice can click away now.

Incepte'd!

Anyway, since my thesis first draft is written, I’ve just been handing the different parts in to my advisor. I gave her the second part (“Chapter”) last semester because that one was the only one completed at the time. She forced me (it was a good kind of forced) to finish my first part last month, saying that she couldn’t give the second chapter a proper evaluation if it was out of context. Which was true. The first chapter sets up everything. Duh.

It was a challenge for me because I am not, and never have been, good with setting or place. I’m an action writer. I’m the Michael Bay of writers. Fuck details, just tell me what the shit is going on. And throw in some hot girls and explosions. This is the main reason why I can’t write novels. I can’t meander. I can hardly read meandering, there’s no way I can write it.

Despite this erectile dysfunction, I finished it and I wasn’t altogether sure about the quality, but she told me that I’m apparently better than I think because she really liked the chapter. A few things need to be reworked, but altogether I’m on the right track. So she said. Sweet. We set a date for the next chapter, which is Monday, so that’s been all on my mind. Aside from the fact that I haven’t had power for about a week. Thinking about it was good, though, because I realized one part didn’t make sense and had to be fixed.

I just finished retooling the otherwise completed third chapter, the one I’m most proud of, but I’m a little unsure of this one as well. There are a few scenes that I can’t decide if they’re needed or not, so I’ll have to talk to her about them when we meet next.

The second and third chapters are the ones where I played around with the actual craft of writing and pushed myself to actually try to be good at it. The second chapter was written in first person. If you know anything about me, you know I don’t really like first person. (And you know I say fuck shoes.) In the third chapter I played around with present tense. It’s all probably more technical than it should be, but I feel like the point of the program should be more than write a publishable book. I should be learning.

So…that’s basically what’s going on with the thesis. Oh, the fourth chapter is a nice little wrap up that ends with death and maybe sex. Wait…no, no sex. Cockblock’d! I had the most fun with the last chapter, anyway, because it’s sort of disturbing. It’s from the POV of a pretty messed up character. The trick to this chapter was distancing: there are no feelings in the point of view. The character is very in the moment.

But! Here is where you come in! I need three profesh readers to approve this, yes, it’s true. However, I’m also going to want non-writers to read this, probably around the second draft, which won’t be until January or February. So if you have enough time to read what will basically  be a novel in length, let me know. I’m going to pick two of you unlucky SOBs, who will radically different from each other, to bother for a month or so as I perfect the story from a readership point of view. Think long and hard (lolzzz) before agreeing.

I’m gonna be all up in your grill.

When things start going right

SO! I know I should not be updating on my thesis as much as I am, seeing as this blog is about the writing process and not my own bullshit, but I have another thesis related update for you.

…I’ll give you time to click away if you are uninterested.

I looked like this in another life.

Anyway, I am now back on track with the thesis. I have decided to cut one of the stories that I felt wasn’t meshing well with the others (it wasn’t playing nice. It was the antisocial smelly kid in your fourth grade class). I have also gone back to actually writing shit, which is good, because my goal to be done by the end of the semester is getting pretty close. But, the most exciting of it all is I have a thesis advisor now. So, I’ll actually be whipped into shape and told what the fuck I’m supposed to be doing. Remember kids, sometimes you have to actually be nice to people if you want to get around in this world. A lesson I learned the hard way (thanks, Eckerd). But yeah, it’s good to be writing again. Soul crushing despondence isn’t good for productivity.

Today we talked about what you do after you’re finished with your first novel. Since I’m not actually going to be published, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention. Well, that’s a lie. To teach, I’m going to have to publish. But, I mean, I’m not going to walk out of this program with a book deal, is what I’m saying. I paid enough attention so that I can relate necessary information to anyone who may need it (i.e D$GJ), though.

