Monday, January 27, 2014

CAUGHT IN A DREAM--Sierra Lynn Close

Ello everyone! It’s Sierra, the member who never does anything… Anyroads, I’d love to see what you guys think of this prose piece that I wrote. I have it posted on my other blog, but nobody reads that. And for any of y'all wondering, the writing style is inspired by some of Adam Young's posts on his blog http://www.ayoungblog.com (Adam Young--Owl City)
I hope y’all enjoy! :)

Caught in a Dream
by Sierra Lynn Close

     I lay in bed wondering if you are thinking of me. Spiders weave webs in the corners of the walls and I try to imagine that I won't get caught in those sticky strings. But the sun beginning to stream through my window, a bright and warm light, glistens on the strands making it tempting to run my fingers across those webs. Maybe a soft, sweet melody would play if I strummed them.
     But no. Yet that original wonder that woke me early this morning still races around my head. I woke up from a dream, almost convinced that once I opened my eyes you would be standing there. I would smile, our hands would meet, and our steps upon the path for our early morning walk would keep the beat for the birds singing in the treetops.
     Reality keep s me from acting out this scene on my own; yet, the imagination is a strong force. How many times have I been tempted to forget what convention says and to do what my heart says? I know now why I don't do it though--the heart is deceitfully wicked. Oh, how I've learned that.
    I still dream of being with you though. The images which dance around in my head at night sneak in during the day and trudge along slowly. Still I dream. I dream.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How to Know When Your Novel is Ready

Hey all, Ellie here!
One of the biggest pet peeves I have with the modern writing and publishing industry is that things get published too early. People talk about how hard it is to get a book published, about slogging through piles or rejection letters, about how to write a selling query, about how self-publishing or whatever is the best, and about how to silence the inner critic. They have a problem, but the wrong one.
People want to publish their book now.
But most of the time if they'd just listen to what was actually said by the critics (publishers or the inner one) and took another sheet of paper and wrote their novel again, it'd be better.
What I'm talking about is all those novels, especially debut ones, that I read and end up finding something missing. The plot was a little too patchy. The characters were flat. That little undefinable thing I like to call pacing was off.
The more I read novels and read about how they are written and published, the more I see that the problem is that the writer finished too soon. Their work wasn't done, it wasn't good enough, not yet; but they listened to all the crappy writing handbooks out there that said critics can never be satisfied, so don't listen to them, and that the traditional publishing industry is slow, so don't listen to to it, and nonetheless found some odd creepy niche to put their book in print and went on their merry way.
I could rant on this for days, but I'll leave talking about the publishing industry and why self-publishing is (usually) crap for later.

Today I'm going to talk about how to know when your novel is done.
Because no matter what the handbooks say, no matter how much some writing challenge got you to your goal of x number of words, no matter how good you feel about it now, your book probably is not done. If it doesn't meet these requirements, don't publish it! If you get even one piece of highly-critical advice, don't publish it! If you've gotten rejected too many times in the traditional publishing realm, don't go and self-publish it! Instead: sit down, take a fresh sheet of paper and write down everything you feel or people say is missing or wrong with your novel. Then take another piece and start afresh.

Okay, so you may ask, who are you to talk about this? Well, I reply, only a girl who has spent 6 years writing one one and only one novel (12 years from the original idea), but now, finially, after 11 drafts, is finished.
No I'm not actually done with the writing. I'm only about 1/2 of the way through that. But appropriating this last chunk of work I have a new feeling: one of being done. I'm satisfied with it. My readers are more than satisfied with it, and except for a few grammatical changes, have had no negative things to say with that first half.
So I sat down to think over why I feel that this is the last and final draft. Why I know that I'm done, that my story is perfect, and why, as soon as I take a week or two and finish the actual writing, I'll be ready to publish.

So, here are a few of the things I feel need to be in place before you should consider your story finished:

1. You feel satisfied.
No matter what random self-help writing books you've read that blither on about how you will never be satisfied with your work, feeling completely, 100% happy about it is essential. You know best what you want to see in print with your name on it looks like, so when your work-in-progress is just as vivid, paced, and lovely as you dreamed it would be, you are done.

