Winter Break

Fall Semester is officially over. Of the three classes I kept (Survey of Art, Creative Writing: Non Fiction and Anthropology: Peoples of the World) I managed to pass them all (and pass them well). That leaves me with an awkward, job-less lull between now and Spring Semester. I’ve done my fair share of video games (Final Fantasy XV, I Am Setsuna and now playing ARK like a madwoman), did my first Arts and Crafts show for my business Distracted Dragon and have stayed, generally, quite busy. Toward the end of the Fall Semester when I received my final grades, I also received an encouraging note from my favorite English Teacher, hidden in one of my essays:

Thank you, Mr. Frey, for pushing me forward.

I decided to take a stab at revision. I say try because nothing I ever start is really guaranteed to finish. This entire blog is more of a record of all the many, many, many projects I’ve started in my life and gave up on. Did you know I once considered using my tax return money to buy ISBNs because I thought, seriously, about self-publishing? About becoming a small press publisher and trying to take on other projects? You can laugh at that, I still do. Bitterly. I’m still trying to convince myself that a business license was the best way to go for something that is slightly more than a hobby. Anyways, that’s another topic for a different blog.

Back to revision.

A friend let me borrow some material for revision. Because I didn’t pay for it (yet), I can’t really mention the exact name or risk getting myself into trouble. I have the materials, and the first step was to read through my manuscript. I chose a smaller, older project that I didn’t hate: Earth Borne. I took a few days and read each chapter aloud, making notes of where I found problems. I sent my manuscript out to a couple friends and have gotten some feedback, not much. I’m not sure what to expect. I know my work isn’t perfect, but I’m awful at the revision process. Do you see how that word is spelled? Revision? To “re-see” something, to look at it again and find the problems and fix them? My brain struggles with that: I don’t see perfection, but I see something that is hard to move, static, set in place even if it is crooked.

So I have notes about my manuscript – places where I have noticed issues. Most of them are minor, with some big problems towards the middle and end. Ok, I can do this. The next step in the revision process was to go back through and look for connections that I may have missed. Between characters or events, to make something connect there that was maybe supposed to (according to your subconscious mind) that you didn’t realize, or that should connect now to make the story more compelling.

For me, that’s pretty damn abstract. I know you can’t troubleshoot an individual plot based on a formula, I get that, it’s like treating everything with Amoxicillin (or Windex, like that movie). I realize there cannot be a “sure fire” way to fix any story problems, but this “find connections and make them” business is driving me mad.

But I have tried, and I’ve taken notes, and I want to share them with you and the revision journey as a whole. My goal is to have a good, strong idea for a revised version of Earth Borne before Spring Semester starts in January. Why? You know me: once school starts, I won’t focus on writing unless it is school-related. My current Spring Semester workload looks like this:

History 101, Death and Dying, Introduction to Astronomy, Math 025 and a member of the Trestle Creek Review (North Idaho College’s Literary Magazine that I was published in earlier this year!). It’s 15 credits, full time, with some hard classes. So I know myself well enough to know I’m going to spend the next five months freaking the fuck out over classes.

If you’re interested in my revision notes, I’m including them in the next blog (for those of you who don’t care about revision and just want to read finished stories, I get that). I like to preserve things like these for my own records, to show the “behind the scenes” work that goes into all writing, and because typing out my handwritten notes helps me remember.

You can read Chapter 1 of Earth Borne here:

http://michellebrumley.com/short-stories/earth-borne-chapter-1/

It’s been snowing and I have basically been house-bound since. Mason’s driving my car to work, and I don’t want to drive his truck around town. So my travels have been restricted to where I can, and am willing to, walk in the snow and slush. Today I walked to my local mail store, dropped off a package and picked up one—sent out buttons, got mylar rings in for new coasters and 2.25” buttons. Business stuff. When I got back home, my boots were soaked, muddy and my socks were damp. My button customer gave me a $10 tip, and that made my day, made me forget about my wet socks.

I tried to sit down and work on revision, got a few notes down and decided I’d rather write a blog instead. I checked my final grades for the Fall Semester:

Now, this is easy to obtain if:

  1. You’re a part time student and
  2. You have no "real" job*.
  3. Your classes, and teachers, are kind of awesome.

Yes, I am gloating. Yes, I am proud of myself. It’s been a long Semester, and this is logically the last one that I will get A’s in all my classes because, as they say, shit is about to get real. Look at my schedule for Spring. Look at it. Read back through my blogs where I mention crying over my Geography class. No, don’t, that’s just depressing (but I did write about it!). I’m going to be busier than I’ve ever been starting in January, so I wanted one last chance to share my good grades before they become… worse. I’ll do my best, and I’m sure I’ll remember to blog at some point when I’m not paralyzed with College Workload Fear. I have all the respect in the world for you college kids (and college-adults) and your ability to focus and deal with life and still manage to get good grades. Hell, I’m even proud of the ones that get C’s and D’s and F’s because you’re trying. Yes, I’m hoping I’ll remember that too when I’m that kid.

I'm not sure what the point of this blog was aside from updating you on my life in general, gloating about my College success and bitching about revision being hard.

Last random note: still listening to "Sword-Maker" by Jennifer Roberson. 

