Posts Tagged ‘words’

It’s unusual that I give an update on draft progress when I’m in the middle of the third draft. Usually after the first draft, I only give updates when the draft is finished. However, given the unusual journey and evolution Rose has gone through, as well as the all the work that still needs to be done, I feel that giving an update at the one-third mark is warranted. Let me explain:

I began work on Rose during my senior year of college as my thesis project. I had been sitting on the idea for about a year by that point, and had done quite a bit of thinking into what sort of story I wanted to tell. I started in September 2014, went back and started all over again when I realized the direction I was going in was all wrong for the story, and then finally managed to finish the first draft in January 2015. I then banged out a second draft in time for thesis discussions in April 2015. At those discussions (which you can read more about here), I was given a number of suggestions on how to improve the novel for the third draft, after which I could probably start thinking about publishing.

One of those suggestions, which I did not mention in the post about the discussions, was that I add a whole lot more words to the word count. Like, ten to twenty-thousand words more.

Yeah. I know. Even seasoned authors might find that a difficult challenge to accept.

In any case, I planned to get back to this story eventually, just not immediately. I first went to work in Germany, and then went through the job search. During that time, Rose was never far from my mind, but I never felt it was the right time to work on that story. After I got my new job and moved into my own apartment though, I did feel like revisiting the story. And I utterly floundered trying to edit it. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, moving had entirely changed my routine, and without being able to get that routine back, I was unable to edit as I used to. Thus, it took me three months just to get through five chapters. After that, I had to stop and reevaluate what I was doing if I was to continue writing at all.

And then two months ago, deciding I needed a break from work on Full Circle, I began working on Rose again, even though I thought I wouldn’t get to it until after my Boston trip. With a new routine in place, I managed to get through the five chapters I edited last year in weeks rather than months. And then I got through Chapter 6, and then finally Chapter 7, finishing edits on that about an hour before I left to go see The Dark Tower.

And now I’m one-third of the way through the book. And it feels almost like I’m working with a totally different story, like this is the first go-around with Rose rather than the third draft of (and the fourth dive into) the story. Hence why I feel it is necessary to write a progress report at this point in the third draft.

So if you’re new around here, you’re probably wondering at this point, “Okay, but what’s the novel about?” To put it simply, Rose is about an amnesiac girl who finds herself turning into a plant creature. It is as bizarre as it sounds, more bizarre than I remember it. But it’s also a very dark story, exploring themes like abuse and dependence in relationships, as well as how truth, falsehood, and memories shape our perceptions of our ourselves and others. So yeah, as bizarre (and possibly comical) as it sounds, it is still a scary story.

And I have to say, editing is going very well. I’m incorporating as many of the suggestions from my thesis discussion as I can, and I’m definitely seeing an improvement in the story. The characters definitely feel like they’re actual people in this strange situation, and I feel like if this book does get published, people will really respond to it.

As for that suggestion to add ten to twenty-thousand words, I’m actually doing okay with that. I’ve thought about scenes I’ve wanted to expand, and I’ve even looked ahead to certain parts of the book to see where I can make some additions. And in the first seven chapters, I think I’ve done a good job of that. Let me break down the numbers (already I can hear my longtime readers groaning about that, they know I love to do this): in the second draft, the first seven chapters measured up to 44 pages (8.5″ x 11″, 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced) and 13,579 words. In the third draft, I’m at 70 pages (same parameters) and 20,990 words. That’s an increase of 26 pages and 7,411 words. And I like to think none of it is unnecessary.

So what’s next? Well, I’ll get to work on the next fourteen chapters, and hopefully be done with the end of the draft by the end of September. I’ll also try to add another three-thousand to thirteen-thousand words, if I feel that amount would help with the story. After that…I’m thinking beta readers, more editing, and then maybe an agent/publisher. We’ll see.

Well, it’s late, so I’m off to bed, my Followers of Fear. You have a pleasant night and pleasant nightmares. Until next time!

The NaNoWriMo logo/coat of arms.

