January in Review

Who knows if I’ll continue this through the year, but for now I want to implement a regular look-back into what I’ve been up to, writing-wise. Weekly is far too often, so monthly seems like the perfect option. Since my writing has no real deadlines right now, if I don’t find some way to make myself accountable for doing SOMETHING, I’ll probably just continue to procrastinate.

As far as my Year of Writing challenge goes, I haven’t kept up with it as well as I would have liked. I rarely wrote much more than 1,000 words, which is the daily goal, and I fell short of it too often for my liking. I wrote nothing at all on at least four days. Sometimes I only managed a few hundred. I’m still feeling mildly proud of myself, because for such a long time I wasn’t writing regularly at all. My year so far has been much better than my past writing habits for many years before that. That might be the answer. I’m so out of the habit that it’s just going to take a while to really get back to a productive place, as far as writing is concerned. Still, I’m disappointed that I haven’t been able to do better yet. I’m about 5,000-6,000 words behind at this point, and I don’t like that…

In addition to a few blog posts and random journal-y type things that will never be publicly viewed (I hope), I’ve mainly been working on a retelling of Sleeping Beauty that I think I started writing in 2011. It sat essentially neglected for three to four years and now I’ve finally picked it up again. It felt great to make some progress on one of my old ideas. I have a tendency to hang onto concepts and ideas and story beginnings without ever producing a finished product; this is a bad habit I hope to fix.

Now, this project has stalled. I was trying to work on it yesterday and every sentence I thought of slipped away from me even faster than it came. Looking back now, I wonder–have I actually made progress? I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to completely rework the part of the book I’ve written in the past month when it comes to revisions, because it just doesn’t have a good flow. It seems that I got so caught up in trying to build up the story in a certain way, with the belief that I couldn’t just skip right to the “good parts,” that I let it get bogged down in details that don’t necessarily serve the story. (Instant reaction: OMG I’m a terrible writer! More thoughtful reply: If I were really a terrible writer I wouldn’t realize that the product was bad, and now that I have, I’ll be able to fix it.)

I haven’t quite decided if I’m going to continue writing this story, skipping to the “good parts” to fill in whatever other details might be needed later, or move on to some other projects that have been stewing in my mind. I just came up with a really interesting beginning to a story today, which would probably apply best to a thriller, but I don’t know if I want to write a thriller. I might write through the idea and see where it goes…

Writing something I’m not pleased with always feels like wasted time. In a month, I could have written at least as much GOOD quality stuff, if I had been writing better. This is both very obvious and sort of stupid. (Another one of my bad habits is dwelling on the past, and I have to try very hard to focus on just letting it go and moving forward.) It does no good to grumble about what I could have or should have done in regard to my writing or anything else in life.

Next up: The Shortest Month. February contains my birthday, which usually means a VERY slight uptick in social plans, and while it’s never as exciting or memorable as I want my birthday to be, I appreciate spending time with people who care about me. It also means the least amount of time (by just a few days, but still) between bill due dates. Much less fun. Before you know it, it’ll be over, and we’ll have to trudge through the slowest month that ever existed–March. Gee, I can’t wait.

Reflections on a Piece in E-mails

I came across a piece I did last year that is written in the form of emails between a brother and sister. It was my response to an assignment for Recent Innovative Fiction, a writing class I took during my last semester at Bennington College. It was fun to write, and very very experimental in nature. The plot is built on a rather strange premise and developed only as much as I needed to write a few pages. I don’t intend to ever finish it, and it’s not exactly fit to post online, but I want to talk about it briefly, as it is out of the ordinary and, despite its roughness, I am proud of it.

Many interesting considerations go into writing a piece like this. A skeleton of a plot is necessary to begin writing, but the main consideration was form. We concentrated a lot on form in RIF. It’s not enough to simply write a story in an interesting form – if you don’t take advantage of the form you decide to use, you’re missing an opportunity. So I asked myself: what can I do to play with email form? Of course I decided to create a parody of those ridiculous chain letters people send each other. In terms of language, I mostly stuck to the type of language people typically use in email. It makes the more poetic sentences really stand out. And what else? I could have given the characters interesting emails, but I never got around to assigning them email addresses.

The one thing I came up with that would have made this piece very interesting, if it were finished and published, was to get creative with the time stamps. You have to read them carefully in order to spot it. One character’s emails always originate from the same time on the same day, while the other’s are sent at random times, often weeks later than their last. The conversation progresses as if they were talking in real time, but the information they share about their lives indicates that he is stuck in time, while she’s speeding forward. They also relate strange occurrences in their lives, which is meant to be connected to the weird time paradox they seem to be stuck in. I suppose that makes it a sci-fi/fantasy type story. As I wrote I imagined that most people would interpret the weirdness as indications of end-times.

I think that this story could turn out well, but if I do return to it to write more, create a complete piece, it won’t be for a long time. I’d love to hear that people are intrigued by the idea.