2. The ciritics are satisified.
Okay, so in my case, no publishing being undertaken yet, my only critics are a mixed group of 15-20 friends and teacher who have read my book. Earlier drafts left me with comments like "Great start... can't wait to see where you take this" or "You have a few fun characters, or this one scene was great" or whatever. But this most recent draft has come back with comments like "I like the plot and characters a lot!" and "I'm really anticipating what's going to happen when I read more. You've made me sympathize with the characters". Basically, there should be no comments from any section that state that the plot as a whole was lacking, or that any character, minor or not, was flat. If you have the critics satisfied, the reader will be too.

3. Stop and look: can you remember it?
Due to the pressures of life and the fact that I don't write good in small time spans, I've had to take numerous breaks from my work. Some of these have been months in length. Over the years I'd find myself coming back to writing scratching my head, trying to remember where I left off. Maybe that was because I hadn't spent as much time as I have  now it that world, but I think it was more because the stories themselves weren't engrossing. Even I couldn't remember the finer points of what happened, or they got muddled with earlier drafts. But this time (today, actually, and the reason for this post) I returned to my novel after 4 months with not a single world written, completely excited to write, the stories still fresh in my head, and my plans for what happens next as fresh as if that break was only 4 days. The story had stuck with me. The character's goals, dreams and hopes were real. I knew how it has to unfold without any doubts. My plot flows. It settles in well. It is memorable. And finished.


So, did your supposedly 'done' novel come up lacking? Sit down, think of where you have fallen short with that one, and start afresh. (Never, ever 'polish' or rework old stuff until you have the whole plot and characters down perfectly. Too much of a muddle... You can't resurrect a book with a bad plot by reworking a few scenes, can you?)
I'm sure there is more that could be said to finding out if you are ready to be done (in fact I had more points, but they were a little superfluous). But nonetheless, I think I've proved my point. Don't stop until it's perfect.
Until that point, keep writing.

And don't worry, I'm living proof that you can get there. I went from writing crap I though was cool, to crap I knew wasn't cool, to writing beauty and power that amazed even my own dreams.

So take your time, take your year or two (or six!). Don't stop until it's really finished.

Housekeeping, Labels, and Beta-Reading

Hello all, Ellie here!
First off, I got the page for beta-reading up. For information on that, find the link at the navbar at the top of the blog. (If you want me to put your novel up for beta-reading, e-mail me)

Second, I cleaned out a lot of crappy old posts and fixed the labels. New housekeeping rules will be coming soon, and among them will be CAPITALIZE EVERY FIRST LETTER IN YOUR LABELS, SERIOUSLY! (I'm looking at you, Paradox...) Also, don't make a label for a short story that is incomplete. You waste my time.

For those of you who are authors on here that are reading this post PLEASE REPLY TO THE EMAIL I SENT YOU. Have a heart, help me resurrect this blog from the ashes.

Also, I will be posting random bits and bobs about writing from a non-fiction perspective. Bear with my long-winded opinions.

For now, I press on.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Anticipation (Random Poem)

Hey all, Katie here!
           Sorry, it kinda feels like I dropped off the edge of the blogging universe, but I'm back (with a random poem to share)! Feel free to leave honest feedback; I'm not much of a poet and when it happens, I'm not sure how I feel about! (and I'm not sure how to tell if its good or not!)
            Hugs,
                    Katie 

Anticipation.

When you could fly into a million pieces,
Leaning far over the cliff’s edge
As
        if
             you
                      would
                                    fall…

Your heart yearns and longs and rams itself repeatedly into your chest,
before wrapping itself into your intestines, 


                                                                                              Like a fly in a web.


                                                                                                     e.
                                                                                      c
                                                                          a
                                                           p
and your eyes wander off into  s

Then, when your heart and mind have left you like a wandering satellite,
and your torso has turned on its head,

you sit there.

