I have found it hard to put things to words lately. This is making NaNoWriMo difficult, my online writing class an impossibility, and any sane reaction to the Paris attacks beyond all hope. But today the processional hymn managed to give me words:
O God of every nation, of every race and land
redeem the whole creation with your almighty hand;
where hate and fear divide us and bitter threats are hurled,
in love and mercy guide us and heal our strife-torn world.
From search for wealth and power and scorn of truth and right,
from trust in bombs that shower destruction through the night,
from pride of race and nation and blindness to your way,
deliver every nation, eternal God, we pray!
Lord, strengthen all who labor that we may find release
from fear of rattling saber, from dread of war’s increase;
when hope and courage falter, your still small voice be heard;
with faith that none can alter, your servants undergird.
Keep bright in us the vision of days when war shall cease,
when hatred and division give way to love and peace,
till dawns the morning glorious when truth and justice reign
and Christ shall rise victorious o’er all the world’s domain.
William Watkins Reid, Jr.
I’m taking a break from NaNoWriMo to write about NaNoWriMo, because this year is a bit more of an experiment.
I have a spotty history with NaNoWriMo. My first try was back in 2004, and I finished the story at 35k. I’ve tried in other years but the NaNoWriMo database seems to only go back to 2011. In 2013 I tried to write Loyalty Oath, which is a story I’ve had in my head since I was a teenager and the novel has been kicking around my someday list since 2005. There seems to me to be enough to this story to warrant a novel, or at least a full NaNo attempt.
So this year I am re-writing it, and I’m trying a few different things.
One, I’m trying to write each major scene from more than one person’s point of view. I have four main characters in this thing, one of which is vital, two are important, and one is optional. I’m not sure about giving the antagonist his own narrative flow, but hell, I’m doing it anyway. I’m afraid some of my characters aren’t all there yet, so I don’t know if I’ll find their voice.
Two, because I’m writing each scene multiple times, I’m afraid the progress of the story will be so slow I’ll get frustrated and give up.
Three, because I’ve started a new job, and there’s an Evensong coming up and a Celebration of Life to sing at and OryCon and Thanksgiving, I’m afraid I won’t be able to carve out enough time every day.
To counteract the first, this is really an experiment in pantsing a novel. I’ve tried manymethods of writing before, and my novels tend to get fully outlined. Unfortunately, plotting is for me like puzzle solving, so it doesn’t seem as interesting to solve the same puzzle over and over again.
As for the second, I’m playing with voice. I just have to let myself play with this. I can’t talk my way down from this fear.
And finally, number three is the ever-present time crunch. I’ve got things to do, and I’m getting to the point of giving up writing because there is more frustration and rejection than anything else, and I’m falling back into consumer habits and not content creation. I may be stuck there. I don’t know, but not writing still hurts, so I’d better get back to writing.
Besides, I can write 600-700 words in a 20 minute session if I have a fairly decent road map. Although it’s mostly dialogue. I wonder if I should try more script writing. I tend to write dialogue heavy stuff.
So I will keep on.
As part of my online writing course, someone asked for a critique of a story that she felt wasn’t working. I offered to blather about it a bit. One of her concerns was the ending falls flat. There was a decent enough emotional ending, but I think I understand her feeling. The rough story: Inspector on unpleasant field work. The draft I have is 8 pages long. The first 6 and a half pages take place in the field, the last page and a half in the office, where the narrator learns she actually suceeded in the external task of the story.
In my commentary, I suggested that this feels wrong because it is only one half of a pair of bookends. If the story started in the office, went to the field, and returned, then the bookends may work better. Alternatively, cutting the setting of the ending and keeping it in the field brings the end closer to the meat of the story. By this point, the world building was well enough established that a few paragraphs of inner angst while driving home were just inner angst, which the narrator could have had anywhere.
Then I looked at one of my short stories which has gone through every major market and several smaller markets. My story starts in the narrator’s office to set up the story problem, then transfers a coffee house date where the rest of the story happens. I, too, only have one half of a pair of bookends. Maybe there’s a way to fix it, and maybe there’s a market or two left where I can send it, otherwise, it’s off to Smashwords if I can figure out what the cover should look like.
This post is part ramble, part warm up. I’ve been taking a MOOC from the Univserty of Iowa called How Writers Write Fiction, because I find taking classes can spur me to write when the rejection letters get too heavy on me. This is week three, and the focus is on plot. Here is the assignment:
Write a story with any number of characters (these can be newly created characters or borrowed from your Class Session 1 and 2 writing assignments), where an external force demands that a character or all the characters jump into action.
No problem there. The thing I wrote for Session 1 was a scene froma story I’ve been trying to write since 2006 or so. Here’s the second part:
Additionally, include in the story a separate decision made by a character/the characters that does not result directly from the external force.
And….this is where everything I think I know about writing and plot goes out the window. From what I think I know, this second bit will simply destract from the story, deviate from what is necessary. I have a rough plot of the story I’ve been trying to complete. I used the Seven-Sentence Story to put together some causes and effects. I had hoped to use this story during this class for source material, but the assignment doesn’t help that story particularly well. At least, it feels like I’m shoe-horning something into the story to make this assignment work. I’ve alse been telling this story in close third person with only one viewpoint, and this assignment feels like I’m going to need multiple POVs or good omniscient narrator, neither of which I have much practice with.
