Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Me, A Teacher?

I don't think I can pile anymore on my plate. This is going to be one insane month. LeFiWriMo starts tonight at one minute past midnight. So in addition to writing 850 or so words a day on Cataclysm, I need to be making progress on the novel project. In addition, two new developments are spicing things up.

Suddenly, I'm a teacher. My nephew, who is being home schooled, started 1st Grade this year, and I get to teach Art Appreciation. Luckily the text is very simple. But after fifteen minutes or so of looking at art, we also get to make some. I'm sure we'll have paint and glue and tissue paper strung out everywhere in no time. I'm honored that my sister would consider involving me in Seth's education already. I figured I'd be needed for High School Lit or something, but 1st Grade Art Appreciation is going to be awesome. Better, class starts on my birthday.

On top of those preparations that I'll be making, I'm also preparing study guides for our LifeGroup. That is, our church group of young married couples. There are about 14 of us, and we've decided to dig into the Book of Acts. Lots of history and culture and amazing happenings to read about. I know how much preparation my mother has to do to prepare for her Bible studies, and I'm finding out why. This is weighty stuff. Art Appreciation is one thing, but presenting God's Word to adults in a meaningful form is quite another. My mother always tells me, "As teacher, you'll get far more out of it than they will." That doesn't mean we're bad teachers; it means that we must be prepared, whereas the students may give the text only a cursory glance.

Needless to say, my gaming hobby is about to suffer. My evenings will be filled with writing and studying and cleaning up paint spills, I'm sure, rather than seeking treasure and dodging fireballs. Does this mean it's time to grow up at last? Hehe, whatever. It feels good, if a bit overwhelming.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

LeFiWriMo Begins Today!

LegendFire's version of NaNoWriMo begins today. Instead of a month to prepare, we have one week (though most members who will participate have been planning already). Instead of 50,000 words, we have a goal of 25,000 words. Back in March we held the same event, but none of our members were able to complete the challenge, so we're holding the event again, in the hopes that someone, this time will meet the goal.

Because of the novel project that I've been slavi
ng away on for a year now, I didn't have anything prepared for the March event. But there's a new idea spinning. I've been brainstorming on it since June, characters, structure ideas, dialog, etc. So I'm allowing myself to take time away from Falcons Rising to participate this time around. For want of a title on the LeFi project, for future reference we'll call it simply Cataclysm. Technically, since I only have to write about 850 words a day to meet the goal, I'm hoping to work on both Cataclysm and Falcons every day, but that's being very optimistic. I'm so behind on Falcons revisions anyway. What's one more month, eh? Blah.


Friday, August 19, 2011

One . . . Step . . . Closer

Ugh! Today was one super-long day. I realized how large my living room is when we hauled out the furniture a couple of months ago for renovations. It's even larger when one is scrubbing, Cinderella-style, with a sponge and bucket, washing up a mess you made on purpose. Yes, at last, we finished our stone wall with amazing chemicals, power tools, and painstaking labor. This week I got to prep the concrete floor, and today I got up early, turned off the air conditioner and opened the windows, so (hopefully) I could be finished by the time the temperature reached 100, dressed up like an explorer to Mars and started spraying acid all over my floor. Two coats of Golden Wheat, two coats of English Red in spotty, decorative patterns, and accents of Green Lawn (which is sorta turquoise-ish) in small puddles here and there.

My acne does not like rubber masks in humid heat. My lungs don't like it when I take the rubber mask off. What's a girl to do? Because I'm a (somewhat more) practical adult now, I chose practicality over vanity and left the mask on until I removed myself from the icky acid fumes. This evening my sister came over and she, my husband, and I scrubbed and mopped and sloshed all the acid into buckets, then celebrated with spaghetti and (well-deserved) screw drivers.

The floor still looks weird because the acid stain that soaked into the concrete looks powdery, with little color. So all day tomorrow I get to do the fun stuff, which is roll down the sealer. The color will pop, the floor will look perpetually wet, and I get to move my furniture back into my living room. It will feel good to have my house back in order. The only step left is picking out a color for the walls. Once, the idea of painting all that wall space sounded intimidating. Tonight, it sounds like small potatoes.

Once the sealer is dry, I'll try to remember to take pics and post before and after shots.

For now, I'm exhausted in the best way possible. After a day of hard work and much accomplishment. I mean, somehow I even managed to make progress on the novel project. Cool!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Plot vs. Character - Which Side Do You Cheer For?


