Tag Archives: writing

Sandboxes Aren’t Just for Kids — Writing as Pure Creation

When we were kids, there was the sandbox, filled with toys and friends. We’d build things, destroy things, and then start all over. It didn’t matter how small it was, or how quickly we could dig to the bottom of the box. We had total power over the sand.

Then, when we reached our 20s, we played computer games, and that sandbox we had as little kids showed up again, this time complete with a monitor and a mouse. It didn’t matter if we weren’t running the fastest machine out there because, once we put the disc of The Sims or Roller Coaster Tycoon into the CD-ROM drive, we were kings once again. We had total control and could create anything we wanted. A roller coaster that crashed every time? Why not? Two neighbors who hate each other at first and then fall in love and raise a family? All in the span of an hour? Sure.

But those sandboxes have limits and rules. You need a computer to play the game, or the box in which to actually put the sand.

When we put words on paper or, in the modern world, on a screen, the power comes rushing back. But there are no strings attached this time, no rules to play by, and no objective to beat. We just have pure creation.

At first, there is only darkness. But with four words, “let there be light,” we can see each other. Do you see what I did there? I wrote some words and changed the environment.

Writing is creation and change wrapped up in one simple action. By putting words down, an environment is changed. An environment that can be visited again and again both by writer and reader. Our imaginations are linked by the cyclical act of writing and reading. I can envision something and write it down, and you can see it.

Writing is the ultimate sandbox. We carry over what we learned from our previous sandboxes. Instead of Sims to play god with, we create fleshed-out characters with lives of their own. Instead of sandcastles, we build stories. And while we still can find a certain satisfaction in destroying a story, we know it’s more enjoyable to share it with others.

But we’re not kids anymore, and real life doesn’t have the same rules computer games did. Just because we write something doesn’t mean we get paid in points or dollars. All that freedom and expression isn’t guaranteed to put food on the table.

I got the chance to major in writing. But I found that, after four years of writing classes, I began to lose sight of the sandbox. Each semester, I had to adjust to a new professor with different rules of what was acceptable and what was not. Some assignments were pretty open-ended, while others were quite exact. Sometimes, writing for a grade wasn’t fun.

Luckily, I discovered National Novel Writing Month.

“NaNoWriMo,” as insiders call it, has as its main goal pure creation. Participants are tasked with writing 50,000 words in 30 days. It doesn’t matter how bad those words are because, by December 1, there are 50,000 more words than there were on November 1. This is a competition, but you’re not up against the other writers. You’re up against yourself for bragging rights. Can you silence your inner editor long enough to reach the goal?

November 2011 was exhilarating. I created with total freedom, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I mostly wrote by the seat of my pants. There wasn’t any outlining beforehand. I just set off with an idea and started writing. I was creating again, and this time I didn’t have to cater to professors or assignments. Finally, I was writing something that was wholly my own.

I found my sandbox again. And I’m never losing sight of it this time.

–My contribution to Before You Quit Writing Read This!, a collaboration by The Literati Writers and available on Amazon right now.

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Blogger’s Block

I have so many unfinished drafts it’s not even funny anymore. I keep starting posts and then either outright ignoring them, or forgetting about them. And then when I rediscover them, I ask myself should I even bother posting this? It’s not even timely anymore. 

I keep meaning to fall into a more regular posting schedule. But it’s like I really don’t have anything to say. Well that’s not true, I have things to say, but not enough to actually finish a post and hit publish.

Who am I blogging for? Myself or others? Do I care enough about this blog right now to maintain it? Probably not. But there’s a tiny voice nagging me to keep this space updated, because it’s literally my best foot forward on the internet. There’s a reason why this and my twitter are linked and I put mastery of both wordpress and twitter on my resume. I want to be a professional writer. I really should have a professional looking blog on the internet.  Now that I have a salary, I should look into buying a domain to host this so I can put it on my resume and stuff.

So yeah that’s what has been going through my head the last couple weeks every time I come onto wordpress. It’s mostly a guilty feeling for not having any quality posts lined up.