A shell of a man who nervously crosses and uncrosses his legs

and
       waits.

with stars falling and the sun exploding

and
         time

                   stopping. 


Monday, August 26, 2013

Every Good Word linkup




So... Hey, this is Ellie... *brushes off dust* how have you all been?
Nevermind the awkwardness that comes from posting on this half-dead blog.
I am still writing strong, I just never post because my newest stuff is from the middle of my novel and also my novel's violence and language content exceed the standards I set for this blog. I'll give you a heads-up more on the novel later (maybe...).

For now I saw this link-up floating around across a few of my favorite blogs (Bree's and Mirriam's) and I thought I'd join in the fun. The tag was from a newly-made blog, Every Good Word, by Meghan. I've added it to my feed and am excited to join in the fun of a new writing blog out there!

But for now, the tag:
  1. What was your first-ever piece of writing? I've never officially published anything, so the only piece of writing I've ever finished would be my current work in progress, An Island of Grief. It's had many drafts over the years, some were complete, but I'm continuing to work on it until it's perfect. (People say don't aim for perfection, you'll never get there. But my inner critic is saying that my most recent draft is indeeed perfect, and if I can finish it I'll have the inner critic satisfied, and ain't that the goal?)
  2. How old were you when you first began writing? Let me check... I officially began writing in 2008, so that would make me 12.
  3. Name two writing goals. One short term & one long term. Short term goal is to finish up and publish this (hopefully) final, (hopefully, so-far) perfect draft of An Island of Grief and publish it before starting college in fall of 2014. Long-term goal is to win the Nobel prize for literature (and/or the Pulitzer). They say dream big, right? :)
  4. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Fiction at the moment. I have plans for more books, some fiction, but others non-fiction. (Philosophy and theology works.)
  5. Bouncing off of question 4, what's your favorite genre to write in? Literary fiction, with twinges of paranormal and fantasy. Science fiction is really fun too. Oh wait, I also forgot to mention that my current novel and a lot of my little new ideas follow a 6-step classic tragedy plot.
  6. One writing lesson you've learned since 2013 began. With time and effort, the inner critic can be satisfied, and you can create a perfect work. :)
  7. Favorite author, off the top of your head! John Steinbeck is always a favorite for his beautiful sentences. Homer and Aeschylus are also favorites, but I think a lot was lost when their works were translated... oh to know Greek!
  8. Three current favorite books. Cry the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, The Moon is Down, by John Steinbeck, and Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.
  9. Biggest influence on your writing {person}: The teachers in the two literature classes I took in 11th and 12th grade online from Tapestry of Grace. They helped me see what was so lasting in the 'classic' books we read today, and how such authors got timeless truths across to readers even thousands of years later. They helped me see what makes novels great and famous, and how people study literature and what critics look for in a work; so now I know how to write my novel to the same standard as the woks I studied.
  10. What's your go-to writing music? The soundtracks from Inception and The Bourne Supremacy always put an edgy feel to my work, the more moody compositions of George Winston help me feel classy, and the beautiful, serene, and sad music of the incredible Zack Hemsey make me pour buckets of tears on my poor keyboard. Here is my writing playlist if you want to take a listen... 
  11. List three to five writing quirks of yours! Little habits, must-haves as you write, etc. 1. In my current work, all the chapters must start with a statement about a characteristic of a character (e.g. "Enabeth Analuia had always been good at telling people’s emotions, and most especially those of her brother." and "Calah Analuia had always been a poor sleeper, though nobody knew it, and thanks to God that he was, or he would have died early that morning." 2. I have to write in complete isolation: door shut, headphones on, blinds pulled. 3. I like to quote other classic works and make lots of allusions to philosophy and literature. 4. I don't eat while writing, but I drink tea by the pot. 5. No matter how hot it is, I must wear my pajamas and bathrobe. ;)
  12. What, in three sentences or less, does your writing mean to you? It means leaving a legacy of thought and word to generations and civilizations to come. It means showing the world, now and later, how evil man can be and how good God is. It means crafting words for the sake of words, for the sake of God-given beauty, his unconditional grace to every human.
 Well, there you have it, folks!! Take time to check out the link-up, Meghan's new blog, or maybe write your own answers. Talk to you later, and happy writing!

