One of the hard things about writing, aside from all of it, is keeping focused on the current project. When the words (and ideas) are flowing, it’s fairly easy to keep on task. After all, the story wants to be told, so it seems natural to tell it.
Having Survived NaNoWriMo
We survived NaNoWriMo.
I mean, I hope we did. Hopefully we also hit our word count (or got to where we wanted to be).
I wrote 50,075 words, and aside from a few days where I fell behind, I kept up the pace of 1,667 words a day.
It taught me a few things, or maybe it reminded me of them.
1. I can write that much in a month. It’s not easy and I couldn’t do 50K every month (without dropping other things in my life) but it’s not impossible. So maybe I need to aim a little higher with my word counts (especially during the winter).
2. There’s more to writing than making words. Yes, I hit the word counts and finished the story, but is the story good? I’m not a strong judge of my own stories, so I can’t say, especially right now, so soon after finishing it. But it does make me want to write a bunch of short pieces (5K-ish) and use them to hone my writing skills (through feedback from my writing group). Then maybe compile them into a book and self-pub them? I dunno, just a thought.
3. I really don’t mind writing vampires. I wouldn’t do it all the time, but it wasn’t a bad experience. I liked being able to fiddle with the myth and add my own twist to things.
4. There is freedom in just writing and not judging. I tried really hard (and think I succeeded) in writing without thinking “Is this any good?” It let me tell the story. Now that it’s done, I guess I can go back and fix things. HOWEVER, as noted above, I do want to improve my craft so that the first draft is stronger and requires less line-level edits (phrasing, structure, language use).
5. I still like writing 🙂
That’s all. Hopefully this exercise will mean good things for my future writing!
I could be writing…
I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, and, despite what media would have you believe, depression doesn’t actually cause you to be creative in artist outlets. So I haven’t really been doing too much writing (although I have gotten a few thousand words here and there). When I’m in this mood, I don’t usually do much reading either, and I rely on my safe movies and shows.
The Art of the Short Story
I just finished The Model Millionaire, an anthology of Oscar Wilde short stories (and named after the story with the same name). In the back, there was also a modern short story, “Tiger, Tiger” by Simon Van Booy.
It’s interesting to look at Wilde’s short stories and compare them to “Tiger, Tiger” and some other modern stories that I’ve read recently (including those submitted in my writers’ group).
Wilde’s stories tended to be rather straightforward. They told a story chronologically, made a point, and moved on. While the stories didn’t lack subtlety (and I’m sure someone who has studied Wilde in depth would point out how much subtlety there is), I would finish reading a story, be able to quickly draw my conclusions, and move on. I’m certain if I go back and read it again, I’ll pull more from it, but I basically feel as if I “got the gist” in my first read.
However, the more modern stories I’ve read (which tend to be read as more “literary”, which may be why they come across like this), seem to be asking the reader to do all the work. Some are told chronologically, some skip all over the place, and they both tell stories, but the telling (both in the information that is provided and the information that is almost obviously not included) seems to beg the reader to understand and get the author’s point.
The stories feel like they’re nothing but subtleties. A little bit like if I don’t get the point (or take the time to get the point), the authors are going to peer down at me from their place on high and think me unworthy. I’m probably reading too much into it, but it’s not really the feeling I want when I finish reading something.
(Note: I still enjoyed reading some of the stories that gave me this feeling, and some just left me with an”Well, I see” feeling, but in retrospect I got the feeling that required deeper analysis. And while I enjoy analyzing works, I also don’t want it to be a requirement of my enjoyment.)
I’m not sure I could say whether I enjoyed Wilde’s stories or the more modern ones better, but it’s a curious comparison.
It’s also interesting to look at short stories and compare them to novels. In an anthology I started reading recently, the editor who compiled the stories noted that ‘people don’t read short stories any more, which is a shame because she’s read so many short stories that offered so much more than many of the books she’s read. ‘
After reading the first in that anthology, I got to thinking about the difference between stories and novels (aside from length) and the purpose behind them. Obviously the genre makes a difference (as a romance short story is going to be very different from a literary short story)…
But how many short stories do you find outside of literary ones? If you’re a reader of short stories, then you know which magazines to read, and you subscribe and you get those short stories–whether it’s literary or in your genre. Or you pick up “This Year’s Best Short Stories” and read that. But rarely–unless you have a group of friends who read short stories–is someone just going to recommend a short story to you. But someone will recommend a good book they’ve read.
(Money, spending, and purchasing all have to do with the decline of the short story as well, I’m sure, but I’m not focusing on that here.)
People don’t really read short stories, and I think part of this is because they aren’t just for enjoyment. And while books also may not just be for enjoyment, their agenda is wrapped in so much enjoyable story that the agenda doesn’t feel heavy to bear and compact to tear apart. Or perhaps it does, but you can enjoy the story without tearing apart and understanding all the agenda.
