Tag Archives: on writing

Honesty in Writing: A Freetype

Today, I’m going to take a few minutes to just type up some ideas I’ve been incubating for my thesis in a freetype (YEP NEW WORD, got that world, you credit me in the next 50bajillion books on freetyping ((this is a freewrite but typing, how didn’t you know that?)).

Honesty in writing, honesty in writing. what does that mean? what could it mean? other than… to be honest? honest in what? only ever tell the truth? the truth about…? a made up character. what’s the truth about Alice? who is she? if she’s made up, living in my head, then can I tell a lie? who will know? the reader will know. how? because she’ll fall off the page and slither down to the floor and lie limp forever a stick figure on a piece of lifeless paper but but but if I tell the truth about Alice, Alice will flutter away like a paper butterfly but I don’t like butterflies, I mean, I do, who doesn’t but I don’t have a feminine obsession with butterflies during which i ooooh ahhh and coo. I just think, hey that think, that thing with the wings that flies, it’s pretty. Why is it called a butterfly? Well, this is really not about honesty BUT it’s honestly where my mind went. this should be cut. this too. okay back on topic.

William. What lies have I told about William? I’ve made him a different person than he was supposed to be originally. Used to be he was this polite young man who had a job to do and he tries to get the best people to do it. now, he’s a poor little rich kid (though he doesn’t think so, he’s not whiney or anything geesh) that wants to risk life and limb to go on some adventure predominately populated by his best friend and the love of his life who he can’t seem to figure out. the lie is that he’s straddling this fence–he’s either confident or he’s not. he can’t be confident about this stupid expedition that’s killed like over a hundred people and be afraid of Alice. that’s just silly. but that’s what I wrote.

Okay, honesty, honesty in writing. Where is my voice? is it here on the page? how can i find it? how can I separate my voice from the voice of other hilarious (yes I am funny) and witty and intelligent people? do they all sound the same to me? the only way i know it’s my writing is because I (CAPITOL I) have written it. would I be able to pick MY writing out if I jumbled it up with someone else’s? yes because i know what I write about. I write about certain things certain ways but more importantly I remember everything that I’ve written. mostly. I think. maybe in 50 years I’ll be able to look back at some book someone else wrote about my life and say, in a very urkel voice (though my biographer will surely not know to whom I am alluding unless she’s read this blog post at which point she SHOULD KNOW) “did I write that?” and she (or he) will say, yes, yes ma’am you did. Then, promptly, I’ll stone cold stare him down until he says, “miss, sorry, miss.”

This is just the laziest blog post ever. I mean. Really. I just thought, hey, I’m going to free write about something and not really deliver ANYTHING insightful about writing other than–this is what it looks like when I freewritetype. It’s honest though. I mean. Right now, I’m thinking: who would want to read this crap? And yet here (or there) you sit reading it. Why?

So there are a lot of writers that write about writing and when they write about writing they write about honesty and sitting down and not lying. Anne Lamont says, in Bird by Bird, (see how easily I quote now, keep watching, it gets better (I have to admit at some point I thought I misspelled gets and backspaced to write kets, wtf?)) that the reader will know when you’re lying AND that one must push themselves to open the door no one wants to open. This is a great prompt, write about that door, YOU, now (well, not RIGHT NOW), but please do and let me read the results. Further, it makes me wonder, what doors have I left shut? I don’t know… I really don’t. I will have to freetype about that one some other time.

Stephen King writes about it in On Writing, about coming to the page with serious intent and making sure to be honest. Good writing is honest, Donald Murray said that in his book A Writer Teaches Writing (three citations so far in this freetype, see how my life is lately? this is just how I think now. I recall articles and books I’ve read and include them even in my freetypes) that good writing is honest writing. But, I still… after 829 words have yet to figure out what I want to talk about and what I mean in my thesis.

Okay. I think this is enough now. Good bye.

Additionally, please leave me a comment about what that phrase HONESTY IN WRITING means to YOU. Please, I really would appreciate your insight. No questions though, there are dumb questions and I don’t want to risk it. No, I’m kidding. Go ahead. I’ll answer dumb questions.


Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

I committed to Book’d Out’s Eclectic Reader Challenge and have been chugging right along making progress, though I haven’t really gotten completely eclectic yet. So far I’ve been bouncing around the same genre’s but that’s okay. I have all year to get there.