So, what does one do when the daunting task of the first novel is completed? I mean, you can’t expect to live off one novel for your whole life. I heard that someone got a $30,000 advance on their novel, which was followed by the fact that you usually get about (or almost) half of your total money when you get an advance. Which would mean $60,000 a book? Yeah, you’re not living off of that for the rest of your life, so get over that shit really quickly. Anyway, the serious author will be wanting to make a career out of it. So what you should do, what was recommended to us by an author in the know, was you should start your second novel right away.

“How the fuck am I supposed to do that?” you might be asking. “It took me long enough to get my shit together for the first damn novel!” Well, if you calm the fuck down, I’ll tell you how you do that.

What was suggested is that you get a folder, whether tangible or virtual is up to you, and put into it every and any idea you get for a novel. Because really, having an idea is the hardest damn part. Sometimes it comes to you out of the blue and you’re all “FUCK YEAH! I’m writing that!” and then sometimes you’re sitting at your computer for a decade and a half and the word document is still blank. You don’t want to be that one novel douchebag, or the guy who waits too long to write a second novel and everyone forgets about you. Having your ideas in one place will help. I would even take it one step further and write scenes and stuff as they come to you. I do that a lot. I also take scraps from other stories that don’t particularly fit and work them into something else. I will grudgingly admit that Ursula Hegi taught me that. Also, keep writing. Submit to literary magazines just to keep your name out there and to keep from getting out of the game (I’m going to go over the whole literary magazine thing later. If you knew the shit that went down with them, you’d never want to write again). Basically what I’m saying is don’t write the first novel then be like, “well, mission accomplished bitches. Where’s my private island and my rum fountain?”

I guess I was informative after all. Don’t underestimate me, bitches.

A tragedy of errors

You know when you have to sneeze and it can’t or won’t come, and there’s this buildup, this feeling of needing something to happen in order to feel normal again?

Well, that’s kind of how I feel right now.

When I was driving home from class, I was convinced that I did actually have to sneeze. There was a pressure at the back of my throat and my nose tingled but the more I thought about it I realized that it was anger. And what I was suppressing was frustration.

Cover your fucking mouth.

Being workshopped is not for the faint of heart. You have to be secure in what you’re writing, you have to be prepared to answer any possible question that could be thrown at you. You have to believe in what you’re writing both in form and in content. Any sort of insecurity or vacillation will be detected and promptly harped on until you want to sit in a corner and cry.

What I’m going to discuss today is when you feel that your workshop hasn’t gone your way and you don’t know what to do about it.

So I was workshopped today. I was fairly confident the days leading up to this; my last workshopping had gone rather well, everyone asked and answered the questions I wanted, there was no uncertainty, and I walked away ready, fuck, eager to write more. This time, I picked a section that I was confident with, there wasn’t too much involved that would need explaining and I had edited it to the extend that I wasn’t embarrassed. All I wanted, really, was to be told if my POVs were distinct enough that I could carry them through the whole story. I did everything one should do before walking into a workshopping. I wasn’t even nervous to read the first page out loud.

I suppose all of that should have been a sign of things to come. Nothing ever goes exactly the way you want.

Instead of discussing the mechanics of the story–excerpt, really. The story as a whole is over 50 pages–what I got was Harry Potter.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I fucking love Harry Potter. There’s no fucking doubt about that. I’m sure I’ve said many a time that I would like to write the next Harry Potter. And who wouldn’t? Bitch is fucking richer than the Queen right now. The thing is, the next Harry Potter is something I’ll write when I want to write it. It’s not something I want to be told I’m writing when that is not my intention.

That’s another thing you probably will have to deal with if you become a published writer: people telling you that your work is something that it isn’t. Sometimes that could work for you, maybe they’ll say your work is deeper than you had intended, which is cool. Means you’re smarter than you think. But sometimes shit like that is just blatantly unhelpful.

I’m going to say that Harry Potter was mentioned maybe 10 times or more during my entire workshopping. Which, okay, whatever. If that’s the only “fantasy” you’re exposed to then whatever, everything is going to be Harry Potter to you. At least they didn’t say Twilight. I would have cut someone.

What I was basically told was that my story drew too much from other sources.