Meanwhile, after reading the various short stories that I’ve read, I don’t feel like I’ve been told stories so much, as I’ve been asked to ponder some things (some of which I might not really care about exploring). The brunt force of the short story’s purpose is the agenda, so the surface enjoyment is so much less that I can see why the short story has fallen out of favor with society as a whole. In a busy world like today, you would think that the short story would be in favor, but if the story is focused not on a compact telling of a story/scene/etc but rather a pondering about X topic…then it’s not really going to be seen as an enjoyable past-time.
(Note: I know this doesn’t apply to all short stories or all readers, but just in general.)
(Also, this post was going to be about short stories but a very different focus, and then I just kind of…went elsewhere with it. So apologies if it’s a little…untethered.)
What’s in a Word Count?
While reading one of my blogs, he posted this, which, as a person who loves to go barefoot. I found interesting. He also mentioned these shoes, which I’d love to try one day.
Whether you follow this or not is up to you. Just something to think about as we approach the new year.
Contemplating death and loneliness
(This post was originally aimed to be written Wednesday night, but due to storms, I lost power and could not complete it. So I’m completing it now.)
Ever have one of those days where you come across readings that just speak to you?
For work I had to read an article about atrial fibrillation, a condition from which I mildly suffer (at least, I hope mildly. My understanding of the condition was limited to me being taught about it as a child). We always just called it heart palpitations, but really it’s Afib and reading about it in the article was depressing (symptoms, side effects, mortality rates). I had the impression that I should value my life and live it to the fullest. Do what I want in case my hours are marked.
Driving home I considered (not for the first time) that maybe I’ve never really pondered the future, that I’ve never been able to envision the future because I don’t really have a future. That sounds so morbid…But sit and listen to your heart beating quietly in your chest. Think about how fragile it is. Think about how with a single seize it could fail and then you’d be no more.
So I want to take better care of myself. I can’t give up caffeine completely (and I’m not sure how much influence it has anyway) but I would like to cut back. And try to do more relaxation/meditation. That’s it for now. We’ll see how it goes.
Tonight I finished The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. In it, after Philip’s boyfriend has dumped him, he realizes he has alot of free time on his hands and if it weren’t for work and his parents, he could just vanish into nothingness. This spoke to me, because I often wonder if I could just vanish. And then I got to wondering if I do all these things to fill my time so that I don’t realize how easy it would be to vanish.
In which we grow up…
I had a moment of contemplation today.
While leaning back from an art project I’m working on, I sat on the couch, looking out the window at the afternoon sun and thought, “I’ve grown up.”
I have my own place, I have a job, I have my friends and hobbies and I take care of my own expenses. I am, by most definitions, a grown up. I have been for several years now. It made me laugh. Or at least a good chuckle as I sat there in my tank top and shorts working on a project that could be considered juvenile. It made me extremely happy that while I’ve grown up, I haven’t gotten old.
I then proceeded to need a tool for said crafting and realized I received a flier from the necessary store recently. 50% off, today only. That always makes for a charming evening trip.
Hopefully without cursing myself…
I slept wonderfully this weekend. It was very refreshing and I feel much better. Especially with all the cleaning I got done. Productivity always feels good.
Speaking of feeling good, I feel confident in saying: I survived winter.
Normally winter makes me have short emotional fuses, slightly irrational thought patterns and an overall negative view of life (but mostly myself). But this winter, I was able to stave that off, for the most part. I still had my moments, of course, but I felt pretty good all winter. I keep waiting for the depression to hit, but I keep feeling rather happy. It’s nice.
Why was this winter different? I can’t say for certain, but I think there are two main reasons:
1. More riding. Normally my winter riding is once a week, in the ring, if that. This year, I rode once or twice a week out on trails. It was cold, but it was OUT and it was reviving. Each morning you’d ask “why am I doing this” and find out the answer was “because this is living.”
2. More writing. While I always “try” to set a writing schedule up, this year I actually did. And I kept to it. Since November I’ve been writing at least once a week, often more. It’s been nice. And I found when I wrote, even on days I really didn’t want to, I felt good afterwards. Like I was totally awesome or something. Can writing be a drug?
Also, in relation to this post about the action-feeling connection, I also tried harder to not let myself get trapped in negative feelings. Sometimes I caved and just curled up with books or movies or television and wasted my day. Only once did I avoid hanging out with people–and that was just as equally just exhaustion on my part. Most the time (since my moods happen at night) I was able to go to bed and wake up feeling fine the next morning. However, I was also able to stave off many of these moods by forcing myself to be productive and positive. Cleaning (and doing dishes) helps because it doesn’t take talent or skill but has a positive reward at the end with obvious results.
Closing thoughts: Doing your dishes has multiple positive benefits, including having clean dishes.