Maybe I should take a page out of Charlie McDonnell’s book and force myself to post at least once a day for a week and see what happens. Let’s try to resurrect this page.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Fanfiction.

There’s no denying that fanfiction is legit anymore. Not when respected news magazines like Time write a piece covering the world of Harry Potter fanfiction. However this is 2012, when fandoms are much more present and mainstream.

But back in say 2004? It wasn’t nearly as legit. Sure it had come a long way since the fanzines and the first Kirk/Spock stories that Trekkies wrote and traded with like minded fans of Star Trek. But for the most part it setayed on ff.net and other archives. You had to know what you were looking for in order to find it.

In high school, I ran with a circle of friends who were very big into manga, anime and Japanese culture in general. I mean big.They started the anime club and always were reading manga magazines, like Shoen Jump. I wasn’t into it. So when they started writing their own stories based on the anime and manga series they were following I missed the boat.

When I first discovered fanfiction (through them) I have to admit my reaction was highbrow. I didn’t see the point. Why write with characters that already existed when you could create your own? It was ninth grade, and I was busy trying to take a story I had started a year early and turning into a school assignment. I had other things to do than craft my stories around other people’s characters.

Despite my friends’ – for lack of a better word- fanatism, I never did drink the same kool-aid. However I eventually came around on the idea of fanfcition. And my friends, who were busy writing their stories, did become better writers. As a group they created a blog to post their favorite fics to read.

Before I graduated from high school, I did briefly try to get into fanfiction, through the Harry Potter fandom. What interested me was taking the plot of the story (say Goblet of Fire for example) and imagining what would have happened if the plot went left instead of right. (What would changed during Order of the Phoenix if Cedric didn’t die, but only Harry could see him?) Unfortunately those musings were never flushed out into a story.

Fast forward to the moment in college where I rediscovered my Star Trek roots and fell in love with Voyager. I had finally found my fandom. Thanks to an online forum I became obsessed with fanfiction. Particularly of the Janeway/Chakotay variety. (There’s this huge subsection of those who write fanction called ‘shippers’ who write about characters in a relationship, either canon or otherwise)  Despite having no on-screen confirmation of this relationship, we were all convinced that the Captain and her First Officer were destined to be.

I lurked in the community, devouring other people’s works and making a few friends in the process before I finally worked up the courage to write my own fanfiction. I’ve only written a few pieces, one of which I posted on my blog over two years ago.

For now though, I seem to be off fanfiction again.  A year ago, before I graduated from Hofstra, I discovered Doctor Who through tumblr and while I still consider myself a Trekkie, I’m also now a Whovian. I found some well written Doctor Who fanfiction to continue the trend. But I stopped short of becoming obsessed with it, mainly because like the Voyager fanfiction I had found a few years earlier, a majority of it is focused on the relationships that seem to never get as much attention as the plots onscreen. Which is fine, but I’m not really into that right now. I’m much more interesting in examining either alternate possibilities, or what happens off screen.

Who knows? You might see some more fanficition here. But if you do, I’ll make sure to warn you.

~

Bonus Links – click if you’re feeling adventurous and don’t mind bad writing

My Voyager Fanficition collection

Pre-College Original Fiction, including that story I wrote for 9th grade.

 

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What I used to do before I had a real blog

I used to have a LJ.

I say used to, because the last time I updated it was back in college, maybe freshman year. Hang on let me go check.

Ah, well it seems the last time I posted was in February of 2011, but it was cross posted from another failed journal hosted on Dreamwidth. (And it was promoting something here so it’s an example of BLOG-ception)

When I signed up for LiveJournal, I was not quite 16. I hadn’t been able to maintain a real journal or diary despite trying a few times. I thought if it was on the computer, I’d be more willing to write in it. (The definition of a millennial, wouldn’t you say?) LiveJournal had three privacy settings: Public, Friends Only, and Private. For the most part, mine was Friends Only and all of my friends were ones I knew in real life from my school.

