Revision and Recap of the Last 4 Weeks

No one warned me that revisions would lead to madness.  But it does, my friend.  It does.

I am in the process of revising the stories I wrote at Odyssey and have been doing a poor job of it.  Mostly I’ve been stumbling about adding things and then taking it out again.  Luckily, my good friend Greg has thrown me a rope by asking a few good questions.

“What are your goals for this revision?”  He suggested that I focus on one goal each time I go through the story.  (Sounds familiar, like something I remember hearing at Odyssey.)

“Why does it need to be eliminated/changed/revised/added?”  This question prompted me to ask myself why I wrote the story in the first place.  Looking back on the original vision of my story and whether I’ve achieved my goal is a good way to keep myself from going into a thousand directions while revising.

Finally…the best advice:

“Keep a narrowed focus.  The beginning doesn’t work?  What exactly about the beginning doesn’t work?”

Anyhow, back to work.  But first, here are some pictures to summarize the past four weeks in which I fell into a blackhole and did not update my blog.

Hanging out in the Texas heat…

There’s just something about the big Texas sky that makes my heart sing.

My sister was crying at her Quarter-of-a-Century Party.  ‘Course it didn’t help that I switched the number.

Met up with Odfellow Chris and his wife Dacia for a delicious dinner.

Is it a cheese tray or it it art?

Dacia’s To-Die-For cheesecake.  There needs to be a Food Network show starring Chris and Dacia: Texas Cooking with a French Twist.  The name of the show?  Steaks, s’il vous plaît.

Camped with the family in Missouri in 100 degree weather.  Here we are heading to the shuttles to ride into town and gorge ourselves at the local Chinese buffet.

There were about 100K Vietnamese camping out in Carthage and sharing 4 bath/shower houses.  Gahhh… The germaphobe in me had heart seizures and nearly died.

Back at home in Fort Worth.  Made some delicious Banh Xeo with the family.  Banh Xeo = crepes with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and green onions.  Mmmm….

SIsters’ Night Out with the Noodle.  We consumed beers and fried pickles at Movie Tavern while ogling Ryan Gosling.  Delightful!

End of Odyssey

…otherwise known as getting kicked out of the nest.

 

For six weeks, we all had our nose to the grind, writing, critiquing and learning with intense concentration.  We also bonded with each other.  Suddenly, I’m back home again and it all feels so very weird.  I spoke to Fairy today and he agrees that it feels odd to not be at the dorms doing critiques.

What an amazing journey it has been.  I’ve spent most of the time since leaving Odyssey yesterday either fighting back tears or wondering if it has all been real.  Was I really at Saint Anselm College with a group of crazy brilliant (emphasis on crazy) people?  Did I really learn a mind blowing amount of information about writing and the publishing industry? Did we really take down 22 pages worth of random quotes?  Is “Spock you” really the new best curse?

The best way to sum up the last week is probably through pictures.  So here goes…

Brainstorming story ideas with the gals upstairs. Evil Ann is threatening retribution for my incessant snapshots.

Wrapping our feet with Burt's Bees Lotion and blue saran wrap has become a ritual.

We painted our nails black to mourn the last week of Odyssey. Even Jeanne got her nails painted!

Pancake breakfast with everyone on the Saturday before the 6th week.

Here is the talented pancake chef! Thank you! It was delicious!

Last Meal at our favorite Indian place.

Did I say something to provoke them?

We stayed up until the wee hours singing and drinking. Then we went for a long walk.

We had some great times. Miss ya’ll!

End of Week Five

Odyssey has gone by incredibly fast.  I haven’t had a breakdown or a meltdown.  I’m saving it all for the last day when I leave.  I’m planning on torrents of tears, globs of snot, bloodshot eyes, red face…the whole works.

Gary Braunbeck has been with us the entire week–and what a wonderful inspiration he has been.  He brought fresh perspective on creating original fiction.  It was touching to watch how generously he gave of himself by staying up late nights to join our plotting sessions and preparing his insightful critiques.  Thank you Gary!

I haven’t updated my blog for days because I’ve been working feverishly to finish a story that was critiqued this morning.  It was a story about a North Korean telepath that still needs a lot of work. However, Gary said that it was the most horrifying story he has read this week.  I horrified the horror writer.  Awesome! (I’m sticking with the assumption that the story horrified him and not my grammar.)

Recap of the last few days:

I beat Fairy in a writing contest last week.  In an hour he wrote 1100 words and I wrote 1900.  Nat got 300.  Fairy owed me a cookie but ended up getting me a whole box instead! Whooo Whooo.

Nat and I spent most of this week confined in our room and writing til the wee hours of morning.  We had two days where we had a total of about 4 hours of sleep. We managed by drinking Monsters and Pepsis and laughing uproariously over the littlest things.  She’s the best roomie ever!

Today was our last BBQ. (so sad!)

