The Map

The time has come to adjust routes, look at the horizon, and determine where to go next! This is the Map of February.

The Map-- February.png

This month is going to be a bit different from January. First off, I’ve determined the need to define a schedule, mostly because I’m starting classes on the 13th, but also because it will be a way for me to organize my work instead of putting things off until the last minute.

Mondays and Wednesdays are days when the most work I can do is, if I’m lucky, some notes on my journal. I’m having classes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., not counting two hours in public transportation (one to classes, another back home). I will try to get things done on those days, but I’m sure the only thing I want to do when I get home will be to rest or take care of urgent uni stuff that may emerge.

This said, all the other days are pretty much free. I have one class on Thursdays and Fridays, besides two hours of volunteering on both days, but other than that, I’m free.

So, here’s what’s going to happen:

I’m not writing up updates on my reading, because I felt, last month, that I was always struggling to find things to say. If I come up with something I feel is worth sharing, I’ll write a post on it.

I’ll be filling prompts from PROMPTUARIUM, and this time I’ll be aiming for 750 words per story, or 1500 words per week. I’m aiming to write the stories on Tuesday and Saturday/Thursday.

The craft book I’m working with this month is Introdução à Escrita Criativa [Introduction to Creative Writing], by João de Mancelos. My goal will be about 2 chapters per week, on Tuesday and Sunday.

This month I will only be researching two Craft Elements, as to give me time to properly research and plan the posts. I’m making separate posts for each, so I don’t have to spend as much time writing one very long post. They will be posted on Weeks 2 and 4, probably during the weekend. The Craft Elements I’m researching are Planning and Character Description.

This month and until early March, I’ll be taking part in an online writing course dedicated to Setting and Description. I’ll be posting my progress whenever I complete the week’s assignments!

Like last month, I intend on making an update post each week, and a reflection post at the end of the month. I would also like to write, every once in a while, posts just talking about my thoughts and life. While I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that (I sometimes get anxious just writing posts like this), I think it would help me unwind instead of having everything in my head. I’m a very private person, but I recognize that these thoughts need to go somewhere or else I’m doing myself more harm than good.

And that’s it for today! Thank you for the likes and the follows, and I hope everything just turns out alright for everyone.

 

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Week 4 Update + Reflections of the Month

Today is the end of the first month of “A Youth and the Sea”! I think it was rather educational, not just in terms of writing, but also in terms of what I want to do from now on and how I’m going to do it. I’m going to talk about that in more detail in my Map for February.

Week 4 Update

Novel: I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t get any reading done! I got distracted with other things I had to do, including family events and the Writing Craft Elements post, and reading the novel kind of got pushed back much more than I wanted.

Short Stories: Read three short stories, “À Grande e à Francesa” [Expression that means living ostentaciously and in luxury], “Hades” [Misspelling of “Hás de”, it means “You will”] and “Elegantil”.

Prompts: This week’s prompts were:

  • The police suspect your character of having committed a crime.  Your character is innocent, but so much evidence points to him/her that your character is certain that s/he has been set up.  But who has done this, and why?  And how can your character prove his/her innocence?
  • A sports car, a dare, and an obnoxious ex-girlfriend

This week’s total of words was 2728, the first story having 1669 and the second 1059! The first story was different from the rest, because it was the plot from one of my writing projects summed up and told from the perspective of one of the characters. It’s something that I won’t publish here, because I’d rather hold onto projects in progress and only reveal them when they’re ready, but it did help me visualize the plot, its problems and ways to fix them. The second prompt was just three elements I had to include in the story, which is something I always found fun to do.

Craft Book: Finished A Field Guide to Your Imagination. These last exercises focused on using imagination to solve problems, either disengaging the mind from the problem through a near sleep state or by lucid dreaming (which is another thing I would love to try). There’s also an exercise that reminds us to train our imagination to think outside the box, by imagining impossible things and going through them.

Finally, the last exercise focused on the physicality of imagination. Instead of sitting down and imagining things, move. It can be something as simple as going for a walk, or you can imagine yourself in your character’s shoes and do things as they would. Just now I remembered that the reason why we doodle is that it helps the brain stay focused and solve problems.

I found this exercise enteresting because, sometimes, I just can’t sit still when I’m imagining something. Sometimes, when I’m writing, I just have this overwhelming urge to jump out of my chair and move around. And not just when I’m writing. I can be listening to music, or reading, or watching TV, or even day dreaming. I don’t know, I think I’ve always been like this, and often I have to surpress these urges because there are other people around. I don’t know, am I weird?

Craft Element: Wrote the Writing Craft Elements post, which was way harder than I had anticipated. Granted, I should have taken notes and actually planned the thing, but I think it’s actually ok? I’m not really comfortable talking about and explaining things that not even I know if I’m understanding correctly, so please, if you find something that is wrong or you don’t understand, tell me. Still, it was nice to just research and then compare that with everything that I already know, and then writing it down. And I know that this kind of post will be helpful in the future when I’m in doubt over something, and for other people who want to learn these things but don’t know where to start.

Reflections of the Month

I think this month went great, in general. I mean, I reached the end, that alone deserves celebration considering the slump I reached about halfway through. In total I wrote 8 short stories, 11857 words, not to mention the posts here, which is not bad, and I’ve figured out where I want to go with the blog next.

If I could do something better, and it’s something I’m going to do in February, is organize my time. It’s very easy for me to procrastinate and make excuses later, which then invalidates the times when I actually had something to do. But that’s a topic for the Map, which I’ll publish either later today or tomorrow, depending of when I finish it.

Thanks for reading!

Structure, Showing, Description and Setting | Writing Craft Elements

So, here we are! These are the Craft Elements I researched during January and decided to write a post on this week. This is mostly supposed to be a summary of the information I found, not only for myself but for anyone who might be interested. There will be links to other sites, where people explain things better than I can, in each section, and a list of other sources at the end that I also found useful or interesting (and because research is a too good excuse to procrastinate, might as well have a place where it has already been done).

