Religion is a touchy subject these days. It seems anyone who professes a certain faith is labeled a zealot, an extremist. Now there are some people who take their way to the extreme and use it as a justification to berate and heap violence against those who don’t share the same views. I think they tend to forget they’re human, not God or Allah or whatever higher power they worship. I am proud to say that I am a Christian and that I make mistakes.
Having said that, I admit I have a gross misunderstanding about Christian fiction. Or any religious fiction, for that matter. I always thought that authors used their books to push their beliefs onto their audience. An example is the Left Behind series. I’ve never read one book in that series, but I know its subject matter revolves around the End of Days, as the Bible prophesized in the book of Revelation. Outside of that, I am ignorant of the plot itself. But that is what authors want the reader to believe. Now, I might be wrong that the author is pushing their propaganda onto an unsuspecting reader. It’s hard, at the same time, to not refute it.
This is kind of ironic because when I started writing, I wanted to write Christian fiction. But because I didn’t research the premise, I steered away from it. Now, there might be other books who try to push religion, and there are some that do not. Again, I haven’t read any of them to discern the difference. As a writer and reader, I need to appreciate all works of fiction, no matter the genre.
I’ve read blogs all morning, and most people are blogging about the dreaded “Q” word, quitting. Seems to be a fitting subject among writers. Everyone struggles with it. Without further ado, let me talk about what quitting means to me.
I confess to the blogging world. I have quit on several things in my lifetime. I’ve quit jobs because I felt I wasn’t getting paid enough or felt enormous frustration. I’ve quit certain books because it didn’t keep me interested. That’s not to say I didn’t try in whatever I attempted. I think I’m one of those people who loses interest quickly. It was believed that I had ADD, but that hasn’t been proven. But, that’s for another post.
But the worst activity I’ve quit on is my writing. It’s not because I lost interest, to a degree. I account my quitting to two factors. One is a lack of discipline. I know, again with that word, but it’s a facet that cannot be ignored. As I said before, I took my Creative Writing classes too lightly. I wasn’t as serious as I should have been. Because I didn’t build and develop healthy writing habits, it led to self-destructive behaviors.
The other is a fear of my own writing. The writing business is as unpredictable as the weather. No one knows what the next trend in literature is going to be. And there’s no guarantee of success. And that’s what scares me. I fear that my writing is not going to be good enough for the masses. If you follow my blog, you’ve probably seen two of my short stories. I haven’t crafted more because I’m afraid how people will respond.
So after my spiel, the question becomes “Why I haven’t quit?” The answer: I’m not sure. I think it’s because I love writing too much. It doesn’t make any sense to quit something you love. And after waving back and forth on whether to take this profession head-on, I read a craft book called The Courage to Write. It inspired me and spurred me to take on this task and pursue my passion that I ignored for so long.
So while I’m still developing those healthy writing habits, I am making the decision to not quit this journey, ever. And if I wane, I hope my writing buddies will spur to take up the pen and write. Or, turn on the laptop and type.
There are many debates in the world of writing: pen and paper vs. computer, traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, indie vs. mainstream, blog vs. website. The simple truth is there is no right or wrong way to go about this process. Every writer is different, so each process is different. One debate I find the most interesting is plotting vs. pantsing.
Plotting is where a writer creates a plan before writing a draft. Some writers have to have everything planned out. They have to have sketches of every major and minor characters. They worldbuild. They have outlines of every chapter. There is little room to go off the path. And even when they do, there’s a plan. I find novels or long short stories encourage plotting. Pantsing, on the other hand, is when writers just starts writing. There is no set plan. In the process of writing, characters come off the fly, a plot slowly forms, a world is created right before their eyes. During the editing, they may decide to flesh out a main character further and clean up some details. The purpose, when all is said and done, is to get it out of the mind and onto the page. This is especially the case with poems and flash fiction.
Some are pure plotters, some are pure pantser. And some are both of varying degrees depending on the project, which is the case with me. I consider myself more of a plotter than a pantser. I have to, at least, have character sketches and a basic idea of the plot before writing a draft. But when it comes to the actual writing, I am a pantser. I don’t always start at the beginning of a story. I find writing the beginning to be the most difficult. I’ll start at a major plot point somewhere in the middle. As I edit, I’ll come up with a beginning based around what I’ve written so far. This is especially the case with short stories. If I do write a novel, I want a plan. I can’t imagine writing any other way.