Well, it’s December 1st. That means a couple of things: start of the holiday season and prep for the new year, the days get to their shortest point, I try to push a tag with the hope that it will become a trend (so far, it’s been hit and miss with those I’ve tagged). For writers around the world, however, it means National Novel Writing Month, and assessing how each person did and how their manuscripts turned out.

I’ve actually always found National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, full of strange contradictions. For one thing, it takes place around the world, but it’s kept “national.” Heck, even the month’s official website puts you in touch with participants from all over the world! Why don”t we change the name?

For another thing, it’s amazing how many authors take this challenge seriously. For those of you who don’t know, during the month of November, many writers try to write a fifty-thousand word novel within 30 days (that’s about 1667 words per day if you want the math). And I’ve seen so many author friends on Facebook and in blogs lament how they only got so many words down. “I only got eight-thousand words.” “I was so close to 50K!” “This NaNoWriMo sucked! I hardly got any work done.” I don’t even want to know what they thought of the material they wrote.

Just for clarification, there’s no actual prize if you write a 50K novel in 30 days. You just get bragging rights. But plenty of authors see it as a reflection of themselves if they can’t get the words down. And I actually kind of understand this: on nights when I didn’t write anything down (and those nights occurred quite often, sadly), I felt like it was some sort of reflection on my skills or on myself as a writer. It didn’t matter if there just wasn’t enough time before bed, or if I had a book I really wanted to read, or if I just didn’t feel like writing that night. I felt bad. Maybe not as bad as I could have felt, I have a day job that takes up a good chunk of time, so I at least have an excuse for why I’m not writing more. But I bet for those who write full-time, it could be very frustrating when they didn’t reach their goals.

So how did I do, now that we’re on the subject? Well, I knew that with a job and that unfortunate habit of sleeping seven hours a night, plus eating and bill-paying and grocery shopping and everything else that goes on in my life, I had only so much time to do any work. Therefore, I decided that I would keep my expectations reasonable. I decided that I would aim to get ten-thousand words done, and if I got past that, I would aim for another five-thousand afterwards. If I somehow managed to get past that, I’d aim for five-thousand more, and so on and so forth. The result was I probably felt less stress than my colleagues, and I consequently met my first goal, and got more than halfway to my second goal.

To be exact, I got 13,821 words down by the end of the month, about four-and-a-half chapters worth of story. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to do it. How did it turn out? Well, I guess as well as a first draft can turn out. I mean, it’s only in the subsequent drafts that novels actually become the brilliant stories we all hold so dear. During the first drafts, they’re like pre-Fairy Godmother Cinderella: full of beauty and potential but in need of some serious clean up. My own NaNoWriMo project, Full Circle, has a lot of good stuff in it so far. It’s the third book in my Reborn City series, and considering that I started this series about eight years ago, this novel is already showing my growth over that time the most more than any recent story I’ve written.

Still, I think Chapter 1 could use a lot of clean-up. There’s a lot of exposition there, so making it work with the real storytelling moments is important. And possibly the prologue could use some polish as well. Yeah, I included a prologue with this book. New thing for this series, but I think it’s good for this book. Just needs some edits.

In the meantime though, I still have an entire novel to finish, and it’ll probably be a lot longer than 50K. I’m hoping that I can finish it by mid-spring 2017, and have it out early 2018 at the latest. We’ll see what happens.

Well, that’s all for now. Unless there’s something worth posting about, I’ll try to put out a Writing/Reflections-themed post out at some point during that month. In the meantime, it’s writing, writing, writing, and hopefully a lot of it.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

I read an article on BuzzFeed yesterday that really upset me. According to the article, emails from the University of Chicago’s chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a historically Jewish fraternity, had been released and revealed a culture of racism and Islamaphobia within the chapter. The N-word was used prolifically, Muslims were called “terrorists” or “towel heads”, a vacant lot next to the fraternity’s house was called “Palestine”, and some of the brothers turned MLK Day into “Marathon Luther King Day”, celebrating with drinking and eating at a fried chicken place.

