Friday, November 23, 2012

Writing on Writing Entry 7 - Laying Down the Bones

The first step to writing is to get the story, whether a short story or novel-sized or even the essay, out of your head, into words, and into a print format.  I like to call this process as gathering the bones, otherwise known as producing a first draft.  When writing the first draft you should not concern yourself too much with whether or not the story is written well, if the punctuation is correct, if there are typos, or poor grammar, or even whether the story is in the right order. It only matters that you write your story down so that you have something to work with, or so that someone else, as for instance your editor has something to see in order that he or she can direct you through the next step.  Without the first draft, there is no story at all, no matter whether that first draft is a short story, an essay, or a novel sized manuscript.

The second step to writing is revision or laying down the bones. In revising a first draft, your job is to lay out the bones in the correct order and in the process remove any bones that don’t belong or any duplicate bones such as repetitive ideas.  You will also check each bone for cracks or breaks such as unrealistic or unjustified occurrences. This goes for fantasy/sci-fi or fiction.  When writing fantasy/sci-fi, make sure you do not step out of the boundaries of the world you create without first notifying your audience.  Also, make sure to set up your worlds in a manner realistic to your story. When writing fiction, it is even more important to stick to realism.  Make sure of the placement of any existing or previously existing landmarks. Research any historical facts or people that you might include in your story.  Search out any contradictions within your story. Research and keep notes on your research to refer to later.  Now is the time to mend these bones.

Just a note here: It is common for writers when trying to express a point that they write the same idea to describe a circumstance in different ways to make sure their readers understand what they are trying to say.  A good rule to follow here is to say it once, say it well and then leave it be.  Repetition is a common trick that students use when writing an assignment to boost their word count.  This is not a good ploy as most, if not all, teachers or professors see right through this ruse.  So, my advice is to stick to the afore mentioned rule.  

Once you have the bones of your first draft placed in the proper order, you have a good strong structure as a base to build your story.  It is now an easier task to begin to go on to the next steps of revision, which is to add the body of your story including the vital organs, the muscle and tissue, or as they say, “flesh the story out.”

Don’t fear that bag of bones.  Remember, first drafts are never the final product; they are just the beginning of the writing process. So sit down and fill that bag.  In other words: Don’t think, just write.

Thanks for stopping by... ~Yvonne~

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Well, it’s Tuesday...

Well, it’s Tuesday.  Two days until Thanksgiving and then Christmas is just around the corner. 

Why is it that when you really have to do something you would much rather do something else? I have loads to do for the coming holidays and absolutely no ambition to get started.  I don’t have much to buy as far as gifts because I usually make gifts, and this year, I have plenty of gifts to make.  I think that once I decorate I will get into the holiday spirit.

For the past week or so, I have accomplished quite a lot, mostly reading and writing.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I was on a Stephen King kick there for a couple of weeks. Of course, this man does not write short novels so reading took up much of my time.  I read The Stand, a book that I read previously; and I read 11/22/63. I wrote blogs about each of them. You can find the blogs under the list titled My Reviews.  I read The Help by Susanne Stockette in print format a month or so ago and I saw the movie sometime within the last two weeks. Then last week I found the book in audio format at the library and I consumed that over the last weekend.  I found that the audio version was the best of the three.  Also, I like audio because I can get other things done while consuming a book.  Currently, I am reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman and I am enjoying it immensely. It reminds me of Harry Potter but on an adult scale.  The language (I refer here to cursing) is adult and the interaction of the characters is more adult as well.  So far the story is not as adventurous as HP but it is interesting and at times it is otherworldly scary. I really can’t judge overall as I am just getting started. 

Speaking of Harry Potter, I placed a hold on the audio version of J. K. Rowling’s newest release A Casual Vacancy.  I am #23 on the list so might take a few weeks before my number comes up.  The Harry Potter  series is so imaginative; I am interested to see what and how Rowling writes outside of the HP universe. I will certainly let you know.

As I mentioned earlier, writing takes much of my time lately, too.  I wrote several scenes, though as yet, I am not sure of their placement in my story. It will come to me though.  I just hope I don’t have to edit too much out to get them all in.  Ah well, the completion is a long way off and I will worry about the editing when the time comes. Poetry isn’t coming to me so easily lately. I think I have to get involved with a class or workshop to start the creative juices flowing again. That is one more add for my to-do list.

Twitter notifications now pack my email inbox to the brim.  This occurred over the past couple of days.  I usually try to respond to each new follower, mention, and RT-er individually and on a daily basis, but I let it slide for a couple of days and now my inbox is up to close to 100 and the prospect of acknowledging each one is daunting. I can see this project taking up an entire day. 