This post is of a more general nature, as I’ll be researching Elements several times and focusing on different aspects each time, depending on my interests/needs. If anyone wants to suggest any, leave a comment!

writing-craft-elements

Story Form and Structure

Stories, like all things, have a shape. This shape is defined by the story’s plot– what happens in it, the sequence of events from the Exposition to the Resolution to everything in between. A story’s structure is also often defined by the story’s genre and form (for example, an epic sci-fi romance novel will naturally be different from a psychological mystery short story).

It’s always important to have in mind, however, that we should always find what works for a specific story, and not try to fit it into a mold that might not fit.

Still, there are elements that most, if not all, people agree should be present in a story. These can be summed up nicely in the Three-Act Structure, which is the simplest structure you can find. Some argue that it’s too simple.

And it’s not hard to see why– a story isn’t just a rise-and-fall sequence. Or, rather, isn’t just one rise-and-fall sequence, at least in a longer work. Before reaching their goal, characters must go through a journey that not only prepares them for it, but also turns them into better people. During the rise, the characters must also fall.

This structure also implies that the Exposition is the beginning of the story, which ignores a favorite literary device of mine, in media res. In fact, I really enjoy non-linear storytelling in general because, when done right, it allows to tell normally overbearing stories in an interesting, refreshing way.

Basically, there are a lot of perspectives on story structure. Some defend Four Acts instead of Three. Not to mention the numerous other structures I obviously missed. Sometimes, I feel a bit overwhelmed by all this, because my ultimate goal is to learn and grow as a writer. However, since I don’t have a guide, the more I read and research the more the different sources seem to clash with each other.

So now, I’m going to create a rule for myself, and to others who feel the same way. Instead of focusing on trying to fit a story into a specific structure, first make sure to define each element.

Define your Beginning, Middle, and End. Figure out the turning points between each part. Then, plan each part as needed. Which, I know, is pretty vague. When I plan my stories, I don’t usually put a lot of detail into it, because I know I’ll deviate from the plan. I’m by no means an expert in these things, which is why I’m going to make a post about Planning nest month.

A concept just occurred to me– throw those structures out the window. Or rather, don’t. Take the structures, study them, understand why they are used. Then, cut them into pieces and mix-and-match their parts to suit your needs. Everything between the Three Acts and the turning points between them becomes a collage, as long as it’s a collage that makes sense not only structurally but also in terms of narrative.

It’s also worth noting that, in a story, there’s an element that dominates the others and, as such, determines the story’s structure. Before anything else, determine which element matters most.

Show and Tell

“Show, don’t Tell” is one of those Writing Maxims that get thrown around and that everyone has to be aware of. But what does it mean, really?

It means that, instead of saying “Alice went to her room and retrieved the book”, you should show it– “Alice left the living room and climbed the old staircase, making sure her feet didn’t land on the noisy steps. She dashed to her room and looked around, finding the leather-bound book on top of her bed. She walked to it and picked it up, securing it firmly against her chest with her hand and arm before dashing back downstairs.”

However, this doesn’t mean that there’s no use for Tell. If the book is important to the story but the process of getting it isn’t, or if she isn’t a central character, then there isn’t a need to show Alice getting the book. If Alice is the story/scene’s POV character, or if she encounters a situation which is critical to the story, then Showing is fundamental.

Showing is what lets readers visualize the story and emerge in it. Telling lets you quickly tell readers important facts without overbearing them. In real life, when you go to, say, a store and want to tell your friend about it, do you describe your journey to the store in detail, even if nothing particularly interesting happens, or do you just skip to the part where you’re already in the store? Use Telling as a connection between scenes that need Showing, and you can even make Telling evocative with just the enough amount of details.

Description

Description is closely tied to “Show, don’t Tell” and, as I’ve mentioned before, I consider it one of my weak spots in writing. (This section focuses on Scene Description. I’m planning on talking about Character Description in the future.)

The reason why I think this is because, one one hand, I feel that sometimes I don’t describe as much as I think I should and, on the other hand, I’m afraid of adding too much detail. I don’t want to come out as bland, but also not as too flowery. I don’t want to stall the plot with too much description. Maybe it’s just me being insecure, since I never recieved feedback on this (though the texts I’ve had reviewed were never much longer than 500 words), but it’s never bad to learn and improve.

In my last week’s post, I talked about an exercise I learned on planning and writing description. I’d like to complement this with the notion that description is affected by the point-of-view. What would the character notice? What would the character feel? Which details in Alice’s room would let the reader know more about her? How would the description of a richly decorated mansion be affected by the view of a man who never had much, versus of that of the owner? The description must also be vivid and specific.

Description is where “Show, don’t Tell” comes into play. “The house was imposing” may be a description, but it isn’t particularly interesting. “The house had the tendency of making newcomers stare in admiration at its size, some in fear that they would get lost among the rooms behind the countless, large windows” transmits the idea that the house is ‘impressive in size’. Still, it’s always important to not overdo it, like I feel I did with this example.

There are many uses for Description, from setting the story or scene’s atmosphere to highlighting something in particular. It’s also an opportunity to use Symbolism, which I’m planning on talking about in the future.

A question still remains, though– how much Description is enough? Well, it depends on the story and its pace. If you describe in detail during a very action-oriented scene, then the pace will be lost. If you don’t describe at all, then the reader will be lost. What I’ve started doing is just write out the story and later add or expand description where necessary.

Setting

Setting answers the “Where?” and “When?” of your story and is one of its three main elements. Setting influences both plot, since it defines what is possible and expectations for the story, and characters, who, like people, are shaped by the enviornment they live in.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Setting, I’m not even sure how to begin. If I’m writing a short story, chances are that Setting will come naturally once I get an idea of what to write, except for any elements that I feel the need to research. Longer works, however, demand more extensive planning in order for the Setting to feel realistic and alive. Alice may live in a town, but what kind of town? Industrial? Fishing? And in which time period? What exists beyond the town, and how does it influence it?

Building your Setting requires a lot of research, especially when writing stories in other time periods, countries, or worlds. This is important whether the story takes place in a fishing town in the 19th century, Contemporary New York, or a colony in another planet. This also applies to culture and social customs and norms.

