Tag Archives: writer’s block

Words and Other Things

My best friend, Liz, and my best-friend-in-law, Martyn, loaned me a bunch of books the other day.  I just finished one of them.  House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is a book about a guy who finds a book written about a documentary that doesn’t exist, that features a house that doesn’t exist, that was filmed by a man who doesn’t exist.  House of Leaves is a work of fiction, so technically if you read it, you are reading a book about a guy who doesn’t exist, who finds a book that doesn’t exist, written about a documentary that doesn’t exist, which features a house that doesn’t exist, that was filmed by a man who doesn’t exist.

You should read it.  It’s pretty good.  But very intense.  Not for the young of heart or the young of age.  Ye be warned.

The next book is The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson.  I’m still working on it, but so far as I can tell it is about a porn star who gets into a terrible car crash after combining cocaine, bourbon, and driving.  The crash results in lots of fire burning him all over his body, and then he has a chat with a crazy lady while in the hospital.  The chat is the thing I wanted to quote here, because it made me giggle with disproportionate glee.

I indicated the little statue on the bedside table.  “I like the gargoyle.”

“Not a gargoyle.  It’s a grotesque.”

“You say oyster, I say erster.”

“I ain’t gonna stop eating ersters,” Marianne Engel replied, “but that’s a grotesque.  A gargoyle’s a waterspout.”

“Everyone calls these things gargoyles.”

“Everyone’s wrong.”

The Gargoyle, pg. 81

See?  It proves something that was never called into question in the first place.  I once did thirty seconds of research on Wikipedia and now, years later, I’m reading a book that confirms my research and I’m all, “Yay!  This makes me happy.”  I just thought I’d share.  It’s a good read so far.

Finally, my computer broke recently.  I have the worst luck with computers.  But this time I don’t mean it crashed or it got a virus.  I mean it literally broke.  It started coming apart at the seams.  It’s currently being held together with duct tape and binder clips.

So I got a Mac.

Good news: I came up with a new comic idea.  I was inspired by English class and Shakespeare, since lately I’ve been working toward getting my teaching certification so I can teach high school English.  Without meaning to, this comic became a bit of an homage to Kate Beaton’s comic, Hark!  A Vagrant.  Though it was not intended, I am in no way sorry.  Beaton’s work is some of the funniest I’ve ever seen.

Bad news: My copy of Photoshop Elements is for PCs only.

Results: I drew the comic and then took pictures of each panel.  Enjoy!

Writer’s Block
11/11/15

WB Panel 1_1
WB Panel 1_2
WB Panel 1_3
redo 2_1(1)
WB Panel 1_5
WB Panel REDO

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under books, Comic, Humor, reading, writing

Defining a Genre

If you’ve been keeping up with my last few posts, you’ll know that I’ve been working on revising a book entitled Grotesque.  This book has been with me since 2012.  It has come so far since its first draft, but it’s not quite ready to be sent out to editors.  Why?  Because, as my agent, her interns, and I discussed, the book was hovering in an uncomfortable space between two genres.  It had adult themes and characters, but still read like a Young Adult novel.  In order to revise it, I had to take a step back and ask why the narrative voice wasn’t working, why it still sounded like it was aimed at teenagers.

Through extensive discussions with my husband, my best friends, and my siblings, I discovered that I was never going to be able to revise the current draft of the book to read more “adult.”  Why?  Because the content, structure, and plot of the novel were always going to be too YA.  No amount of aging up the narrative voice was going to change that.  At best I could have ended up with a YA novel that read with an incongruously adult voice.

This is how I decided to address the problem:  I gutted the book.  Took out the YA content and upped the ante.  I’m expanding the world, going into more details with regards to history and characters, raising the stakes.  And it’s working, though I’m only a few pages into the new draft.  My purpose for writing this post was to offer a quick, easy glimpse at the difference between a YA novel and a plain ol’ adult novel.  Here’s a handy Venn diagram:

Venn Diagram

You’ll note that I use a lot of words like “typically” and “usually.”  Why?  Anyone who knows me knows I hate blanket statements.  Obviously each genre has its own conventions – otherwise it wouldn’t be a genre – but there are exceptions to every rule.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a book that I would classify as “Adult” but one of the main characters is a twelve-year-old girl.  Similarly, Sarah Dessen has written a Young Adult novel about relationship abuse, which might be considered by some as an “adult” theme.  As for audience, there’s no set age-limit.  Adults read YA all the time.  Younger readers can find adult novels that they enjoy, or they might be exposed to adult novels through school.  I read Cold Mountain when I was thirteen years old (Summer reading assignment), and believe me that book is not YA.  It’s the Odyssey of Vaginas and it made me supremely uncomfortable.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Grotesque had elements of both genres.  Oftentimes it comes down to the way a story is approached.  You’ll note in the middle section of the diagram that there are several themes mentioned that could belong to either side.  The difference is that an adult novel will approach a theme of sexual abuse differently than a Young Adult novel.  I don’t know why I always capitalize Young Adult, but not adult.  Just go with it.

With that in mind, I began rethinking GrotesqueGrotesque deals with a main character who has only been alive for a few weeks, yet his body is that of an adult… monster.  He’s an adult monster.  His love interest is an adult with a child of her own.  Interestingly, a common theme in YA is the transition from childhood to adulthood.  This theme is present in Grotesque, but in a different way.  Again, it’s all about how the content is approached.  The statue that comes to life starts out with the mind of a child, but he is exposed to the horrors of the world, and that causes him to age rapidly.  He is overwhelmed by the complexity of life, the gray areas of morality, etc.  These are adult quandaries.  And so that is the direction I am taking.  I am going all in with this.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Can you believe I did a comic?  It’s been forever, right?  Enjoy!