Have I really spent so little time writing this way? I think so. Looking back on my writing so far, there aren’t a lot of experiments. One favorite story of mine had 5 or 6 narrative voices (it also has 12 rejection letters so far, which is almost the point of self-publising for me), but that was written 11 years ago.
I think I can apply this to the story I want to finish, but I think this “random decision” is going to end up being the result of a secondary action, another character’s response to the initial external force.
Or maybe I should give up and take up pig farming.
An internet-friend of mine posted a link to this article by Anglican News, which discusses the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed. This is the formal name for the “and the son” bit that was added to “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of live, who proceeds from the Father.”
I’ve noticed it missing from the Creed a few times, but I had never stopped to question it until I read this article, and now I guess it’s time for me to post my personal corrections to the Nicene Creed.
Right now there are five things I do not say:
- Through Him all things were made
- Jesus is, for me, a very human Jesus, not the Jesus/Word of God from the Gospel of John.
- For us and for our salvation
- In general, I reject the intercessory idea that we can’t be good by God unless someone is nailed to a tree. I also have a problem believing that Jesus was thinking about everyone who would ever live after He was gone, simply because a) that’s a lot of souls and unknown sin to carry up to heaven, and b) Jesus mentioned the end of the world was coming soon, and even promised his followers that they would see it. Metaphor or not, I don’t think Jesus was thinking about the 21st century, but the very real problems he saw in the temple and in the way the church was behaving.
- I do say the second part of this statement: He came down from heaven. On a good day, though, I am tempted to apply that to all children.
- For our sake
- Much for the same reasons above. Josh English wasn’t on His mind.
- …in accordance with the Scriptures
- This has always bugged me. Every time I read anything that points out that Jesus fulfilled some prophecy, I suspect that the reporting is falsified. They had an idea of what the messiah would do, and they wrote those stories in. I think they’re more propaganda than anything else.
- This is underlined by my belief that Jesus is Lord not because of any action (birth, baptism, miracles, death) but because of what He taught.
- …and the Son
- I’m adding this one. Starting now. If I don’t need the Word of God from the Gospel of John, I don’t need the Son creating the Spirit.
Of course, all this is Trinitarian doctrine, which is a funny thing in itself. It’s a complex contradiction of One God in Three Persons, one of which (the Spirit) is best left unpersonified. It is understandable how some from other traditions (and even some Christian traditions) see this as polytheism, which it isn’t. It’s not even henotheism, which I think most of us secretly are anyway.
I have been asked in the past about why I can participate in a church without believing everything in the Creed, and the answer is almost simple: The Episcopal Church is not dogmatic. The number of things the Church asks you to believe are very small. The number of things the Church asks you to do, however, is quite long and based on several principals stated in the Baptismal Covenant. (Even this is a set of guidelines. I’ll have to explore them later.)
Besides, the Nicene Creed is a statement of faith for the whole body. There are people in the Church who need these statements to be True (capitalization intended). I am not one of them.
Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I hope to get back to pet projects: writing, submitting, and reading more. My Better Writing Through Reading project has gone off the rails again, and I hope to get it back on track. This post is about some of the post Hugos fallout, and while the award proposoal by Jay Maynard leaves a sour taste in my mouth, this idea from Cat Valente seems slightly better. Not that I want to replace the Hugos in any way. I’m sure the non-existent problems of pre-puppy slating will be fixed eventually. Cat’s ideas may have some fun ideas tucked away.
As an aside, I haven’t watched MTV in ages, but I seem to remember the MTV movie awards had categories like Best Kiss and Best Action Sequence, not whole movies, but parts of the stories. Certainly the Best Kisses need buildup to be powerful, so the actual Kiss may not matter all that much, but it is a culmination, a moment, that makes the audience react together.
So I am thinking of doing the same thing. Not awards, really, but as I review stories and novels and try to figure out why they work, I need to start highlighting the bits that really worked for me.
The best example that comes to mind right now is a book I just finished by Ayize Jama-Everett. Even though the book is from 2009, I only read it this year, and it has an amazing passage of a character melting down after the mid-book tragedy. It’s a wonderful passage of processing anger with dreams of revenge, specific painful actions of cruelty, and the character is established well enough to make it possible. I loved it. It’s the kind of passage Raymond Chandler writes when Marlowe is on the brink of losing it, which is the point of hardboiled characters for me: they skim the edge of the dark side, it is so close they can touch it, but they don’t go there in the end. (A noir character is one that lives on the other side that edge.)
I hope to collect little things, best uses of various tropes, best minor characters that deserve their own story, best scene setting, most satisfactory ending, most “gotta read the next book NOW ending” (probably going to Devon Monk at this point). Little things that make stories work.
Mostly, I have to get back into writing and do less coding.
Technically, Friday was my last day at my job. I am going in for a few hours on Monday for reasons I cannot rightly express.
The important things in work is knowing you are doing a good job. knowing you are being productive, and getting along with people. There were multiple points of failure in this job, which I’ve had for almost five years now.
I know who I am, and who I want to be, and those people didn’t fit with the culture of that place at this time.
So, as my friend Day Tooley said, I’m letting go of the trapeze and flying on faith. I have no unemployment benefits, and no jobs lined up, but I do have some interviews already, so hopefully I can find temp work and full time employment soon.