Over the past couple of years, stories about fraternities and some of the disgusting things going on within their walls have been coming out. Every time I’m absolutely disgusted, but this one hit me in a number of ways. For one thing, I have friends who are part of the Ohio State chapter of AEPi. They are good people, upstanding young men connected to their heritage and active in the broader community. To think they are in any way associated with this scandal just horrifies me.

Alpha Epsilon Pi’s University of Chicago branch is in deep trouble for the emails that have been uncovered.

But that’s only one level that this hit me on. Because this story also brought back memories from when I was young:

I went to a Jewish overnight camp from fifth grade to tenth grade. During my last year or two there, I noticed a disturbing trend among the boys in my year. Swearing was a regular part of camp culture–even the counselors swore on occasion–so saying “shit” or the F-bomb didn’t make me bat an eye. In fact, I reveled in it. We were being adult, we were being naughty. It was great.

But then I heard my friends calling each other “n***er”, and occasionally “faggot” or “fag”.

Understand, there were no black kids or staff on the camp, at least not as far as I know. This was also well before I realized I was bisexual. And my friends assured me their black friends were cool with it.

Even if I believed them, I still told them that I wasn’t comfortable with it, that they shouldn’t say it, or at least not around me.

Maybe it’s because I was bullied a lot back in the third grade (most of it verbal) and it left a big impact on me, but I’m sensitive to when people use words to hurt others. Especially those words. As much as words only have meaning if we give them meaning, these words do carry a meaning bred in deep history, and the meanings are not easily separated from the words. Every time a white person uses the N-word, they’re saying that African-Americans are lesser beings, second-class citizens and do not have the same rights as people with light skin. Every time someone calls a Jew a kike (like when, after a soccer match between my all-Jewish high school and a school of mostly African-American Christians, the opposing team began using the word after they lost the game and things nearly came to blows), that someone is calling the Jewish people a strange people, a parasite that takes money and power and killed the Christian God. Every time someone calls someone else a fag, they’re saying that there’s something inhuman or strange or obscene about being LGBT. And every time someone–not just a fraternity brother–calls a Muslim or a Palestinian a terrorist, they’re saying that entire religion is incapable of being peaceful, that their whole goal is destruction. That’s all completely wrong, and there’s not excuse to use those words.

Even if I had been as eloquent then as I am now, I doubt that would’ve swayed my friends, because they continued saying those words without any care to my feelings. Even when the head counselor of our year had a discussion with us one evening about how disgusting we were being. Even after, while on a field trip to the city, my friend said the N-word and it was almost overheard by a passing black man. They just went on saying all those nasty words and by doing so, they were saying it was okay to say words charged with prejudice and not care whom it might hurt.

For the first time today I wondered if any of my camp friends ended up at University of Chicago, and then at the school’s chapter of AEPi. Those camps have the effect of bringing Jewish teens closer to their heritage. Maybe some of my friends went there and brought some of their bad habits with them.

Believe it or not, this is some of the nicer things this sort of uncaring attitude can lead to.

The only time I approve of those words are when they’re used in mediums like literature or film to illustrate a particular time period or mindset, like in Huckleberry Finn or even in my own Reborn City. The rest of the time, there’s no good reason to say that trash. Not only is it hurtful to the people those words denote, they are harmful to the people saying those words, desensitizing them to the effects of these words. At best, that leads to dumb crap from fraternities and doddering old men in front of cameras or near cell phones. At worst, that leads to hate groups, violence, and lynchings or shootings in churches.

My hope that in the wake of this scandal, people–especially students and teenagers–realize that you can’t be blase about saying the N-word or calling people terrorists because of where they’re from or what their beliefs are. They’re hurtful. They’re damaging. And I hope that maybe the backlash these students will get will teach them and others what happens when you’re not cognizant of the feelings of others.

And I hope my friends from those long ago days aren’t members of that fraternity, and that they learned long before this what your words can do to themselves and to others.

