Monday, June 30, 2008

Readers Aren't MIND Readers/The Redundancy Wall

Last week Jenny put up this post about struggling as a writer. She puts it well.

During that conversation I whined a bit about feeling tired of hearing myself write. It's something which gets superbly illustrated when one goes from a small to large page count. All of a sudden, I keep thinking "I always write X that way, I'm so redundant." Since everything I'm writing is so immediate and in such quantity, all kinds of patterns pop out. I have certain ways I like to phrase things, certain types of gestures common to my characters, etc.

A couple days earlier, I was working on a piece and had the thought, "I've already written this story. I'm just repeating myself." I don't remember which story I had that thought during, but the thought itself was clear and frustrated.

So, I asked Jenny a little about my thesis (though she's saving the bulk of her input for the CWC meeting tonight) and then I whined. She let me for a moment, then responded to my redundancy whinge with, "You're okay. As a reader, I don't see it."

At the moment I'm juggling three stories. I have a clear idea of how I want two of them to play out, but I'm struggling with actually putting the words on paper. Thinking about the point Jenny made helps, but I still feel like I'm pushing against, rather than through, the wall, (which is made of granite and at least four feet thick).

How do I write them without feeling bored with myself again?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Think I'm Over a Threshold

I've been on a music kick of late, this much is pretty apparent. However, my recent preoccupation has expressed itself in a new and unexpected way. Unless you were already expecting me to go there.

Yesterday, I spent some time on Pandora refining my stations and doing some exploring. This turned into creating a couple new stations. This, in turn, led to finding The Rogue's Gallery on Pandora, which, in turn led me to the following thought:

You know, if my whole thing this month is about putting music and writing together, and if I could make a soundtrack for my Scottish Lit. paper... why not do it for my thesis too?

Thus, I made a station for my thesis. Which works in a fun way, because by refining what does and does not belong on that station, I practice refining what my thesis is and is not.

Now, the real question is whether or not I've just crossed the line into a whole new territory of nerd-dom.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Intentional Coffee Shop Pages

Went to a new coffee shop last night and did my first out-of-the-house pages since I acquired a dog. It felt good. I got about two and a half pages of the story about finding bones.

Since the other day when Deb told me what she saw as my thesis theme, I've been slowly seeing more and more of it myself. After all this time, trying to figure out what connects my stories and being too close to them, I think her comment was just what I needed to be able to take that step back. While I'm still very much looking forward to what the group has to say, I'm starting to feel I have my own direction.

Which is even better for hearing others' comments.

Whenever we're talking about writing, one of those bottom lines we're talking about is what the author is trying to convey versus what the reader sees. As the writer, I can have a crystal clear vision of exactly what the story is in my mind, but unless the reader reaches the same conclusion, my vision is a moot point. Sometimes, unexpected and fun things come out of this when the reader says, "Well, here's what I see," and it's completely different from what the writer had planned, but better than the writer's plan. Then you steal the reader's vision and use your revision to bring it out, all the while claiming that it's what you were going for the whole time.

So, now that I have a clearer idea of where I'm going, I'll be better able to use the feedback from the CWC folks. Now I have a baseline.

The reason I've brought this all up is because it's relevant to my pages last night. Thesis themes have been rolling around in my head and I've been looking more closely at how those themes cross from one story to the next. Last night I sat down with an idea, which would have been alright on its own, and then played with it a bit to make it fit the themes I can see elsewhere in my thesis. In short, I sat there and said, "Well, how can I make it speak to theme X? Well, if I change this detail, then it relates to that other thing, and if I make the setting this place, then that has something in common with the other story..."

Last night, as I sat there with a raspberry green tea and my fountain pen, was the first time I worked on a thesis story with clear ideas of what made it a thesis story.

Cool, huh?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Comp. 101 Student Evaluations

For my class, I get two sets of evaluations. One set is the standard multiple choice evaluation required by the university. The other set was a list of questions I printed up and handed to my class that expands the feedback the multiple choice can give me.

This second set is the one that's ultimately more useful. Also, it's the one I just read through. Yeah, the student critiques of my very first class have been sitting in an unopened envelope all this time. How could I wait that long?! Well, I already had a good idea of what the jist would be.

Which brings me to one specific I would like to share with the world at large. This is just about the only time I'll ever mention anything specific about the students, but I think it's warranted. One of the questions I asked of my students was how they thought my Composition 101 class could be improved.

To paraphrase a couple of the responses: "We should write less and talk more instead."

Thanks guys, I'll take that under consideration.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I've decided to cut a bit from my thesis. I put it in, tweaked it a bit, thinking that it was a good fit. Then, I changed my mind. Deb's comment about what my thesis is about got the proverbial wheels turning. I can see the theme she pointed out, and now I'm seeing another which is more of a magical realism theme, and which fits all of the stories, with the exception of The Unusual Life of William H. June.

There's also another factor at work, the soon-to-be-arriving movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which is based on a short story that Jenny recommended I read when I was telling her about June. The timing is kinda funny and I'm thinking that maybe since there's another, much more well-known, story along the same lines that's about to be very prominent, it wouldn't hurt to shelf mine for a bit.

So, here's a question: You're in the midst of working on a story or novel when you discover another story/novel that's already published and remarkably similar to yours. What do you do?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I Owe My Dog

This morning, at approximately six o'clock, my dog woke me up. Now, since our typical waking up time in the morning starts around seven thirty these days, I was not impressed. However, I guess I do owe her a little, because her waking me up meant that I rolled out of bed with a dream still fresh in my mind.

Within this dream was the seed for a new thesis story. After I woke up the second time and went through my morning routine, I fleshed the story out, figured out how to start it, and decided that the main character should be named Maggie.

The funny part is that now I can't really remember the dream itself, which has faded until only one image remains. All I hang onto is the picture of Maggie herself, a gray cloud above, and the thought "she is the weather."

I think the dog has earned herself an extra treat or two today.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

June Challenge: Step One

I've been more interested in acquiring CDs lately, so my challenge this month was the perfect excuse for hitting the music shop yesterday morning. While some of the albums I picked up are pretty usual for what I listen to (Billy Joel & Dropkick Murphys), I also decided to be brave and go for a couple which are not only a different genre than I usually listen to, but also are female singers - dunno why exactly, but there are exceedingly few female singers I like (though, I'm somehow more inclined to like them if they're part of a ska band, for some reason).

Thus, I now have KT Tunstall and Duffy. Perfect for my music experiment.

In other news, for those of you who haven't been brave yet:
I just updated my Pandora stations - cleaning out some that aren't interesting and adding some bands to others. Check 'em out.

If you never listen to the following, check out the corresponding station:
Ska: Mad Caddies
Punk: Dropkick Murphys
Country: Reckless Kelly
The others, well, I'll just let you figure those out.

Now, in keeping with broadening my musical experience, I'm offering fair exchange here. Since I've recommended new music for you, it's only fair that you recommend some new music for me. So, what are some of your favorite and lesser-well-known groups and what musical genre are they? Got Pandora stations of your own? Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Deb Knows

A while back, Jenny and I talked a little about finding the theme(s) in my thesis. Her main piont being that even if I couldn't see the links, as soon as an objective reader read it, they'd spot 'em easily. It's a matter of me being too close.

Last night, Deb and I got to the pirate meeting a bit early. While we chatted, she said, "Hey, I know what your thesis is about." Then she said three words.

I said, "Huh. Yeah, I see it."

Now the really interesting part will be if the rest of the CWC pulled out the same connection. I figure either they'll all be pretty much on the same page, or their thoughts will be pretty diverse. Either way would be fun.