Raven's Pen

Writing, Reading, and Ruminating

Autumn and… Plotting?

Hey everyone!

Welcome to autumn!

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The end of the year seems to be sneaking up on me. Midterms just ended, the NaNo forms have come back to life (helllooo, procrastination of valuable sorts!), the weather is alternating between summer-hot and cold autumn winds, and I am waffling between stories to focus on for November.

Around the NaNo world, October is often thought of as Prep-tober, or whatever conbination of preparation and October you wish to create. As you may have gathered, I have a tendency to be a pantser and, as such, October has never been defined by copious amounts of preparation. Although I greatly enjoy leaping into a story without much more than a vague inkling of where it may go, my lack of a plot often forces me to fumble halfway through the month.

The idea of plotting has always felt unbearably tedious, but, since I am currently struggling to balance 15 credit hours and a meager 300 word daily minimum goal for my own material, it is beginning to feel more important. I have found that some pantsed stories move forward without prompting, but most require time to stop and think along the way. Since getting enough sleep in November already seems like an impossibility, I want to be able to reach my NaNo goal as effectively as possible. Although I am certain that whatever plans I attempt to make this month will change  during the writing process, I hope to start NaNo with a few threads of a plot… Just as soon as I choose a story to focus on.

Since there are dozens– hundreds– of ways to plot, I intend to mix methods. At the moment, my suggested method looks like this:

  • Using Flashcards: identify the main characters (1 card for each) and list their names, approximate age, origin, general role in the story, desire, and anything else that is important.
    • Consider how the characters might change over the course of the story.
  • In my notebook or word document:
    • Identify possible story themes.
    • Consider geography and start world-building.
    • Write down as many major plot points as possible. (Firstly: identify the plot!)

I will keep you updated as best as I can.

‘Till next time…

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A Long Hiatus…

Hello friends!

My goodness, it has been a long time… I apologize for my lack of updates, the last few months have been filled with unexpected events and new experiences– I have a plethora of news! Chiefly of which: I am now officially a college student studying creative writing. EEEE!

Unfortunately, I have had very little time to work on my own material and, obviously, post on this blog, but I intend to make a concerted effort to begin again. My posts will probably be relatively short since I have a consistent influx of assignments, but I hope to create time to bring Raven’s Pen back to life.

I look forward to returning!

‘Till next time…

 

Musings: Authenticity

Five, four, three, two, one… let’s visit the emporium.

Are you ready for disjointed ramblings?

Great! Hop on!

We, as humans, wear dozens of masks… I think it is easy to become inundated with the theory that we must please everyone. We are swept up and wrapped in yards of fabric to take the appearances of whoever we believe we are supposed to be. Often, there seems to be a voice lingering over our shoulders, shouting: this is what you need to be. This is what you need to do. No, not there! Look here! Look at how great this fellow is! Look at what they have created– what sort of fool are you? Try to fit in!

Fitting in, in my opinion, can be a very dangerous pursuit. It is easy to discount our own capabilities in an attempt to conform to the various guidelines that we believe we must follow in order to achieve– to achieve what?

Let’s slip backwards for a moment… perhaps one of the most recognized Greek words is arete (αρετη)– probably originating from agathos (αγαθος), ‘good.’ Roughly translated, it means ‘striving for excellence in all pursuits,’ whether mental or physical. Arete is largely an umbrella term, exactly what its definition is depends on present context, for example: according to the ancient greeks, there was a certain sort of arete relegated to women (they were, in most respects, extremely sexist), a different sort assigned to warriors, another assigned to civilians and so on. For the purposes of this rant discussion, I would like to regard arete as a general concept with the loose, aforementioned definition of ‘striving for excellence.’*

There importance of theories such as arete should not be understated; after all,, doing your best is the most important action a human can take. However, I think that the concept of universal excellence can be a problem… let’s look at “well-roundedness.” If you have been involved in any sort of discussion about education, you have probably heard about “keeping all of the doors open” and “offering the best that can be given in order to ensure that all students have equal opportunities in all fields.”

Equal opportunities are extremely important, but that is not today’s topic… I thick the “all fields” and “all doors” parts can be a problem in regard to art and passion. This whole idea of “well-roundedness” seems to emphasize spending equal time on all subjects. Now, while many passionate and creative people throughout history have been proficient in, if not masters of, many things (in fact, it is difficult for me to think of someone who was, or is, not), there is usually one thing that draws us more than the rest– it is this one thing that seeps into us. So it must.

Let us say that we follow this thing as ‘our own’… we defend ourselves against doubt, and we try to stave off fear (even when met with little success).