Well, I think I have told you all I can for now.  I am spending Thanksgiving at Mom’s place.  They put on a nice buffet for the residents and I enjoy the people.  It is usually an early day, so I have time to visit elsewhere later.  I probably will not blog again until the weekend.

 I wish you all a wonderful and safe holiday.

Thanks for stopping by… ~Yvonne~

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Thoughts on “11/22/63” by Stephen King

Last evening I finished reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  This is a book that I was excited to read since its publication, because not am I a fan of the author, but as well because I have an unusually clear memory of this incident in history.  Additionally, I was aware of our country’s confrontation with Cuba and the threat of nuclear attack on American soil and of the Civil Rights Movement, of which both Mr. King refers to in this novel.  

With this story, Mr. King does a fine job of combining the genres of Science Fiction, Horror, and Historical Fiction.  His research for the story was obviously extensive and his description was thorough.  He takes into account not only the monetary and technological differences between the late 1950s and early 1960s, he additionally takes into account the social and political climate of those years along with the differences of these aspects between the Northern and Southern areas of the United States.  He also delves into other historical events and even profiles Lee Harvey Oswald life and personality years before his ultimate and horrific act that stunned our country and dissolved our young people’s innocence and complacency.  I cannot speak, of course, for everyone of my generation; however, for me that one act of violence and subsequent killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby forever changed my view of the world, and in turn influenced who I am as a person.  Ultimately, not only did this incident in history change my view but also many individual’s view and as well as our country and the world.  In his very riveting story, Mr. King through the lives and experiences of his characters addresses the question of how not only the world would change but also, how individual lives would change without certain incidents and experiences taking place. 

In his novel, Mr. King’s main character Jake Ebbing alias George Amberson, travels back in time through a time portal that only he and the owner of a local diner Al Templeton, have knowledge.   The portal takes the time Jake/George to an exact point in time September 9, 1958 at 11:58 a. m. No matter the amount of time he spends in the past whether an hour or five years, when he returns through the portal only two minutes pass in present time.  Whatever changes he makes in the past, whether a major incident or anything that seems inconsequential, remains as a change in the past and impacts the future, either on an accordingly micro or macro scale, or changes an individual’s life or the entire universe.  Jake/George learns from Al that if he never again takes another trip through the portal then history remains fixed to whatever changes the he make to the past.  However, if he uses the portal again, all the changes on previous excursions void out and the future and is the same as it was originally.  Another drawback Jake/George experiences is his aging process in that while only two minutes pass in real time, he ages for time he spent in the past.

Additionally, Jake/George soon learns that changing the past does not always produce the intended outcome and that every time he attempts to change something he experiences dangerous, and sometimes life-threatening, obstacles.  Jake/George recognizes this as a foe and as a living entity referring to it as the “obdurate” past.  His adventures span five years in which he not only focuses on stopping the President’s assassin he also comes to make many friends and finds his true love, Sadie Dunhill.  At one point, in Jake/George’s travels he comes to the fictional town of Derry, Maine where he meets two characters, Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh from King’s previous novel “It”.  The two teenagers seem to realize that Jake/George is not of their world and in turn, Jake/George feels the evil cloud that seems to cover the town.  I liked this reference and as Stephen King fan, I am inclined to want to read “It” again.

I will not say anymore about the story here in this review, as I do not want to give away too much information to those who have not and wish to read the book.  I do highly recommend this book to both those who are fans of Stephen King and those who are not.  It does have its horror and well-described bloody violence, yet this is expected as referenced by the date in history for which the book is titled. 

Thanks for reading… ~Yvonne~

Monday, November 12, 2012

Finally Back in the Groove…

Even though it’s Monday I finally feel like I am back in the groove.  The past two weeks had me spinning and I could not seem to focus on anything long enough to its completion, except reading. 

It started with Hurricane Sandy.  I was thoroughly prepared to evacuate if it came to that, and prepared items such as candles, lanterns, batteries, and extra blankets in case I lost power.  I also pulled the air conditioner out of my bedroom window, which was a feat I never should have attempted on my own.  I got it out though, but my wrist ached for a few days afterward and caused my sciatica to kick in for about a week as well.  Needless to say, I was not a happy camper for a week or so and within that time I must have consumed about 20 aspirin.  Anyway, Sandy roared in with a cacophony that sounded like a freight train was speeding up the road and winds that rattled the windows and shook the house.  However, my power stayed steady and other than laying down a carpet of leaves and small branches, there was no real damage.  A few of my neighbors down the road who live closer to the lake’s shore and don’t have the advantage of cliff between their homes and the lake had to evacuate to shelters.  A few lost power, and had to contend with a couple of fallen trees, but nothing near the catastrophe of NYC and New Jersey.  Considering the damage to these areas and others, I feel the Creator watched over us throughout the storm!