I’m going to miss these crazies!
Finally a shout out to some fellow Odyssians who are starting us on the right path. One gal has signed her first 2 book deal.  Another guy just received a request from THE Donald Maas for the first fifty pages of his novel.  One guy has had several short stories released while he was here, and yet another has just sold a short story.  I am looking forward to putting their names up as soon as I have their permission.
Great Job, Guys and Gal!
Plans for tonight–
A plot party where we drink happy juice and brainstorm plots for our stories.
A walk to work off the two hotdogs I scarfed down during the BBQ.
A reading by the Fairy himself.
Start writing my next story which will be critiqued in class next week with John Joseph Adams.

Finally Official, Gary Braunbeck and More…

Some author once said, “You know you’re a writer when you’re looking up things on the internet that makes you look like a serial killer.”

I think I became an official writer today when I typed into Google Search the following query:

“Drugs that can be injected to make it look like a heart attack”

I disturb myself.

Today was the second day of Gary Braunbeck’s week long lecture series.  Gary is absolutely amazing and a very dedicated lecturer and critiquer.  He believes that one should not be confined to the barriers of genre, and writers should write the story they want to write without getting bogged down by genre rules.

His lecture yesterday was on DOTS–Definition of the Self.  From what I understand, DOTS is the character’s realization of himself/herself.  This deep understanding of the character’s self drives the plot, motivation and conversations of the story.   He also talked about using dialogue to drive the plot and characterization.  Dialogue when done well should reveal and/or change something about the character.  One character can bring out the “self” of another character through dialogue.  Gary gave all of us electronic copies of his book on writing, To Each Their Darkness. I’m exciting to read this book but it may not be until after Odyssey is done.

Today’s lecture was about subtext and how to show what is happening without spoon feeding the reader.  I’m convinced that Gary is a Crusader who is trying to bring meticulous craft and art back into genre. I really like how he uses examples of literary fiction to offer different techniques and use of language.

On critiquing, everyone’s writing has been improving dramatically.  I’m so proud of my fellow Odyssey buddies.  Yesterday, we had three stories that were nearly impossible to critique–they were each so charming in their own ways.

Today and tomorrow, Natalie and I will be writing like crazy.  Our story is due on Thursday morning and I’m determined to have a completed short story, dammit!

So then some pictures for fun:

Birthdays! Cakes! Yum!

Picture within a picture.  DG is mystified by our shenanigans.

Where I spent most of the day yesterday.

Yes, Jeanne does go around carrying Darth Vader’s head.  We don’t call her the Evil Overlord for nothing.

Random Bits and Pictures

Natalie and I stayed up til the wee hours last night so I was planning to sleep in this morning.

Not a chance.

At 7:30am, Natalie was up.  I saw Natalie up and working, assumed it was later in the morning, so I got up too…only to realize that it was only 7:30.  BOO.

Then, I spent most of today researching for a new story.  North Korea stuff.  It made me sick mentally and emotionally. UGH.

Dinner at a fantastic Indian place.  Alex’s birthday is on Monday so we had a little get together this evening.  Her mom sent a buttercream chocolate truffle cake.  YUM.

Went to the Reading Room with Natalie to work in the airconditioned room.  She decided we needed swords to protect ourselves from Peeko, the psychotic 17th Odyssey student who just showed up last week.

Here we are, walking down the street with our swords.

 

Just to show how serious we are about our weapons…Here are the loaded water pistols at the dorms awaiting innocent victims.

BBQ yesterday was fun.  We played the 3X plot structure game in which I sold out my roommate, took a prize and retired early.  It was a cowardly thing to do, but I still don’t quite get 3X yet.  It was a desperate dodge.

 

Finally, some pictures from our walk last night.  We’ve made a ritual of going out near the graveyards to watch the fireflies.  They flicker in the bushes and treetops near the graveyard.  It is so incredibly beautiful.

 

 

Late Nights, Pseudonyms and Elizabeth Bear

I had an in-class critique yesterday.  (Was it yesterday?)  I’m not so sure anymore. Once again, I am humbled by everyone’s kindness and brilliant offerings.  I think I will work on expanding this story into either novella or novel size.  I’ll have to see how it develops.  My next project will be a short story.  A real short story.  Not a novel that I’ve tried to cram into 6000 words.

I’ve been doing all-nighters and sleeping 3-4 hours a night so all the days have been blending into one another.  It’s been like one very long day punctuated with naps.  We are coming to the end of our fourth week at Odyssey and the realization that we will all go our separate ways in two weeks is so very sad for me.  Everyone has expressed that they want to keep in touch after this experience is over, and I really hope that we do.  Among the 16 of us, we have an invaluable source of expertise that includes sword experts, gun experts, history experts, research experts, and general nerd and geek experts.

We had three in class critiques today.  I think the stories are getting more difficult to critique.  Even with the limited time frame, people seem to be turning in excellent stories that are enjoyable to read and inspires thought.