But say, imagine you already have all the necessary details for your Setting and want to start writing. How do you introduce Setting?

If I’m adopting a third person POV, I generally start from the general to the specific, the specific being the main character– show the reader the town, then focus on Alice’s actions at the moment. If I’m adopting the main character’s POV, I introduce it through their eyes– if Alice is, say, on the way to school, I’ll describe the town as she walks. And of course, it’s important not to reveal everything in one go. Let the story gradually reveal the Setting, let the Characters and readers explore it.


Other Sources

Story Form and Structure

Eva Deverell, “The Fool’s Journey”, http://www.eadeverell.com/the-fools-journey/

Ingrid Sundberg, “What is Arch Plot and Classic Design”, http://ingridsundberg.com/2013/06/05/what-is-arch-plot-and-classic-design/

Ingrid Sundberg, “Plot vs Structure”, http://ingridsundberg.com/2013/06/17/plot-vs-structure/

Narrative First, “Accurate Story Structure Ain’t Easy”, http://narrativefirst.com/articles/accurate-story-structure-aint-easy

Narrative First, “Four Acts not Three”, http://narrativefirst.com/articles/four-acts-not-three

Narrative First, “Plot Points and the Inciting Incident”, http://narrativefirst.com/articles/plot-points-and-the-inciting-incident

Philip Brewer, “Story Structure in Short Stories”, https://www.philipbrewer.net/story-structure-in-short-stories/

 

Story Board, “That Narrative Structures”, http://www.storyboardthat.com/articles/e/narrative-structures

Janice Hardy, “Form Fitting”, http://blog.janicehardy.com/2010/01/form-fitting.html

 

Show and Tell

Annie Jackson, “Show don’t Tell”, http://anniejacksonbooks.com/show-dont-tell/

Helping Writers Become Authors, “Show and Tell”, http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/show-and-tell/#

Mandy Wallace, “Writers Balancing Show don’t Tell”, http://mandywallace.com/writers-balancing-show-dont-tell/

She’s Novel, “Balance Show don’t Tell”, https://www.shesnovel.com/blog/balance-show-dont-tell/

Writer’s Digest, “Showing and Telling in your Writing”, http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/showing-vs-telling-in-your-writing

Description

Write to Done, “How to Write Better Descriptions”, http://writetodone.com/how-to-write-better-descriptions/

Writer’s Digest, “How to Write Vivid Descriptions”, http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/how-to-write-vivid-descriptions

Writing World, “The Art of Description”, http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/description.shtml

Setting

Novel Writing Help, “Building Your Story’s Setting”, http://www.novel-writing-help.com/story-setting.html

 

 

Week 3 Update + Plans for Week 4

This week saw my motivation drop a bit, as real life made itself un-ignorable and I lacked the mood to properly deal with it, and I had some responsibilities that made me reorganize my time and put off some things for longer than intended. Still, I managed to achieve almost all the goals for the week, and I’m determined to continue my goal of writing on this blog during this year, no matter what!

Week 3 Update

Novel: Read 5 chapters of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Now the story is shifting from Tom’s day to day to the novel’s main conflict.

Short Stories: Read two short stories, “Brandina ou o Silêncio dos Produtos” [Brandina or the Silence of the Products] and “Últimas Notícias” [Latest News]. Something I neglected saying about this book is that it’s divided into 4 parts, and it’s clear why: the stories this week were significantly shorter than those in the first part (no longer than three pages) and there’s distinct shift of tone, at least in these two stories, though right now I’m not finding the words to describe it. Still about the book’s structure, the last part is composed by travelling stories and is entitled “Viagens que não fiz” [Travels I didn’t make].

Prompts: My promts for this week were:

  • Your character goes on a camping trip with her friend and the friend’s boyfriend.  In the middle of the night, she wakes up in the dark tent and feels a hand on her arm.  She touches the hand — it’s her friend’s.  Then the friend’s finger starts moving over her arm, and your character realizes that she’s drawing the shape of letters, that she’s trying to tell her something…
  • Write a story about a meeting between two characters.  Halfway through the story, switch from one character’s point of view to the other’s.  Have the meaning of the meeting change depending on whose point of view it’s told from.

This week, I wrote a total of 2297 words! The first ended up being 954 words, while the second had 1343. Although my self-imposed minimum for each story is 500 words, I was a bit disappointed at how short the first story was. I have to admit that I was a bit distracted and couldn’t really concentrate on writing it, my inspiration had escaped me. Still, I presevered and wrote, and that’s what really matters. Besides, short stories come in all lengths, and this one can always pass the 1000-word mark during editing.

Craft Book: I also didn’t talk about the structure of A Field Guide to you Imagination, which is important in order to understand the book’s goal. It’s divided into two parts, “Your Imagination & You” and “Your Imagination & Your Writing”, the first one dedicated to imagination in our day to day lives and the second focusing on the role of imagination in writing. This week I started part two.

The first exercises are dedicated to imagination itself, how it looks like and how to travel in it. My imagination shifts in space, depending on whatever it’s obsessed about at the moment. It can be a place in some book I’ve read/movie or show I’ve seen/podcast I’ve heard, or a place I imagined from scratch. Hell, sometimes it’s even a place my imagination created in said book/show/movie/podcast. All that matters is it’s where my characters (and characters of those books/shows/etc) hang out, and from there they go to other places to have their adventures when I’m day dreaming. I don’t directly interact with them, though you could say I can control them (though they do seem to have a mind of their own most of the time). I may have a character that represents me, but it’s an entity separated from who I am.

An interesting thing mentioned in this exercise is the “mind palace”, which I have been really curious on trying. It would at the very least help me with studying, haha.

Craft Element: Remember how I said I had “managed to achieve almost all the goals for the week”? Yeah, here’s where the “almost” comes in. Due to ~reasons, I didn’t research my weekly Craft Element, which was Description. This is something that I really should research and study, because I’m often at a loss on how much I should describe and how to do it. Characters I’m usually ok with, I’ve even had people giving me good feedback on how I manage to blend the narration with the character’s description (like physically describing a character while it performs a task). Describing space is something I have more of an issue with, because it often involves interrupting the narration and I’m not always sure about how much description is truly necessary. Basically, my fear is over-describing something, and this ends up with me sometimes not describing at all.