Running Outline and Draft #1.5 for The Burning City

Part of the writing process doesn't always mean writing story content. Sometimes it means editing (excuse me while I go and claw my eyes out), sometimes it means stopping and reading, re-reading, and sometimes it means changing. I just finished reading through 62,000 words and 10 chapters of The Burning City. After a few panic attacks, a few moments of extreme weakness, and some time spent alone with my story: I realized it wasn't in as bad a shape as I thought. I'm working on a new outline, and I'll be making some minor and major changes to my existing manuscript. I'm going to keep sharing the story as I write it because that's all part of the process. You know I'm not afraid to share hideous first, tenth or twentieth drafts with you. I can only hope that someday, when someone sits down with a copy of The Trials of Blood, maybe they'll know that it can be done and it's not a simple process. Maybe they'll know someone else failed before they succeeded. A lot. And didn't give up, and neither should they.

I can dream, right?

Dreaming has got me through one draft, and half of a second, and a handful of short stories and half-started stories. Dreaming has connected me with people, made friends out of strangers, and elevated characters from the page to my heart. So dream, damn it, and never stop.

Never stop writing, either. Advice I need to take a bit more often. I'm thankful for the friends in my life that take ten seconds out of their lives to say, "Keep writing." Because that means: "Keep dreaming." "Keep going." "I believe in you." "I love Malisyn as much as you do." "I want to see the end of the story."

Thank you.

2015-06-06 14.52.55b

I have successfully settled in to a new apartment. I have two room mates. I have bills to pay, a job I enjoy(ish) and food in the fridge. I have friends and family who love me, more video games than I have time to play, and any number of cats to cuddle with should the need arise. Five months ago I would never have believed I'd ever be happy again.

I'm happy to be wrong.

I dyed my hair purple; I wasn't happy with dark brown. Too normal. Not me.

At first, I blamed an emotional disruption for The Burning City halting in it's tracks. It was true that my life had spiraled out of control--but even now that I've maintained it, my story hasn't come back to me yet. So I had to reconsider: what stopped my story? What fell short? And after a while, I realized that I had lost sight of where I wanted the story to go, ultimately. My outline had run dry. My plot line became cloudy.

My solution was to begin with a running outline. I can't recall what writing book I picked up the concept from, but it's basically this: as you read through your manuscript, write down the events that happen. Simple, a few lines each. An alternative method is to copy and paste the first and last paragraph of each chapter to try and keep track of what happened. That was too vague for me.

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I printed off a chapter at a time. As I read it, I wrote in a small notebook. I took some character notes but mostly plot points, so I could reacquaint myself with my characters and story. I needed to see where I stopped loving the story.

Eventually I started typing my  notes in to the computer, and highlighted the parts that were the most relevant.

2015-06-19 11.12.23b

I changed it a little when I re-typed my notes, I color-coded sections to make it easier for me to read. Blue for plot, purple for plot considerations.

I had a cat assistant at some point, but she wasn't overly helpful. (Artemis asleep behind my monitor.)

The Plan for June and July

So now you know what I've been doing: getting reacquainted with the story and finding out that I need to make changes. What's the next step? The obvious answer is: writing. But the not-so-obvious part to non-writers, is that it isn't that simple. It sounds simple. It isn't.

Step 1: Make a new outline for The Burning City with the new information discovered/created during the re-reading phase Step 2: Make a list of scenes and plot points that I want to write about. Step 3: Use July and CampNaNoWriMo to write 25,000 words towards The Burning City to make up for lost time!

Do I think I have 25,000 words on the back burner? Yes. Maybe not all new words (some may come from re-writing scenes) but I believe I have enough of a new story to do it in the month of July.

What Do You Need From Us?

What do I need from you? Understanding. I don't even need support, I know I have it: I just need everyone to be a bit patient as I scrape up my story entrails back in to a jar and shake them up. These things take time, and the story will be better for it. Feel free to re-read the story from my Chapter 1 draft, or hop over to my Facebook page and give me some love. Otherwise, I'll see you next month some time!

But if you want to support me financially, which is always awesome: remember that I make 1 1/2" pin-back buttons for a stupidly cheap amount of money.

pinjinn2c

Rereading The Trials of Blood (59%)

My progress on rereading The Trials of Blood has slowed. I broke the screen on my smartphone, which I was originally using to read the story on. While there is advantages to reading on a smaller screen (I wrote a blog post about it earlier), there is not an advantage on reading on a screen that is also broken. So I debated: buy an eReader like a Kindle or Nook? Or buy a tablet, which can download the Kindle App that I was already using on my smartphone to begin with? I weighed my options, and when I came across a clearance tablet at Best Buy for $40, I could not pass it up. I snatched up the tablet, it came with a (slightly) protective case, and loaded the Kindle App on it. As soon as I opened it: it synced my place in the story and I was back in business. digiland-tablet

The tablet, while far from the best on the market, is perfect for me. I didn't want it to be so good it was a distraction (or too bad, my last experience with an eReader was awful). It's a Digiland 7" Quad-core Tablet and Amazon has it for around $80 now.

I have 25 pages of handwritten notes that I've taken across 59% of the book. Many of these are revision notes or story information, such as character descriptions.