The time change was the next event that through me off the rails.  It doesn't matter whether we are springing forward of falling back, the time change always messes with my head even though it is for just an hour either way.  I wish they would do away with this foolishness and keep it one way or the other, although I would prefer the spring forward time that gives us more daylight and longer days.

I have to have my car inspected this month, so last Monday I took it to the neighborhood to have it checked out for needed repairs.  The horn doesn't work, which I would never know because I never use it, and the back windshield wiper needs replacing (another item I never use).  The big expense is tires of which I need all four replaced.  I could get by with replacing the two front tires, but better safe than sorry.  Also, I figure if I don’t replace all four now I will end up replacing the other two next year, so it’s better to get them all done now when I have some extra money to get it done.  I live on a very modest budget as it is, but you never know what another year will bring or take away.

Tuesday brought the elections.  I am not one to discuss politics with anyone except for a few close friends.  Nor do I openly state my opinions in any public forum.  Other’s opinions do not influence me within my decision process, but I do spend quite a bit of time before the elections contemplating my vote.  In the end, I vote my conscience and hope and pray for the best.  All I will say here is that I am satisfied with the outcome.

By last Thursday, all the stress of the past two weeks brought a visitation from a massive migraine headache.  I thought that it was gone Friday morning, but it came back with a vengeance by the afternoon.  I was at Mom’s when it arrived, but I managed to accomplish all the tasks and errands she needed me to complete. We also had some time to attend a gathering in the main dining room where we had coffee served with pumpkin cake and ice cream (definitely a sugar overload for all partaking).  During this outing, I had a chance to listen to the elder’s conversations as they talked about their current and past experiences, which is something I always find interesting.

Friday evening I had one more ‘to do’ left on my list.  I received a notice for jury duty several weeks earlier and my instructions were to call after 5:30 for further instructions concerning the task.  Luckily, the recording told me that I did not have to do anything except call back for further instructions the following Tuesday.  Of course, with caring for Mom, I will not be able to accommodate the request, but it is still something that weighs heavy on my mind until its closure.

This past weekend was a time to unwind.  I kept busy with designing a new pattern for my “Ode to the Quilt” series and I wrote a poem for Veteran’s Day that I posted yesterday on this blog.  I caught up on the television series that I follow which includes “The Vampire Diaries,” “Supernatural,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”  I also watched “The King’s Speech” not for the first time.  Other than that, I continued reading “11/22/63” by Stephen King.  It was a very relaxing weekend.

This brings me back to Monday where I feel that a weight has lifted from my shoulders.  I am excited with the prospects of writing and creating over the coming weeks.  My friends and family are sure to receive handmade gifts and an abundance of baked goods as Christmas presents from me this year.  

 Now with all that said, I am off to get started on the many tasks ahead…

Thanks for stopping by… ~Yvonne~

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On this Veteran’s Day…

On this Veteran’s Day…

I honor all those both past and present who leave their families and homes placing their lives on the line in rising to the call by taking on the mantle of protector and defender.

On this Veteran’s Day…

 I honor all those both past and present who leave the safety of their homelands placing their lives on the line to bring us news and first-hand accounts of the battles afar.

On this Veteran’s Day…

I honor all those both past and present who leave the safety of their homes placing their lives on the line to reach out to all those in need who are suffering within the ravages of war.

On this Veteran’s Day…

I honor all those both past and present who suffer the devastation of the destruction of their homes and homelands, and those that suffer under the oppression, cruelty, and greed of others.

On this Veteran’s Day…

I honor all those both past and present who suffer injuries to mind and body, and those who suffer the loss of the lives of loved ones.  

On this Veteran’s Day…

I pray for peace that all Human Beings come to understand and accept the differences of others.  I pray that all Human Beings come to care for one another through sharing and giving.  I pray for the entire Human Race that we receive the blessing of enlightenment to the knowledge and reasoning that all Human Beings are related, that we are all connected.

Thank you for visiting and taking the time to read.  ~Yvonne~

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

My Thoughts on All Things “The Stand” by Stephen King

My mind is a boggle of thoughts these days, which is preventing me from writing much that is coherent.  For me, this is a form of writer’s block.  It’s not that I can’t write, in fact I have plenty of ideas and continue to write them down in order that I won’t forget them when the time comes to write more than a page or two without wandering to some other far off unrelated subject other than the one at hand.  This blog is an attempt, of sorts, to focus on the culprit of my wandering thoughts.