This reminds me of something I learned in an English class this semester, which was to plan the description before writing it. My teacher showed us a water bottle and asked us to write ten sentences about it, five on its physical appearance and five thoughts/abstract sentences. Then we had to bring them all together into something cohesive, a descriptive text that not only described the water bottle but also the thoughts it provoked in us, which would then add flavor to the text. I swear that there are few things in my life that clicked in my brain the way this did. It had never occured to me to plan description. Suddenly, I had something that would help me add description to my narration without overwhelming me with doubt. I’ve yet to apply this to my writing, I admit, but now that I’ve remembered it I will do my best to do so.

Plans for Week 4

This will be the last week of January. I know that, in the Map, there are five weeks, but I’ve decided that, for me to better organize myself, it’s better if each month only has four weeks. I will start February on the 29th of January, since the 1st of February is on a Wednesday.

As I mentioned, I will be preparing a masterpost on this month’s Craft Elements. I’ll also be researching this week’s Element, Setting, and adding it there. In total, there are going to be three posts this week: the Elements Masterpost, the Update for Week 4 and Reflections of the Month, and Map for February. I’m expecting February to be different from this month, which I will explain better next week.

Have a wonderful week, and may the winds take you to exciting shores!

Week 2 Update + Plans for Week 3

This week, besides my usual tasks, I focused on how I’m going to organize my posts from now on. I’ll talk about this during the update. This week I ended up publishing two posts, a midweek update and a short story with a comment, had some views and gained some followers, though for now I’m not going to concentrate on that. As I said, at least now in the beginning, I’m only going to be concentrating on creating content to publish at a later date, while researching aspects on writing and publishing my thoughts and findings. While having people checking out the blog and liking what they see is something that I cherish (though it also gives me some anxiety), it’s not what I’m really concentrating on right now.

Week 2 Update

Like last week, I achieved all my goals:

Novel: Read three chapters of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. From now on, and as I’m going to explain later in this post, I’ll be reading as much every week as possible since I’ve given up on the idea of making a separate post about it every week. In terms of the book itself, I’m still in the very beginning and don’t have much to say. After all, in terms of narrative, it’s establishing the setting and the characters, as well as Tom himself and his life.

Short Stories: Read three short stories: “Os Três Homens Aderem à Revolução” [The Three Men Join the Revolution], “Sentado no Deserto” [Sitting in the Desert], “Costureirinha (uma lenda Lisboeta)” [The Young Seamstress (a legend from Lisbon)]. All three stories had aspects I liked: the first one focuses on the men, but doesn’t show them in the revolution, only their plans to travel– how they end up in one is hinted at through their conversation, which mentions the (historically important) date of their trip; the second one deals with questions of social class and social responsibility; the third is a story told in the form of a legend, which is something I’d like to write myself.

Prompts: This week I used these prompts:

  • “I got this for you,” your character’s spouse says as s/he hands your character a gun.  “I have the feeling you’re going to be needing it.”
  • As your character is pulling out of the parking garage, she looks in the rearview mirror and lets out a shriek.  There is a woman she doesn’t know sitting in the backseat of her car.  “Don’t be scared,” the woman says…

In total, I wrote 3709 words. The first story has a total of 1989 words, the second 1720 and, unlike the last two, they both had a clear ending! Maybe it was because I was aware of it this time, maybe it was just the nature of the stories/prompts, I’ll continue to pay special attention to this.

I have a tendency of wanting to continue the stories, even the ones I feel are finished, like in the case of the second one. This is because I feel there’s more that can be told– the goal of the story is met, but the characters continue their lives after it, and I think there’s just a part of me that wishes to continue writing about them. My way to deal with this is to write a sequel or a longer work based on that short story, although I’m fully aware that, often, this isn’t possible.

Craft Book: I did another two exercises on The Field Guide to Your Imagination. One  focused on reality, and the other on one’s future self.

When it comes to the first exercise, I didn’t really complete it because it involved going on social media. I don’t really use my social media profiles because, after a while, I just stopped seeing what was the point in them, and they also started to unnerve me. There’s a certain sense of unreality when it comes to the reality presented on social media. There’s also the fact that I’m a very private person, so even if I had a lot to share on social media (which I don’t) I wouldn’t be very comfortable doing so. The exercise was to reflect on what I envy when looking at other people’s profiles, and why we do so. I try not to feel envy, even when I wish to have what other people have. I feel longing, but not something as strong as envy. But I can still say that, in terms of envying what others have, it would mainly come down to experiences. Going places, doing things, being able to share it all with others. On the why I feel it, it’s just my desire for more than what I currently have, to live more than what I’ve lived thus far. Of being able to connect without fear.

Last time, there was an exercise focusing on our past. This one is dedicated to an imaginated future self. I do think about the future a lot, as a sort of distant thing that will arrive sooner or later, though not much about how I will be. I have a certain, vague idea of what I want– work as a translator while also having a career as a writer, hopefully having success as both– but, in a certain way I’m afraid to do so. It’s important to imagine what we want in order to know what it is and work for it, the problem is that I don’t want to imagine a scenario so perfect and grand that it might, in a sense, sabotage me. And I’m not only talking about sabotage in the sense of me screwing up things for myself; I have this vague belief that the universe will knock me down if I dare to dream too high. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I’ve been disappointed before and it has affected me. Another thing I’ll have to overcome or deal with during my life, I guess…

Craft Element: This week’s element was Show and Tell. I’ve decided that, instead of making an individual post for every element, I’ll just compile the information for all of them and publish it on the last week of each month. This way, I can research more thoroughly and organize my information better.

Still, and to sum up, a story needs to have both Show and Tell, it’s just important to strike a balance. If you only Tell, your story becomes stale, without details and difficult to picture in one’s mind. However, there are things that you don’t need to Show. For example, if a character travels to point A to point B, it’s only important to Show the journey if it’s important for the story. If not, just say that the character traveled to point B.