Project: Falcons Rising
Pages Revised: 5
Pages Cut: 3.5
New Scenes: 3 --- 10 pages of new stuff. I love diving more deeply into old characters. I know them so well that elaborating on unexplored facets of their lives is easy and enjoyable.
Bad Things that Happened: The White Falcon discovers that his hero is just a man
Good Things that Happened: Arryk is free of his brother's torment -- for a little while


Character-driven vs. Plot-driven

To any good story, well-rounded characters are a necessity, but so is a plot. What's the difference between these two and what defines a story as one or the other? Can a story be both?

A character-driven story, as
described by speculative writer D. Lynn Frazier on her website, is a story in which "the character moves the story forward through action and choices. She initiates the events of the story and causes the events to happen. Each scene is instigated by the characters within it." Whereas plot-driven, also called Quest-driven or Action-driven is a story in which "the events ... move the story forward and cause the character to react to those events. Characters are secondary to the plot. They act in accordance with the plot and do not create events or situations on their own."

When I first started writing, not only did I not know what these terms meant, I didn't know these terms existed. I just wrote. Only later did I find out that the stories I was writing had to somehow fit into one definition or the other for purposes of pitching my ms to agents, editors, and the like. Or, in the least, I had to choose one or the other as the best definition for my work.

Many years later, I can happily say that I prefer to write character-driven fiction. If I get insanely bored while writing a story, often I will find that I've diverged somewhere into Plot-driven storytelling and left the characters behind. As much of an introvert as I am, it's the dynamics between people that keep me interested in what I'm writing.

Now, do my characters drive every event in every story? Certainly not. If events beyond my characters' control fail to happen, that's just unrealistic. Where was it that I read this? -- that the initial catalyst that gets the ball rolling may come outside your main characters, but after that, the story is driven by their reaction to that event. So a well-told story can certainly contain elements of both.

What do you think? Which do you prefer to read and/or write? Can you think of any examples of widely loved fiction that might be defined as both character-driven and plot-driven?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Day Full of Blessings

Seventy-nine degrees, rain. The first time the temperature has been below 100 since June. The oppression of heat breaks for the nonce. Yesterday, when the first gust front came through and the rain began, James and I meandered around outside and ate our first purple grapes from our own vines, then we started experimenting with our new distiller. It's a gorgeous hand-made copper contraption straight out of the Middle Ages and came all the way from Portugal. One might think we were going to try making our own liquor, but we have different plans. I'm not allowed to mention it by name yet.

All week, I took a break from the novel project and thoroughly enjoyed typing up the opening pages of a new project. I won't make too much of it, b/c I've started things like this before and not finished them. On the other hand, these characters and their situation are clicking better than any I've written for a long time, so I'm hopeful that I'll actually get to write "The End" on it one day. I usually hate writing rough drafts, but so far I've not felt bogged down by details or lack of direction. We'll see...

Point is, the blessings keep coming. Such prolonged happiness is a gift.

The only cloud has been my husband's grandfather. It's heartbreaking to see the patriarch so strong and able one day and an old man the next. It puts human frailty and mortality on the table for us all to examine. Hamlet scrutinized a skull. I've been watching a man come to terms with his age. The difference between men and babies being fussed over is that babies have yet to gain a sense of dignity that must be swallowed. A bitter draught.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Progress Report, 8-1-11, and Writing Amid Sorrow

What a tough weekend this was.
Crying with friends who had every reason to think they were having a miscarriage, only to learn today that the baby is alive and kickin' so we have the glorious opportunity to celebrate and thank God for mighty miracles. And each life is rare and precious. Now learning that my husband's grandfather is in the hospital with heart issues. *whew* Life is a roller coaster, all right.

As for writing, things are good:

Project: Falcons Rising
Pages Revised: n/a
Pages Cut: 4
New Scenes: 1 - the last 4 pages of the "ship" chapter make way for almost 19 pages of new material! I'm far happier with the content now. There actually is content instead of useless words with no conflict to speak of. But, like I said last time: Ugh! I loathe writing rough drafts. It hurts.
Bad Things that Happened: Athna's plan goes awry
Good Things that Happened: my, but don't those ships look stately. In other words, I'm not tellin'.

It's difficult to press on with a project when circumstances put it into perspective and make it seem like one of the least significant items on the list, but there it is.