One book I’ve committed to reading, Anna Karenina, is taking a long, long, long, long time because it’s really long and really slow and kind of like a lullaby. So whenever Goodreads tells me I’m ahead of schedule for my 100 books goal, I go back to it. So, after a few days on Anna Karenina (and only 10% progress), I started on some more books.

Miss Me Not

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon

Miss Me Not is an independently published novel only available in ebook format.

When I started Miss Me Not, I hated the narrator/MC. Her negative attitude was all too familiar in a bad sense, but something kept me going. When I finished the book, King had successfully used Madison’s negative attitude on life and helped her find happiness in completely legitimate ways (confronting issues, counseling, and work) that made it work. I felt like her writing could use some work, but this book was a good read.

One thing that threw me was the “New Adult” genre tag. This was supposed to fit in my ERC category but its definitely too young for NA. The MC, Madison, is a high school senior dealing with issues that meet YA. It’s good, just not NA.

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I picked this book for the Romantic Suspense category. I was pleasantly surprised. The main character, Charley Davidson (yes, like the motorcycle), reminded me strongly of Anita Blake from Guilty Pleasures (which I reviewed in January). I liked Charley a little more, she was less cheesy and fit into my personality more. Every since Dead Like Me, I’ve loved the idea of a grim reaper, which made the character of Charley really fun to get into.

At the end of the book, however, I’m feeling like Jones should’ve spent more time with the mystery of the story and less on the “oh, this strange attraction to the mystery man.” It started as a focus on the mystery but that faded away, which I didn’t mind until the end.

A Writer Teaches Writing

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This book was my epiphany book. I read the first half and was scribbling in the margins constantly as I read each line, each paragraph. Most valuable to me was Murray’s revelation of the writing process. I have read a lot of books about teaching writing and a few on writing, but none so perfectly summed up the writing process like Murray so much so that I feel lighter and more prepared for writing more now than I ever have in my life.

If you are a writer, read this book because it helps you to understand your writing process, but to help you develop your reading of your own writing and others. You will become, if you read this book, a writer and a teacher of writing. Don’t say, “I don’t need to teach writing,” because your first pupil will be you. So yes, you do need to know how to teach writing to yourself and to your writing buddies. If you are a teacher, read this book and keep in mind that when you talk about writing, it’s all abstract until you do it. So don’t think this will help you to become a better writing teacher without actually writing–it won’t, because it will be abstract and useless until you heed Murray’s (and countless other’s) advice.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I am on the fence about this book. I like some of the ideas Lamott shares but they’re mired in these ideas and personal philosophies and quirky (look at me) stories I didn’t like trudging through. I read the book for my thesis and will use it but I won’t recommend this book. It reminded me of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones but instead of inspiring me to write, I felt drained.

This did inspire me to think about honesty, which is a virtue that comes easily to me most of the time (and by easily, I mean it perches on my shoulder, the ever obnoxious parrot). But there is an honesty that is, at it’s core, honest, and honesty that is not and this is decided by it’s delivery. There is inherit in the Lamott’s delivery this showy side of pointing out the hardships and the oddities of her life with a false, flashy bravado. I started Stephen King’s On Writing and he has the honesty I employ, the honest honesty that when delivered is not meant to hurt, just be honest because it just is. It is not to be looked on with pity or sorrow. It just is. SO, as I told a friend, even my virtues have virtues.

Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan, #1)

Links: Author Page, Goodreads.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

WHILE the main character, Temperance Brennan, DOES share a name and occupation with our TV favorite, Bones, that’s where the comparison’s stop. I aint mad, bro. I really liked Reich’s writing, I liked the story, I liked the description, I liked that I read it in Emily Deschanel’s voice. I missed the characters from Bones, but that’s alright because I watch the show. I don’t need to double up on this one (which is exactly how I feel about the Sookie Stackhouse novels). I don’t know when I’ll pick up another novel in this series, but I will.