Plans for Week 3

My plans are the same. I’ll be reading more than the required 2 chapters/stories and write my impressions on my Updates post. I’ll also be planning out and starting my Craft Elements Masterpost to publish at the end of the month (around the 29th, before I post my Map of February). I’ll also post more updates during the week if I feel so inclined.

Have a good week!

A Dove

As I said in my last post, this is a short story I wrote as an assignment for my English class. The only changes I made to the original were the corrections my professor made, besides the title, which the original didn’t have. At the end, there is a comment on the story and on what my professor said about it. Enjoy!


There was once, right next to my house, a small garden. I call it ‘garden’, but the truth is that it was more like a space between my house and my neighbour’s which, at some point, people had volunteered to turn into a small green space. It had grass, a couple of trees, various types of flowers that filled the garden with colours during spring and, in the centre, a small pond surrounded by three wooden benches. It was, in fact, a pleasant space where I liked to read whenever I could.

One day, I was looking out of my window and saw a small child, alone, sitting on the grass on the shore of the pond. She was wearing a white dress and her black hair was short and messy. The child had her back toward me and seemed to just be looking at the sky. I wondered if she was waiting for someone, if she was lost. Eventually, my curiosity won and I picked up the book I was reading at the time and went to the garden.

I made my way to one of the benches, walking casually while keeping an eye on the girl. She didn’t move, nor seem to have noticed my arrival. I sat on the bench closest to her, turned to whatever she was watching, and I opened my book and pretended to read it. In truth, I was just thinking of what to do next.

A few minutes later, I heard a small, soft voice, “D’you live here, ma’am?”

I looked up and saw that the girl had walked a few steps towards me. She looked at me with open curiosity, though also a bit shyly, with big brown eyes and her hands clutched behind her back.

“Yes, I do,” I said, “Just over there.” I pointed and she followed my movement, regarding my house for a few seconds before turning to me again. “I never saw you here before. Are you new, or are you lost?”

“I’m waiting.”

“For what, little one?”

“I don’t know… Will you stay with me?”

I nodded, surprised at the request, “All right… You shouldn’t be here all alone anyway, you’re far too young… And what’s your name?”

“Jemima,” She answered, smiling. Jemima sat on the right side of the bench before turning her attention to the sky again.

We sat in companionable silence while I read and she waited for whatever she was waiting for. I finished three chapters and looked up, wanting to check up on the girl. She was gone. I looked around the garden, but there was no one else there. It was then that I noticed, under one of the trees, a white dove.

As soon as I looked at it, the dove cooed and fluttered off. I watched it as it flew away, and while doing so was filled by a deep feeling of calmness. After that, whenever I find myself in nature, I’m followed closely by that white dove.


Comment

This was the second story I wrote for the assignment, since the first one had largely exceeded the 500 word limit and had no end in sight. This one started off with me trying to figure out what I was going to write and, eventually, the first sentence popped into my head. I wrote it down, and then the rest came up from there. (I’m not sure if it went 100% like this, I have the vague impression that I was already thinking about gardens and that the sentence was floating around, waiting for me to notice it.)

I have to say that I do like this story, I think it has a certain charm to it, a certain mystery and mysticism that I like to read and write. When I started writing it, I had no idea where it was going, but then I ended up with a story, somewhat abstract, about peace (the white dove) and to which one can apply a religious meaning if they want (a garden with three benches and two trees; I swear I wasn’t intetionally adding religious undertones to the story, I just noticed them after reading it and decided they fit well with the story).

Now, the question is whether my professor noticed all of that, or if I ended up unintentionally overcomplicating what was supposed to be a simple writing assignment. My professor didn’t have many comments about the story, except that she would have wanted to “know more about the dove.” Now, I don’t know if it was I who wasn’t explicit enough, or if my professor didn’t interpret the story like I thought she would, or if there’s something else that I’m missing here, but, spoiler alert, the girl is supposed to be the dove (Hell, I even called her Jemima, which means “dove” in Hebrew… Ok, I admit it would really be a stretch for my professor to know the name’s meaning or to search it, so I don’t really fault her for that.) It just doesn’t make sense to me for her to say that, it’s all. If I had set out to explain the dove, which I don’t even know if I could, I think it would just spoil the story. It is supposed to be unclear why the girl/dove was there, who she was, and why she decides to follow the narrator. These are things that are supposed to be up for the reader’s interpretation. And I’m sorry if I’m coming across as whiny or something, it’s just that I need to get this out of my system or else I’ll combust. It’s not even about the grade, it’s the principle of the thing (though I think I would have discussed it more with the teacher if my grade was on the line, but whatever).

In the end, as much as I like this story, I think I did end up overcomplicating the assignment. The professor just wanted a story with a beginning, a middle with an inciting conflict and development, and an ending with a resolution. Boom, done. Instead, I had to be a (unintentional) pretensious smartass… Ok, I’m being too harsh on myself. Let me reformulate: I wrote how I normally would write. Well, maybe not “normally”, but it’s not the first time I write something like this. Besides, I thought the concept was good when I wrote it, not taking into account that maybe it wasn’t exactly what was being asked, that something simpler would have sufficed and achieved better results. Do I regret writing it? No. Would I have changed anything about this particular story, if I had known what I know now? Besides deciding to deliver another one instead, not much, just the two corrections my professor made.

So, I don’t know what else to say, really. Do any of my dear readers want to chip in on this?(Gained followers while writing this. Hi!)  Do you like this story? Is it as good as I think it is? Am I being absolutely ridiculous?

Books and Assignments– A Midweek Update

I left the house today to run some errands, and I’m going to write a post about them because I feel it’s somewhat relevant and because I just felt like it.

I had to go to my college because my English professor was giving back to us our last written assignments, and was also telling us our final grades. The final grade is pretty much irrelevant, my main focus is on the written assignment. This assignment was to write a narrative text of about 500 words with whatever theme we wanted. Now, I didn’t fail this assignment or anything, I’m just kind of unsatisfied because I thought I would get a higher grade (which was lower than in my other texts, which were an essay and a descriptive text, and I had honestly thought that the narrative text would be the best of the bunch) and some praise beyond “you write well.”