I am blaming Stephen King for this dive into self-absorption as a couple of days ago I finished reading his novel TheStand.   This is not the first time I read this novel, in fact I believe it is the forth.  However, this time, having found it in audio format at the library, Grover Gardner (an excellent narrative reader) read it to me over the course of 37 CD's  Whether or not I was a fan (or Constant Reader as Mr. King refers) of Mr. King’s work, I would have to dub The Stand as the best apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic story ever published. 

The Book

As per always, Mr. King fleshes out his characters in such a way that the reader knows them on an intimate basis.  He delves into their experiences, both past and present, and gives a clear explanation of the affect those experiences have on their psyches.  We know how they think both of themselves and of the people and the world that they presently inhabit.  As readers, if we were to meet these characters in the real world, we would know them well enough to have a sit-down conversation with them.  Once we have this grasp on the characters Mr. King then goes further to take these characters to very unusual, frightening, and horrific predicaments and circumstances. While Mr. King’s stories are in the genre of Horror, the horror does not always spring from a purely supernatural force but combines with the horrible acts of human beings upon one another. Hence, Mr. King evens out his stories to bring them into both character and plot driven supernatural adventures.  

However, in The Stand, Mr. King goes even further by touching on subjects and rounding them out as well as he does his characters. This novel forces the reader to look at the human condition in the face of an apocalyptic occurrence. The reader begins to consider what resources are important to the survival of the human race and to weed out the items that are not required for survival.  As well, the reader reflects on not only the psychology of an individual, but also the psychology of individual groups.  Other subjects come into play as will such as Sociology, Theology, Spirituality and the importance of the individual within the group.  These subjects then combine with mysticism and paranormal experiences that in some ways bring about an almost evolutionary advance in human brain development.

Three of the most important individuals to the group’s survival are those that society would pass or judge insignificant in normal circumstances – Nick Andros, a deaf/mute, Tom Cullen, a high functioning mentally challenged man, and Abigail Freemantle, an extremely elderly woman.   Even with their very different belief structures—Nick as an atheist, Abigail as a bible/religion based Christian, and Tom as a man who has the simple concept of right and wrong—all three join forces and work well as a whole.  Some characters, such as Stu Redman, Larry Underwood, Frances Goldsmith, Harold Lauder, Nadine Cross, and Ralph Bretner, each battle their own personal demons, and in turn, question their own abilities and make life altering decisions in either facing or  joining the very real demon that threatens not only the group’s but their own personal survival.  

On the evil side of the story, a group of characters forms their own community under the rule of a demon, Randall Flagg, who takes many forms including human.  Again, some individual characters question their choices and their abilities in their importance to the group’s survival.  Others in the group find that as outcasts in the world before the apocalyptic event, they have found their place in this post-apocalyptic society.  However, as time and events go on, some find that they might be on the wrong side of the fence.

As the story ends, more questions arise as to what form the new world should take.  Do the survivors wish to go back to the old ways of government and economic structure, or should they reform to a new society, a more advanced and equal society? Is it even possible to regroup? And, what of the dangers that still lurk both within and beyond their borders?  These questions and others Mr. King leaves for the reader’s imagination to ponder.

The Mini Series

After completing the novel, I watched the four part made-for-TV miniseries.  Again, this was not for the first time.  The mini-series does not live up to the novel and I feel it is in many ways disappointing.  The series focuses on plot more than characterization, even though it is through the characters who in the book tell the story.  In fact, the characters as portrayed in the series are mere shells of their true selves.  The story is there, however, it is more of an outline of details rather than an in-depth portrayal of the horrors that occur in the written version.  The combination of the characters of Nadine Cross and Rita (the woman who Larry Underwood meets in NYC) fails to portray Nadine’s personality and her difficulty in making her ultimate decision.  The series version of Harold Lauder does not show his superior intelligence or the changes of his physical appearance over time spent on the road.  As well, the characters look in too good condition as they take their perilous journey half way across the United States.

There is talk periodically of producing a theatrical movie version of The Stand, consisting of three or even for parts.  I hope that this comes to fusion in the future as I think this epic novel deserves an epic film.  If you have not read the book, I highly recommend that you do either in print of audio format.  Don’t depend on the mini-series to tell you the story.  However, I warn you, that whether you read the print version or listen to the audio version of the book, the story will cause you to have very deep thoughts that occupy both your waking and even sleeping moments.

Thanks for stopping by… ~Yvonne~