I did write regularly through much of high school. (I started back in tenth grade) I had an “audience” so it wasn’t purely just for me. At times, I did censor myself. Which, in the long run, was a good thing because it prepared me for the “next generation” where I have this blog and twitter. There’s no sense barring my deep dark secrets for the internet to see. But there’s also no point in having a blog that lacks “personality.”

One final note: I went back and made my entire Livejournal public after I moved on from using it. But as a result of not deleting the “blog” I still get email notifications of spam which is quite annoying, especially since a majority of them are in RUSSIAN.

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Time Travel: NaNoWriMo Edition

The good news I’ve resumed writing again after avoiding my mess of my novel for a few months.The bad news is I’m fighting an urge every time I open the Scrivener document to do some major editing while the plot remains unfinished!

There is a speculative fiction group that I’m a part of that started weekly writing nights. I’ve found it’s a great incentive to tell my brain, “okay it’s Tuesday night. You are going to the food court in the Transportation building and you are writing. No Internet!”  I’ve gone for a month now and have banged out at least 500 words each time . Last night I hit a thousand. (I really should try to write every day again, but baby steps)

But as I’ve gotten back into my novel I’m realizing it has a lot more problems than just an unfinished plot. It partly comes with the territory of writing in a universe where time travel can happen. My novel seems to jump all over the place. And it’s not just because of the way Scrivener’s designed!

I’m still excited about this project so that’s a very good sign. If I had forced myself to keep writing after November 30th  I might have  burned out for good. Now that I have work settled I can get a schedule down that balances writing, gym, and free time. Oh and blogging of course!

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Before I turn 26: Bucket List!

I’ve had several goals floating around my head of what I wanted to accomplish/experience by the time I turn 25. I should probably get them down in writing. I’m giving myself a deadline of my 26th birthday which will be November 7th, 2014 (at 7:35 a.m. to be precise) Originally the goal was 25, but considering I’m already 23 and just starting out on my career, I figure an extra year wouldn’t hurt. So either before or on my 26th birthday, I want to…

  • Get back to Germany. Spending five months in Munich nearly two years (already!) ago isn’t enough. I need to go back and really work on the language. Luckily I have family in Frankfurt so I could crash with them for maybe a couple of weeks. But wouldn’t it be nice to stay there longer than a month? I wonder if it’s possible to take a class in German and be able to get another visa like JYM set up for me before. The Germans have a whole program set up for foreign students called DAAD.  The question remains if I can still be counted as a student since Hofstra sent me my degree and whether I would want to dive into being a full time student so soon.
  • Visit Las Vegas during the Star Trek convention. The allure of “sin city” isn’t quite enough to entice me. (Watching 21! is enough of a fix for me) However I am a huge Trekkie, and the convention that comes to the city every August is the biggest (and most expensive) one. Tons of Star Trek stars make the trek out. I have several twitter friends who live on the West Coast and make a yearly pilgrimage to the con. So far I have only lived voraciously through their tweets and con reports/pictures. This August is a huge TNG event as the show is turning 25 in 2012. I think it would be great to see the stars of the show that whenever it came on, I literally danced in front of the TV. (I was born in 88, the show came on air in 87, meaning it was the 6th and the 7th seasons that I remember watching before bed)
  • Get published! I was lucky to get my short story in Font before I graduated. But Font is just on Hofstra’s campus. And unless you were an English major, or your friend was in it, odds are you didn’t pick up a copy. I had set that goal of getting into Font before I left and managed to achieve with a piece I wrote while I was in Germany. I’d like to do something like that again, but find a lit magazine that’s a step up from a college one. If I manage to pull it off, I’ll consider it progress.
  • Finish a novel. I seem to have stalled in my writing on The Luther Paradox. I either need to finish the story or edit and trim down the 50,000 words I have now. I had a lovely conversation with a stranger at Grendels on Saturday (I was on a bar crawl with a friend) who loved the idea that I pitched him, but helped me realize that my approach for my protagonist wasn’t the best way to keep readers engaged in the second part of my novel. I need to make him willing to risk his life to get back home. Right now he doesn’t have anything or anyone waiting for him, so why should he rush home, other than he’s leading the life of someone else? When I started writing this character I pictured him as a time traveling mercenary – available for the highest bidder so to speak. But as I worked through the beginnings of my novel, it turned out he freelanced on the side as he worked for the time travel agency. He’s still plenty jaded and doesn’t have much to tie him down other than his job and his “relationships” (if you could even call them that) with his boss and the tech guy at work. He doesn’t have anyone waiting for him when he finally gets back to his one bedroom apartment for the night. He eats or orders out nearly all the time because he hates cooking for one.
  • Get an apartment. My parents graciously let me back into the house after I graduated. Growing up the joke was “We don’t care what you do as long as you’re out of the house by you’re 25.” Well I wasn’t able to afford an apartment right after school. And the first priority on the financial stability list was student loans. So what’s next on that list? Cellphone, and then apartment rent. I’d love to stay in the Boston area, meaning I’ll have to find people to rent with, because this area is expensive.
  • Get a car/licence. While probably less expensive than paying rent/bills this is a bit harder I think. I did get my learners permit before I turned 23 (barely made that deadline) but have yet to start learning to drive because instead I started working/earning money. I think in the long run that was a better decision because I needed money to pay for said lessons. People are surprised when they find out that I have neither a  car nor a licence at 23. But growing up in the city, right on the T, I didn’t really need one.

