Thursday, August 26, 2010

Consciously Incompetent.

This pretty much sums up the entire reason I am going back to school. I want to be a writer. And I bang out decent drafts. But in doing so, I realized that I lack the ability and knowledge that comes with education. I didn't have the discipline or awareness to stand back from my story and say, "That plot line doesn't work. That characterization is flat and this is why." I just get a vague nebulous feeling that something is wrong, and like a three-year old with a pair of scissors try to cut my own hair, and then wonder why it looks so butchered when I'm done hacking.

This is not to say I'm a bad writer. I've had enough raving English teachers to know I'm a talented writer. What I also am however, is an unskilled writer. I'm also an undisciplined writer. Instead of working all the time, either by jotting down bursts of inspiration, or descriptions of places, or just keeping track of interesting things that I can later use, I just wait until the mood strikes me once or twice a month, and I go bang out five thousand words of a story fragment.

That does not make a professional writer. So I'm putting in the learning time. I'm taking a course in fiction writing geared to teach me the ability to view my work dispassionately and remotely, as well as to pay attention to the various elements that make a good story.

I know, that I do not know. But I know I will learn. I know writing will become more difficult, because I will be more aware of what it should be and the gap between the end and its current state. I will be more unhappy with bad scenes, and excess words. But hopefully, it will make me a better writer.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meeting the Neighbors.

So after a mad dash to the school the day before classes opened to register, I ended up with two online courses, Introduction to British Literature and Introduction to Fiction Writing. Both make heavy use of forum discussion as part of the grade to replace classroom interaction.

In the Introduction to British Literature class, the teacher requested we post an introductory bit on the forums.

My classmates shall be known as

Vampire: A phlebotomist trying to maintain a full-time course load with the assistance of online classes.

PornStar!: A stay-at-home mom who works primarily in "social media" and managing online communities. I'm hoping she's a porn star, because that would be completely awesome. I'll be disappointed when she tells us she's a blogger or a webcomic artist. Unless I love her work, in which case, we're back to Awesome.

Tweedy: The only man in the group, he wants to be a history teacher when he grows up, with a double minor in English and Religious Studies. Since history teachers should all wear tweed jackets and smoke pipes, he will be named Tweedy.

Jane: She wants to teach English and History, and be a writer when she grows up. She's already been working on a book too.

Me: Apparently I'm already destined to be the crazy manic one in the class, based on corollary application of the drunk party rule.

(For those that do not know the drunk party rule it goes as follows.)

"At every party, there is one person who is too drunk, too loud, and annoying everyone else. Look around the party. If you can not tell who the drunk person is, it's you."

The sad part is that I'm not sure I can help it. I'm extremely excited about every aspect of these classes, and I'm quite sure I'm coming off like a chihuahua who emptied the toilet bowl three hours ago.

The Intro to Fiction Writing class did not request an introduction post, though I'm pondering making one anyways just to find out who my classmates are. They are safe from the knowledge that I am among their ranks for the nonce.

(Nonce. I love that word. I am extremely annoyed that it got saddled with the slang definition of sex offender.)

Right now, all I am doing for this class is writing. Not that there's anything wrong with that, because the first assignment due next Friday includes a hell'a lot of writing, but it's definitely a more solitary feeling than the other.

Back to work.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's a good day!

I found out today that I've been admitted to Local Fine Arts University to begin pursuit of my bachelor's degree. Classes begin tomorrow.

Apparently they don't send notification by email, mail, or phone. They just post something to your "student portal" on their website. There was never an indication that that is where you would look for such pertinent information.

I would also like to point out that nowhere on said student portal that I clicked religiously was there ever the phrase "Congratulations, you've been admitted" or some other clear indicator thereof. I had to call this morning to verify that I was even admitted at all.

But I'm admitted! I can start taking classes towards my English degree and hopefully eventual writing career. (And subsequent career as a literary agent if writing fails. Because that entire side of the industry absolutely fascinates me.)

It's going to be weird. I have 80 or more hours towards a degree in Chemical Engineering. (I am very good at math. I am very bad at Engineering) I never had to take an English class in College. I'm pretty much going to have to take the 45 hours required to get the degree, only 18 of which have to be in the English program.

Go figure.

I'm thinking some web-savvy classes, since the Internet is apparently not going away any time soon, and I'm three steps away from a Luddite, pretending that we didn't come to the party together.

It's a little bit scary, going back to college to rectify one of my hugest life errors (Passing up a full-ride scholarship to go be with my one "TOTALLY FOR REAL TRUE LOVE", who wasn't, and giving up on school when I started getting C's because I had no such thing as a study habit. Yeah, I was a moron at age 20.)