Writer's-Block-Strip-45

1 Comment

Filed under books, Comic, Humor, writing

Free Sample

Welp, I finished editing Grotesque.  Before you go about congratulating me, I want to define “finished” for you:

Finished [ƒǝƞ-œŒ- ñÿď] adj – At a point where a book can be sent out for initial critique, where the book meets at least two of the following three criteria: 1. Is legible  2. Is in a language that all or most of the readers know  3. Obeys some rules of grammar

So yeah.  It’s not done.  Not by a long shot.  So I want you to keep in mind that the small sample I’m about to provide is completely unedited.  It will definitely change at least once before the month is out.  I can guarantee that.

But that’s okay!  Because all I really wanted to show you was some of the ways the book has already changed.  So I’m going to take a risk and compare the old and new introductory passages (which is only a risk because I am not sure at this point if my beta readers are going to like the new intro at all), as well as one other excerpt taken from the end of Chapter One.

For those who need a bit of a refresher on Grotesque, you can click here to go through my favorite post about it.  Or you can click here to go to the post in which I describe my inspiration for it (and then apparently provide the entirety of the first chapter, but you don’t have to read that).  Or you can go really crazy and click on both those links.

Okay, so here we go.  I’m going to put all passages in blockquotes so that they’re easy to differentiate from like…this writing I’m doing right here.

Pre-rewrite intro:

I awaken for the first time on the ledge of a tall building, the ground too far below for comfort. Above me is an inky black sky full of bright stars, a large moon, and a few wisps of gray cloud. The words for these things come easily to me, in a language that floods my mind, though I don’t know where it came from.

New intro:

Cold

Falling

Gasping

Breathing

In

Out

Flailing

Grabbing

Holding

Balance

Nerves tingling.

Heart pounding.

Stuttering breaths, in and out.

What am I doing?

A cold breeze dries the sweat on my forehead.

Where am I?

Sitting on a ledge, gripping onto something to keep myself steady, beneath an inky black sky dotted with stars. The moon is bright, illuminating a few wisps of gray cloud, and the ground beneath me which is too far away for comfort.

So why’d I change it?  Well, the first intro honestly wasn’t very captivating.  It also felt kind of forced and clunky to me.  With the new introduction, I wanted to try to encapsulate what it really would feel like to suddenly be alive for the very first time ever.  Once again, not sure if my readers (i.e. close friends and family) are going to like it.  It might change.  But this illustrates the direction I wanted to take it in pretty well.

Next we’ll look at a little further down in the same chapter.  This is from the old version:

“I brought life to you because I need some help.”

“Doing what?”

He shrugs.

“This and that. I have rather ambitious plans for my future, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my goals without help. So I risked weakening my powers some in order to give you life.”

“What if I don’t want to help you?”

“Oh, you can’t refuse. You’re enslaved to my will. You will have to obey any and every command I issue to you.”

He is so matter-of-fact about it, but I find I am not nearly as calm. I feel anger and frustration rising in my gut as the meaning of his words sinks in.

“So you brought me to life just to use me as a slave?”

“Yes.”

“I think I’d prefer to be a statue…or free.”

The man snorts out a laugh.

“And what would you do with your freedom? Do you really think people would accept you into their homes? Into their lives? You’d be hunted down and slaughtered on sight.”

I feel my throat tighten, cutting off further words. He is right, of course. This had all been part of his plan to keep me under his control.

“Besides,” he continues. “You can’t be free. Not until I’m dead. And don’t get any ideas. You cannot disobey me.”

Well, this is a solution to one problem at least. I raise my hand and slash my claws across the man’s throat. His blood spills quickly, and he collapses to the floor. The bastard hadn’t ordered me not to kill him, so I wasn’t disobeying anything by doing so.

And this is that same scene from the new version:

He shrugs. “This and that. I have rather ambitious plans for my future, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my goals without help. So I risked weakening my powers some in order to give you life.”

“Why should I help you?” I ask, genuinely curious.

“Because I’m going to tell you to,” is the reply. “You can’t refuse. You are bound by my will, and will continue to be until such time as I meet my inevitable, but unfortunate end.”

“So you created me to be your…slave?”

Slave. The word whispers itself in my ear, its significance bubbling in my mind. Bad. Not free. Trapped. Suffering.

I am pretty sure I don’t want to be a slave.

“Don’t look so concerned,” the man says, chuckling. “You will be happy to serve me. Your only purpose in life will be to please me. You will see that everything I do is for a greater cause.”

At first his words don’t seem all that reassuring, but suddenly I can see his point. What’s so wrong with being a slave? I’ve been promised security. And this man hasn’t given me reason to believe he has bad intentions. Surely this will be a good thing. I can’t wait for his next order so that I can show him how obedient I can be.

I smile.

Hopefully you can see how different this scene has become.  Thanks to my friend Micah’s suggestions, I added a new layer to Serrafiel’s character arc by forcing him to be happy with his position in life, rather than giving him a sense of morals right off the bat.  If he were truly new to life, he wouldn’t immediately know what was right or wrong.  He’d be like a two-year-old.  And that made his arc more interesting (in my humble opinion).  Because he has to grow up very, very fast.

Also, because I just realized that not everyone will read the name with the Spanish pronunciation, Serrafiel is not pronounced “Sarah-feel.”  It is pronounced “Seh-ra-fee-EL.”  That’s the best I can do for a pronunciation guide.  In case you didn’t notice when you were reading earlier, I’m not so good with the symbols and such.

And that’s it for now!  Hope you like the sneak peek at the changes I made.

Lots of words for you to read today, huh?  How about I reward you with…

A NEW COMIC!!

Writer's-Block-Strip-44

2 Comments

Filed under books, Comic, Humor, writing