- Ellie

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The End, Finally

Hey all, it's Paradox. Here at last is the end of the princess story. It's quite a bit longer and it ends kind of abruptly, but hopefully it ties everything up for everyone.

----------

I remember this cave well. I ran around in it all the time when I was a kid, so I know there are a lot of entrances. I guide Fowler toward an entrance that should be pretty far away from the dragon. Being underground should disguise our scent, too, and then there’s a town close to the entrance, so we can disappear into all the other interesting smells there.

As we’re about to exit the cave, I realize that Fowler still looks funny. He’s clutching his gun like his life depends on it and he has all these things attached to his vest. None of them will work here, of course, so I’m not sure why he’s still holding onto them.

“Hey. You don’t need all that stuff, you know. It just makes you look weird,” I tell him. He scowls at me.

“You look weird,” he snaps. I raise my eyebrows.

“Uh-huh. Yeah, no, see, we’re in my world now, bozo. I am now the normal one… well, relatively speaking. I do occasionally carry on conversations with dragons.”

Fowler looks at me sideways.

“Wait. You mean you can actually talk to that dragon?”

“Well, yeah. He was the only company I’ve had for a few years, you know. I didn’t exactly get a lot of visitors in a dragon-guarded castle.”

“So why didn’t you just tell him he should go away?”

I sigh. I never realized how difficult it would be to explain my country’s customs to a total foreigner. I’m also beginning to question his intelligence, but I guess I looked pretty stupid when I fell into his world, too, so I really shouldn’t.

“Okay, the whole point of me being in that castle with that dragon was to keep any unsuitable kings away. I was supposed to stay there until the right guy killed the dragon and got me out and then we could live happily ever after.”

Fowler’s eyebrows arch in disbelief.

“And you were okay with that?”

“Well… yes. No. Yes. But… no. It’s like this: I didn’t like being in that castle, obviously, and all I really want to do is just go somewhere nice and quiet with a few cats and quit worrying about kingdoms. But. At the same time, somebody has to rule the kingdom, and that somebody has to be married so they can pass on the genes and such. So… I have to pass on the royal genes to make sure the right people can rule the country.”

“Right. Okay.” Fowler is frowning, like he’s concentrating really hard on something. “Yeah, I guess that’s why I left in a nutshell.”

I stare at him for a second.

“Why you left? Not to be rude, but you fit in here about as well as a water sprite fits in at a lightning dance.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. But it’s all so familiar to me, like I used to live here or something. All this stuff you’re saying… it makes sense. And you’re right, I do look really weird.” He finally lets go of his gun and sets it down behind him in the cave. Then he takes off all his military gear and strips down to his boots, pants, and shirt—cleverly called a T-shirt because it’s shaped like a T. Why didn’t my country think of this?

“Okay, let’s go. I feel a little better now,” he says. I notice that his hair is turning whiter and frizzier. What is this sorcery? I don’t remember ever losing anybody to a different world. Then again, he’s older than I am, so maybe it was before I was born.

We leave the cave at a dead run, hoping the dragon doesn’t pick up our smell, because, let’s face it, we’re pretty stinky from running around everywhere. We manage to make it into the town, which fortunately happens to be our capitol city, before I hear the dragon’s roar.

“That wasn’t what I thought it was, was it?” Fowler asks. I try to smile, but it doesn’t work very well.

“I think it was. Here, try on this poncho.”

Fowler impatiently throws the poncho on and starts running toward the castle in the middle of the city. I pay for the poncho and follow him, confused. How does he suddenly know where he’s going? None of this makes sense.

I can hear the dragon coming closer. We get to the gates of the castle just as the dragon flies overhead, roaring its frustration at us. Fowler’s hair now very closely resembles mine, except that it’s significantly shorter and a little better groomed.

“Hey, let us in!” he shouts at the guards. “I have the princess here! We need help!”