That shit threw me for a fucking loop.

Not only have I worked my fucking ASS OFF trying to create an entirely original world, with it’s own rules and constrictions and nuances (I have a fucking MAP of the CITY for christ’s sake. I created a University, a bookstore chain, my own fucking version of Donald Trump), I absolutely did not know what they were talking about. Not a clue. As I was sitting there, I tried to find places where that could be true, where I maybe slipped in the word Hufflepuff instead of something else. Where I said Muggle instead of my word for non magical people (yes, I have my own word for it. And it sounds nothing like Muggle). And I completely could not think of one instance where this would be true.

My thing was, if I’m drawing on other works and I can’t see it, then how can I continue? How am I supposed to go on when I feel like every word I write could be an accidental homage to the Boy Who Lived? What would be the point of that? It would mean I’m not myself, I’m not original, my story only works if I’m making nods to other people. That’s not writing, that’s paying tribute.

Alice in Wonderland was also mentioned. Which, okay, I can see that. My story titles are all characters from Alice and Through the Looking Glass. The name of the city I created is Wonderland.

That is where I thought the similarities stopped.

In fact, those aren’t similarities. Those are me making my story titles from characters of another story. And naming my city Wonderland.

I normally don’t resist criticism. I like being told what in my story doesn’t work so I can improve it. It’s easier to know what doesn’t work than what works. But I have to draw the line somewhere. It took me forever to come up with my story titles. It took a lot of careful thought and research. I’ve never read Through the Looking Glass, I did not know all the characters. I did not know that the Mad Hatter wasn’t called the Mad Hatter at all, that was Disney. So when I put all this thought and effort into titles, which are difficult for me to being with, I’m going to reject the idea of changing them.

I’m writing a book of linked short stories for my thesis. One of the other things I was told was that I needed to make the distinctions between my stories greater. That I maybe should have consider making them all separate novels.

Again, I do not resist the idea of changing my stuff, however radically. If it looks like the change in question makes sense and will improve what I’m doing, I’m all for it. And that’s important. You have to be open for that sort of thing. Nothing you write is going to be perfect right off the bat.

The thing is, though, the entire POINT of what I’m doing hinges on the format I chose. That is why I was so conflicted when I thought I should expand one of my stories. That would mean abandoning the format I’ve been working really hard to perfect. Which, I guess, I should think about the fact that maybe I am going about this the wrong way. But no one really wants to think that.

So what am I going to do?

First, I should ask, what should one do when faced with a workshop like the one I just went through?

I think I handled myself all right. I bit my lip and I listened to everything, regardless of if I knew what they were talking about or not. I answered the questions to the best of my capability and I didn’t contradict. I didn’t berate them for not reading carefully enough or for not understanding that the first excerpt and the second one were two different parts of a whole and should be treated as such. I didn’t shout at them to keep open minds. I didn’t tell them to stop comparing my shit to Harry Motherfucking Potter. I didn’t cry. Rage. I didn’t say my work was a load of crap and should be treated as such. I was calm, composed, and I really did try to see it from their point of view.

I think that’s all you can do, really, when faced with that situation. Listen to what is being said. Listen. The first impuse is going to be to defend your work. But listening is so important. Try to look at your work as a potential reader, not as the author. You’re too close to it as the author.

I don’t know what I’m going to do, honestly. I guess the first thing I’m going to do is sit down and read through my story in question very carefully. I’m going to have to mark what I think could be a similarity to Harry Potter or anything of that nature and if it is something that could be changeable, I will have to think of ways to change it. And if I can’t find anything or if I can’t change it, I’m going to have to seriously consider not writing this book anymore. I will have to stop wasting my effort and hope I can pull something else out of my ass in enough time to graduate on time. Perhaps a cookie-cutter literary novel. Or a memoir chronicling my rather ordinary life. I’ll just have to write enough to make a passable thesis, get my degree and move on.

I may not be proud of it in the end, but hell, the thing I was proud of might not work, so pride has nothing to do with it.