On the agony of writing

I’ve written in some capacity since the third grade.   My first completed work was an alternate ending short story inspired by Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare.   I was very proud of that story.  I sat for hours, hunched over my desk, No. 2 pencil biting into my short stubby fingers, the eraser worn to the quick, and labored over every single word.  When I finished, I felt proud.  I had written a story.  From beginning to end.   I turned it in to my teacher, confident that I would earn an A for such blinding brilliance.  It was a great story.

My teacher saw things a bit different.   The evil Mrs. Rupe promptly tore my work to shreds, citing a laundry list of flaws, mistakes, and shortcomings.  She gave me a C.

I always hated Mrs. Rupe.

I’m not bitter about it.  Really.  Though, I do hold a special place for her at the top of my list of unforgivable grudges.  She was a miserable human being who should have retired from teaching long before 1980.   But for all of her petty viciousness, and she was awful for so many reason beyond just giving me a C, she did teach me a few important lessons:  writing is subjective, rejection is a rite of passage, and criticism keeps a writer grounded.

Of course, such lessons are meant for those who can actually finish something in a timely manner without falling victim to the hazards cluttering the road to success.  I seem to be having a bit of trouble navigating that thoroughfare, at the moment.   Or perhaps, it’s my mode of transportation that is faulty.  I blame the outline – I think it has a flat.

For several days, I’ve struggled to write a single scene, introducing a solitary character.   My trouble started when I made the decision to give Anna a brother.  His name is Aaron and he is a total pain in my ass.   I thought he would add an emotional depth and focus to the story, but instead he’s done nothing but cause me heartburn and an endless headache.  The latter may be from banging my head on my desk out of frustration.   I’m not really sure.  It’s hard to differentiate.

The way I see it, I have three choices:  delete him completely – move on and pretend he never happened; kill him slow and painfully – my novel is titled Retribution; or scrap the scene as it is and start over.

Oh lord, maybe I should tweak the outline again…ugh.

Writing is brutal; its hard; its agonizing.

I think I hate it.

But, I love it.

Note to self:  buy more Advil.

Just Write: All roads lead back to Baku

At the beginning of the year, I set out to make a sizable dent in my novel, Retribution.  In the process, I discovered that my story sucked.   As the novel stood, it was riddled with holes and contradictions.  It was over-simplified in places, too complicated in others.  It was a completely unworkable piece of garbage.

Coming to that conclusion was painful.   I was left feeling beaten and discouraged.    So, I did what any self-respecting writer would do when faced with such a situation.  I set the manuscript on fire in my outdoor barbecue and I walked away.

Oh, wait.  That’s only me?  Real writers don’t do that?

My bad.

When I walked away, I felt relieved.  It was like a huge burden had been lifted off of my shoulder.  I carried forward the hope that my creativity would once again flow freely, and I could move on to something fresh and exciting.  All I wanted to do was put this failure firmly behind me.

For a while, that’s exactly what I did – moved on.  I roughly sketched out a new story idea with a protagonist inspired by a brilliant, young biologist I know.  She has long intrigued me and it seemed like the perfect time to explore the idea of her further.   I have eight solid chapters and an opening sequence outlined.

Progress!  I’m on my way.

Right?

Wrong.

I haven’t touched this new story – I’ve tentatively entitled it The Faction – in a month.  Hell, I haven’t even told my writing group about it.

Why?

Because I can’t concentrate on it.  I find that I am holding back, hesitating.  I can’t seem to allow the story to envelop me, take root, and grow.

Why?

Because Anna won’t leave me the hell alone.

It began with a whisper –  feather soft, barely audible, across my ear.  Just a passing word carried on the wind.  Then, the noise began to build.  Its invocation more demanding, more imperious.  That whisper evolved.  Soon it turned from a hushed hum into a deafening roar inside my head.  At every turn Anna screamed at me.  She taunted me, cursed me, begged me to tell her story; to finish what I had started, to give her the vengeance that she seeks so that she may finally know peace.