And then while I was wallowing in sheer terror that I'm being an idiot for thinking this writing thing is at ALL a good idea, I noticed that on Janet Reid's [literary agent for whom I have a mild stalker-like crush] blog (, I was one of the finalists in one of her short story quickie competitions!

Just enough of a bump to make me all gung-ho again. Manic? Me? Pfft. This time I'm totally color-coding all my binders and folders. I'll even use tabs and note-cards. Or a laptop. Either.


Friday, August 20, 2010

I’ve been having the strangest feelings of writers’ block lately. I’ve started and discarded six or seven blog posts since Tuesday. I think it’s because I don’t know anyone reading this yet. I’m standing in a corner of the internet, and shouting my words into the ether. If the words are funny or relevant or interesting, then strangers will come read them. Maybe the strangers will turn into friends. Maybe they won’t. This is the first journal or blog I’m writing expressly for the purpose of making friends. All my previous blogs were being written TO my friends, who had already proved their desirability and friendship. I was telling people I knew what was going on in my life. Now, I’m talking to perfect strangers and the bar is higher. I’m feeling the pressure of performing. What if someone I respect and admire reads this, thinks I’m a weenie, and wanders off, a first impression formed in concrete?

Oh, hello anxiety. Welcome back. I’d missed you.

I don’t know who will find me funny or relevant or interesting. Midwestern moms? Twilight tweens? (Please God no.), or worst of all, Twilight Moms? (Twilight Moms are terrifying. If I was Robert Pattison or Taylor Lautner I would be seriously investing in some large meat shields.)

They even have their own website. Fourteen year old girls? They just want to cuddle and stare bashfully from afar. Those forty year old women want to do bad things. Very bad things. They will WRECK you. The fervor of a teenage girl’s love coupled with a 40-year old’s sexual peak? We’re talking handcuffs and broken furniture and safe words, and things that are only legal in Thailand and Bangladesh.

(Hee hee. Bang-ladesh. Best country name ever.)

It occurs to me that perhaps I should not call down the wrath of the Twilight Moms, as I do not have the spare change to purchase muscle-bound taser-toting meat shields.

So forget I said anything. I’m totally for whatever Team you’re for. And if you’re reading this, could you leave me a comment telling me who you are? It’ll make me feel much better. Unless you’re a Twilight Mom. In which case it’ll fill me with cold terror.


P.S. If you’re a recovering Twilightaholic, congratulations. The road to recovery from temporary insanity can be a difficult and trying one, but I am here for you. I recommend a healthy dose of books with strong female heroines, and well-written sexy romances based on healthy relationships. Tell your local librarian, and they’ll be glad to recommend some things. Or just go to , if you’re not ready to admit your problems in public yet.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Starting Over

I want to be a published author. This is not a surprise to my nearest and dearest, who've listened to me mumble about being a writer and wanting to write professionally for years now.

I've always loved books. My mother started teaching me to read when I was eighteen months old at my request, and I was literate at age 3. I read constantly. At any given time, a book can almost always be found within 3 feet of me. When I say constantly, I do mean constantly. I was perfectly happy reading for six or seven straight hours. (And still am.)

When I was five, my mother entered me in the March of Dimes reading competition. I read 665 books in a month. (The local bank president had promised to sponsor $.50 a book. He thought my mother was lying to him, so he called me into his office, and quizzed me about random books on the list. I told him all about them. He paid up.) Technically I read more than that, because I kept reading the same ones over and over again and bringing them to my mother who had to make a list so she could make sure there weren't duplicates.

Strangely enough, I never considered "writing" as a serious career choice. I went with the more academically impressive-sounding "chemical engineer" which was a dismal failure. I like chemistry, but I don't like the career that goes with it.

It wasn't until I was fired from a job I hated that I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn't want to work in a cubicle farm, and I hate the traditional hours of 8-5 for productivity. So I spent the next three months banging out a first draft of a manuscript, while looking for another job in the pits of despair. I finished it, and now it's working on being polished in the hands of beta readers. It's only 45K, and needs to be at least 65, but it's a start, right?

I know it's a difficult road, and I'm not looking forward to the pain and pitfalls and agony and sacrifice it requires. I'm scared of the parts of the business I'm not good at, like web-savvy and an e-platform, and all the rest. But I am going to try.

So I'm going to overcome my initial paranoia about PEOPLE ON THE INTERWEB (you are all very scary), and write a blog under my REAL name and REAL identity, about my REAL life journey to try and write a book worthy of publication.