It has been a good while since my last post – I missed the entire month of October. Man what an excruciating month that was.
In October, I was preparing to submit my third annotation which included two short stories I’d been working on. My mentor wanted me to get in touch with my emotions and use those feelings to enhance my characters. So I revisited the beginnings of a writing sample I’d started, but never finished which I called Three Days Grace. It was about a woman on the verge of suicide, but I hadn’t really gotten anywhere with it. It was raw and dark.
Then I began work on a piece I called Happy, because it seemed as if unconsciously I’d been contemplating the simple meaning of the word. It kept appearing in whatever it was I was working on, and I realized I was searching for the meaning of it. Then I added a twisted ending to Happy and called it a day.
My novel chapters needed work as well, so I began rewriting the character entrances and adding depth to the scenes to add vitality. I also did a lot of heavy work on the showing/telling and character development areas, thanks to the help of some excellent craft books, Showing & Telling, Fiction Writer’s Workshop, and Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (8th Edition).
The month of October was so grueling, not only because of the increased work production, but my part-time job (which qualifies as its own private trip to hell) refused to work with the schedule I’d given them for my availability. I was also finishing up a literature class which required a minimum 5,000 word paper at the same time. Needless to say I was working too many hours, had too many assignments, and was extremely overwhelmed. By the time I got everything submitted (on time) I think I must have collapsed.
Surprisingly the feedback from my third annotation was extremely positive. I was shocked. My mentor liked where I’d started with Three Days Grace, but cautioned that I’d need to open it up and add some additional characters/dialogue. She also liked the quirky ending of Happy but pointed out that I’d started off in second person and switched to third midway through. My first thought when I read that was “I can’t believe I wrote in second person. I never write in second person. No wonder I switched to third.” Then I made a quick note to rewrite the whole thing in third and of course lengthen it since it was presumably short. She also liked the additions/revisions I’d made to my novel chapters, and looked forward to reading more.
I submitted the fourth and final annotation a little over a week ago and I’ve yet to get feedback, but I should hear something very soon. For this last annotation I first went through a period of about four days of absolute (curled up in fetal position) illness during the time I was supposed to be writing, and then once I was able to sit up again I tormented myself over what a horrible writer I was. Ever experience those days? Then I lamented over the fact that now, because I’d been ill, for the first time my annotation would be late (which was totally unacceptable).
After my pity party I sat down at the computer and started writing. At first I had an idea of where I wanted to go with Three Days Grace, but it didn’t feel right. I started on it anyway and by the time I finished the almost final draft and read it to my daughter/editor, she realized that what began as Happy was really a missing part of Three Days Grace so I added it. When I finished it was thirteen pages and had gone into a direction I never thought I’d write. It had romance and a happy ending. Definitely not how I thought it would turn out, but I was happy with the progress I’d made.
Then once again, I started on the novel chapters. I swear it should be called Those Chapters Still Need Revisions, but once again I tackled the opening, revised some areas which I’d put off for later, and started on the next chapter. Anyone who says writing a novel is a piece of cake has no idea what they are talking about. Writing truly is a labor of love. It’s the number one reason why we torment ourselves.
This entire semester has been an experiment in pushing me beyond my limits (as far as writing is concerned) and something tells me the worst is yet to come. I have a new semester beginning in January, with a new mentor, and word is he’s intense. I’m sure the time I thought I spent in hell this semester will seem like a cakewalk compared to next semester. As it stands I have no idea what letter grade I will receive for this semester. Remember, this is the mentor who gave me a B for residency, so I can honestly say I’m just glad it is finally over.
Even though the semester was difficult, and even though I’ve temporarily put my criminology studies on hold, I have to admit I learned a lot this semester. Nothing truly worth having comes easy. It felt like I was always trying to rise to the occasion this semester, and when you think about it, that is really not a bad thing. Complacency doesn’t make good writing if you have nothing to strive for. Of course I’ll complain throughout the experience, because I have to vent, but in the end I truly believe it has made me a much better writer which makes me look forward (just a little bit) to next semester.