I do not tolerate negative language meant to denigrate a person because of their race, gender, orientation, or ability. So when I see someone using this sort of language flippantly or carelessly, I usually tend to avoid that person. If they’re a friend though, I’ll try to convince them not to use that language before I cut them off.

Last night I was forced to do just that. Someone I’m acquainted with at school was responding to people lamenting about Facebook buying some app or another. He thought it was hypocritical that they were complaining about it on Facebook and said they should reevaluate their lives (though he didn’t phrase it in such nice terms). Where I got upset was when he used the word “retard”. I’ve mentioned before that I have an autism spectrum disorder and I’d been called “retard” or “retarded” more than once by bullies because I didn’t understand certain social boundaries or conventions when I was younger. Not to mention that mental retardation (or intellectual disabilities, which seems to be the preferred term among medical professionals these days) is an actual medical condition, so using it as an insult hurts the people with actual mental retardation worse than it hurts the people having the insult hurled at them.

I asked my friend if he would not use that word because it has the potential to hurt people. He responded that he was using the word without negative connotations and that people should realize that (as if we’re mind-readers!). He also said he uses racial and other denigrating terms, including the N-word, and said he uses them without the negative connotations and that it’s my problem if I was insulted by it.

At that moment another friend of his, whom I’m acquainted with as well, joined the thread and started using the very same terms we’d just been discussing. At that point I decided to leave the conversation, unfriend the both of them, and go to bed (though not before coming up with an idea for a short story based on this experience). And it’s still on my mind, as this blog post makes evident.

The thing is, even if they think they’re not using the words with their negative connotations, it’s not so easy to disassociate a word or symbol from its negative meanings. Otherwise the swastika would still mean good luck and auspiciousness rather than Nazi Germany and the Holocaust as it does for many Westerners. And these sort of microaggressions can have terrible effects on the people being denigrated. If you’ve never heard the term “microaggression” before, there’s a great blog post on microaggressions that explains them in depth. If you don’t have the time to read it though, a microaggression is basically the everyday little forms of discrimination that minorities experience throughout their lives. An example is the continued use of saying “that’s so gay” as a way of saying something’s stupid. It is not only bringing down whatever is being called gay, but it is saying that there is something wrong with being gay in the first place. And while the basic definition of microaggressions means they are small, especially when compared to gay-bashings or other forms of assault and more obvious forms of discrimination, over time they can build up and cause stress, depression, or suicidal thoughts in the person being denigrated.

Personally I only ever use these sort of terms in stories in order to portray a character the way I want him or her to come across to an audience. Even then I hesitate to do it and seriously consider whether I should really use such negative terms and if there is another way to get across the full impression of the character. That’s why within all of Reborn City, a novel about gangs divided mostly on racial lines and with a white supremacist gang, you’ll only see one instance where I use the N-word and other racial terms (though I do have several characters call Zahara a “terrorist” in order to illustrate how ignorant and prejudiced the world of RC is against Muslims).

So when I see people using these sort of terms so flippantly, uncaring about the negative consequences of these words, I get pretty upset. These terms are attacks on people because they’re minorities, and because my former friends are white or deeply tanned and don’t receive discrimination for their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or level of ability, they don’t necessarily realize the damage they’re doing by using these terms. And by calling the rest of us oversensitive for being upset that they’re using these words, they’re proving that they’re insensitive to the problems of others, not that we’re oversensitive.

So I finish this post urging people to really think about the terms they use. You’re not being cool or rebellious by using terms that bring down minorities. What you’re doing is hurting people and causing people to think you’re ignorant or bigoted. If you’re going to use them, use them in a way that won’t hurt anyone, such as using the N-word in Huckleberry Finn is used to illustrate the beliefs of that age towards African-Americans. Or these words can be used to fight discrimination: there is a growing body of literature, music and other media that uses these words to show how hurtful they are and possibly change the way people think. Slowly but surely, some people are changing the way that they think.

That is all for now. I hope my former friends learn that using these words has negative consequences. Especially the guy who actually happens to own an up-and-coming business. How many businesses have failed because of something the owner has done? I hope that doesn’t happen to him someday.