While trying my hand at teaching high school back in the fall, I spent so long away from my current rough draft, I forgot half of what I'd written. So I've been going back to read through it. In doing so, several issues with the rough have been jumping out at me, but they all stem from one factor common in rough drafts, lacking conflict.
Readers have their favorites, and they don't enjoy seeing them put through the wringer, but at the same time, what are the chances they would be so fond of those characters if they never struggled? No matter if your story is plot driven or character driven, without conflict, there is no story.
I think we've all seen or heard the "tortured" artist trope at one time or another. It's no secret a high percentage of notable artists, be they writers, poets, musicians, painters, sculptors, or any other kind of artist, have or do suffer from a range of mental health problems. Because of this correlation between mental health problems and creative success, popular notions of creativity have come to romanticize them as part and parcel to creative genius.
I hate this notion so much! Even if there's some truth to it, it's a dangerous and irresponsible idea in so many ways.
* Originally published on March 8, 2010 via Diary of a Work-at-Home-Mom.
Sunday evening was singing night for our congregation, being the first Sunday of the month, and one of the songs sung was "How Great Thou Art." The song has never failed to drag "Oh What a Grace" from the recesses of my memory. Not that I compare the songs but because I had a tune similar to its melody running through my head when I penned the first draft.
It's hard to believe that was nearly a decade ago now. I don't remember exactly which Sunday it was, but I seem to remember it being sometime in late spring or early summer of 2000. I was listening to our preacher speak on a particular Psalm one Sunday morning when the words started nagging me. By the time we were heading home, I was desperate for a piece of paper and a pen. The lines came tumbling out, and a half hour later, I had the first draft.
I spent a few weeks trying to put music to it to no avail. I asked a friend for help, but nothing seemed to work. So I asked the congregation's preacher if he knew of anyone who could put music to lyrics, thinking he might be more familiar with local talent considering the years he'd helped organize The Musical Explosion. He gave me Mr. Stevens' name and number, and the rest is history.
Looking back on it, it feels like ancient history. I was barely out of high school, only in my second semester of college. I was still smarting over having to swap a chemistry major for English because I was having these uncontrollable shaking spells that nearly resulted in a big accident in the labs. I had yet to meet C. L. and was just starting to seriously consider writing as a career.
Even then there was a surreal feeling about this piece. It came quickly and with an ease I rarely associate with any bit of writing, let alone anything outside of fictional prose. I'm not a poet. "Little Eyes" and "A Day in the Mind of a Child" are flukes. I found it difficult to believe I'd written this one then, and I find it next to impossible to believe now. I barely remember it, and what memories I have are more impressions of where I was, the need to get my hands on paper now, and the scratch of graphite across the page. I don't remember the writing of it at all other than the occasional feeling a word was off and counting the measure.
Maybe that's why I was so embarrassed when song leaders would make sure to point me out when they'd lead it. What did it matter I happened to be there? What did it matter who wrote the words or the music? The song was meant for the praise of God.
There are three things these three works have in common. First is their form. These are the only poetic pieces I have ever done and not immediately destroyed. Second, they come from a different place. I don't know how to describe it, but I was in a different head space when I wrote these poems/lyrics than I'm typically in when I write my stories. Instead of brainstorming, painstakingly building them up a concept or a word at a time, I saw or heard something and they seemed to spring fully formed onto the page. And finally, they have a different purpose. While I did feel the need to share them through publication, I haven't seen them as work to be sold. The poems were published in nonprofit college journals, and the song was spread from hand to hand. As far as I know, it's never been put into a songbook, but it's not like I'd ask for payment if it was. That's not why I asked for Mr. Steven's help finishing it. I just want it to be sung somewhere by someone, by congregations or just someone going about their daily work, I'm happy either way.
I've heard it's still sung at some congregations around the Tennessee Valley. Personally I haven't heard it in years, and I doubt I will. Mom told me years ago song leaders find it intimidating to lead a song when someone that wrote the words or composed the music is sitting on a pew. I suppose she might be right, though I find it disheartening to think they'd believe I'd be insulted or something if they didn't get it note perfect.
