November 30, 2009

What if?

This year, I have started writing much more fiction than I have ever written previously. As a result, of course, my fiction has improved quite a bit over the course of the year. Even my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel is much better than my attempt for 2008, even after months of revision (although this is not to say that my 2009 novel is all that great, either; just that it's an improvement). And as I've been doing all of this writing, I've really begun to think about what makes my newer fiction so much better than my older fiction. Because even when I write a dud, it's a better dud than it would have been a year ago. So I've been thinking about what exactly has changed.

The answer is that in the past year, my imagination has improved tremendously. Not that I'm writing all fantasy or sci-fi - just that I'm finally starting to write outside the realm of my immediate experience. I've begun to ask "what if?" to get ideas. "What if Judas was actually a woman in disguise?" is just one of the questions I've turned into fiction this year. I've had to do research. I've had to write draft after draft to get dialogue to feel authentic. I've had to learn and brainstorm and outline. I've had to work to create stories because for once, I'm reaching beyond just what I know and forcing myself to learn more, to think differently.

My old stories really are just elements of my life rearranged and disguised. But you know, my life is just not that interesting. It certainly does not make for good fiction. Parts of it might make for good memoir someday, but all in all it just does not make for a great novel. There is no "What if?" there is only "What happened." No questioning, no learning, no imagining. Just life, disguised.

This is not to say that I've eliminated my own life and experiences from my fiction completely. Certainly, I am still inspired by friends and events. And pieces of my life definitely work my way into my stories. But they either serve as jumping-off points for a "What if?" or they accentuate it. They are elements, but not the whole.

Of course, there is more to good fiction than just this, but asking "What if?" has become one of the cornerstones of my own work. And to some degree, it's true of all my favorite novels. "What if there was a house that was bigger inside than it was outside, and it ate the people in it?" (House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski); "What if a man turned into a woman and aged very slowly, living 400 years but never appearing older than 32?" (Orlando by Virginia Woolf); "What if all books were banned?" (Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury). Perhaps the authors never consciously asked these questions aloud, and yet they are integral to the final story. The "What if?" is not the only element required for great fiction, but I've come to believe it's essential.

November 26, 2009

Literary gratitude

It's been quite a year for me, personally and professionally. So I want to take some time today to share what I'm grateful for in my writing life.

  1. The writing group I joined this year. I've loved working with them, and feel like my writing improves more with each session. I've also gotten a lot more motivated to write and revise so I have work to share with the group.
  2. I've managed to publish a few pieces of both poetry and erotica this year, and even earned money from one of those. I may not have published a lot of writing, but I'm still grateful for every piece I managed to place somewhere.
  3. I'm thankful that I had the courage to read twice this year, once at one of the Austin Poetry Society and once at Co-Lab with the Boho Cocos. I haven't done a reading since college (in 2006!) and I'm grateful I managed to get up my confidence to do that again.
  4. I'm grateful for all the friends who supported me in my writing endeavors this year, and all the people who have inspired me.

November 23, 2009

A NaNowriMo Excerpt

I hit 65,000 words yesterday! I haven't written yet today, but I'm going to a little writing/work party later this afternoon, so I'll get stuff done then. Anyway, I decided I was finally willing to put up an excerpt from the novel so far. Caveats: this whole thing is being written quite quickly, with no strong concern for historical accuracy (I'll fix that in the editing process), and I have not yet done ANY editing whatsoever.

In this chapter, Jesus and Mary Magdalene consummate their love for each other. It's highly erotic. So I've put it behind a cut for those who do not want to read it.

Belated Good News

I'm quite late in posting this, but I've been pretty remiss with my blogging as of late . . .

My rondeau, "Texan's Lament," was given an honorable mention (actually, "More Than Honorable Mention") in the Rondeau Roundup rondeau contest. I'm thrilled!

Rondeau Roundup has a triolet contest opening in about a week. Check out the guidelines here.

November 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo Summary

So my plan for NaNoWriMo blogging has fallen apart even more than I thought . . . I'm just too busy writing, I guess! I actually finished (that is, hit 50,000 words) on November 11th! But that doesn't mean I've stopped writing. My pace has slowed quite a bit, but I'm still working on fleshing out details and adding to my plot. I am just over 62,000 words as of yesterday morning, and planning on attending a write-in today.

I know, my blogging has been spotty lately, but there's so much to do. Off to get some Gloom Cupboard editing done, and then of course more writing!

November 16, 2009

Gloom Cupboard #111 is up!

Gloom Cupboard #111 is up! Thanks again to all the fantastic poets who shared their work!

(I know, I have been totally absent from the blogosphere, but NaNoWriMo is eating up all of my free time! Things should return to normal in December. That's just two weeks!)

November 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo Week 1: A Summary

So . . . my plan of blogging my NaNoWriMo activities each day? Yeah . . . no.
My plan of writing poetry each day that fit with the theme of my novel? Yeah . . . no.
My plan for keeping up with other creative projects? Yeah . . . no.

NaNoWriMo has totally consumed me this year. But I am progressing successfully! I hit 40,000 words this afternoon - I will probably win no later than Sunday. Which means I'm going to shoot a little higher and try to hit 100,000 words by the end of the month.

And I know I said I would post excerpts, but when you're writing at this speed, so much of it is rubbish. And if I go back searching for a good excerpt, I'm going to get stressed out and think I'm terrible and run the risk of giving up. So maybe later.

Apologies for my absences. I'll be back to my regular schedule after December! (And I do plan to check in throughout the rest of the month.)