Link: Goodreads.com

I’m just putting this book in here to say, guys, this is the kind of stuff I have to read to do my thesis that I can’t even say, “Yeah, I’d recommend this book for pleasure reading.” I can’t. I can recommend that if your local library has it, that you browse through it and recognize that we’re all scientific researchers using the heuristic research design. Yep. I’m not even kidding. If you need a design for a study, this is easy-I’d-rather-just-write-a-novel-so-I-did-now-how-do-I-pretend-it’s-a-thesis research. That’s Moustakas, you’re one part of the equation to why I’m going to graduate in May.

Also, you can’t get more eclectic than a book on scientific research next to some a murder mystery, just sayin.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of “What Melanie is Reading.” See you next time, folks!

Back to the Drawing Board!

This weekend I spent hours and hours reading for my thesis. I stumbled upon this book called “A Writer Teaches Writing” by Donald M Murray which made me really think about my writing process for my book but also for other stories. He breaks the process down as COLLECT PLAN DRAFT. The thing is, for his process, it’s not linear. It’s not just collect, plan, draft, DONE! It’s a revolving cycle until the final draft–meaning revision is just a rehash of the process. He refers to editing basically how I referred to correcting.

What does this mean? I’m re-thinking the Abassi Expedition. I’ve collected, planned, and drafted and now as I look at it–it doesn’t feel right. Something, mostly a fire, is missing from it for me. I think that I need some more collect, another plan, and another draft.

So, I’m probably going to collect my thoughts–break the draft down into the issues that I’m having, which for me, is primarily Alice and William at the end of the book. Morris grew into the most perfect character for me, save for maybe one or two scenes that feel forced. But Alice and William? They were planned before they were collected. So I’m back on the collect. I really want to better understand who they are, their backgrounds, how they’ll act as life comes at them. I had planned to be done with the Abassi Expedition by fall but honestly, I don’t know if that will happen.

After I collect, I’ll plan… I have legitimate scenarios for Alice and William to experience but I don’t think I have the right responses and actions on their part. So I might re-plan the rising and falling action. I like the climax, I like the end.

Then I’ll draft and when I do, I might use some old scenes but I also plan to use some techniques in that book like writing my lead over and over again in the different options (direct statement, anecdote, quotation  news, informing detail, dialogue, surprise, description, mood, face, scene, first person, third person, tension, problem, process, voice, second person, rhetorical question, background, introduction) with a focus on honesty, simplicity, immediacy, information, and voice.

I think it’s time for me to accept and be okay that my first draft is a discovery draft and it helped me to discover what I need to know, what I need to explore, what was left out. I have that draft off to my good friend Sabrina right now, so we’ll see what she says.

Another thing I’d like to do is to answer all the questions Murray gives that are more directed for non-fictional writing but still carry meaning to me:

  1. Do I have enough specific, accurate information to build a piece of writing that will satisfy the reader?
  2. Do I see an order in the material that will deliver information to the readers when they need it?
  3. DO I hear a voice that is strong enough to speak directly to the reader?
  4. What do I know about my story?
  5. What do I need to know?
  6. Do I need to expand or narrow my scope?
  7. Will my reader’s questions get answered?

Murray also gives some great ideas about keeping the writing going such as setting a quota and keeping score, writing in parts instead of focusing on the whole, don’t stop to look at notes.

Before I start any of that, I need to figure out what is working well in my draft. My prose is good, concise, to the point, active, but my characters aren’t working for me the way they should. They’re not in the story enough. This plot is driven by the characters and the story needs to reflect that.

To really assess my work, I need to read it thrice (YES THRICE!) for content, structure, and language. Lately, I’ve been reading, instead, for language. That’s just not working for me. Because I can fix the prose but if the content isn’t right, that means nothing!

SO, now where am I? Well, I’m mired in the collect for my thesis. So the Abassi Expedition will have to wait a few months (hopefully just until March) before I can really delve into it’s collect. But I have a few books that I’ve recommended but never *fully* read, I’m going to link them AGAIN and finally read them this time! Cover to cover!

  1. Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan E. Rosenfeld
  2. Word Hero: A Fiendishly Clever Guide to Crafting the Lines that Get Laughs, Go Viral, and Live Forever by Jay Heinrichs
  3. Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction by Jeff Gerke
  4. How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
  5. New to my list: On Writing by Stephen King
  6. New to my list: 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias

If I can work these into my thesis, I may, but until then, I’m stuck reading books and articles about writers teaching writing (if you know any, pass them on!).