I keep telling myself that the last part is a bit ridiculous. Every time I’m involved in something even vaguely to do with writing, the most hopeful part of me imagines that I’ll somehow be “discovered” or something like that. Of course, that never happens. I know intellectually that that is unlikely to happen. Still, my mind goes that way, and ends up disappointing itself despite my rational part trying to stop it.

Anyway, this is all to say that I’ve decided to publish that text here on the blog, because why not, and add some commentary and give myself some sort of closure, because while I’m not mad I know my mind will keep thinking about this for the next few days.

After meeting with my teacher, I went to one of my college’s book stores and bought two books on creative writing, Manual de Escrita Criativa [Creative Writing Manual] and Introdução à Escrita Criativa [Introduction to Creative Writing] by João de Mancelos.I’ve been meaning to buy them for a long time, but only now did I find myself with enough economical freedom to buy them (money really is the best Christmas and birthday gift, at least to me).  I’ve decided that I’m going to talk about them here, maybe next month or later.

Since I still had time, I took the subway to a nearby mall in order to engage in one of my favourite pastimes: spend more than half of my savings in a single bookstore. Fortunately, I still have money because I didn’t have that much time to browse through the entire store, though I did make a few purchases: The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, which I have been curious about; Go Set a Watchman, by Harper lee, which I’ve been dying to read ever since I knew of its existence (I read To Kill a Mockingbird last year and it quickly became one of my favourite books ever); and The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, because I feel like I should read something by him (besides the fact that it’s a bit embarrassing that my blog’s title was indirectly inspired by a book I’ve never read, oops).

So, this was my day! I’d also like to thank the three people who left me likes on the Week 1 Update. I’m actually surprised people have actually found my blog, considering I’m doing nothing to promote it, and pleased that they left likes. It gives me determination to keep going and make more of an effort!

 

Week 1 Update + Plans for Week 2

So, I’ve reached the end of the first week! It didn’t go as I’d expected, though it wasn’t really a failure, in my mind. Sure, I didn’t do as much as I’d thought I’d do, but that’s a problem I have: I always think I’ll do a lot or in a certain way, but then things end up not going as I had invisioned. Struggles of the idealistic procrastinator, I guess?

I’m saying this because, before I started, I had invisioned making a post dedicated to my reading of the novel, another for the reading of the short stories, and a larger post dedicated to the Writing Craft Element of the week, besides posting the two short stories I wrote using the prompts. I don’t think this is that much of an unnatainable goal, even if it’s a lot of work. The problem is that, as time went by, I came to the conclusion that I had no idea of the actual, concrete things I really wanted to talk about. It’s one thing to say ‘Oh, I’ll read the chapters/stories, then I’ll talk about the themes and narrative structures, and maybe it would be interesting to talk about the work as a whole and the author too, in an introduction. And my own thoughts, like whether I would have done something differently…’ and then just… not knowing how to organize my ideas, or even how to start, and what to do if there’s not much to say, or if I don’t know what to say… I’m a mess, I know.

And the fact that I get distracted doesn’t help. This week I had to decide whether or not I was going to a test (I just decided to take the exam after the end of the second semester, because I had no hopes of passing the test and would end up taking the exam anyway), and on Monday I’m having my German speaking evaluation, and that promises to be an experience, as always. But those are just excuses, really. My real problem is that… I’m not exactly lazy, I’m just one of those people who doesn’t start or do things because they’re afraid of failing. And, deep down, that is my true issue and a problem I will have to struggle with through my entire life.

Anyway, let’s stop focusing on my inner turmoil and start focusing on the things I did achieve.

Week 1 Update

Despite all of the above, I did achieve all the goals I had set!

Novel: Read the first two chapters of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and, so far, I’m enjoying! I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn years ago, so I did some mental comparisons of the two books in terms of their themes. Maybe I’ll write some notes down and research a bit and turn this into a post eventually, because I think it would be an interesting thing to do.

I think one of the reasons why making a post on the book this week was a bust is the fact that I do not really take notes while reading. I know, the horror! What kind of reader, of writer, am I if I don’t take notes?! It’s just that, to me, reading has always been about the story. It’s not that I won’t notice the language, the structure, the style, all the other elements that comprise a piece of literature, how else would I have learned how to write, I just like to read a story and see where it takes me. Having to take notes, I feel, would distract me from that. I think I just have a certain… fear?… that it would make reading a chore rather than an enjoyment. And I do love reading. Family legend has it I thought myself how to read!

Maybe I’ll find a way to make things work. After all, this was just the first week, I’m still getting my bearings!

Short Stories: Read two short stories, “Uma Empresa Espiritual” [A Spiritual Business] and “A Janela da Despensa como Argumento Moral” [The Pantry Window as a Moral Argument], from Contos Outra Vez. This is actually a rereading, because I got this book in 2014 but never really got to read all of the stories, and was hoping to do so this time.

I got this book from my High School History teacher, during, I guess I can call it, the Diploma Ceremony (not really Graduation, because we had already graduated months earlier, this was literally just to give us our diplomas). She gave everyone a gift, and to me she gave this book and wrote a really nice message on the first page. I think she was maybe the only teacher to really express any kind of regard for my writing. She appreciated how concise and organized I was in my answers and how I only wrote down the information that was truly essential, instead of writing disorganized doctorate theses. I think she also took a liking on me because I was a loner and an introvert, she sometimes tried to reach out to me but, at the time, I was in a kind of complicated phase (when am I not, really). I still appreciated it, though. And I still do.

Anyway, for these stories I reflected on the way I wrote short stories. I will talk about that next.

Prompts: The prompts I used were:

  • On her deathbed, your character’s grandmother whispers that your character must go to 24 Mockingbird Drive.   “That’s where it’s buried,” your grandmother says.  “You can’t tell anyone.  Just go.”  Then your character’s father walks into the room, and the old woman falls silent, shooting a warning look at your character.  That’s the last time your character alone with his/her grandmother before she dies.  Following your grandmother’s instructions, your character mentions the conversation to no one, but looks up Mockingbird Drive on a map...
  • Someone must have helped her escape.

