Thursday, August 30, 2012

Busy, Busy...but a PbF Excerpt to Make Amends....

Ugh...real life interrupts writing again....

This week we started our 16th year of homeschooling, with my boybarians in grades 7, 10, and 12. Co-op classes begin next week. But the first few weeks are all about finding our "groove." I'm using different curricula for all three boys, with a few tried-and-true faves still in the mix. 

I hope to pick back up with Pinned but Fluttering and be posting this weekend. Life just has been crazy with planning, ordering textbooks, and then getting used to our new schedule which starts an hour earlier than we used to so that I have time for my jobs. I start teaching online classes again next week and my full-and-with-a-waiting-list expository writing class the following week after that. I also have curriculum writing and rewriting to do for work...both of which I've fallen a bit behind in doing over the last two weeks with starting a new homeschool year. 

Part of me can't believe that summer is over and that I have to begin teaching again. Summer never really felt like summer with teaching the online fan fiction class and with working all summer on curriculum development. But the boys are slowly falling into their patterns and they're getting done with school around 2:30 which leaves me with several hours to work and teach online courses before physical therapy and dinner. 

Since I'm soooo late on this next chapter of Pinned but Fluttering, I think I'll give you what I've written so far. Please keep in mind that this is a first draft and will undergo several revisions before I publish it online. But this is everything I've written so far for Chapter 42:

Feeling perfectly at home in Edward's embrace was a new but very welcome development. As I mentally thumbed through my human memories, fogged as they were, I remembered the tension between us, the constant draw I felt toward him.

And his kiss...our kiss: tender, restrained, joyous. 
And his declaration. 
Edward loved me.
I looked up at him, certain that the wonder I felt was plain in my expression. He smiled down at me, his eyes warm and tender. 
“Shall we go for a walk?” he asked quietly.

A walk? I felt confused for a moment, then I cottoned on. A walk...away from the prying eyes and too-sensitive ears of his family. A walk seemed like an excellent idea.

I nodded. He gave my hands a gentle squeeze, then turned his back on the crowded room and led me out the back door of the house.

Exchanging a look of amused annoyance, we ignored Emmett's loud wolf-whistle as we closed the door behind us, Edward rolling his eyes.

He reached for my hand, and it seemed perfectly natural to allow his long fingers to fold around my much smaller hand, and we exchanged shy smiles.

Following a narrow path, Edward led me along the riverbank. The scenery was lovely; we were shaded by majestic Douglas Firs, spreading cedars, and ancient oaks. As we walked hand-in-hand in comfortable silence, the music of the gently running water soothing and peaceful, my eyes drank in the amazing detail of our natural surroundings now afforded by my new vampiric vision.

After strolling slowly, even for humans, Edward pulled me to a cluster of rocks that jutted over the river bank. We seated ourselves side-by-side, our feet dangling several feet above the surface of the gently-moving water. He took my hand again, and with a smug grin I noticed that we were both the same temperature now.

It wasn't actually sunny—this is Forks, after all—but the pale sunlight sifted through the trees and warmed us. I peered up at him shyly through my eyelashes and was astounded to see his face aglow in the late-afternoon light. Twisting toward Edward, I lifted my hands to his face, marveling at the radiance of his visage between my hands. And my hands were luminous as well.

I think my mouth popped open with surprise at the brilliance of his skin...our skin. Between my palms, Edward, smirked at me.

“Haven't you seen a vampire in the sun before?” he teased.

“As a matter of fact, I haven't,” I returned nonchalantly, trying to hide how awestruck I really was. “It's a good thing that we don't burn to a crisp or something in the sun, right?” It was my turn to smirk.

“Myth,” he said softly, and his expression shifted swiftly from amused to desirous.

As quickly as his expression changed, my mood did as well. With his face still in my hands, I leaned forward and pressed my cool lips to his. It was bliss...sheer bliss...kissing Edward like this.

But I was in no way expecting what happened next....

I'll keep on writing and will hopefully have the new chapter up over this next weekend. Thanks for understanding!! 

Love to you all,
Cassandra xxxooo

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Advice to Young Writers

Each week I receive soooo many requests to read and offer feedback on the stories and novels of young writers on Wattpad, and it breaks my heart to refuse them. With my uber-busy schedule that barely allows me the time to update my own stories, I simply can't afford the time to read upteen stories and write long responses to young writers. The writing teacher side of me hates being unable to help these beginning writers develop the skills necessary to write compelling fiction.

So what I've decided to do is write this article, offering advice to young writers that they may find helpful as they begin or continue their writing journeys. I know that such advice does not replace detailed feedback, but it may assist authors in honing the skills necessary to write and write well. 

At the end of the article, I'll also post some helpful links to articles on different aspects of fiction writing as well as some inspirational quotations. 