I am not a spiritual person by nature, but I am superstitious and hold to the belief that there are things in this life that happen because they were meant to be.  I thought Retribution was dead.  I thought I had buried Anna and her secrets, but somehow the road has led me back to her.

Back to Baku, where her story began and where I must begin anew.  It seems Anna will not rest until I have given her what she desires most.

Retribution.

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Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday Update

No, I’m not delusional.  I do, in fact, realize that it is Monday.

I’ve written a lot this week…

(golf claps all around)

…just not much in the way of fiction.

(boo)

Nope, this week has been devoted to the life and times of Thomas Hobbes.  The excitement is overwhelming, I know.  I feel largely the same and  I’ve only myself to blame.  As a returning student, and one familiar with this project, my Western Civilization professor allowed me (and two others) to pick my topic, in exchange for presenting first.  There is always a catch.  I tried to choose wisely, but my choices were limited.  He gives out topics as they relate to his lectures and schedules the presentations throughout the semester to coincide with such.  Ergo, I had a very short list from which to choose.  Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, or the War of Austrian Succession.

Hmmm…

I must admit, this is not necessarily my favorite part of Western history – the English Civil Wars and the Enlightenment.   I much prefer Imperial Rome or the Renaissance or the Cold War to the happenings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  But,  such is life.

I didn’t particularly liked this Hobbes fellow, though I understand his place in western society and his contemporary relevance.  I wouldn’t want to live in his world, or be ruled according to his Leviathan.  I fear it would be a dank and dismiss existence.  Having said that, in my research, I discovered some rather humanistic qualities about him that I found intriguing.  He played tennis until he was 75, he loved to sing, and he wrote poetry – not good poetry, but it is something.

So…my goals…

Last weeks goal – make progress on short story:  Goal met.

I finished the set up, brought a few pages for my writing group to critique, and outlined the next section of the story.  Hopefully, I will be able to decipher the chicken scratch that is my handwritten outline.

This week’s goal – finish up the next section and present it to the writing group for critique.

Wish me luck this week.  I am not a confident speaker, in fact, it scares the shit out of me. This time tomorrow I will be sweating like a pig, shaking like a leaf, and wishing the buzzing in my ears would stop so that I could hear myself speak.

Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday Update

A quick recap:

When I last left you, I was struggling, as I am wont to do these days, with the death of Retribution.  Perhaps death is a strong word.   Hiatus may be a better way to put it.  That sounds less absolute.

In my last self-shaming blog entry, I vowed to take the advise of some fellow writers and write something different I decided to write a short story.  I am and it feels wonderful.  It’s not finished, but it is in full swing.  I feel very good about the plot, the characters, and my intended destination.   I will admit that the general gist of the story has likely been done a million times over with all manner of twists and turns, but really, what story hasn’t?  I can only hope that I bring something new and refreshing to the table.

My main character, an aging scholar, has a dark and hideous past – one that haunts him with every breath he takes.  In the wake of atrocities too horrible to imagine, he has found a way to carve out an anonymous life.  No one knows who he is, or what he’s done.  Of course, he goes to great lengths to keep his secrets from becoming known, and is largely successful.

Until he meets the girl.

I haven’t quite decided who and how many will have to die.  Someone always has to die.  Perhaps I will let my main character live, though.  I’ve grown attached to him in the last week, but then again, perhaps that is the very reason he has to go.  Only time will tell.

So where are we?

Short story – in progress.

Goal for next week:  continued progress.

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**I should add a little disclaimer here so that when we get to next week and I’ve not finished, I won’t seem like a complete and utter loser.  I have a huge project due for my Western Civilization II course next week (the 7th).  I seriously doubt that I will doing anything more than immersing myself in the life and contributions of Thomas Hobbes between now and then.  But you never know.  Maybe I will finish early.

Yeah, right.