First off, I managed to write, in total, 3123 words! 1846 in the first one, 1277 in the second. The reason I won’t post the stories right now is because they still need a heavy dose of editing.

I wrote them after reading the short stories, so a thing I noticed is that both my short stories have sort of open endings. I could continue the first one for the length of another story, while the other has the potential to become something longer, like a novella or a series. The ones in the collection, however, are very self contained, they have a very defined ending. This is something I had noticed in the past, and I’m not really sure how it started, or even if I have been always just writing like this. Of course, it could just be, at least in the case of the first story, that I just didn’t end them (I did have trouble coming up with what my character would find in Mockingbird Drive, so the end can be seen as a sort of cop out). This is something that I will keep an eye on as the month progresses.

Craft Book: A Field Guide to Your Imagination is not exactly a craft book, but I’m still using it because I feel like it speaks about an important topic (plus it’s free). It isn’t divided into chapters, but I did do the first two exercises. I’ve always considered my imagination one of the most important parts of me, because it’s what lets me escape and, as I grew, it helped me visualize situations and put myself into other people’s shoes. I do think that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my imagination and the way I’ve learned to use it.

What really got to me was the second exercise, because it envolved changing a part of my past and imagining how my life would have been. I think about my past a lot. Not because something especially traumatizing happened or anything like that, it’s just… I think it’s not about what happened, but about what didn’t. I feel like, I don’t know, I guess I just always felt that I never had as many experiences as other kids had? That I missed out on something? Not material things, because it rarely was about the material things. Just experiences. Like how everyone who’s a somebody has read Harry Potter and I’m in the sidelines. And I know I can read it now, but it won’t be the same thing. And then I think about how this says something or two about my family, because, come on, this is the girl who thought herself to read, didn’t it ever occur to anyone that I might like reading about magic and wizards and all that? And what if all of this is just me overanalizing things, because if there’s something I’m good at it’s overanalizing, a downside to my imagination.

Craft Element: Since I don’t have access to fancy, expensive writing books (I’ll search in the library, but I’m waiting until February because that when I start classes), I had to scour the internet on anything I could find on Story Form and Structure. Maybe I’ll still make a general post about it in the future, at least as a summary on the topic.

In truth, I’ve already searched and read about this topic throughout the years. I know about the Three Act Structure, the Hero’s Journey, the whole lot, but the main point that has always stuck with me is that, in the end, what really matters is what works for a given story. One shouldn’t try to bend a story to fit a structure, although it’s alright to plan according to one. What’s important is to find what will work for you, maybe even bend the structure to fit what you want to do. Maybe you want to start the story in the middle, maybe not every step of the Hero’s Journey (or another structure) is necessary. What you need is a Beginning for exposition, a Middle for all you action and build up, and an End for the resolution. The best part is that I already do this instinctively, whether I’m writing an answer on a test or a story.

Plans for Week 2

I won’t be changing any of my goals for this week, though I will reflect on how I will update my blog– pursue the idea of multiple posts on each subject, or just one post at the end of the week. If I decide on the first option, I’ll need to think about what kind of content I will include on each post and how to organize things. If I decide on the second, then I suppose it will be like this one (though, hopefully, at least slightly less melodramatic). In that case, I’m actually considering making more frequent updates, so as to not overload one post with all of my thoughts. I’m also going to consider making myself a schedule to follow, instead of just slacking off and then scraping for excuses for why I didn’t do what I had set out to do.

I’ve also decided that I’ll save posting the short stories for another time, once I’ve had the oportunity to edit them (maybe I’ll even take care of that during Camp NaNo in April). This might also have the positive side effect of me having content to schedule to publish when I’m not around, thus guaranteeing that the blog isn’t abandoned for long stretches of time (which I’m supposing will happen around the end of August/beginning of September).

As a reminder, this week I will be searching about Show and Tell. This is one of those elemental aspects that I sometimes need to remind myself of. I think my major problem when it comes to writing comes from Description, which I will be focusing on next week, but I feel that Show and Tell is already related to this. I think my fear of being over descriptive and the fact that I always want to move the plot forward makes me lose sight of this maxim, though I do always strive to Show, and Tell when appropriate. I hope this week will finally crystallize this topic in my mind.

And so begins the week! I’m going to try and write the End of Week post sooner, because I’m posting it a bit too late for my taste. But hey, I’m still figuring things out and struggling with the beast of Procrastination. Maybe I’ll be able to situate myself with the stars and start navigating more smoothly this week.

The Map

The Map-- January 2017

I like to start new projects at a specific date, namely the beginning of a quantifiable period of time. The first day of a week, of a month, of a year. I don’t know, I just think it’s more satisfying than starting halfway through (and to me it just doesn’t make sense to start at the end of a week or month, I just prefer to wait until the start of a new one), and that maybe it will somehow help me reach the end. The period of time mostly depends on the scale of the project (and my mood, if we’re being honest).

A blog is kind of a big deal. I wasn’t even planning on creating a blog this year. The blog was supposed to be the (possible) culmination of what I had planned for 2017: I’d spend 2017 writing, researching, and just preparing enough material (and myself) to create a blog at the beginning of 2018 and start publishing. And I say “possible” culmination because I was starting to get cold feet about the whole idea, although I was a full year away from it happening. I think my current situation says a thing or two about me.

The idea of creating a blog now and publishing my findings and writings during 2017 appeared when I was preparing my original plan. And, in a way, it makes sense: it’s now that I’m making my journey to becoming a better and published writer, and my journey is something that, I think, will interest other people. Maybe I’ll gather a following, some support, or I’ll be lost in immensity of WordPress blogs. Only time will tell.

And now, let’s go to the true focus of this post: how the blog will work and the plans for January.

The Blog

At the beginning of each month, I’ll announce what I’m going to do. The format will be pretty much the one used in the January Map, based on Rachel Giesel’s Writing Workout (seriously, visit her site. She has really cool stuff and is one of my go-to writing sites). The exceptions will be during NaNo seasons (I do both CampNaNo and NaNoWrimo, my username is Sally Mary for both, if you’re interested in adding me), during which I will do planning during the month before, daily or weekly updates during the event, and, hopefully, editing during the month(s) after, and during periods when following it would be very difficult or just impossible (like busy class periods, or when I have to be away from home for extended periods of time, like during vacations). I dunno, that stuff is still pretty vague.