Elizabeth Bear was a guest lecture this morning.  She is very personable and lots of fun.  We talked about plot structures, Hollywood movies and how many science fiction readers seem to prefer male writers.  While I know that many authors use gender neutral pseudonyms to write in different genres, I have mixed feelings about this concept.  One part of me is thinking: Which gender neutral pseudonym can I use?  The other part thinks: Why should I perpetuate this gender bias?

And to be fair, it’s not just gender bias toward women.  Men who write romance also have to use pseudonyms.  I really can’t understand why we can’t move beyond the gender limitions and just enjoy art for the sake of art.  No one stands before a painting and wonders whether a man or a woman painted it.

That’s the end of my soapbox chat for the day.  I have 3 critiques this weekend.  One story to write.  Gary Braunbeck reception on Sunday.   AND a write-a-thon tonight where I may yet win back the two cookies I lost.  Not the exact same ones of course.

Tonight’s BBQ pictures and more to come.

For now, here is a picture taken the other night.  Fairy, Nat and Peeko were going for multi-hand scary ghost effect.  I’m much too serious and mature to participate in such silliness.  So I took their picture instead.

Other random fun pictures:

Nat laughing so hard she fell out of her bed.

Chris the Texas BBQ Master “running” to the grill.

Writing Plan, Chinese, and Self Love

I’ve decided today that my writing process needs to change…dramatically.  After another all-nighter and turning in a story that is missing the third act, I’ve decided to register myself on Fail.com.  Only after a lot of sniveling have I decided to change my writing process.  I’ve started to outline most recently, thanks to Jeanne who has provided many different techniques for outlining.

The unfortunate thing is I have been outlining novels and then cramming them into a short story.  The other unfortunate thing is I don’t have a consistent goal for word count every day.  I plan on taking a leaf from my Odyssey mate Christopher Owen and write a consistent 1000 words a day.  I think a more consistent daily word count will help me link the brain waves to the finger muscles in a more efficient manner.

Chinese food today with DeskFairy and Nat.  North Garden again.  It was Dee-licious.  I think raucous laughter and multiple quotes is the norm for any gathering at Odyssey, even for small informal dinners.

After dinner, Natalie pulled out a fortune cookie with the following message:  The first and foremost love is self love. Considering the addition of “in bed” that we have been adding to every fortune and some of the conversations we’ve had so far, it was an utterly hilarious fortune.

While we were walking home…

Desk Fairy:  I’m trying to divert hate away from me.

Me:  Don’t worry. We women can multitask so we can hate more than one person at a time.

And here is Natalie–proving that women do indeed multitask.

 

Desperation

I need a story!  I have all these ideas bouncing around in my head but nothing concrete! And my story is due Wednesday morning!

Gurgle.

So far, all I have is one random first line:

He woke up in Juarez, naked except for a pair of pinstriped socks.

I have no idea what to do with it.

On the brighter side, we had a barbeque today.  I tore into a nice med-rare steak and got in touch with my neanderthal-cavewoman self.  It was quite lovely.

Must. Go. Bang. Head. Against. Pillow.  At least until a story appears.

The Annual Odyssey Barnes and Noble Slam

Absolutely amazing day today!  First we had the Barnes and Noble Slam.  Everyone prepared a bio and short short or flash fiction story to read aloud at Barnes and Noble in Nashua.  Some of us were nervous, others were great in the spotlight, but everyone–absolutely everyone–had a brilliant story to share.  The voices and stories ranged from humor to horror; the writing style from sparse to lyrical.  My brave roommate read her entire story in character with her clothing, bio and “hick” accent.  It was a real treat to listen to my Odyssey mates read their stories in their own voice.

After the slam, some of us met at Ollie’s for dinner.  Like every gathering, the conversations are enlightening, disturbing and hilarious.  Who knew writers are so entertaining?

Dora Goss shared a quote yesterday that I think is absolutely applicable to all of us:

“Writers write down the dialogues that happens in their head while other people pay therapists to help them get rid of the voices.”

I guess that explains it all.

Theodora Goss and Voice

Theodora Goss was the guest lecturer today.  She was kind, insightful and generous with her time.  We learned about creating dense sentences and finding our own voice(s) as a writer.  One of the exercises totally stumped me this morning.  Dora had us describe our writing voice in a few words.  For the life of me, I could not think of anything besides “long-ish”.  Yes.  I was extremely articulate.

Dinner tonight with everyone.  Always a fun occasion.  Most of us can’t believe that it’s already the end of the third week.  Nooooooooooo!!!  We don’t want to leave!!!!!!!!

But seriously, life is going to be just a tad dull after Odyssey.  Everyday here, I have been experiencing tremendous growth as a writer.  There were a few days where I had my “hallelujah” moment.  The heavens opened and knowledge poured forth.  One of those days was definitely this past Tuesday when Jeanne lectured on Plot.  OMG.  Mind. Blown.

Barnes and Noble Slam is tomorrow.  It’s going to be wicked fun.

And finally, some things just make you wonder–like why did they ever feel the need for the particular warning below?