There are two honorable mentions for this list. I’m not quite sure either are the direction I want to go but they have a chance of happening within the next couple of years or so.

The first is to get a job in New York City. As a budding writer, I am lucky to live in Boston, where there are plenty of writing/publishing/editing opportunities. But New York City is obviously like Boston on steroids. Plus with the last semester of work I did at RecordSetter, I do have some professional contacts in the city, compared to almost zilch here in Boston. (Obviously I am starting to connect/network through my new job but there was a 7 month drought of professional contacts until I started working). And the four years of going to school at Hofstra are to my advantage because I already know I’d be able to live in New York. It’d just be even more expensive than Boston.

The second is some sort of grad school. I thought up until my junior year that I had it all figured out perfectly. I’d get my Master in Fine Arts in writing, preferably at Emerson so I could live at home. But then the real world invaded (it has a nasty habit of finding you in your ivory tower doesn’t it?) and I realized I still wouldn’t have a practical degree. (Not all Master’s degrees are created equal!) Sure I could teach, and if my writing improved I would probably make some industry contacts through professors and be closer to actually publishing. But as my cousin who does have two books published pointed out – you don’t need  to go to school write a novel. You need to have some basic skills, that I hopefully picked up in workshop classes at Hofstra, and then you need to live your life. The alternative is an education degree in Egnlish, or some sort of Divinity school. I’ve held off on any grad school decision since a) I’m so broke, and b) I clearly can’t decide which path of further education to pursue.

So on my bucket list there are some practical items, as well as some fantastical items. A pretty good mix. The question remain as to whether I can accomplish everything by the arbitrary deadline of 26. I already know I should not beat myself up if I fail to check everything of that list. But it’s nice to know I have a general outline, and had a little fun in thinking of ways to spice it up.

If you have read this far, congratulations and thanks for putting up with me. Maybe you have a bucket list of your own? Tell me about it in the comments!

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Random Writings

Some of my writings from THREE years ago. The lovely thing about the internet, is you can preserve things in their original status forever (or until the site goes under)

I look back on where I started and can’t help cringe, but that’s a sign that I’ve improved, right?

In other writing news: taking advantage of not being employed or in school full time and going for the full FIFTY THOUSAND Words goal for National Novel Writing Month. I had fallen behind but managed to catch up on Sunday where I wrote seven thousand words in one day. 

I put off actually starting  the Luther Paradox reboot enough to use it for NaNoWriMo. And I’m 45k + along and enjoying myself.  Sure I’ll have a lot of editing to do once I finally finish the story (which won’t be on November 30th) but this is the first time in almost six months that I am enjoying writing again.

But once I have gone through the project and revised it, I’ll start posting at least segments of it  here. I’ll never “live-blog” my NaNo story like I did two years ago. That was a mistake looking back.

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