At the end of the month, I want to do a small reflection on the month before planning the following one. This way, I can know what I can do better, what I need to do next, and which direction I want to take next.

The Map–January 2017

Following the Writing Workout, I have picked 1 short story collection, 1 novel, 1 craft book, and a prompt collection:

Short Stories: Contos Outra Vez, Luísa Costa Gomes (I’ll write in English regardless of the language of the book I read. However, I’d eventually like to publish in Portuguese, either here or in a new blog)

Novel: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain (Portuguese translation)

Craft Book: A Field Guide To Your Imagination, Eva Deverell (from another of my go-to writing sites, and you’ll see me using her stuff a lot (always with links, of course). Eva is pretty awesome, you should visit her site.)

Prompt Collection: Creative Writing Now‘s Mailing List (been subscribed for ages. Embarassingly, I haven’t used it much, letting the prompts accumulate in a folder of my email)

The Writing Workout page also has an amount of chapters to read and stories to write, but I’m using those amounts as a bare minimum of what I should do each week. Since I have free time (only starting classes on the 13th of February), I’m going to try and do as much as I can so I can so I don’t remain on the same books for too long (and the short stories vary in length, so I’d end up doing more work in some weeks than in others, anyway). I’m also aiming for each short story I write to be at least 500 words long. I will be changing my prompt source every month, to keep things interesting.

I’ve also chosen a Craft Element to explore every week. My idea is researching a Craft Element various times, at first in general terms, later focusing on specific aspects. I’m always going to try and choose Craft Elements that are relevant to me at the moment:

Week 1: Story Form and Structure

Week 2: Show and Tell

Week 3: Description

Week 4: Setting

Week 5: Planning

I will write posts about the chapters of each book I read and publish the short stories. The research on the Craft Elements will probably be published in one big post at the end of each week.

And… that’s it, really! Here’s my plan for the blog and for January. Considering that I’m a student, I give myself the right to adapt this plan according to my responsibilities and needs, provided I meet the goals I’ve set for myself. Hopefully, I will succeed and manage to reach a new phase in my writing life!

The Beginning of a Journey

If you were expecting a blog about sailing or the ocean, you’ve come to the wrong place. Still, please do enjoy your stay.

I find myself, yet again, facing the dashboard of a brand new blog, putting a word in front of the other, preparing the first post. Preparing the year ahead. Preparing yet another attempt at trying to make something more of myself besides a translation student, a young woman (it’s still strange to call myself a woman; girl is more comfortable, less formal, less grown up. Despite my eagerness to be a grown up, it still scares me), a moody introvert, a dreamer who wants more from life but is too afraid to get it. Someone who is lost in the vastness of it all, yet doesn’t want to follow others and only does so when she thinks there is no other way. No one said that getting what you wanted was hard, only that it was possible. Why not try, even if I have to do it again and again?

And maybe that’s what truly counts, really. That I tried. Not many people have the luxury to say that. At least I tried.

I was, what, 14 when I started trying? Maybe 15 or 16? I don’t remember. I don’t regret any of those attempts. I think I’d regret it more if I hadn’t tried. Because at least now I’m a bit wiser than I was before, thanks to those attempts. I’m 20 now, 21 in March. I think about how much time has passed, how quickly and, at the same time, how slowly. About how much I grew, about how much people around me got older without me noticing, about the friends I lost and gained. I look around, and behind, me and realize that life goes on whether you want it to or not. That life is finite, painfully short, a miracle and a curse. Life can make you cry in one moment and laugh in the other.

Life can drown you or take you somewhere amazing. And I’ve come to realize that it depends on how well you navigate. What is life besides a grand ocean we must try to navigate using only our heart as a compass, our mind as a map, and, sometimes, the stars when we are lost?

Right now, I’m not thinking long-term. I have a map of where I want to go this year, but not of the destination. I have a route, but it doesn’t have a specific end. I think this will take some pressure off of me; this way, no matter where I am at the end, it’s a victory. What matters is getting to the end.

I will write out my full plan in another post, but here’s the gist of it: I will make 2017 the year I started dedicating myself seriously to writing. Sure, I’ve done NaNoWrimo in the past, but I’ve never finished a project (and I don’t mean getting to 50k words, I mean editing the project even if I don’t end up publishing it). I’ve always started projects, but always had trouble finishing anything longer than a short story. I’ve always abandoned my blogs, some sooner than others. I’ve always been afraid of showing my work to others, even though, when I did, I got positive feedback.

In a way, I think I’m as afraid of success as I am of failure. Well, maybe not: only I will know if I fail, but succeeding envolves others and the possibility that, eventually, I will fail. I also don’t know if I’d even be capable of handling success, I’ve always had issues with too much of attention being given to me, even if I want it.

There’s also the fact that my self-esteem, self-confidence and, basically, my whole self are like a rolercoaster or a sea with high ondulation: fine in a moment, excelent in the next, questioning my existence in another. I think that even if I won the most prestigious award I’d still question my abilities, not in an attempt to keep myself grounded and not become full of myself and arrogant, but because I genuinely cannot fathom actually being that good. I’d let myself get caught up by the success at first, but then the doubt would creep in and the validation would lose some of its effects. But maybe then I wouldn’t reach the lowest lows, and it would be easier for me to return to my ‘normal’ state? I don’t know, but then again I probably should go to therapy. (Give me time to find a job and get money, don’t worry.)

In this rather rambling post, what I’m trying to say is that I made a promise to myself. I made a promise to a little girl who dared to consider to possibility of being a writer. I made a promise to the teenager who got an idea in her head that grew so much that it demands to be written, and who had so many ideas since then. And I’m making a promise to the young adult who continues having ideas, continues imagining, continues dreaming.

I’m going to try. And, maybe, hopefully, even though how scary it is, we’ll make it there. We have our whole lives after all.