I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to share a couple of characters that I kept on the backburner. This one is a little more recent. And by recent, I mean after I graduated from college. His name is Oliver Greene.
Oliver Greene is a 22-year-old student who receives a letter from his mother. It says that his father is very ill. She requests that he come down to Newport to visit the family in case the worst happens. He struggles with the decision, as he does not have a good relationship with his father. (Cliché, I know.) He contemplates his choice even after arriving at the bus station. His sister takes him to the hospital and have a somber family reunion.
This is where Mark Twain’s quote makes some sense for me. Recently, I had a relative who passed away. My relationship was good, not great. She loved the family and did whatever she could to make sure we communicated with one another. After her passing, the relatives made a concerted effort to keep in touch. It’s worked so far.
This is another of those stories where I don’t know where to go with it. When I first wrote this story, I wanted him to wrestle with this decision at the bus station, and end it at the station. In another draft, I wanted to focus on the relationships he has with his family while at the hospital. At some point, I thought about combining the two. And yet, I thought about Oliver meeting the family at the home, watching his father tinker and having a conversation with his father before falling ill.
There are so many avenues with this story. I almost gave up on it because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write it. But a good friend on Twitter told me that stories, like us, have their season. It didn’t feel right writing this story straight out of college. I wasn’t ready to write. At least, not without a plan. So, we’ll see how this turns out in the future.
I can’t believe I’ve made it halfway through this challenge. I have read and followed some interesting bloggers already. I hope that those who are reading my posts have found them entertaining at least.
So, here’s a little heads-up. With these next two posts, which will probably be very short, I’m giving you glimpses of characters I want to use in future stories. I’ve heard different opinions about divulging details like this, but I want to invite readers to how I write and why I write. That includes character names and situations. I may use them now, or later. I may use the situation I thrust upon them now, or scrap it for something better. Who knows?
When I was in college, I wanted to craft a mystery short story with the main character named “Nick Bartleby.” I really liked Bartleby–named after “Bartleby the Scrivener”–as a last name. The story is about a janitor who witnesses the murder of a young girl in a building across from where he works. He’s conflicted on whether to call the police because it would arouse suspicion because he displays voyeuristic tendencies; spying on her, writing love letters, that sort of thing. Plus, he’s much older than her, which makes it all the more creepy.
I haven’t played much with this story in college. It never made the drafting stage. But, I kept the character in the recesses of my mind if another idea ever came to be. I may still use the original story I thought of, but we’ll see.
Okay, so it’s out there. Let me know what you think in the comments. Should I scrap this story or not? If there are better avenues to take this character, I’m all ears. I value your input.
As I am composing this post, I am streaming light classical music on Pandora. I named the station “Writer’s Radio.”
Early in my writing endeavors, that wasn’t the case. I didn’t see the connection between music and writing. I felt it was too much of a distraction. But I read in blogs about how music played a role in writing. So, I decided to give it a try. I tried many different stations, and I found classical music–the light variety–to be my go-to station. In general, listening to this genre helped calm me. It helped me focus on a task. So, when the time came to work on my stories for college, I would turn on the radio and tune it to the local public radio station, the only station that played classical music throughout the day.
Apps like Pandora, Spotify, and iTune Radio are a godsend. I can’t imagine not listening to music when I write. There’s something about music that stirs the creative juices in just the right way. It awakens the muse who tends to sleep on us. Classical music is my first option in writing, but I experiment with different stations on Pandora, depending on the mood and what I’m writing. I have a station dedicated to Lindsey Stirling, which is quickly becoming a favorite. I have stations featuring gaming scores, film scores, and music meant for relaxation. I’m sure I’ll find more stations to listen to as I expand and continue my writing journey.
Here’s a secret. I struggle with being lazy. I’m struggling with it as I’m writing this post. The problem with laziness is that it’s easy to be lazy. It takes hard work if we want anything substantial. The truth of the matter is that we are a lazy generation. I believe some of that is due to technology. Nowadays, everything is just a button push away. I remember having to write down orders before calling in for a delivery. Now, with a few taps of a smartphone, the order’s placed without breaking a sweat. (Ok, bad example, but you get the idea.) Continue reading “2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge: L is for Laziness”