We, undoubtedly, rely on passion: it should not minimized or ignored for a single moment. And yet, it is easy to turn out attention toward the little voices screaming inside of our heads rather than our own certainty. (D0 I sound like enough of a touchy-feely, topic-jumping help manual yet? Bear with me.) Art without passion can be art-ish, but it is not Art with a capital A. It does not have any substance, it does not breathe or slyly deposit thoughts inside of onlooker’s minds, it does not exist as an entire world– it is flat, like a line that someone draw down the edge of a notebook because they were board, but not because it was needed.

The art that lives inside of our passion is our own (or, at least, I would like to think so). And yet, it is easy to turn out attention toward the little voices screaming inside of our heads rather than our own certainty– societies views are bound to conflict with the art that is ours. Maybe there are a few who can look down the table of contents in a writing manual and check off every box with a “yup, I got that; it’s prefect for my book,” however, I am inclined to believe that such people are a rarity.

Will you forgive another leap?

Lately, I have been trying to read fiction as a writing-person as well as a regular-ol-reader. Recently, my extremely unknowable attempts to analyze the things that catch my attention, I have found that I often dislike the very things that I am certain I “should” like. While this cannot be an entirely bad thing, it is sometimes slightly jarring– especially when you look to your own writing and start picking at it.

Here, we come back to the beginning… fitting in: when we pay too much attention to the things that we are certain ‘should be;’ including the analyzed notes from whatever book we last read, it is easy to kill the passion in our thing (anyone up for making this a technical term?). We become worried about fitting in and so we end up killing our precious art-with-a-capital-A. Its dead weight hangs around our necks.

So, how do we avoid killing our precious thing? My current suggestion is this: we must become so close to our own thing that we will not analyze our work so closely that we are determined to “fix it,” and inadvertently suffocate it in the process. Easier said than done, right?

Certainly, we need to pay attention to whatever feelings we have that something is not quite right, as well as whatever advice we receive, but I think we must be selective. Everyone has their own opinion after all. We simply cannot please everyone without some ogre potion, but we can strive for our own, personal, version of arete.

 

*It must be noted that other cultures retain their own versions of arete; usually ‘excellence’ is a one piece of a social or moral code of ideals (for example: consider the Japanese Bushido code).

There is a thorough description of arete here.

Flash Fiction: “49”

June, 12, 2016.

Remembered, always and forever.

 49

Ashes fall from the sky—only, it is rain cold enough to match heartache.

Gold: the color of a tie around a young man’s neck

Blue: a shade of eyes staring upward.

Red: the color of blood pouring across a glitter-speckled floor.

The world could be sleeping- listless in a haze caused by deafening noise.

They could be sleeping, fallen across legs and arms, a cacophony of a thousand words for silence.

How could anyone be so still?

A cell phone rings somewhere underneath a fallen coat, splattered by spilled drinks and tinted with crimson, barely dry. A hole mars the sleeve; an almost perfect circle ripped at the edge.

The world is shouting, but ringing phones deafen cries. Batteries have not lost their voice- the empty songs that used to remind laughing hands of a perfect sunset or a first love blend together.

Are you safe?

When are you coming home?

How could anyone explain that the answer is never?

Flowers line the sidewalk in front of a theatre, candles burn with wax dripping in rivulets immortalized, rainbows decorate the sides of buildings, but they do not bring back the dead.

Mourners cry. Some say that each life lost was just another death, but 49 are not just one. 49 is the number of a small plane, it is a birthday party or a gathering of friends spanning two houses.

49.

It is too great a number—people killed for their love.

Tipping, one by one.

Hands clutch cracking chests; streaks line the floor now.

Maybe, just maybe, if eyes beg enough, memories will thicken into lifelines for the dead.

Foreheads disappear underneath thick bags, backs bending underneath their weight.

These flowers may be trampled tomorrow; bleeding onto tear stained sidewalks. Whispering: human lives are just as fragile as sheets of ice created by wind.

The living link arms to last against the storm, knees clenched underneath swaying bodies.

Life: an act of rebellion.

 

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All rights reserved.

Quote of the Month: June

Ah, how time passes! At least it brings the necessity for a new quote…

A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way.”~ Caroline Gordon

Returning– again…

Hiya, everyone!

Holy frickin’ flying cows, it has been a looong time since I posted. Let’s see, the last event was Camp NaNo, yes?

I hope that everyone found spots of fun during April, whether or not you participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. Whether or not you reached your ultimate goal: I commend you for doing your best! You’re awesome! Hold your accomplishments up high for a moment and rejoice.