The guards look at him blankly, so I step forward.

“Okay, knuckleheads, it’s really me. Let me in. I have to go knock some heads and kill a dragon,” I blurt. To my relief, the guards snap to attention and let me in. Fowler and I sprint up to royal audience room. I have no idea why we’re going that way; I’d rather go to the armory to get a bow so I can take that dragon down.

Fowler bursts into the royal audience room, startling all the jeweled courtiers inside. My mother and father are sitting on their thrones, and both their mouths drop open.

“All right, people, listen up. We’ve got a dragon on the loose and it wants to take Flower here back to her castle. I don’t really think that’s okay, though, because it’s really boring for her there and she doesn’t like it, so I thought maybe I’d just talk to the dragon for a bit and see if it won’t see reason. Okay? Also, I’m the crown prince.”

I’m reasonably certain that all the jaws in the room, including mine, hit the floor. Crown prince? What is he going on about? I don’t have a brother, that’s for sure. I’m an only child… except…

Except his name is an anagram of mine, which is a typical naming convention here. Siblings have very closely related names.

“Look, since I’m here and I’m supposed to do the conquering, Flower doesn’t have to be locked up in that castle anymore, right? I mean, she doesn’t have to rule or anything, so there’s no need for some goofball to kill off that poor dragon.”

What he’s saying does make a certain amount of sense, and he really does look like me. Or I look like him or whatever. Anyway, the point is we both obviously look like my father, whose white-blond hair sticks straight out from his head like an awkward halo.

Everyone collects their jaws off the floor and stuffs them back on their faces. I think people are beginning to remember. Personally, I’m starting to remember why I always felt so lonely. I did have a brother, but he disappeared when we were little kids. Hey, maybe I don’t actually have to worry about this dratted kingdom now. Fowler would probably be a better ruler than I would, anyway. He’s smarter.

This does, of course, assume that the dragon doesn’t just eat him on sight. This is a distinct and unsettling possibility.

“Just let me go up on the roof and talk to the dragon, okay? If he eats me, he eats me. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t, and everything will be unicorns and rainbows,” Fowler pleads. My mother and father exchange looks.

“Okay,” my father says, in his typical laconic fashion. I got all my gab from my mother.

Fowler sprints out of the room and up the stairs to the roof. I follow him, to provide moral support in case the dragon does decide he would be tasty.

The second he gets on the roof, he starts waving his arms and jumping up and down.

“Hey, you! Dragon! I’m over here!” he yells. The dragon catches sight of him and lands on a parapet with an audible wumph. I back up a little bit, just to make sure I don’t get fire on me or anything.

“Look, dragon. I’m sure you can smell the family resemblance by now. I’m that long-lost brother… remember? We used to play together when we were little.”

The dragon snorts. Is it… laughing?

“Yeah, I remember. I wasn’t trying to eat you in the forest, you know,” he says. His voice kind of bypasses our ears and goes directly into our heads. “I was trying to give you a lift to the town. I’ve been watching that little spot in the forest for years, hoping you’d come back from wherever you’d gone.”

There’s an uncomfortable silence. I feel like a total idiot. I should have listened for the dragon’s voice instead of just running away from him.

“So we’re good?” Fowler asks. The dragon makes that weird snorting sound again. It’s definitely laughter.

“Yeah, we’re good,” he says. “Oh, and Flower, I’d be happy to take you to a nice out-of-the-way hut I know about. It’s a home for abandoned cats. I thought you might find it pleasant. I’ve already taken the liberty of outfitting it for you.”

I think I must be dreaming. There’s no way this dragon can be so nice. He was always so concerned with smashing things. Or was he just trying to live up to his dragon-y expectations, like I was trying to live up to my princess-y ones? Maybe that dragon wasn’t such a bad friend after all.

My father and mother have appeared on the roof. I turn to them, almost nervous to ask if I can finally go and live my dream.

“So… can I? Can I go? Please?” I beg. They exchange another look.

“Okay,” my father says.