So what makes good writing good?

The first ingredient of good writing is details. As authors, it's our job to help our readers experience our writing.  We want to create a "movie in their heads" as they read. And strong, specific details are the best way to accomplish visualizing a novel. 

  • So write in a way that appeals to the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. 
  • Describe people, places, things with strong visual and sensory detail, using similes (comparisons using "like" or "as": her voice was like the softest breeze) and metaphors (comparisons not using "like" or "as": "All the world's a stage" -- Shakespeare). 
  • Avoid cliches: comparisons that are so overused that they've lost their meaning and freshness: white as snow, eats like a bird, runs like the wind, pretty as a picture, etc.). Always try for new and fresh ways to describe something or someone.
  • Always show rather than tell.  Don't write: "No!" he said angrily. (Here you're telling us that the character is angry.) Rather, show us that he's angry: "No!" he said, his lips folded into a thin line. See the difference? It's fine to "tell" once in a while, but try to "show" as much as possible.
The next ingredient is compelling characters. Our readers need to be able to identify with our main characters (and with all characters, if possible). Our main characters cannot be perfect; they need to be flawed and "human" in order for the readers to like them and want the best for them. Our characters need to make mistakes, to grow and develop over the course of our story in interesting ways. 

One great way to develop believable and complex characters is to write a character sketch for each of our main characters. Jot down their pasts, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses. Don't be afraid to draw on people you know or other characters to develop certain aspects of characters, yet don't base a character entirely on one or two people. Then keep those character sketches near you when you write. We aren't bound by our character sketches, but we at least have a starting place to base their motivations. For example, if a character was beaten by his father as a young boy, he may have problems obeying authority figures in adulthood. That's a flaw based on his past. Yet from that same past, the character may have great compassion for the suffering of others and can't bear to see a child hurt. That's a strength based on his past. 

Another ingredient for good fiction writing is believable dialogue. As writers, we need to pay attention to dialogue wherever we encounter it: an argument between a mother and toddler in the grocery store, a love scene in a really great book or movie, a confrontation in our workplaces, witty banter in television programs, etc. We need to figure out what works well and what doesn't work well in dialogue. What our characters say is often more important than what they do, so dialogue is of the utmost importance in stories and novels.  

Taking time to revise our writing is of the utmost importance, and it's one area which young writers tend to skip. A first draft should NEVER be posted as a final draft! Ernest Hemingway, arguably the best American novelist of the 20th century, wrote 39 drafts of his short story, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." 39 drafts!! Most fiction writers don't write that many drafts, but posting a first draft online is the biggest mistake an aspiring writer can make. 

Writer and teacher Anne Lamott in her book on writing Bird by Bird, tells us about the writing process in her chapter entitled "Shitty First Drafts." (Seriously.) She outlines the writing process this way: Our first draft is our "down draft" in which we "get down the basics" of our story, chapter, or article. Our second draft is our "up draft," in which we "fix up" our draft by adding details and descriptions, develop our characters more fully, and spruce up dialogue. Our third draft is our "dental draft" in which we examine each and every word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph to make sure each one is healthy and sound and doesn't have any gaps or holes, expressing ourselves as well, as powerfully, and as clearly as we possibly can. 

After we have our third or "dental draft" completed, we need to edit our writing. Writing with correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling is extremely important. We shouldn't worry about writing correctly when we're writing our first draft because we'll drive ourselves crazy. But after we've polished the content of our story, then we need to read through our story or chapter to make sure that everything is correct: commas, capitalization, spelling, etc. I'll post a site or two below to help with grammar and punctuation issues. A lot of readers refuse to read stories that are a grammatical mess; plus, incorrect grammar, punctuation, and spelling can distract and confuse your readers...things which young writers need to avoid at all costs if they want to catch the eye of a potential publisher or agent. 

So these are the most important aspects of writing well. I hope that you'll find these points helpful. Feel free to post any questions you many have in the comments. 

Helpful Websites
Writing World: --excellent articles on characters, plotting stories, writing dialogue, etc. The most helpful writing site I've seen.

Fiction Factor: --helpful articles on the entire writing process

Writer's Digest: --sign up for a writing tip each day, delivered to your e-mail

Links to Grammar Sites: --great list of grammar sites for help with all aspects of writing

Helpful Books
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. An excellent book on learning to be a writer. (Some adult language)

On Writing by Stephen King. An inspirational and helpful book on writing by the master of horror. (Some adult language)

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. Although written in the 1930's, this book can really help beginning writers learn the discipline to become a professional writer. 

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style by Laurie Rozakis, PhD. The best and most helpful grammar guide I've ever used. Easy to look up certain grammar, punctuation, and capitalization issues, and great exercises to cement correct usage into our minds. 