Between the end of the semester, looking at colleges, trying to make plans for the summer, and avoiding being sucked into the news, life has been pretty busy… hence my contained absence.

(A secret from the back-end: I am currently attempting to reevaluate what this blog should contain… I think the future is bound to be exciting.)

Let’s see…

Errant Frost is slowly moving along. I suspect that it will become a series since 100k has come and gone and the story is only reaching toward its halfway mark. Still, I may have begun to fall in love with its characters– I am hopeful for what will come. There are many, many things that I could mention (a few wonderful readings that I was privileged enough to attend, a few plans for the future, etc.), but I think it is best to allow each post to speak for itself for the moment.

Hopefully,  you will bare with me (and keep checking back) while I detangle this blog’s unruly threads…

Quote of the Month: May

Holy cow!

Another month already!

“And by the way, everything in life is writable if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Camp NaNoWriMo: Update

My goodness, the days seem to fly past!

Are you surviving so far?

Let’s see… an update… Camp NaNo started just over two weeks ago and my novel has hardly spread its wings, so to say. Unfortunately, I still have not written a synopsis… or made a plot outline beyond a few scribbled notes… or done anything that looks official besides updating my wordcount.

But just because my handwriting is messy and life can be crazy does not mean that this post is immune to organization.

For ease’s sake, here are the facts– probably more than you bargained for:

Book Title: Errant Frost

Genre: Fantasy (well, post-dystopian fantasy-ish with assassins, broken friendships, blackmail, LGBT+ characters, and a lot of blood.)

Word-count Goal: 60,000

Current word-count: 37,109 (but the day is still young)

Current music list: Audiomachine, Two Steps From Hell, E.S. Posthumus, soundtracks by John Powell, Henry Jackman, Steve Jablonsky… and anything else that appears on Pandora.

Because this is just too much fun… and, hey, procrastination!

The month started like this…

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A character who was supposed to be a future love interest decided to become a villain instead… I think I’m going to leave it, for now.

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So far, the story has felt a bit like this…

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And this…

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It’s all good though. Well, mostly…

 

Quote of the Month: April

My oh my, this year is leaping past!

Here we are again…

“To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself.” ~ Anne Rice

It’s Almost Time!

*takes a deep breath*

Ahhhhhhh!

Do you hear the clock ticking? The piano lid closing? The sound of pens cracking? Cottage gates opening?

It’s time, my friends.

NaNoWriMo is here. (Did I mention that I am participating again? Surprise!)

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You know what that means, my friends.

It’s time to morn a lack of preparedness, finish the last of the preparations that can be foreseen, and wonder where the plot I thought I was starting to understand went.

Did I mention that I am one of the crazy people who starts at midnight? I attempt to hit the first keystroke exactly as the clock hits twelve. Who needs sleep anyway?

Is anyone prepared for NaNo?

I am definitively not… this will be my forth year of camps, but it is almost as nerve-wracking as it was the first time. Since I doubt that I am not the only one (I hope?) who is entirely unprepared, here is the list of a few things that I often find helpful to getting words on the page. Some of these pertain more closely to waking up in the middle of the night to write, but pajamas are justifiable anytime of the day:

  • Be prepared to take notes. Empty flashcards are lifesavers. Truly. I use them to keep track of characters and scribble down random plot points or pieces of dialogue. They are also the perfect size for miniature paper airplanes.
  • Find your soundtrack. Music is a great tool to help get into a character’s head: what would they listen to? What fits their emotional state? What is the soundtrack of your novel? Of course, some people prefer silence, and that is a soundtrack of its own.
  • Don’t feel like you need to know everything about your story. Whether you are a hardcore plotter or a fire-drill style pantser, it is probable that you do not know everything about your story (if anything at all). Be willing to explore along the way. Sometimes unexpected plots will jump out of you and change your manuscript for the better; let yourself consider every possible option.
  • Have something to drink nearby. Whether it be coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or even spiced cider; just think of the procrastination potential. While something so simple may seem strange, it is sometimes surprising what you can come up with while taking a sip of something delicious. Besides, who has time to get up for a cup of water when pounding at a keyboard?
  • Find a cosy space– or surround yourself with as much coziness as possible. Another clique, but one that I follow every single year. Fuzzy socks? Check. Pajamas? Check. A sweater (or cloak)? Absolutely.

Now… I would stick around, but the minutes are ticking. I’m off to make a cup of tea and negotiate with characters before the clock strikes midnight.

Good luck to everyone rushing into their manuscripts tonight!

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