Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The post I forgot to title*

Since we haven't had quite enough growth in our garden to warrant an update, and it's the middle of the summer and I'm not up to much, I thought I might compose another post on writing. This will not be a post of tips and trick as I haven't actually managed to achieve publication, and I also failed to complete the popular fiction writing program at Seton Hill. Nor will it be a lesson on spelling and grammar, as although my technical writing abilities are better than they once were, they are still far from pristine. Instead, I thought I might take a few minutes to reflect upon the process of writing.

First and foremost, writing requires time--lots of time. I think this may be the biggest aspect of writing that the average person tends to overlook. Since I work full-time during the day, I need as many of my evening hours free to devote to writing. That means, if you invite me out to a movie or some other event from Monday to Thursday I am likely to hesitate, probably give you a look of pain, and then politely decline. It's not that I don't want to hang out and have fun, but for me it means that I'll miss out on 3 to 3.5 hours of writing time if I choose to go out. If I'm in the middle of the writing process, that roughly translates into somewhere between 9 and 15 pages that don't get written, or if editing between 24 to 36 pages that don't get read. I also start to feel crappy when I miss too many writing opportunities. It might seem strange to say, but writing is a part of who I am, and so when I don't get to it (like when I was in school) I start to struggle in life.

Now, what's my second point? Do I have second point? A second point...I suppose another question some non-writing people might wonder about is where do the story ideas come from and how do you manage plot. I imagine the answer to this is different for every writer. For me, ideas can come from almost anywhere. I've had several dreams (yes, Stephenie Meyer isn't the only one) that have sparked ideas. Usually it's only a small portion or aspect of the dream that will lead to a bigger idea, not the entire dream itself as mine tend to be very disjointed. The concept, or really just the setting for Nora came from a dream where I lived in a giant plane hanger broken down into cubicles with hundreds of other people. Sometimes I have vague ideas like, wouldn't it be fun to write a manuscript about a person who can fly? I think upon the idea (usually while at the ESO) and eventually a character and their story will work their way out.

Managing plot can be difficult, and historically, I'm not very good at it. Often I've simply written on the fly and whatever pops into my head at the moment is what I write. For both the first and second installments of Nora's story I've worked with a loose framework, knowing where the story needed to end up, but not entirely sure how it was going to get there. Keeping track of what you've laid down as fact in a manuscript can also be difficult (and a good reason to plan a head). Again, I've had mixed attempts at maintaining control of my worlds. When writing on the fly I usually end up scrolling through my manuscript searching for items or issues I've referenced before to see what I did. I've also tried to use recipe cards to track things. Presently I'm making use of wiki technology (PBWorks) to track plot, characters, and other random bits of information in The Cause.

Not everyone who writes wants to get published. Some people (like poor old George McFly) fear rejection, worry that people won't like what they've written and prefer to keep their work to themselves. I do want to publish. If I created a "Bucket List" I would have three items on it: 1) Publish a novel, 2) Walk on the great wall of China, and 3) Visit a rain forest (in South America). I don't expect success--at least not on the J.K. Rowling-scale. If I could get to the point where I don't have to work full-time to maintain a comfortable lifestyle (owning my own home, a car, etc) I'd be happy, but...lots of people want to be writers. Agents and editors are overwhelmed with want-to-be-writers and it's simply not possible (nor desirable, frankly) for every manuscript sent their way to be published. At present I'm looking for a literary agent, since once you get one of those, getting a publication contract becomes easier (i.e. your work won't rotting away in the slush pile).

Cross you fingers for me, if you can spare to, or say a prayer if you prefer. It may take all the determination I have to achieve this goal, then I can look into China (maybe I can find a bored child to dig me a tunnel during the summer holidays...).



btw, I actually do have a few publications to my name. They're scholarly papers (the amount of writing I did for them is minimal) so I don't really count them, but if you have access to these journals you can check them out:

Hartling L, Milne A, Tjosvold L, Wrightson D, Gallivan J, Newton N. A systematic review of interventions to support siblings of children with chronic illness or disability. J Paediatr Child Health. [In Press]

Couch R, Jetha M, Dryden DM, Hooten N, Liang Y, Durec T, Sumamo E, Spooner C, Milne A, O'Gorman K, Klassen TP. Diabetes education for children with type 1 diabetes mellitus and their families. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep). 2008 Apr;(166):1-144.

*Whoops. Forgot to come up with a witty title when I first published this post.

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