Helpful Quotations
"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." --Richard Bach

"Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped." --Lillian Hellman

"There is no great writing, only great rewriting." --Justice Brandeis

"Books aren't written; they're rewritten. It is one of the hardest things to accept." --Michael Crichton

"Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what will sell." PD James

"If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write." --Martin Luther

"If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." --Margaret Atwood

"If I waited until I felt like writing, I'd never write at all." --Anne Tyler

"We are all apprentices in a craft where no one becomes a master." --Ernest Hemingway

"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth." --Kurt Vonnegut

"If the doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I'd type faster." --Isaac Asimov

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." --Nathaniel Hawthorne

Happy Writing, Everyone!!!
~Cassandra :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Excerpt from Jane Eyre Fan Fic

Photo from Bel Ami--but Rob could easily portray a young Edward Fairfax Rochester, no?

After thinking about the obvious similarities between Twilight and Jane Eyre, I sat down and started writing a one-shot from Edward Rochester's POV of the morning in which he finds that Jane has left Thornfield. It still needs *a lot* of work as I focus on writing with the vocabulary and cadence of the mid-nineteenth century in which Jane Eyre was set and written.

So let me know what you think as I write from a different (but strikingly similar) Edward's POV:

My Hope—My Love—My Life”: A Jane Eyre Alternative POV

I paced the floors of my room all the night. Unable to find escape in repose, unable to still my restless mind and body, I walked, each breath a sigh of anguish.

My Jane.

She had looked so beautiful yesterday morn, robed so unaccountably in white rather than in her dark, simple gowns. Her face aglow with expectation and happiness, she descended the stairs to my anxious impatience. 

After declaring her “fair as a lily, and not only the pride of my life, but the desire of my eyes,” I hurried her through a breakfast that neither of us wanted.

Although wound as tightly as a watch spring, I made all the practical arrangements necessary to ensure our swift leaving of Thornfield as soon as we were legally wed. I refused to allow my conscience its voice as it declared to me roundly: This young innocent shall never be your legal wife, for you are already wed to another. It makes no matter that you were mightily deceived, for today you commit two sins: first, the breaking of your wedding vows to your first wife to whom you are legally, if not morally, bound, and, second, the deception and wrong you do to Jane. For no matter how utterly and completely you love this young girl, you well know that these vows you shall speak before God and the witnesses gathered in God's House are false when you remain legally bound to another, no matter her mental instability.

But I dismissed the loud objections of my conscience, determined to fully own the one thing I desired above all others: the fragile yet indomitable woman-child, Jane Eyre. Knowing well that I would not breathe easily until Jane was made legally and bindingly mine, I had nearly dragged her to the small chapel, holding her childlike hand in mine as, grimly resolute, I strode through the house, out the wide front doors of Thornfield Hall, and just beyond the gates to the small but ancient chapel in which our wedding ceremony was to proceed.

It was only as we reached the churchyard gate that I realized that Jane, her tiny legs forced to run to keep up with my long, determined strides, was nearly faint from my rushing her so. Her face was nearly as pale as her gown, and a light sheen of perspiration covered her face; her lips were as colorless as her cheeks, and I berated myself for my unforgivable hurry.

“Am I cruel in my love?” I inquired solicitously. “Delay an instant; lean on me, Jane.”

Her arm wrapped around mine, Jane filled her lungs with the crisp morning air, and very soon all was well once more, and Jane and I entered the church.

As Jane had regathered her strength after my rushing her to the church, I had noted two strangers speaking quietly in the shadows of churchyard. Both entered quietly as Jane and I took our places at the communion rails, preparing to speak our vows to one another.

The service began but then was rudely interrupted. Even now I cannot bear to think on the flurry of activity that took place once our wedding was broken off for a mere “insuperable impediment to this marriage.”

I battered my poor Jane with the truth, with the attempt at bigamy, at the presence of my first wife, crazed and murderous, within the very walls of Thornfield Hall. She took all in, her eyes becoming larger and her visage paler with each revelation. I asserted Jane's innocence in the legal matters, then escorted clergyman, wife-to-never-be, and our two guests to view the “wife” whom legally belonged to me.

After I had effectively tussled with and restrained my mad wife, I had told the shocked witnesses, “And this is what I wished to have,” as I rested a hand on her delicate shoulder, “this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon.” I asked my witnesses to compare the wild Mrs. Rochester, at present bound to a chair for her safety and ours, to the young girl beside me and demanded their judgment.

But now, as I paced my floor this long, long night, I thought I knew judgment; however, my own judgment had scarcely commenced.


So this is what I have written thus far. Please keep in mind that this is only a first draft, so I hope to improve it and extend it. 

Please do let me know what you think. :)

Always writing,
~Cassandra :)