Though remembering how much of a nitpicking Grammar Nazi I used to be, at least when it came to pet peeves like double negatives and subject/verb agreement, before I grew up and learned to control those knee jerk reactions, I can see where they might think I'd be a little snippy. But really, as long as it can be followed, it's good.
We’re finally to the last back to basics post on verbs, the irregular verbs. These are the rule breakers that refuse to follow the same rules as the rest for the different tenses. They can seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry. Although they don’t follow the same rules as most, they do follow their own set.
Let’s start off with the state of being verbs.
Be, am, is, was, and were are all different forms of the same verb, be. Is, am, and was are singular. Are and were are plural. Be itself can work either way, depending on the tense. Are and is are in the present tense. Was and were are past tense verbs.
I wanted to take a few moments to explain why I've more or less disappeared online the past month or so.
Part of it has been working on the grammar and creative writing text books I talked about last month. The rest, I haven't been able to talk about before now. You see, beyond working on textbooks, I've been hired on by Foster Academy to teach English and Science for the high school students. Having learned from past experience, as soon as the text books arrived, I started working on preparing lessons, assignments, and the like between teacher work days spent helping set up the building.
Have you heard the advice about taking a break between steps in the writing process? As with many things when it comes to matters of art making, there are multiple schools of thought on the practice. Some say it's a waste of time. Others say it's essential. Some prefer short breaks or "pauses," and others believe anything less than months at a time is the same as just plowing through.
Personally, I hold to the pause method. One, just because that's the way I've always worked on an instinctual level, but also because I've learned I need those pauses to produce better work.
Writing their rough drafts exemplify love/hate relationships for authors. When the words come easily, and the scenes blossom full of life and color, it's exhilarating. It's a rush like no other. Other times though, each scene is hazy if you can see it at all, and the words dance just out of your memory's reach. That's when composing becomes difficult and procrastination in all its forms becomes tempting.
I've hit the point where Icarus becomes hazy. Oh, I have it fully outlined. I know what is supposed to happen, but it's all new territory. For most of what I've written in the rough so far, it existed in the old version The Writer's Hood printed back when it was still a thing, or at the very least, I'd worked through scenes in my head over the decade since the e-zine's closing. Having lived for more years and seen more of the world if only through documentaries and news broadcasts changed much of what I'd planned. The entire last half of the novel is brand new, which is just part of why I hemmed and hawed so much following reaching the halfway mark.
When, where, and how should you use quotation marks in your writing? It's a question that confuses people and causes a lot of problems for them and not just when it comes to writing dialogue. Today we'll discuss the proper usage of quotation marks in fiction and non-fiction, formal and informal writing.
How do I quote someone in an essay?
First, you need to decide if you're going to quote them word for word or if you want to paraphrase what they said. If they were long winded in their explanation of something, paraphrasing might be best. Otherwise it looks like you are using the quote to bump up your word count without presenting your take on the subject, which can hurt your grade. The best quotes to use in school papers are short, to the point, and given by experts in the topic you're discussing in the paper.
One of the most common things I've seen writers be asked is what their writing schedule looks like. Do you write at set times? Do you have a daily word count goal? Do you write every day or when inspiration strikes?
Each writer has a different answer. We're all different people, so what works for one might not work for another.
Still, I've recently made a slight alteration to my writing schedule that's made a huge difference in my productivity, so I thought I would share.
I thought I'd mix it up a bit this week by answering a writer's tag I found online. It just has ten simple questions, so this should be short and sweet.
1. What do you write?
A quick scroll down the categories over to the right of the page ought to prove I write speculative fiction. Spec fic covers a wide range of genres and their subgenres as well as mashups of those. I tend to stick more with science fiction, but I do dabble in fantasy now and again. And like with the Yekara series and the Myth and Science universe stories, there are times when I use both science fiction and fantasy elements in the same piece.
A. B. England is a small business owner, home-schooling mom, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves fantasy, mythology, and all flavors of science fiction.
Yekara Series Book 2
The Icarus Project
Rough Draft Progress
69061 / 75000
Myth & Science Collection
Icarus Trilogy Book 2
Yekara Series Book 3
Myth & Science Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Icarus Trilogy Book 3
Supers Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Yekara Series Book 4