“Just come back for visits, and write us letters, and make sure you wash behind your ears, and let us know if you need anything, and…” My mother would go on for a very long time if the dragon didn’t intervene. He huffs and extends his leg to me across the gap between the roof and the parapet. I scoot across and crawl up onto his back. He takes off into the sunset, and I ponder how the past forty-eight hours have treated me. I now have a brother, I don’t have to rule, and I get to live in a hut with cats. Oh, and this dragon is actually a really cool dude.

So all in all, not too shabby for a slightly nutty princess. I’m still kind of afraid I’m just going to wake up and it’ll be a dream and I’ll still be in the castle with an angry dragon, but I think my life is finally going to be fun. After all, I have lots of love-starved kitties to take care of now. I better not let them down.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Return of the Princess

'Allo luffs.

So I finally got a bit more of that Princess story written, and at long last, I think I know where it's going. The end should come in just a few more posts, hopefully sometime before the Last Trump sounds and the skies roll up like a scroll and so forth.

Thus, for what it's worth, here is another chunk.

----------
Finally. He’s decided to stop stammering and start talking like a normal person. Took him long enough, too; I think he was sitting against the wall staring like a madman for almost an hour. I guess being in an army with all those so-called modern weapons doesn’t really prepare a person for something like this. I’d be pretty shocked, too, if I’d come from a world with guns and then gotten chased by a dragon.

This brings an interesting thought to my mind. Why didn’t Fowler just use his gun and shoot the dragon? I would imagine he can use it decently well; he is a soldier, after all. Soldiers are supposed to know how to work their weapons.

“Why didn’t you shoot the dragon?” I ask him. He shakes his head and looks down at his gun, which is in his lap.

“I tried. My gun doesn’t work here,” he says. This is intriguing, and perhaps explains why no one from his world has tried to take over mine. I think it also might have something to do with the fact that the only apparent point of entry to my world is out in the middle of nowhere in his world, and vice versa. Minor details.

Fowler rises from the floor with all the grace and coordination of al dente noodles, and promptly falls back down again in the same likeness. For a few seconds, he groans incoherently; then he decides to try it again. This time, he succeeds, and manages to stay on his feet, wobbling slightly. He scowls at me.

“Lot of help you are,” he snaps. I am too incapacitated by laughter to notice.

Soon enough, I get over my merriment. There’s still a flipping huge dragon sitting right outside the nearest entrance to the cave, and I’m stuck with some goof from another world who’s not worth cave beetle spit in a fight with any of the creatures that roam yonder lands. Suddenly I realize just exactly how fantastic this situation is, and I go from happy to annoyed. Great. How am I going to get back to my parents?

Wait a second, though. Do I want to get back to my parents? Won’t they just slap me right back in the dragon-guarded tower? That would definitely be a drag. I mean, I just sprang myself out of that joint. I sure don’t want to waltz off to my parents and get put in the same situation as before.

Then again, they probably think I’m dead, and it’s not quite nice of me to let them think that, though I have to admit I’m having a pretty great time seeing the world and all that. Worlds, I guess, in this case. And a totally useless foreigner. I keep forgetting that part. Darn.

“Hey, so, um, not that this isn’t fun and great and whatever, but is there some way out of here? I know, we just got here, but it’s kind of chilly and I want a weapon that actually works…”

I look at Fowler like he’s crazy. Really? This kid wants a weapon. He’s got to be kidding. He can barely stand up. I don’t even know if he could lift one of our super-mega-broadswords right now. I doubt it.

But then… there’s something in his eyes. Maybe it’s determination. Maybe it’s a piece of leaf from running through the forest without looking where he was going. I don’t know. But it’s there, and I’m starting to think that maybe he could fit in here. Maybe this is actually where he belongs…

“…Because, you know, what if we run into terrorists? I’ll need something that does some damage.”

Yeah, never mind. I think it might be awhile before this guy figures out there’s never been a terrorist in my world. Ever. People have enough trouble staying alive with all the dragons and tree goblins and whatnot running around eating their children. They certainly don’t need any help in the dying department.